Chapter 20 "Lindbergh, I’m sorry for having you doing this," I apologized to my friend, who was currently driving me to the building where I was supposed to audition at. "Aw, it’s okay, Digit," the kiwi replied. "I always give you lifts to and from work. It’s no big deal." "No, what I mean is…" A sigh escaped my throat. With this new, strange voice that I had, it was kind of difficult to express my emotions. "Something wrong, Digit?" Lindbergh asked. "Well, it’s just that it doesn’t seem fair that I’m the only one out of all of us who’s going to audition for this project," I explained. "I’m afraid that you guys might be upset because you don’t get a chance." "The others won’t be upset," my best friend reassured me. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, Digit. In fact, we’ll all be cheering you on." He pulled into the parking lot and found a space to drop me off. "Just try your best. I know you can do it." "Thank you, Lindbergh," I said with a smile as I stepped out of the car. "I’ll call you all with the results." "Okay, see you when I pick you up!" With the closing of the passenger door, he drove off to get back to the rest of the band. I turned around and faced the double doors that lead to the inside. Taking a deep breath, I calmed my nerves down and stepped onto the tiled floors of the interior of the building. I had little difficulty finding the waiting room. (There were signs that guided me to the waiting room door.) As I stepped in, I noticed right away that this was one of the most strangest assemblages that I had ever seen in my life. There were mechanics, punk rockers, big haired people, musicians, people with many decorative piercing items on their body… and that was just to name about a half of them! I saw an empty seat next to a woman with pink hair and silver skin and decided to sit down. At first, I just looked around, glancing at all that were gathered. Then, something told me that I should make some conversation with at least one person here. After all, I could make a new friend. Before I could find someone to talk to, the woman next to me spoke up. "Ello dere, mon. Whey yuh name?" I was puzzled at first, but I managed to make out a majority of the words. "Oh, my name. My name is Digit. And yours?" A wide grin formed on her face, and she pointed to herself as she talked. "Maya. I 'ope ta get a job 'ere." "What a coincidence," I replied with a smile. "I'm trying out for a job here, too. What do you hope to get?" "Well, I 'ope ta get somet'ing in de way of musical direction." Maya shrugged and added, "I can play de guitar an' stuff too, so, dere's dat." "Very interesting, Maya," I commented. "I'm a musician myself, you know. I play the keyboards. Maybe we'll end up working together." "Whoa, mon, dat's bad!" she exclaimed with a grin. Based on her tone of voice and facial expression, I interpreted that what Maya said was a good thing. "Thank you! You know, it is very nice to meet a fellow musician." Maya laughed and patted me on the back. "You di first one I meet ta get dat bad is good," she told me. "'Ope ya get di job, mon. Can't wait ta work wit' you." "Likewise," I stated with a smile. "Meh, look at ya…" a deep voice suddenly spoke up. "I'm a real man! Ain't no way you can experience anythin' worth livin' for like that." Maya and I searched until we saw a old, bald drummer staring at me. "… I beg your pardon, sir?" I asked him, trying to be polite. "Yer computer chip-a-ma-whatzits not compute, wire-head?" he questioned me. "I said yer nothin' but a VCR!" I’ve never been the one to get involved in fights. In fact, I usually stay far away from them. Still, this elderly man was insulting my state of being, and I had to defend it. "At least a VCR is useful," I told the man, standing up and narrowing my eyes. "At least a VCR works. I bet the last time you were employed, you rode a brontosaurus to work. What was it like chipping rocks for Slate?" "I'll show ya what a real man can do!" the man cried in anger. Before I could speak again, the man swung at my jaw with his fist and hit his target. I stumbled, trying to regain my balance but to no avail. "Fight! Fight! Fight!" I heard a male voice yell repeatedly. He was obviously enjoying the drummer’s and my fight so much that he wanted more. After rubbing my sore jaw, I came to my feet and would’ve been knocked down again if a blonde male didn’t step in between us. He separated us and pushed each of us in chairs that were on opposite sides of the room. I don’t know how the drummer felt afterwards, but I know that there was a jolt through my entire body when I hit the chair. The blonde male dusted off his hands. "And that’s where violence will get you," he simply stated. "Cease and sekkle!" Maya added, standing up from her chair. "Hey listen," the man suddenly said to Maya, "if you’re not busy this week, how about you and me getting together sometime?" The pink-haired girl grinned. "Come yah…" She pulled the blonde close to her like she was about to kiss him and then slapped him. "Stupid lagga head bwoy! As if I would jus' fall down an' worship di groun' you walk on!" Without warning, the door that (supposedly) led to the auditioning room flung