Counting down each and every minute that passed, Aeris prayed that this day might just finally end already.

Decade-old steps creaked loudly as she made her way up from the basement of Audio Empire, carrying in her arms a large box of tuning forks that had been matted with enough dust and grime to clog a gutter.

It was still one hour until closing, and Aeris grimaced at the thought of the bucket of cleaning solution that waited for her upstairs, and the numerous forks she would have to scrub before she could consider herself free from this place.

But most of all, she was pained by the constant Daft Punk music that had been playing on the overhead stereos all day long. As the one who almost always closed, Aeris never had any choice in what music was played, trusting that her coworkers had some sense to not play the same thing over and over again.

But by choosing this particular band, with their particular robotic vocals and synthesizer sounds, they’d forced constant and painful reminders of a person that Aeris unfortunately still found herself not wanting to forget.

What was meant to be a sweet love song only served to nearly drive Aeris mad, and being a Music Master with such sensitive hearing only made it all so much worse.

Aeris had finally made it upstairs, taking a breath as she dropped the box of tuning forks on the table in the process. Some of them clanged against each other, buzzing with melodic interference.

Her grandmother had always said that everyone associated music with something, whether it be a person, a place, an idea, or a particular emotion.

As Calvin’s face drifted in her mind, she realized how that statement couldn’t possibly be more true than it was right now.

Aeris’s eyes glanced back at the yellow bucket of foamy, orange liquid. It wasn’t going to be fun, but at least washing the tuning forks would get her mind off things.

Slipping on large plastic blue gloves, water sloshed loudly about as Aeris got to work. So close to closing time at 8 PM, the store had mostly thinned out, save for the one or two people who often perused the used instrument inventory for minutes only to inevitably buy nothing in the end.

Nearby, Aeris’s scrubbing was interrupted as the hanging bell on the door jingled and a new customer entered.

The blond almost cursed out loud, having been so wrapped up on Calvin that she’d forgotten to lock the door before closing.

“Wow, talk about stimulating work.” said the voice of Kim Ramone. Today, she was dressed in a dark black leather jacket to protect her normally exposed shoulders from the biting night air.

Aeris perked up once she realized who it was, dropping the sponge she’d been holding into the yellow bucket in the process.

“Oh, hey Kim. Is something up?”

Kim shook her head, leaning on the counter as she eyed just how empty the store had become. Audio Empire’s clientele always seemed to fluctuate depending on the day.

“For now, thankfully no.” she answered, clearly relaxed and comfortable for once.

Aeris smiled, but Kim wasn’t finished. There were things that needed to be addressed.

“How are you holding up?” she asked, her sharp green eyes focusing against Aeris’s bright blue ones.

“Me?” Aeris said, laughing lightly. “I’m great. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Of course, Kim saw right through there like a laser through chromium steel. “Be honest now. You tried calling him? I won’t judge, I promise.”

Aeris took a deep breath.

She should have guessed Kim might be on about this. With Calvin gone now, the girl had every excuse now to lay out just how much she’d never liked him.

But looking back at Kim’s face, and seeing her genuine concern, Aeris knew that Kim cared more about how she felt than she did about throwing Calvin to the wolves.

“I tried once.” Aeris admitted, her voice low as it pained her to be honest over what she considered a weak moment. “He didn’t answer. But his voicemail picked up, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave a message.”

Aeris scanned the store ahead, and finally, it seemed it was just her and Kim. The aisles remained empty as once again Aeris was left to close up Audio Empire all by herself.

Snatching the keys from underneath the counter, she was quick to lock the front and give the two of them further privacy.

“So you think Michael’s tried reaching him?” Aeris asked.

Kim continued to lounge on the counter, and her answer almost seemed rehearsed. “Does it matter? The guy didn’t answer even when they were supposedly friends.”

“You’re probably right.” Aeris agreed, making her way back behind the counter to the waiting box of tuning forks. “It’s just…really tough to accept, you know?”

Aeris made a small smile, and held back the sniffle of sadness growing at the tip of her nose. “I liked him. And I thought he liked me.”

It was at this point that Kim’s worst insults could have come out, and she could have insisted how stupid Aeris’s little romantic fantasy was.

