When Michael first felt his mind stir, all he could see was an infinite vista of space and stars.
He stood alone upon a massive, circular thing, black like the void before him yet shining with all the glint of a vinyl record.
But even among such a vibrant wash of colors, his tie dye shirt, blue jeans, and red sneakers stood out more than ever.
Not knowing what to say, or why he was even here, Michael Kay just stared ahead at the stars and roaming colors that made up outer space itself.
He opened his mouth to say something, but not even his mere breath made any noise within this vacuum.
Soon bored with staring at space itself, Michael turned around, hoping there might be more to see beyond faraway galaxies and stars within them.
Some fifteen feet or so away, standing on the opposite end of this titanic vinyl disc that carried them throughout the cosmos, was none other than Denny of the Pop 5.
Her long blond ponytail floated slightly under the lower gravity of their cosmic location, and there was a clear spring in her step as she approached Michael with a calm, knowing smile.
There was something very uncomfortable about it all. Before he knew it, Michael could already feel himself wanting to back away.
Unfortunately, he made little progress in escaping as Denny soon closed the distance between the two of them.
Seconds passed, and then suddenly her smaller fingers were intertwined within his.
She was inches away from his face, sweet and warm breath hitting close to the bridge of Michael’s nose.
The familiar smell of honey-flavored lip balm began to overpower Michael’s senses. He could feel lightheadness coming on as Denny’s mere prescence threatened to put him to sleep.
Then a song began to play in the air.
It started quite low and innocuous at first, until it grew in volume till its sound was overpowering enough that it could reach light years and beyond.
Michael could struggle no more. He was weak and helpless as Denny seemed to envelop him completely.
But where once was a pretty girl, a black, amphorous thing took her place.
Its body wrapped around Michael’s, made entirely of some thick and black ooze that threatened to smother him to death.
Michael was left restrained in a mass of cloying muck, staring at the giant music note that served at this monstrosity’s head.
It had no eyes, no mouth; no features whatsoever.
Somehow though, it was able to let out an ear-piercing screech.
One that truly shattered the silence of the void and nearly ruptured Michael’s eardrums.
Black ooze soon overcame Michael Kay, leaking into his nose and ears, drowning his senses and drowning his mind.
He tried to scream, but all he could do was struggle to choke through the darkness that poured down his throat.
The simeoultaneous laughter of the combined Pop 5 was all he heard, as death and its release came to claim him.
Michael’s phone had vibrated three times next to him, a vocal hiccup belonging to a young King of Pop accompanying each text, but it was that final image in his unsettling dream that managed to wake him up.
Eyes blinking open, Michael moved up from his lying position slowly.
His gaze shifted over to his phone nearby, and he snatched it up within his fingers in a heartbeat.
A quick few seconds of reading, and Michael found nothing but three texts from Denny.
They were all short, but it was that last one in particular that caught Michael’s attention the most.
– Michael –
– MICHAEL –
– THEIR COMING –
He read them again, as all hint of exhaustion left him in the process.
Michael set the phone down on his lap, not immeaditely knowing what to think.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he glanced at the form of Calvin nearby, who still slept in silent and assumed peace.
If he had another five minutes, Michael might have thought over the ramifications of Denny’s message; of who might be coming and when.
But as he stood up, now fully awake, his questions were answered quickly in turn.
A low hum turned into the beginning of a foriegn song, which Michael’s hearing picked up as originating from just outside the Sound Loft’s front door.
Michael Kay’s eyes widened. What followed was a horrible wrenching noise as the entirety of the Sound Loft’s front door was completely torn off its hinges. Music followed in its wake, invading the sancity of Rob’s apartment in the process.
Michael’s wakefulness became his salvation, as he found himself swaying to one side by reflex, watching as the door itself sliced through the air and bisected Rob’s nearby loveseat with deadly ease.
With a horrid skidding noise, the door soon slammed onto the floor, thrusting Calvin awake in the process.
“What? What the hell, man!?!” he yelled out in panic, looking towards Michael, who looked clearly stunned to have dodged something that could have so easily killed him with perfect timing.
Turning on Rob’s coffee coloured couch, he realized all too quickly what was going on as he saw the state of the door and the now gaping hole that allowed open access into the Sound Loft.
The sound of Kanye West’s rapping was loud and clear now.
For Michael, it was all the warning he needed.
Even as he and Calvin scrambled to get their headphones out and music up and ready, a golden arm ending in a vicious pickaxe violently pulled and ripped away at the adjoining walls of the door frame.
Framed by the song that birthed it, what stepped inside was towering, golden statue in the shape of an impossibly beautiful woman.
It had no mouth to speak of; just a blank face and matted metal hair coupled with piercing red eyes.
The pickaxe in place of its right hand quickly morphed back to familiar human digits in an instant, as Ollie entered behind it, surveying the destroyed space while Paul, Nathan, Lily and a clearly anxious Denny followed in his wake.