open. Hurrying out was a certain famous amphibian, who looked like he needed to be somewhere else in a jiffy. Scurrying after him was a red-haired girl with glasses, who I presumed to be his assistant for the auditioning process. "Mister Kermit," she called after him, stopping at the door leading out into the hallway, "what about all of these people? They’re here for the auditions!" A screech could be heard and the sound of flippers came running back into the room, followed by the appearance of Kermit the Frog. "I’m sorry, everyone," he apologized to the group. "I’ll move this process along in the fastest way I know possible…" The frog then pointed at two mechanics. "You, you," -- he pointed at a man with metal pierced into his face -- "you," -- he pointed to the blonde man -- "you," -- he pointed to Maya -- "you," -- he pointed to me -- "you," -- and finally he pointed to the elderly drummer -- "and you. You’re all hired! Work starts tomorrow at 6 AM. I’ll see you all there!" He then resumed his dash out the door. I blinked. What just happened? I thought to myself. Was I hired on the spot? "Meh… it’s better than unemployment, I guess," the drummer shrugged. "Dat’s a relief," Maya sighed, glad that she now had a job. The blonde male punched his fist into the air. "Righteous, man!" Maya, the drummer and I then started to take our leave. "Wait, guys! Come back!" the blonde man called to us. Before any of us could answer, we were pulled back into the room. "Isn’t this great? We’re totally a band now! We should celebrate!" "Don’t t’ink dis is a date, mon," Maya scoffed, getting out of the man’s grasp, "‘cause dere ain’t no way I’d go out wit’ you." "Yeah, whatever. ‘Long as you got some Bud on ya," the drummer replied. As for myself, I had to think about it for a while. Of course I wanted to accept the offer, but there was the issue with my voice. Would it be okay for me to speak around them like that? (I knew Maya had already accepted me with my new voice, but still…) "Hey robo-dude," the blonde began, snapping me out of my daze, "are you in?" "It’s Digit, actually," I said in my new, robotic voice. "I’d be more than happy to go with you all." "Awesome!" the male responded. "The name’s Duke. Nice to be working with you." ~~~ As much as I try not to remember it, the party still lingers in the back of my mind. Everyone was having a good time, of course, but something felt wrong to me. It was as if something was nagging me on about how I shouldn’t be there. "Somet’ing wrong, Digit?" Without looking up, I answered the person who questioned me. "No, nothing’s wrong with me, Maya. I’m just thinking to myself is all." "Dat so, mon?" she asked, sitting beside me at the table. "Come on now, the i kyan tell your bredren Maya." I glanced over at the pink-haired woman. "I really hope you don't think I'm being rude or anything," I told her, "but ... well ... I confess I'm afraid." "Oh?" I nodded and began to express my concerns. "You see, I have friends who have been with me for a long time, who know my capabilities and some of the issues I have occasionally. None of you know me." I looked over at the old drummer, who was lying down on a table. "And, to be quite sincere, I really don't think I can be comfortable around that guy. It's like he hates me just because of what I am." "Don' worry 'bout him, mon," she told me. "Dose dat don' wanna be a team playah don' las' lon'." "Of course, he has a right to his opinions…" I noted, my voice trailing off. "But ju gotta right ta be ju," Maya told me. "He don' gotta like it. If he truly don' like it, da frog can shew him da door. We're not a ban', mon," she added. "We're jus' playahs tryin' ta make a buck." She then patted me on the shoulder. "When ju were first startin' out ... were you a ban'?" "I was accepted unconditionally…" I replied, thinking about my acceptance into the band. The silver-skinned woman shook her head. "No, mon. Dat's not what I'm sayin'. Did di rhythm move ya? Was dere harmony at first?" Remembering all the work I had to go through and the advice that Dr. Teeth gave me a decade ago, I answered, "Well, I had to practice…" Maya nodded. "So do we all, mon. A good musician has ta keep up wit' a change in de tempo." "I see," I replied pensively. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Duke head for the stage and whisper something to the leader of the band. With a nod, he motioned the band to start playing. The song that they played was familiar to me, but I forgot the title. "Everyone's watching, to see what you will do," the blonde sang as the band played back-up."Everyone's looking at you, oh. Everyone's wondering, will you come out tonight? Everyone's trying to get it right, get it right." "Everybody's working for the weekend," the band sang along. "Everybody wants a little romance. Everybody's goin' off the deep end. Everybody needs a second chance, oh." "You want a piece of my heart?" Duke sang out, looking directly at Maya, who hid her face in her hands out of embarrassment. "You better start from start. You wanna be in the show? Come on baby lets go!" ~~~ The next day, work for InnerTube officially started. Everyone was in high spirits that day, including the (unofficial) band and I. We were in our part of the studio, performing for Kermit so that he might see how we all sound together. "Everyone's looking to see if it was you," Duke, the bass player sang."Everyone wants you to come through. Everyone's hoping it'll all work out. Everyone's waiting they're holding out!" "Everybody's working for the weekend," he and Maya dueted. "Everybody wants a little romance. Everybody's goin' off the deep end. Everybody needs a second chance, oh." "You want a piece of my heart?" the blonde sang solo. "You better start from start. You wanna be in the show? Come on baby lets go!" There was an instrumental break in between the next few parts. The four of us managed to play through it with ease until it was time for Maya and Duke to sing again. "You want a piece of my heart? You better start from start. You wanna be in the show? Come on baby lets go. You want a piece of my heart? You better start from start. You wanna be in the show? Come on baby lets go!" The song ended and Kermit gave a nod of approval. "That was terrific, everyone!" he congratulated us. "Okay," the frog continued, clasping his hands, "let's all take five and then we'll get to work on rehearsing the theme song I need from you." With that, he left the room. As soon as the amphibian departed, we all moved away from our instruments and began our short break. One of the first things that Duke did was try to ask Maya out on a date for the umpteenth time. Obviously, that didn’t go over too well for him as he was slapped in the face again. The female spent the rest of her break as far away from him as possible. As for myself, I took the time to contemplate about a number of things. I remembered the creation that I had worked so hard on and its near completion. I also remembered my friends, who were probably curious about my whereabouts. With the intent to call them, I strolled out into the hall and towards the pay phone. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was already being used by the drummer. Almost immediately, I backed up around the corner so that he wouldn’t notice me. I did not want a repeat of the previous day’s events. Surprisingly, he didn’t even seem to know of my existence as he was arguing with someone over the phone. I didn’t want to stay around long enough to figure out who he was talking to in fear of him beating me up again. So, I hastened back to the room and decided to play a few tunes on the keyboard. (I’ve never played "Bennie and the Jets" that fast ever again in my life.) Before I knew it, the break was over and all of us had filed back into the room again. I had studied the music earlier and noted that the theme song started out with both the percussion and the keyboards playing. Um… what a joy! "Okay, gang, let’s do this thing!" Duke exclaimed after all of us were situated again. "A-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, four--" ~~~ Surprisingly, filming started off smoothly, with no accidents or fights breaking out. The drummer and I played through the intro just fine. Duke and Maya then began to sing on cue. "See see what you can do on the TV. Well it’s me, me watching you, you looking at me. Everybody watchin’, everywhere. Everybody…" "You’re on the air!" Duke sang solo. Even the drummer had a voice in this. "I say--" "See see what you can do on the TV," Duke and Maya dueted. "You know it’s--" "Me, me watching you, you looking at me." "I mean--" "See see what you can do on the TV." "You know it’s--" "Me, me watching you, you looking at me. Everybody watchin’ you and me. Everybody watchin’ Inner Tube TV!" We continued to play our instruments for quite some time. Once, we heard Kermit speak and looked in the direction where we thought we heard his voice come from. It turned out that we were facing the wrong way, though. Still, we continued to rehearse. Everything was running along smoothly. No mistakes or unforeseen disasters, just the "band" rehearsing. It was all perfect. Of course, that all changed when the two mechanics, Jake and Henry, were zapped into our channel. "Jake! Henry! We’re trying to rehearse!" Duke exclaimed at the sudden interruption. "Somet’in’ wron’, guys?" Maya asked them. "Nuttin’, no problem," Jake responded, "a possible misalignment in the transponder matrix." "Transponder problems?" I repeated them. Then, I did what I consider to be the most idiotic thing that I’ve ever done to myself -- trying to get a charge by sticking an active wire plug into my mouth. "Oh, I hate when that happens…" "Anyone seen Glitch?" Henry piped up nervously. With a shrug, I resumed playing my keyboard without a care in the world as Duke spoke up, exasperated. "Come on guys, let’s rehearse." "What's dis, suddenly you're in charge?" the female guitarist questioned the bass player as I leaned over the side of the keyboard to retch quietly. The after taste of the shock was terrible. "Maya, when there is a leadership gap, someone must fill it," Duke explained as I resumed playing. I paused as I listened to Maya speak. "But Duke, you’ve got a brain gap and no one fills dat," she countered. I silently agreed with her. Duke could be a little dense at times… The drummer startled us all by