But for all her hatred and venom towards Calvin, she still had some semblance of a heart. She’d seen the way Aeris had looked at him since that first night in Central Park, and it was something Kim had held back the urge to ruin despite every voice in her head telling her to go ahead and do so.

Aeris was her friend, and for all the energy she’d spent fuming over Calvin, she wanted to see Aeris happy despite it all.

“I can’t say to what is and what’s not. Things didn’t work out, and they may never will.” Kim explained, in the most sincere way possible. “But what I do know is that you still got Michael.”

Kim shuffled around the counter, her body becoming awkward as unfamiliar words came out of her mouth.

“And you still got me.” she assured Aeris, in one of the most exposed moments of Kim’s recent life.

Kim put a hand on Aeris’s shoulder, smiling as nicely as her normally frowning face would allow.

Realizing what an effort such a simple gesture must be like for Kim, Aeris gave Kim a small smile back before trapping her in a sudden but warm hug.

Kim’s eyes widened, but she didn’t struggle or make any sort of fuss. She just continued to beam, as Aeris’s voice was grateful beyond words.

“Thank you, Kim.” Aeris told her, holding back tiny tears. “I don’t know what I’d do without you and Michael.”

The blond let go, composing herself as she realized he was now the missing element. “Speaking of which, where is he? He never passes up an opportunity to come out here.”

A thought zapped through Kim’s mind like a lightning bolt. She’d been suddenly reminded of the gnawing notion from the last few days.

“Beats me. He didn’t even answer my text on Christmas.” Kim replied.

It wasn’t too strange to think that Michael could be busy with something besides their group of friends. Kim suspected him of subterfuge for less than a second, then immediately knew better.

“Maybe he’s with a girl?” Aeris said, grinning at her own thought.

Kim laughed out loud, not controlling her tone in the slightest. “Yeah right! And I’m secretly Iggy Pop. Give me a break.”

But soon enough, Aeris found herself focusing back on the tuning forks that remained unclean. “Well, it’s his business. It’s not for us to pry. And if I want to get out of here, these have gotta be done first.”

With it now quite dark outside, Aeris longed to be free from the cage that was this job.

It seemed Kim read her mind exactly, taking off her jacket as she grabbed for the extra sponge without even asking.

“Well, nothing gets done if we stand around. I gotcha, Aeris.”

With a squeeze of her fingers, orange water sloshed out of the sponge, and that noise was enough to relax Aeris for the time being.

For the briefest of moments, Aeris thought she saw Calvin here with them, snarky smile, shaggy blonde hair and all.

But then reality set in, and it was just her and Kim again.

She wondered how Michael was faring in all this.

Knowing him and his usual golden attitude, he was no doubt doing way better than her.

“That’s…that’s everything.”

Renaldo’s voice was at that same familiar frightened tone. Standing in this man’s presence, alone like a piece of meat, was ten times worse than being with Helia on her most horrible of days.

Ring-encrusted hands, ending in long, spider-like fingers, shuffled through the various manila folders of files in the process. His fingertips eagerly touched shiny images and a few sparse printouts alike.

His voice was like icy poison, shaking Renaldo to his core. “Absolutely everything?”

Renaldo’s fingers nervously went for the back of his neck. His voice was muffled and almost incoherent.

“I got all I could from records. There’s very little information on her; looks like further info on her file was sealed since 1995, under the name Miriam Fairfield. Those pictures, and the dossier from the recent stuff against the Pop 5…is all we have.”

That answer wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but he knew no matter how much he threatened the boy, the result wouldn’t change.

As much as he enjoyed playtime, it would be a waste of energy on Renaldo tonight.

“Leave me. And find out where the Pop 5 are already. I don’t appreciate being kept waiting.” he demanded, and Renaldo nodded. He looked just about on the verge of falling over in fright.

“O-Of course!”

Anything to be free from the dark, ghastly office that Nicodemus Craven called home, Renaldo thought. He was gone in the next second, though still careful to shut the door behind him.

Beside the Fourth Beat, his pet crow Scourge squawked in effort for attention.

