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Hitting the Right Notes

Posted on Sat Nov 13th, 2021 @ 11:57pm by Evahnae Kohl & Johnathan Anderson Junior

Mission: Holoworld
Location: SS Holoworld
Timeline: MD 2, Afternoon
2147 words - 4.3 OF Standard Post Measure

So far, it hadn't turned out to be much of a ghost hunt.

Despite her enthusiasm for exploring the ship's perishable inventory and the evident glee with which she'd agreed to every holodeck adventure she'd been invited to, Eva had approached this recreational jaunt with a healthy degree of skepticism. Having worked on similar vessels, though arguably nothing this advanced, it was almost impossible to fathom that a ship of this size and complexity could possibly be afloat in space without obvious cause. Abandoning an asset of this value was an act of sheer desperation and though she had to concede that there was nothing obvious yet that pointed to the kind of catastrophe that warranted a complete exodus protocol, she wasn't convinced enough to feel entirely secure. Something about the emptiness set her teeth on edge.

And, thus, venturing off alone to pursue a personal desire had taken several pep talks and multiple reconsiderations. Still, part of the compromise of this new life had been to deny herself decent access to the recording space she had first designed as a holoprogram all those years ago, and since transformed into an actual physical studio back in the now-sublet apartment she still found odd to call home. Over time, she would set up her small quarters with some sort of jerry-rigged arrangement, and the bar itself had scope for a performance space, but it wasn't the same. A couple of hours in a virtual booth might only compound her sense of longing but even ghosts weren't going to spook her away from being able to empty the tunes in her head into an actual functioning mixer.

Still, glancing both ways up the hallway whilst she waited for the program to download and initialise seemed prudent. Having passed no one on the way, it was becoming far too easy to imagine she heard footsteps approaching from all sides.

Johnathan was slowly walking through the ghost ship, looking anything that he could repurpose or recycle into something nice to give to Cassie.

As he turned a corner in the corridor he was in, he saw Eva up ahead, trying to access one of the dozens of holosuites on this deck. "Hey, Eva," he called out cheerfully.

"Holy shit."

Never one to mince words at the best of time, any thought of trying to appear nonchalant flew immediately out the window. As the thrum of blood left her pulse hammer in her ears, Eva's hands found her hips and she laughed, a little breathlessly. "Okay, 22," she chastised playfully, shortening the already-ridiculous nickname she seemed to favour for him, "I won't smack you this time, but you give me another heart attack like that and I can't promise anything."

Johnathan gave her a boyish grin and a playful shrug. "S-s-sorry. Didn't m-m-mean to s-s-scare you."

"Seems to just come naturally in this place." Without going into details about her state of hypervigilance, Eva glanced again up the corridor and then returned her scrutiny to the newcomer's face. She offered him a quizzical smile. "Which does beg the question; why are you wandering around on your own? I might just question your sanity if it's by personal choice."

The young pilot smiled and shrugged. "S-s-salvage run. B-b-both for R-R-R...the ship and s-s-see if I can f-f-find something n-n-n-n-nice for Cassie."

It took the partial-telepath a moment to remember the significance of that name but once she'd placed the woman, she nodded slowly. The salvage part she understood, she had several plans herself in that direction. Offering plundered goods from potentially-deceased passengers to your spouse... Maybe it was romantic; she was out of practise.

"Have you at least taken some time to mess about in the holodecks? Not often you get to play in these kind of arenas for free."

"D-d-d-don't get me wr-wr-wrong. I'm not g-g-graverobbing. Th-th-this whole ship is our sal-sal-salvage. S-s-s-so it would ju-ju-just repurpose." He then paused and took a breath, then continued. "No, I hav-hav-haven't tried them yet."

Though there had been plenty of distraction the last time they'd met, none the least being her own defeat at the hands of temptation, Eva was once again struck by a vague sense of sadness in the man's posture. She became aware of it again, tucked away behind his eyes, which didn't quite seem to make direct contact without discomfort. A faint smile was meant in kindness and though she hadn't exactly anticipated an audience, her bartender's instinct to nurture and involve took over.

"You want to check it out?" Eva jerked her head towards the door and bent to pick up the guitar case resting against the wall. "I mean, it's just a sound studio program I've had for a while, nothing fancy or particularly inventive but you're welcome to hang out if you want."

Johnathan nodded as he replied. "S-s-sure. Sounds l-l-l-like fun!"

The room itself, once the program had been uploaded, installed and finally initialised, wasn't particularly big. Even given the scope of the artificial space, it had never seemed quite right to design a vast auditorium when the intimacy of a more compact studio made the sound engineering far easier to perfect. There was a practise space, an assembly of instruments to populate it, and then the mixing booth and two recording boxes. Eva flicked the lights on, a rustic touch, and then moved to power up several amps to allow them to warm up.

"Do you play anything?"

Johnathan nodded. "I can p-p-p-play the fiddle. Th-th-though, only a c-c-couple songs." He moved into the space and, finding the instrument that he just spoke of, sitting in a blue- colored, felt-lined case, he smiled softly. He carefully lifted the instrument from its case and looked it over. Then, he slid the bow out from its carry sleeve, located in the lid of the case. He then tucked the fiddle up under his chin and started to test the strings, warming them up and ensuring they were in tune.

