"The Jubilee Directive"
"Rock Me Amadeus"
By David Marshall
Opal University, One Year Ago
Dr. Amadeus Grimm took a deep breath and reached for the door. The university board was a bother but they signed his paycheck so when they demanded a meeting it was smart to comply – a necessary evil if he were to continue his work.
Grimm turned the knob and the thick, twelve-paneled walnut door swung inward on its hinges. He stepped into the room and found the usual cast of stodgy, hand-picked academics gathered around the meeting table. They did not look pleased but then again when did they ever?
"You summoned me?" Grimm asked.
The university president, Hal Gorman, was a balding squat of a man as wide as he was tall. His pronounced bulldog jowls flapped when he spoke. "Yes we did, Amadeus. Come in, please."
Grimm grabbed the back of a chair.
"No need to sit," Gorman instructed. "We’ll be brief."
"Sir?" Grimm asked.
Gorman eyed his staff nervously and took a deep breath. "Are you happy here, Amadeus?"
Grimm considered the question carefully. He was certainly comfortable in his position. He was tenured, well-compensated, and had the summers off but teaching music appreciation to lab rats with no passion for the arts was a far cry from his boyhood dream of conducting a great symphony. Was he happy? Not by a long shot, at least until the archeology department received the strange meteorite a few months earlier. "Yes, sir. Very happy. My research with the Jubilee Stone…"
Gorman held up a hand to stop him. "Ah yes, the so-called “Jubilee Stone.”
"I named it myself," Grimm boasted.
"You realize you are but a consultant on the project?" Gorman asked.
What was Gorman getting at? "My knowledge of music theory was the Rosetta Stone that cracked the Jubilee’s language."
"So it's true," Gorman huffed.
Grimm steeled himself as the confrontation thickened. “Sir?”
"You claim to communicate with that damned rock," Gorman answered.
Grimm nodded. “The Jubilee Stone is much more than a rock."
Gorman didn't look impressed. He retrieved a copy of the morning Opal Tribune-Charter from his briefcase and slid it across the table. The headline proclaimed, "Local Professor Claims Meteorite Alive".
"We're painfully familiar with your outlandish theory," said Margaret Snyder, Gorman's priggish, schoolmarm of a lackey. As usual she was at was at his side and eager to play the "yes man" to her boss's every accusation. "It is an embarrassment to the university!"
"It isn't a theory," Grimm argued. "The Jubilee Stone is an inter-dimensional traveler, a living entity."
"So you claim," Gorman replied. "Your theory is at odds with the findings of the actual research team studying the meteorite."
Grimm slammed his fist against the table. "Stop calling it a meteorite! It is much more!"
"On that we agree, Amadeus. The research team believes the stone to be a great power source capable of powering the entire country's electric grid for decades - or more, and a boon to the university’s scientific pedigree but this nonsense must stop! The last thing we need is the campus in an uproar over a hunk of rock!" Gorman shot back.
Grimm composed himself. "What's this meeting really about, Hal? Level with me."
"You're off the team," Gorman replied.
"You can't do that!" Grimm replied. "My research…"
"Damn it man! It isn't "your" research!" Gorman yelled. "You are… correction, you were a consultant, nothing more! Go back to your classroom and forget the stupid rock!"
Grimm shook his head. "I most certainly will not!"
"You will or you're no longer employed at this university! Do I make myself clear?" Gorman added.
"But… the Stone needs me!" Grimm pleaded. "Before I came along the incompetents in Energy Research were prodding it to perform tricks by whistling children's songs! The Neanderthals couldn’t understand its language!"
Gorman closed his briefcase. “I'm sure STAR Labs will figure it out."
"STAR Labs?" Grimm asked. "You're letting them examine the Stone?"
Snyder shook her head and smiled smugly. "No, Mr. Grimm. The university has agreed to allow them to take possession of the meteorite for closer examination."
"Over my dead body!" Grimm shouted. "I will not allow it!"
"You have no choice," said Gorman. "Our decision is final!"
Grimm leaped for Gorman's throat. "You will pay for this!"
Gorman’s chair broke and sent the men sprawling to the floor. Grimm’s attack was relentless and brutal. Several board members rushed to separate the two men while Snyder called for security. A moment later two campus police officers arrived and dragged a wild-eyed Grimm off a bloodied, disheveled Gorman.
"You're out of here, Grimm!" Gorman shouted as the campus police handcuffed Grimm’s wrists behind him. “Do you hear me? Fired! To hell with your tenure!”