But his bird was the last thing that warranted his attention right now. Instead, he focused his ruby red eyes on the pictures laid out before him. They showed the image of Aeris Fairfield, taken under a special Zero Beat-manufactured camera lens to fully display her song effects for anyone to see.

Dark black hair obscured one half of his face, and Craven wore a robe that reached down past his waist. He was bare-chested, having long since made no attempt to adhere to any Zero Beat dress code.

He was the Fourth Beat of all of New York City, and his word was the gospel itself. If he said run, then those loyal to him would sprint a veritable marathon, or they would find themselves in a very dark and terrible place.

And right now, as he waited for the Pop 5 to arrive for this recent debriefing, all he could think about was Aeris. All he could do was stare at the most exquisite details of her face, her bright blue eyes, long blonde hair and that spark of innocence that was just begging to be twisted.

It was the exact same aspect he had first seen in Denny, but in the end she had disappointed him with her inability to stay focused. Now he found himself regretting accepting her as Pop 5 in the first place, and often wondered if she simply needed to be replaced.

Craven stretched his neck, reveling in anticipation of what was to come.

Then, like a horrible alarm, the small black intercom near his arm went off.

“Lord Craven. The Pop 5 are here.”

His assistant’s voice was as flat and nondescript as always. Devoid of rebellious personality, so not distracting in the slightest. He had no interest in her, after all.

Scourge cawed again, louder this time, as Craven answered.

“Finally. Send them in.”

His face became drawn and stretched in the fashion a fresh corpse. One of his fingers reached to slightly increase the lighting, lest his subordinates walk in completely blind.

Now came the time to deal with the buzzing of flies.

Denny had somehow found the mental strength to sit perfectly still this entire time. No fidgeting or shaking, and not a peep out of her mouth.

Around her, the rest of the Pop 5 were gathered in their seats and in similar states of unease. Paul was as white as a sheet, the normally chatty Lily was absolutely quiet, and even Nathan lacked the courage to show so much as a snarky smile.

Only Ollie, who sat in the middle at the head of Craven’s desk, appeared to lack their joint fear and apprehension.

They had been here before, and it remained to be the same dark, foreboding place that could make anyone feel like they’d walked into a mauseoleum as opposed to an office. Everything was bone-themed, from the paper weights on Craven’s desk to the legs of his chairs and even the horrifying pieces of art that surrounded him.

It could have been tacky and overdone, but the lack of lighting and Craven’s corrupting presence made it more threatening than it should have been.

“So how was everyone’s week?” Craven began, his voice only showing the slightest and most subtle hints of threat.

No one answered. Besides a mention of a debriefing, none of the Pop 5 were sure what the nature of this meeting pertained to, and they couldn’t help but assume the worst.

Denny looked from side to side, realizing her moment had come. Despite her worst fears, she knew that if Michael was going to live another day, she would have to do this.

She took a deep breath, then practically blurted out her next words.

“I have something for you!”

Craven clasped his hands together, while in the middle of their congregation, Ollie grew curious. He said nothing, of course, always preferring to listen with silent patience.

“Do you?” the Fourth Beat asked, before raising a hand to beckon her to stand up.

“Let’s see it then.” he now demanded, and Denny of course obliged. Standing up as straight as a board, she reached into her red leather jacket pocket.

Craven murmured to himself, visibly pleased over her obvious fear. It was one of the few reasons she was worth keeping around.

His eyes drifted, and now focused on the plastic bag she’d slapped down on the table. Denny remained standing as he pulled it towards him, inspecting the contents.

Inside, looking only about a day old, was a scrap of a tie dye shirt. Craven plucked the edge of the ziplock bag up with his fingers, and it ran taut from the pure weight of the blood soaked into the fabric.

“I killed him.” Denny said, though she just about held her breath before the words came out. “I had Price maul him. That’s what was left.”

The Pop 5 seemed to raise their astounded expressions in unison, but Craven seemed relatively unimpressed. Despite that though, he placed the bloody bag back down once he was finished inspecting it. He then clapped twice as he congratulated Denny in the process.

“Very nice work. Particularly savage, if I might add. Where did you find him?”

Denny’s brain stopped, warning her that she might have neglected to think that far ahead.