doing the "ba-doom-ch!" drum roll like in the comedy routines. He chuckled at our surprised expressions. "Don’t follow leaders," I dispensed knowledge, "watch your parking meters." Looking back, I’ve realized that the sentence that I said was one of the weirdest things to come out of my mouth. "You got it, Digit!" the pink-haired woman encouraged me before turning back to the mechanics. "Now, kyan i help, Jake?" "No no no, just a glitch in the system," Jake said. "Come on, Henry." Then the cube that they were in rolled out of the studio. "Big deal," the drummer deadpanned as they left. "Live it or live with it," I added. "Well, yeah, I mean look at us," the blonde stated. "We do just fine and we’re surrounded by technology. Smash cuts, chroma keys, slow-mo, rotoscoping…" "Eight bar hooks," Maya joined in, "low-funk retro rock…" "Digital modulation wash…" Forget what I said earlier. This was the weirdest thing that came out of my mouth that day. "Paradiddle flamadiddle," the drummer stated, using a drum stick to scratch his back. "Flamadiddle?" Duke pondered right before a heavily-pierced man came barging into the studio through the wall behind the bass player. "Explooooooo-sions!" The man laughed and ran away. "Explosions have nothing to do with technology!" Duke scolded him. Suddenly, the studio seemed to rip apart. For a while, we could hear nothing but a different man explaining what I think to believe was his version on why technology was a bad thing. Go figure. Eventually, things turned back to normal and Jake and Henry punched all the regular channels back up. "Why can’t he stay in his own channel?" I heard Henry ask about the man from before. "He doesn’t have one," Jake answered. He punched up the channel that had my aghast expression. "A man without a channel?" I quizzically stated, not believing it. I didn’t get a response back, so I just shrugged and went about my business. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the drummer staring at me, almost as if he was thinking about some painful memory. Taking a deep breath, I decided to settle our fighting once and for all. "… I don't get it," I stated, staring back at him. "Why do you dislike me so much? Was it something that I did?" "You don't get it 'cause yer a movin' computer now," he told me. "You stopped bein' a man long ago." There was a pause for a few moments. "An' I know what machines do ta men." This caused me to become greatly confused. "Well, what do they do?" The elderly man looked away and answered my question. "They rip yer soul out an' then ya die." I didn’t respond to him. How could I when he thought of technology as a serial killer? The drummer glared at me as he continued. "I watched my kid get plugged up ta more an' more doodads ta keep him alive. He couldn't even open his eyes or hear us anymore… but his heart was bein' run by some dadburned beepin' thingamajig. The doctor said those machines would help, but he died anyway! You think yer alive now? Pffbt. You can't even get t'rough the day wit'out munchin' on some spark plugs." He nodded before he added, "You'll wear out, just like my Pinto. Mark my words… machines can't save no one." "Well, science has learned a great deal since then," I told him, hoping to lighten the situation. "Peh," he retorted, "that’s not gonna bring my son back." I pondered the subject for a while. Finally, my jumbled up mind came up with a response. "Would your son be happy with a lifetime of bitterness or would he want you to support technology so people can get more help than he got?" This made the drummer think for a while. "… but does it help you?" he asked me. I nodded. "Yes. I would be dead without technology. At least this way I have a fighting chance." "But what kind of life do you have?" A sigh escaped my throat as I responded to him. "The same life you do ... a life filled with a traumatic past and struggles just to get through each day without giving up." He quietly nodded as an answer, shrugged, and walked off. After that talk, it was near time to do the closing number. I didn’t know how I continued after that speech, but I did somehow. Maya went to get the drummer back (he was in the break room) and we started the finale without a problem. Unfortunately, I can’t remember all the words to that song to this day. It was something about laser beams and holograms and being trapped. Oh well, at least I had a chance to play the keytar. We all filed out of the studio at the end of it all and called it a day. I was feeling weary from it all, so I looked around for the break room to no avail. Finally, I noticed a curly-haired female who could show me the way. "Excuse me, miss." She turned her head towards me to reveal that she was wearing glasses. "Hmm? Oh, hello!" the girl greeted with a smile. "How may I help you?" "Can you please point me in the direction of the break room?" "Sure," the woman pointed in a direction. "Right this way." "Thank you." I took a single step forward and found myself blacking out, my body crashing against the cold, hard floor. The last thing I head as I passed out was a desperate cry from the girl. "Mister Kermit! Somebody, please help!" Then there were footsteps, and then, darkness.