"You haven’t seen the last of me!" Grimm yelled over his shoulder in defiance as security drug him away. "I won’t rest until I bring this university to its knees!"
New York City, Central Park, Now
The new earth could be disorienting even to a powerful homo magi such as Traci 13 whose power tapped into the latent magic of the earth itself, particularly in an urban setting.
It was an early spring day in Central Park and she and her boyfriend, Jaime Reyes, were determined to enjoy the beautiful, cool weather. He was the Teen Titan known as Blue Beetle. Both were recently transported to the new earth by the villain known as Doctor Gotham and their date was a welcome respite from saving the world from would-be conquerors and shortsighted despots.
The transition to a new world was a tough one.
Much of New York was familiar - Central Park, Times Square, Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, but the air – indeed the magic - tasted different. Perhaps it was Traci’s unfamiliarity but it was wild and unrefined. It called to her every waking moment and was difficult to ignore. It would have been easy to lose oneself in the overpowering tide.
"Penny for your thoughts," said Jaime, unwrapping the Coney he purchased earlier from a vendor’s cart.
Traci feigned surprise. "A whole penny? Really? You’re digging deep in that wallet today, Reyes!"
Jaime bit into the Coney and spoke with his mouth full. "You wound me! But seriously T, you seem a million miles away."
Traci thought of home. "Maybe I am. Do you miss it - our world I mean?"
"Are you kidding?" Jaime asked. "Only every second of every day - especially my family! My folks must be worried sick."
The mention of Jaime’s family made Traci long for her own father. "I'm sure my dad is in denial about the mass disappearance of people from our earth being magical in nature."
"And I'm sure he's looking for you," Jaime answered. He tossed the Coney wrapper into the trash and pulled Traci close to him. "At least you're not alone. You have me."
"And a penny," Traci reminded him.
"You're not going to let that go, are you?" Jaime asked.
Traci shook her head and smiled. "Not a chance, Bug Boy."
Jaime pointed to a small crowd gathered near the children's zoo and jerked Traci along by the hand as he sprinted toward them. “Hey! Check it out!”
"What's going on?" Traci asked.
"Looks like some musicians setting up for a concert," Jaime replied. “We’re just in time!”
“Oh joy!” said Traci.
Six musicians dressed in baroque period costumes sat in wooden, folding chairs arranged in a semi-circle. A chrome music stand stood before each one. A large, rotund man stood behind them at the timpani. Despite his portly appearance he looked distinguished with his white wig and 18th century coat and tails. A mousy strawberry-blonde held a flute in her lap while a Snidely Whiplash-type blew air into his trumpet and emptied his spit valve before the show began. The other three musicians played the violin, the cello, and the saxophone.
The most visually-striking performer was the conductor. He was an older man, probably in his mid-50s. He too was dressed in period costume. A long, white ponytail hung over the collar of his coat. When he raised his baton the group snapped their instruments into place and waited for his count.
On cue they began to play. Traci wasn't a big fan of classical music so she didn't recognize the song but it was pleasant and playful, the perfect selection for a cool spring day.
"This is great," Jaime whispered. "I love Mozart."
"You recognize this?" Traci asked. "Seriously?"
Jaime nodded. "It's Mozart's "The Magic Flute"."
Traci was impressed. "How do you know that?"
"My mom. She made me listen to classical music growing up. It was supposed to make me smarter," Jaime laughed.
"Not every education fad works like it's supposed to," Traci answered. "But this music is great."
And it was! The conductor swung his arms wildly while leading the piece. Traci closed her eyes. She imagined herself frolicking barefoot in a field of fresh spring flowers. A bird landed on her shoulder. In the sky overhead a unicorn danced on the very top arch of a rainbow. She wanted to give all her money to the musicians.
The last thought shook her from her flight of fancy. Why would she think such a thing? She opened her eyes to find the crowd doing just that, including Jaime. She'd heard of people tipping the musicians in Central Park, but this was ridiculous! People were laying their Rolexes and jewelry at the conductor’s feet along with cash emptied from their wallets. One man even laid down his Platinum Card and scribbled a note with his PIN number on it!
Traci shook Jaime. "Jaime! Come on! Snap out of it!"
Jaime jerked to his senses. "What happened?"
"It's the musicians!" Traci replied. "They're robbing the crowd!"
Passersby who heard the sweet music were drawn to look. When they did, they too emptied their pockets and purses.