Her next words were clearly scattered. “Um, I saw him on the street. He wanted a picture with me, and I got him alone in an alley.”

Craven smiled sickly now, suddenly interested. “Did he scream?”

Coincidences now connected in Craven’s mind, and he began to wonder if seeing Michael meet with Denny might have just been her feeble attempt to get the job done. It was knowledge he kept to himself, of course, and would continue to do so until he felt like otherwise.

Denny nodded, quick as she could. His unsettling face bothered her so much she almost looked away as she answered him.

“Yeah. A lot.”

Craven put his hand up, and that was her signal that she was free to sit again.

“Very well. That’s one matter we no longer need to be bothered over.”

Seeing the atmosphere had somewhat softened, Nathan finally decided to open his mouth.

“Well, all’s well that ends well! Too bad we all missed the carnage.” he snickered, and thankfully, Craven didn’t immediately shut him up.

Instead, Ollie chimed in, having been listening and thinking over everything this entire time. There was something off about Denny’s story. It was too convenient.

For now though, that remained unimportant in comparison to what he perceived as the true threat.

“Not quite. There’s still the matter of Rob Prototype. Nagataki X, or whatever name they call themselves, failed. He’s still at large.” the cap-wearing leader of the Pop 5 explained, clearly more interested in this than anything else.

“I heard they destroyed his bass guitar. That’s a Synkronized one too, for twenty years I ‘ear. He’s going to be feeling that one for awhile.” Paul interjected, no longer as white with fear once he’d seen Denny speak.

He wasn’t sure how she pulled it off, but she’d clearly faked Michael’s death in some way. Paul would be utterly amazed if it turned out Denny would have just decided to kill Michael after all the time and effort spent seeing and hiding him.

“That’s actually a good point.” Lily further added. “If there was a time to move on him, it’s now, when he’s weak and still hasn’t forged a strong bond with another instrument.”

“As long as I get to beat on someone. That’s all I need.” Nathan said, now leaning back in his seat, shaking his leg and clearly no longer afraid of the situation.

Denny was moments away from adding in her own thoughts, even if it was to disagree with the others, when Craven finally addressed them all.

“Rob Prototype is not your concern. For now, I need you all on standby while I work out some new arrangements with Cypress.” he said concisely.

Ollie’s eyes narrowed, and disbelief began to rise within him. It was like hearing Iberius Altberg all over again.

“No, it is our concern. If Rob Prototype is Zero Beat’s concern, then it’s a problem we can handle.  You want him alive? Fine. Just give me a week, and I will have him in your office personally. You can do whatever you want with him from there.”

His words, no matter how straightforward, seemed to bounce from Craven completely.

The entire aura of the room then noticeably changed when next Craven spoke.

“I said no. Now that I have proof of the disco boy’s death from Denny, we can hand this off to internal and consider our hands washed of this matter.”

The rest of the Pop 5 seemed to shrink back as the room darkened from just a click of button on the Fourth Beat’s desk. The more impatient and distressed Craven became, the darker he made the room. The dark was made him feel comfortable, it made him feel safe.

And more importantly, it made everyone else feel afraid. And those in fear of him was what he truly craved the most.

Ollie ignored the approaching darkness however, too enraged and impatient as he slammed his hands on the man’s desk.

“To hell with that! Is everyone a coward in this damn city? Nobody wants to mess with Rob Prototype. Everyone’s afraid…even you!” Ollie roared, much to the fear of the rest of the Pop 5.

Craven, meanwhile, seemed perfectly calm, his eyes only shifting at the sound of Ollie’s next words.

“You’re not a Fourth Beat. You’re barely a Music Master. You’re just some wannabe sitting in this office and playing with his bird. You want to leave Rob alone? Be my guest, but don’t think for a damn second that I will.” Ollie threatened.

After a week of frustration and failures, all of his anger came out in one vicious tide.

Unfortunately, Ollie was far too engrossed in his emotions to realize that he’d unleashed on the wrong person.

For a few seconds, Ollie and Craven glared eye to eye, as the Pop 5 shrunk in silence. Even the normally cocky Nathan’s eyes were wide with fright, while Paul seemed just about ready to jump out of his own skin.