Eva hadn't meant to look surprised but, of all the responses she might have imagined, his was not top of the list. Having spent over a decade learning viola in earnest, and then keeping up with it purely for her own interest, the musician wasn't unfamiliar with the style of playing he was referencing but she had no experience with it personally. "A couple more songs than I'd manage. But why stop at two or three?"

Stopping what he was doing, Johnathan lowered the instrument to his lap. "Well, I s-s-s-started playing, to-to-to impress Cassie. B-b-but then, things w-w-went sideways and I s-s-stopped, for about 150 years."

The explanation evoked a scrunched up frown as Eva attempted, not for the first time, to piece together the intricacies of his situation. "So wait, did you marry her before or after you...disappeared?" He'd probably already explained this but, to be fair, there had been a lot of drinking before and after his initial explanation and having to help Angel back to her quarters had taken extreme concentration from both of them; Eva's memory was foggy on details.

"Th-th-that depends on which d-d-d-disappearance you are ref-f-f-fering to. If you m-m-mean the one where we were l-l-locked away in the pattern buf-f-ffer, then after. The most c-c-current one, before."

Too many disappearances. At some point, Eva would have to try to get her head around it, every good bartender tried to keep track of the key aspects of their patron's lives after all, but she put it into the 'too hard' basket for now. Interrogating him over something that seemed to cause him some distress didn't seem warranted. Instead, she smiled and nodded, wandering over to flip the switches on the upright keyboard to allow it to warm up. "Playing music is a lot of muscle memory, which comes from practise. You've had...a bit of a break but also, I guess, not a huge amount of distraction in between." She squinted, tried to consider his timeline again, and gave up. "See what you remember."

Johnathan thought sbout what Eva had said and nodded. Tucking the fiddle under his chin again, he slowly ran the bow across the strings a few times, ensuring everything was sounding and feeling good. He then paused, to try and collect his thoughts.

Bringing the bow back to ready, he closed his eyes and did a mental beat count and suddenly flew into playing a very fast song, which was full of exaggerated movements and high tempo notes.

The intensity of Eva's gaze didn't give much away in terms of her thoughts. It was deeply evaluative, however, her eyes fixated on the movement of his fingers and yet darting in a series of tiny little revolutions as if to resemble the processing speed of her calculation of his skill. The tiniest smile granted some reprieve and the eventual tilt of her head softened her appraising zeal. She didn't interrupt, though she did move slowly to withdraw her guitar from its case.

Johnathan continued to play with his eyes closed, pausing and tapping his foot during the spoken parts. Then, he started back up, playing just as fiercely as before, seeming to lose himself into the music.

If pushed to confess, Eva would probably have had to say she couldn't quite place the piece of music. The genre, on the other hand, and all its identifiable features, was more familiar. Finding a stool, she perched herself on it and tried to covertly tune her guitar without interrupting. With the same care not to intrude, the musician slipped a pick-piece onto her thumb and experimented acoustically with an accompanying counter harmony. Without amplification, her attempts sat so quietly beneath his that they didn't fully commit to actually becoming part of the song, but improvisation was a temptation Eva rarely attempted to avoid.

After a few more minutes of heavy, rapid playing, Johnathan played the last note of the song and the room filled with only the sound of his excited breathing. After a few beats, he finally opened his eyes and a huge grin filled his face.

Eva smiled, as much at his clear enjoyment as her own opinion of his skill. Settling her hand gently against the guitar strings to render them mute, she twisted herself into a slightly more comfortable position on her stool and readjusted the way the instrument rested against a bent knee. "Not bad for a 150-year-break." Her features relaxed into a warmer grin and she added, "Looks like you still enjoy it too."

Johnathan nodded enthusiastically. "I d-d-d-did!" He took a breath to slowing his excited core. "I wasn't even th-th-thinking about it! I j-j-j-just started playing!"

His enthusiasm was endearing and, for a moment, Eva just watched him revel in his moment. "You should keep it up," she encouraged eventually. "And do it for yourself," she advised, "Impressing other people is a bonus, it shouldn't be the goal." Leaning sideways, Eva let her guitar settle into its case and then slid off the stool to approach him. There was a quiet calculation to her expression, a thought process going on behind her eyes that saw her arrive at her next question somewhat out of the blue. "Have you ever tried to add vocals?"

Nodding slowly, he replied. "I know all th-th-the words. W-w-worried," he sighed then continued. "W-w-w-what if I c-c-c-can't?" He didn't need to say he was worried about the stutter. It was clear as day.

Far from having a degree in speech pathology, Eva nevertheless considered the man's concern with thoughtful reflection. "I know someone," she eventually offered, "who, whilst not exactly having a stutter, does struggle with verbal communication. And yet, when he sings..." The brunette offered a faint smile, affectionate but also somewhat bittersweet. "Besides, it's just the two of us. Maybe I can help."

Johnathan considered her offer, then nodded. "I wanted to d-d-do this, as a g-g-g-gift for Cassie." It was clear from his tone of voice that he was deeply in love with his wife. There was also a touch of pain there as well. He still felt guilty for making her feel that he had abandoned her for the year he was missing.

"I tell you what," Eva offered with a smile of encouragement. "This arrangement sounds familiar but I can't place it and I sure don't know the vocals to it. How about you teach me and then we work on it together?"

Johnathan sighed softly, then nodded. He then pulled out a small PADD and typed out the lyrics. He then went into his saved recordings and showed her an old video recording of the original band playing the song at a place called, The Grand 'Ol Opry.

After they watched the video recording, they discussed how best to achieve the goal of having him sing the song.


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