"I feel a very strong, ancient magic," said Traci. "I can't put my finger on it though. The magic of this earth is too unfamiliar."
Jaime ran up to a man removing his wedding band. "Sir! Snap out of it! That’s your wedding ring!"
The man didn't listen. He removed the symbol of devotion from his finger and placed it into the pile.
Traci couldn't prevent a young woman from adding her Purity Pledge bracelet to the collection either so she did the next best thing. She spotted a fire hydrant nearby and concentrated. Water shot from it like a great geyser and formed a towering wall between the musicians and the crowd.
"That should hold them for now!" said Traci.
"I hate this!" said Jaime as his Blue Beetle armor appeared. He once described the transition as excruciating. A moment later he took to the sky in full armor.
Suddenly the timpani began to rumble and roll like thunder. The ground shook and an instant later Traci’s geyser parted. On the other side of the wall a glowing man dressed in long robes and a white, flowing beard appeared. He clutched a staff in his hand and held it aloft.
"What the hell is going on?" Traci yelled to Blue Beetle.
"Looks like Moses parting the Red Sea!" Blue Beetle replied. "He emerged from the timpani like one of Green Lantern's constructs!"
A wrist-mounted laser rose from Blue Beetle's armor and fired upon the construct and blew it apart. Shards of hard energy flew in every direction but lost their form before raining down on the crowd.
The conductor's eyes grew wide and he waved his baton furiously as the music built to a harried crescendo. The sheer volume was deafening and then an abrupt moment of silence pierced the air.
The violinist took her turn. She raked her bow across her instrument’s taut strings and an intense flurry of notes filled the air. At first the music was lively but then grew dissonant and filled the crowd with sheer terror. Abandoning her bow the woman plucked the strings with her fingers. Each pizzicato attack drew fresh cries of horror.
Some panicked listeners fled the scene while others dropped to their knees and begged their torturing apparitions for mercy.
Traci fought back her own fears and turned her attention to crowd control. She spotted a toddler who became separated from his mother. He wailed in terror as people ran around him. Traci wasn't sure how long his luck would hold before he was trampled. She reached for the earth below him and made contact. The ground yielded to her will and buckled the asphalt where he sat. Water pipes rose up around him and twisted into a cage resembling domed monkey bars. The tide of humanity was forced to detour around him. His young mother ran toward his protective prison.
Traci met her there and willed the bars apart to retrieve the boy. Once he was secure she reached him to his mother. "Get him to safety."
The young woman was eager to take her son. Once in her arms she hugged him close and kissed his forehead. "Thank you. I was scared to death! I couldn't find him with all the people running at me."
Meanwhile Blue Beetle took the fight to the musicians. Or rather they took it to him. A gang of ninja constructs leaped from the timpani head and were kicking his butt. He fought valiantly but for every one he knocked down two more took its place.
Traci spotted a lamp post behind the drummer and beckoned it to wrap around the man's arms to prevent him from playing. The post coiled around him like a serpent around its prey.
The flute player broke off from the ensemble and played a lively Irish jig. It was easy to get lost in the playful melody but Traci fought the urge. Unfortunately she wasn't the intended audience.
The Dancing Bear and Dancing Goat statues that flanked the north and south entrances of the Central Park Zoo came to life and stepped down from their basins.
The Goat rammed Blue Beetle from behind and knocked him to the ground.
"I had no idea a goat could pack such a punch. Or that I would ever use those words together in a sentence," said a stymied Blue Beetle.
The goat charged once more. Blue Beetle fired his wrist blasters at the beast. The blast hurled it into the ninjas. They fell like bowling pins. A second blast opened the asphalt behind the fallen goat and knocked it into the earthen gash.
That left Traci to wrestle with the bear. She always imagined the famed statue was a friendly creature. So much for that theory! It stood on its hind legs and roared so loudly it drowned out not only the flautist but the city’s white noise as well.
"Come on, Smokey," said Traci. "Nice bear!"
The beast reset itself on all four legs and approached slowly. Its heavy breath came in agitated grunts.
"Okey dokey, not Smokey," said Traci. "How about Yogi? Winnie the Pooh? Sugar Bear? Fozzie? Man-eating carnivore from hell?"
The bear charged.
"Great! Man-eating carnivore from hell it is!" Traci screamed as she ran from the beast. She sought refuge upon a nearby rock wall but it was a futile move as the bear followed easily. She hopped down and ran behind the sea lion pool. As she ducked behind the rock that held the safety glass in place a curious sea lion greeted her but darted away quickly when he saw the approaching bear.