They’d seen what happened when Craven became angry. Lily had been the one present for it, and it had taken multiple First Beats over two days to wipe the blood off of the former assistants desk. All it took was for her Lily to tell the others, and they would remember to watch their tone around him. Everyone except Ollie, who fancied himself able to take on their Fourth Beat all by himself, song effects or not.

In a rare moment of camaraderie, Denny felt Lily’s hand tighten on hers. The two girls, normally always fighting, stayed entwined in the safety of each other as Craven’s next statement slithered out.

“Do you truly want this unholy night, Ollie?”

Less than a second passed, and he was already Harmonized as the Z-phones activated under his voice. Music in the air rose in volume as vicious guitars bit into everyone’s ears like frenzied sharks.

Before Ollie could so much as raise a finger, black tendrils surged from the floor below. They wrapped around his every limb, squeezing like gigantic boa constrictors in the process. He had no time to fight or to so much as struggle as they painfully locked up all of his joints.

The very light of the room was all but sucked away under the influence of this song effect, as Craven stood up and stepped out from behind his desk. He stared up at Ollie, who was now unable to speak and suspended upside down by tentacles that appeared constructed from the absence of light itself. Around Craven’s feet, smaller tentacles slithered with malign movements, ready to strike at their Music Master’s slightest mental command.

“If there is one thing I despise, it’s backtalk. I’d prefer this be the first and only time we have this discussion.” Craven explained, motioning his song to move away from Ollie’s mouth and allow him to breath.

Ollie sucked in air like a man who’d previously been drowning, and Craven smiled through his incisors at the pain being caused in front of his eyes.

“Breathe it in. Enjoy the gift of life. And understand that if you decide to disobey me again, I will rip that gift away from you without hesitation.”

He then looked back at the assembled Pop 5, noting the fear on their faces. It brought his mood up completely in a single instant.

Having been serious and cold just before, Craven’s face now shifted into a sadistic smile. “And that goes for all of you. You’ve been told many times, after all. Traitors in Zero Beat seldom live long.”

Behind the Fourth Beat, Ollie dropped to the ground as he was finally released from the grip of Chapter Four. It only took him a few seconds to get back up, but everyone could see even his normally stone-faced demeanor was visibly shaken by the experience.

The lights returned back to their previous bright state as Craven’s song effect ended by the manual push of a button on his music player.

And as he further drove his point home, Denny could swear he was eying her in particular this time. She could feel his gaze upon her, like a predator that was just waiting for her to turn her back to him.

“You are Pop 5, but please don’t forget, you’re also mine with which to do as I please.”

She wasn’t imagining it. That sadistic, sickening smile was directed right at her.

Or maybe it was just directed at all of him. Either way, that didn’t make it any better.

“Life and loved ones are gift. Enjoy them for now, lest I take them away.”

Denny wanted to escape into her chair now. She noted that look in his eyes; a demonic glaze that seemed to peer right into her soul.

Her eyes reflected off the infernal glint of the red stone amulet Craven wore on his neck.

Did he know? Was he aware of Michael this whole time, and was just playing a morbid game with Denny to further terrify her?

Denny almost shook her head at such a stupid notion.

Of course not, she thought. If he did, then Denny would certainly be dead by now.

She gulped. He’d beaten Ollie just like that, without so much as batting an eye. He was their leader, and their best fighter. One of the best Music Masters in the whole city. Denny could only imagine what it was like if Craven was actually trying.

For now, she might be safe. It appeared he didn’t know, and this was just a scare tactic.

But if their Fourth Beat didn’t know now, she had to be extra careful, because then it would only be a matter of time before he figured it out.

And nothing seemed worse than whatever fate Craven implied that he had in store for any so-called traitors of Zero Beat.

Few things in this world could offset being threatened with death by a man like Nicodemus Craven.

Thankfully for Denny, meeting with Michael on a special occasion like this was one of them.

She wasn’t skipping along, but she was certainly happy to know she’d be seeing him again soon.

The most wonderful and appropriate song went through her Z-phones as she walked the blocks towards his Washington Heights address. Taking the limo was obviously too suspicious especially after their meeting, and the walks gave her more time to listen to Michael Jackson’s perfect voice.