Familiar and new song effects came with them, which might have resulted in a cacophony of sound to any normal person, but was thankfully more bearable to the gathered Music Masters.
The guest room door slammed open, as Kim rushed out in a partially disheveled state only to be greeted by the sight of the now fully assembled Pop 5.
Ollie’s Sentonal stood guard as neither side had yet acted. Pink dice formed from LoveGame bounced in Lily’s palm, a snide expression on her face.
Denny herself said nothing, instead trying not to look Michael’s way as her monstrous Thriller-borne werewolf dutifully followed her.
Meanwhile, Nathan was at the forefront, holding an impossibly long microphone wire that ended in a vicious, spiked mace of sorts.
His usual Blink-182 sound followed him, blaring with intensity among the other songs.
On Ollie’s left, Paul Mercury strode in upon a floating platform; a huge yellow-bound book that seemed to fly under its own power, massive pages flapping back and forth in the process.
It joined the symphony of the Pop 5’s assembled music, a lighter, aged Beatles number in comparison to its more outspoken and modern fellows.
The standoff Michael had thought would never come, the same one that Kim had wanted them to prepare for all this time, had finally arrived.
But there were no witty one-liners or petty insults to open this confrontation.
There was only Ollie’s suddenly shocked stare, as he soon realized he was staring right at the black orb of hair belonging to what should have been a dead disco boy.
He turned quickly and angrily, Sentonal keeping any eye on the Music Masters before them lest they try anything.
“What is this? He’s supposed to be dead.” he asked Denny, who stayed near Price out of complete fear.
She said nothing, and Ollie barked louder.
“Denny! You gave us proof! You lied to us, you dumb bitch!” he screamed now, as Nathan snickered while both Lily and Paul seemed very uninterested in getting involved.
Kim was beside Calvin and Michael now, and thankfully his assembled friends were enough to give him some modicum of courage.
“Hey! Leave her alone, you jerk. You want somebody to mess with? I’m right here. Come and get me!”
Ollie’s eyes narrowed, as he turned his gaze back to the three Audio Knights before him.
All three had their headphones in, song effects blaring as Harder, Better, Faster Stronger, Canned Heat and Walking Disaster joined the mix of music already playing in the air.
Aeris was nowhere to be found, as expected. Of course, that still didn’t excuse the fact that she’d lied to him.
Denny wasn’t the only betrayer tonight, it seemed.
“Denny said she killed you. You said that, or was I hearing things? Were we all hearing things?” Ollie asked loudly to both her and the rest of the Pop 5, clearly sarcastic.
Nathan smiled evilly. “Yup. She said that for sure.”
Trying to ignore the fact that no one was coming to her support, Denny piped up finally. She was far too afraid to realize Ollie’s tone in the slightest.
“I did! At least…I thought I did!”
Ollie put his hand out to silence her. “Save it. I promise, you’ll be dealt with later.”
He cracked his knuckles, craning his neck as he observed what he knew would be an erupting brawl. “At least I can have the satisfaction of killing you myself, disco boy.”
“Yeah, keep dreaming.” Calvin exclaimed, clearly braver with his friends nearby. “You want him? You’ll have to go through us.”
He glanced to one side.
Only now did he notice that Aeris was nowhere to be found.
Catching Kim’s gaze, he could see she was aware of this fact as well.
There was nothing further to be said. Their lives, and Michael’s, were in clear danger.
Whatever was going on with Aeris would have to wait.
“The little runaway from the PureBeats and Helia and Renaldo’s unfortunate failure.” Lily interjected with a haughty laugh.
“Oh, are we simply shaking with fear!”
Kim clenched her fists, and around her, the assembled hydra-arms born from her song effect copied her in unison. “Don’t worry. When I beat you unconscious, I promise you that shaking will stop.”
Music clashed in the air, but after all this time, neither side had opted to act. They kept their distance in a clear Mexican standoff, until Ollie barked the first order to the most unwilling of participants.
“Denny, no more playing around. Kill the disco boy, now.”
Denny shook her head, and behind her, Price growled ominously.
“No. I don’t want to.”
Ollie swiveled, and his Sentonal slammed one golden foot down on the floor, shaking the furniture and decor in the process. “That wasn’t a suggestion. That was an order!”
Michael didn’t even blink.
Instead, he took Kim’s advice; that one little piece that involved taking advantage of an enemy’s hesitation, no matter what the context.
Distracted and angered, Ollie turned forward to see the speeding, Canned Heat-infused flashes of Michael coming towards him.
His Sentonal had no time to react to his mental thoughts, which were clouded by rage, and Michael Kay remained just out of reach.
Raising a heated fist, Michael had just enough time for a single one-liner.
“Hey! You want to off me? Why don’t you do it yourself?”
Infused by stinging heat to give it that much more extra bit of punch, Michael laid right into Ollie’s cheek.
The blow was a lightning strike into a lake of calm, escalating the violence and sending Ollie crashing back onto the floor.