The bear was almost upon her. Traci had to do something quickly. She willed the ground beneath the beast to turn to quicksand. It was all she could think of on such short notice.
The confused bear whimpered, imploring her to rescue it.
"You're not real. You're not real," Traci whispered to herself. Satisfied the bear was no longer a problem she turned her attention to the flautist. "You want to animate statues? Two can play at that game!"
Traci willed the Eight Eagles statues to life and ordered them to attack the ensemble. The majestic birds swarmed the musicians. It was their turn to be surprised. The conductor raised his baton and shot one of the birds from the air with an energy blast. But it was the saxophonist who did the most damage. He was a mod-looking hipster type that appeared to have been plucked from a bygone era. A cool cat if there ever was one! When he began to play Traci was overcome with the urge to kiss Blue Beetle and lost control of the eagles. Her boyfriend obviously had the same idea as he too stopped fighting and sought her out. His armor receded beneath his flesh and he was Jaime once again.
The young lovers fell into one another's arms and locked lips in sweet surrender. The two kissed many times before but never like this! Passion seemed to ooze from every pore of Traci's moist skin. Jaime groped at her body as if he were trying to swallow her up. Traci was all too willing to comply as wave after wave of lust washed over her. She was lost in the moment as Jaime planted small kisses up and down her neck. She ran her hands over his bare back, savoring his lean muscles. His nakedness felt so natural to her. So much in fact that she wanted to join him in the au naturale state. She never wanted anyone so badly!
Traci pushed Jaime away long enough to begin removing her shirt. As she pulled it over her head, exposing herself for the first time to her boyfriend she noticed they weren't the only lovers at the zoo caught in the delicious spell. Even total strangers were making out with one another in various stages of undress.
The sight jarred her senses long enough to make her very aware her shirt was over her head and that Jaime was totally naked. "Jaime, stop!" she shrieked.
"Come on, baby," Jaime whispered. "It’s natural instinct. Don’t fight it."
His words flowed with the raw sexuality of the music. The effect was intoxicating. She looked him up and down. His hormones were definitely raging.
Traci closed her eyes and fought the primal urges stirring within her. "Please put that thing away!"
"What are you saying, baby?" a bewildered Jaime asked.
Traci grabbed him and shook hard. "Jaime, you have to shake this! We're under a spell of some sort. That saxophone…"
That wonderful, sinfully delightful saxophone! It made her want to do such dirty things!
No! She couldn't succumb to the temptation she felt! There had to be a way to make the raucous warbling stop. But did she want it to?
Traci spotted a fountain and willed the water to take the form of a spout and fill the sax’s bell. The instrument fell silent.
As soon as the music stopped the crowd came to its senses. The reactions were a mixture of abject horror for being in such a precarious position with total strangers to shock and even amusement.
"Madre de Dios!" Jaime shouted as he tried in vain to cover himself. "What am I doing? Traci! Look away!"
Traci turned her head. "I am looking away! I don't want to see that! At least not this early in our relationship!"
Jaime's armor tore through his skin once more and he was fully clothed.
The two Titans rushed the musicians but the cellist ran his bow across his strings. A moment later the ensemble faded into thin air. They got away with the loot but no one was seriously hurt thanks to Traci and Jaime.
"What just happened here?" Traci asked.
Jaime shook his head. "We just got our butts handed to us by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band."
"Besides that," Traci countered.
Jaime shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not sure.”
A policeman wearing only his underwear, hat, and black socks rushed up to them. "Who were those people?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Traci replied.
"What's this?" Jaime asked. He bent to the ground and picked up a pile of fliers. They were hastily-printed and of various colors but the information and accompanying picture on each of them were identical. The group was bold, plastering their images in such a way as if they didn't care to get caught. The message underneath the photograph was simple.
"Come see the Jubilee Symphony conducted by Dr. Amadeus Grimm, live in Central Park! Prepare to be amazed."
"What now?" Jaime asked.
Traci looked around the park. It was a mess. There was much cleanup to be done. She willed the eight eagles back into place and used her powers to get in touch with the earth to find the pieces of the one the conductor shot from the sky. At her command they reassembled and joined the other eagles. Next she retrieved the dancing bear and the goat and made sure both were back in place.
"Suppose we'll see them again?" Traci asked.
Blue Beetle nodded. "I have a feeling this is but the opening stanza."
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