This particular song was something she’d forgotten for more than a year, until her afro-headed object of love had decided to remind her of it.

It was something he’d sent her himself; an old dug up classic that seemed to fit both Michael’s disco taste and Denny’s love for her eternal idol.


“Baby, love never felt so good, and I’d die if I ever could…”Denny sang along excitedly, not caring how awful she sounded or who she bothered on the street with her volume.

Once Craven was out of her mind, she thought back to their Christmas date. She’d finally found the courage to kiss him, but Michael had remained mundane about it the entire time.

Even after walking her back to the subway, he hadn’t given her anything more personal than a high five goodbye. And having been so enamored by the experience already, Denny had controlled herself for the rest of the night.

She checked her phone, making double sure she was on the right track. Denny was meeting Michael at his apartment, where he lived with his older sister as he had mentioned before.

Michael said he wanted to introduce Denny to his family, and that thought alone made the girl light up like the brightest of fireworks.

But happy or not, she was still unsure of what she could define her relationship with Michael.

Was she his girlfriend? Was he her boyfriend?

Those questions and others swirled around within her mind, begging to be answered.

For now though, she’d have to satisfied with meeting his older sister.

It was odd that they remained on such friendly terms after that, but Denny didn’t want to question it further lest she make him get sick of her. Denny wasn’t sure if she could survive losing Michael a second time.

Looking at her phone once again, Denny noticed a new message from an unfamiliar number as she made her way up the steps to Michael’s building.

She skimmed it quickly.

It had something to do with the Purebeats and someone named Calvin Altberg. Some sort of personal request to track him down on behalf of one Sirenia Altberg.

Denny just barely remembered him as the one of the Audio Knights shown in Ollie’s war room report, but nothing else beyond that.

And how did they have her number? Denny wondered if this had anything to with the rest of the Pop 5, or even worse, Nicodemus Craven himself.

She locked her phone once she’d finally reached the right apartment on the tenth floor of Michael’s building.

They’d get a response later, when she wasn’t already occupied.

Right now though, Michael and his love beckoned.

Two light knocks rapped against the front door, and Michael was up in an instant.

At the kitchen table, Colleen waited with a full glass of seltzer water, while Rob looked back from the couch, having been distracting himself with television for the first time in months.

“Is that her?” Colleen asked.

After the Christmas debacle, and once she and Michael had talked it over, it was decided that she would be laying off the wine for now. Her voice was clear and pleasant today, a far cry from the drunken slur of the other day.

“I hope.” Michael replied, grabbing the door. “I gave her the right directions…I think.”

“Well, only one way to find out.” Rob exclaimed, standing up from the couch as he pressed his vest jacket down to appear more presentable.

The knob was turned, and there stood Denny, hand up and a surprised smile now on her face.

“Hello everyone! Nice to meetcha!” she announced, waving in the process as she walked inside.

It was no more than two seconds before, like a magnet, she was drawn to her afro-headed love, almost forgetting that his sister and uncle were with them in the process.

“Hey Michael. Miss me?” she said with an audible giggle.

Michael rubbed the back of his neck, as embarrassment hit him like a runaway train. “Uh, sure.”

Rob’s eyes remained hidden under his cap as he allowed the situation to unfold, but Colleen was already raising an eyebrow as she smiled.

“Are you going to introduce us to your…friend, little brother?” his sister asked, walking over to get a closer look at her.

It took Colleen a few seconds to recognize her, and she was still processing it all even as Michael spoke.

“Oh, yeah! Denny, this is my sister Colleen. And Colleen, this is Denny. I met her a little over a week ago. She’s in th-”

“…the Pop 5.” Colleen cut him off. “I didn’t know you were friends with someone semi-famous. My brother didn’t promise to pay you to show up here, did he?”

Denny shook her head quickly, almost jumping up and down as she vouched for him. “Oh no way! We met at Audio Empire, and he’s super cool. I really like spending time with him.”

“Do you?” Colleen quipped, clearly enjoying herself perhaps a little too much. “Well, our door’s always open to any of his friends. You should come by for New Year’s. The party could always use some star power.”