That was the only cue everyone needed to quell all inaction, as Nathan pressed forward and quickly wrapped his microphone cord around Michael’s neck like a makeshift garrote.
He whispered in the boy’s ear with giddy satisfaction as Ollie rushed to get to his feet. “Oh, I am so looking forward to icing you, dork. I can’t wait to see that look on your girlfriend’s fa-”
He never got to finish, words dwindling away as Kim’s hydra-arms grabbed at the nape of his neck and shirt folds before dragging him away from Michael and up into the air.
Calvin stayed in a defensive position as he threw torrents of neon squares without abandon.
Unfortunately, he was unable to touch Paul at all as the English boy rode his flying book with surprising agility and grace.
Beyond unwilling to attack Michael, Denny simply commanded her Sentonal to prowl around Calvin, stalking him and waiting for exhaustion to take its toll and allow for an opening to strike.
Even held up by Kim’s hydra-arms, Nathan wasted no time in unleashing wanton destruction.
His microphone-mace expanded in size as he swung it around himself, decimating both furniture, the wall nearby, and the clawed tendrils that previously kept him trapped.
As Kim summoned more of her hydra-arms, she was now faced with a freed opponent, who chuckled as he swung the wire beside him like some deranged musical flail.
Dizzied by the sudden choking, Michael just barely dodged an incoming strike from the ten-foot tall Sentonal that Ollie had used to break their way into the Sound Loft. It slashed and stomped in an attempt to disembowel him, both arms now morphed into deadly pickaxes that seemed capable of cutting anything in their path.
Though Canned Heat gave Michael a considerable speed advantage, it didn’t mean he could suddenly overpower everyone that came at his way. He spotted two incoming pink dice in his peripheral vision, inches away from his face, and he just barely ducked to dodge the brilliant flash of glittery fire that they unleashed.
As he pivoted back up, the distraction cost him, with Ollie bull rushing him and knocking the boy completely on his feet.
Michael tried to get back up, but the weight of Ollie on top of him was more than his strength could handle.
His burning hand moved towards Ollie’s wrist, and he strengthed the heat as his fingers closed over Ollie’s wrists. The skin sizzled, but Ollie ignored the pain went for Michael’s face.
He threw one hard punch, which broke a blood vessel in Michael’s nostril and sent his mind spinning.
Another one came, and then one of Michael’s new tan headphones tumbled out of his ears, and Canned Heat fizzled out of existence in tandem.
Ollie’s hands soon wrapped around his neck, as his Sentonal towered nearby to hold off the other Audio Knights who might try to save him.
“Nice try, but this is it. Ain’t nobody left to save you. I’m finishing this tonight.” Ollie stated, slowly but surely crushing Michael’s windpipe as the boy struggled and sputtered to break free.
Kim’s words echoed in his mind.
The comfortable calm before the storm. The training they should have done but so blatantly neglected.
It seems her storm had indeed arrived, and they would pay for their unprepardness with their lives.
Perhaps it would have all been clearer to him if there wasn’t a red fog wasn’t washing over his eyes and threatening to melt his world away.
Not knowing what was happening to Calvin and Kim, and fully aware that Denny could do nothing now that her cover was blown, Michael could only try to break Ollie’s seemingly unbreakable grip.
It took mere seconds to realize his effort was in vain.
Not seeing any other solutions out of this, Michael felt himself accepting what appeared to be his death, as Ollie pushed to finish his crushing embrace.
He could only hope that Colleen might forgive him for leaving her alone.
He could only hope Rob could forgive him too.
But as the end threatened to come, a new song entered the air, competing with the mass of eight different songs all playing at the same time.
It was a powerful bassline that only became audible the moment its user teleported into this plane of existence.
Ollie had no time to look up, as the wide end of rainbow Warwick bass slammed into the side of his face and sent him flying off of Michael in the process.
Reacting in an instant, his Sentonal’s arms morphed back and caught him in mid-air.
Ollie rubbed his cheek, throbbing pain the last thing on his mind as he stared at the newcomer in their midst.
The assembled Pop 5 and Audio Knights looked on, as the familiar form of Rob Prototype made himself known to all before him.
But despite having Michael’s imminent death ripped from right underneath him, Ollie appeared anything but angry.
In fact, as Lily, Paul, Nathan and Denny all looked on, they could see a strange sort of smile now plastered on his face.
Elation overtook him, as he realized that Michael had served as effective and surprisng bait in luring out the true big game that was the Trackmaster before him.
“Rob Prototype.” Ollie said, excitement in his usually stone cold tone. “I was wondering when you’d finally show your face. I thought you were a coward.”
Rob fixed his cap. “I am where I need to be. We can make this easy. Nobody needs to die tonight.”
Ollie’s Sentonal’s arms shifted back to pickaxes, as Michael choked out a breath of life and Rob stood ready for anything.
Ollie fixed his cap. This was the moment he’d been waiting for all this time.
“That’s where you’re wrong. A bass player dies tonight by my hand. You’re about to play your last riff.