Denny nodded excitedly. “Oh my gosh, I would love to! If it’s okay with Michael, that is.”

Michael just made a thumbs up, happy as always. “You know I’m always game for anything.”

His older sister left it at that, much to Michael’s relief. But then his eyes lit up as he realized that he’d forgotten something, motioning to his uncle who had stayed silent this whole time.

“Oh, and that’s my uncle Rob. He plays bass.” Michael explained, as Rob put out a hand to shake Denny’s. She took it quickly, but like most people, she was unable to truly read the expression on his face.

“Nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Rob began, knowing that the true meaning of his words would remain completely unknown to his niece.

In a rare move, he pulled his cap up, showing the gratitude in his eyes. “Thanks for everything you’ve done for my nephew. It means more than you know.”

Denny just beamed back at him, before looking at Michael with those same eyes of longing that he’d now gotten quite used to.

“Well, I mean, he’s like totally worth it.”

Michael just grinned, as the calm and comfortable atmosphere had descended upon them all.

Since their kiss in the karaoke room, Michael Kay still didn’t know how he felt.

He didn’t know if he liked her more than a friend, and he still wasn’t sure when he wanted to introduce her to Kim and Aeris.  With Calvin having left them so recently, more stress and worries is the last thing those two girls needed

All Michael knew was how much he enjoyed Denny’s company. He had his friends, but something about Denny was wholly different. There were elements of himself in her that were absent in Kim, Aeris or even Calvin.

He felt at ease around her, along with further sensations that remained unfamiliar to him.

Michael had no real words for it all, at least not yet. He’d asked Rob what to do, but his uncle had offered few words of advice beyond telling him to remember that she was still Pop 5, and the consequences that could come with that.

But Michael was no longer afraid. He was instead ecstatic, trying to understand this feeling that came to him only when Denny was near.

It was all something very new. An experience like this that had never felt so good, but the question remained to be; was it love?

In the end, Michael Kay didn’t know, and he didn’t care.  He had all the time in the world to think about love, after all.

With Denny, it wasn’t all so black and white.  And maybe one day he could figure out the way it made him feel.

But for now, he could lay back, ride the boogie, and just rock with her.





  1. And this track has been finished. This was definitely my favorite so far, with the introduction of the Pop 5 and the abandonment of Calvin really pushing this story further for me. However, my absolute favorite edition has to be Denny. She just gives off such a pleasant (sometimes obsessive) vibe that I can’t help but like her.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! Glad to hear your thoughts. There’s been a lot of build up to this particular arc even since I started White Knuckle Ride so I’m glad people like it as much as I did initially.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw, so sweet! =D I’m glad Michael at least got out of his obliviousness a little bit when it came to Denny. There are still a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up though so I wonder how or even if that will happen in the next arc… if Pop 5 realizes that Michael isn’t dead and what they will do to him and Denny if they find out, for example. (Also sheesh, I thought Ollie was scary, but Craven makes him look sort of helpless in comparison.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I was planning a lot of this for awhile, this arc especially back when it was called Rock With You instead of Love Never Felt So Good.

      It’s amazing how quickly you’re catching up. At this rate, you’ll be caught up in a week.


  4. Few things to digest:
    Ollie, you maybe a leader, but always make sure you keep your lips shut like you did for Nathan. Also, I know Rob is some big shot, but come on. Like your boss said Ollie,worry about the guy later.

    I wonder how the Zero Beats format themselves? Is Fourth named that for U.S or is it something different? If it was explained,sorry, probably forgot about it. Is their opposition one movement or a bunch of smaller things that go on? I wonder what Japan did to make sure their enemies leveled off from them? Is that where they’re headquartered?

    Wonderful Christmas ending, which is probably the highlight for Michael in the past few days.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The vague Secret History building here intrigues me. If a band as famous as Pop 5 can secretly be part of the Music Masters world, who else could be implicated??? If the Fifth Dimension is secretly evil, I don’t think I could survive it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer to make the Music Master musicians original for the sake of story. It can be assumed of course that the greats like MJ and Freddie Mecury and others were probably Music Masters too, but that’s left to interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

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