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MSU Shadows - Season 6, Episode 2: Thanks for the Memories

The second episode of MSU Shadows - Season 6. It premieres 11/21/2009

Abstract

They say that college is about making friends and memories to last a lifetime. Memories are chancy things - sometimes you forget what you'd rather remember, and remember what you'd desperately like to forget.

Summary

For several weeks the police forces of East Lansing and MSU had been hearing of the emergence of a new designer drug known as meme. It was so new that the “powers that be” had not even been able, as yet, to have it declared illegal or even a controlled substance. Samples had been secured but under lab analysis the stuff appeared to be about as chemically active as powdered sugar. Indeed, one of the main ingredients did in fact appear to BE powdered sugar.

As designer drugs go, this one appeared at first blush to be fairly tame. Users would become very focused and intent while remaining relaxed, in the moment, in the zone. It might have been quite helpful except that as soon as the up feeling stopped, users experienced major memory loss. They would remember nothing from the point of ingesting the drug all the way through till the effects would wear off. Total memory loss; no memory retention whatsoever. This effect was the reason law enforcement did NOT like this little product. It could be entirely too useful as a date-rape drug.

The rise of meme piqued the interest of the occupants of Tao Chi house. Once they'd heard that meme appeared to be chemically inert, they figured that it was more likely some sort of magical or alchemical mixture. The clincher was when they received an announcement for a big party, sponsored by the Greek Council. Considering the history the group had experienced with former Council parties, they felt they really needed to attend. What better place for a drug dealer to pedal a designer party drug?

So the boys and girls of Tao Chi picked out their party dresses and slipped on their boogie shoes to head to the party Saturday night. They were hoping to spot a dealer that they might be able to track back to a source and they were also hoping to pick up some samples of the drug for their own analysis. The party was already in full swing when they arrived, so the crew spread out through the crowd. There was lots of dancing and people having a very good time. There was actually something of a lack of the more aggressive behavior that often reared its ugly head at big college parties.

Try as they might, they were not able to find the dealer at the party but it was obvious there was at least one working the room because meme capsules were there in plenty. None of the Tao Chi crew actually took the various pills they were offered quite soon and often. The capsules were either cheeked and then quickly spat out or quickly pocketed while the offerer took their own. But poor Ellen did innocently accept an offer of a cup of punch, which turned out to be spiked. Her caring boyfriend, Brendan, would later sit with her and watch over her as she rode out her, admittedly very mellow trip.

Paul and Brendan got the first big clue when they tried their mystical sight to look at the drug capsules and the party-goers. The capsules were definitely enchanted and almost everybody in the room had a thin tendril of glowing purple smoke rising from their head. All the tendrils of magical smoke rose to the ceiling, very slowly curving as if under the influence of a very light turning breeze. The smoke pooled and gathered at the ceiling, continuing to slowly circle and spiral toward the center. That center did not look to be gathering mass so they figured that this spiritual smoke must be draining upwards through the ceiling.

They moved through the room, gathering the rest of the crew; Brendan towing along a very eager to please Ellen. Doc looked almost apologetically at the potted plant he'd dumped his spiked punch into and Rocky reluctantly pulled himself away from the fine little hottie in the barely there dress who had been using his tall frame to exhibit her more than passable pole dancing skills. He had been quite interested but was not about to mess with a girl who would remember nothing in the morning. So he scribbled a quick note, “Call me when you're NOT stoned?”, with his voice-mail only number. The girl tucked the note in her G-string and then promptly spun away to dance some more.

The party had been on the top floor of the building so Paul led the way to the roof. He opened the roof access door and saw a humanoid shaped mass of sort of dark purple ultra violet smoke. The smoke creature appeared to be gathering the tendrils of silvery purple smoke as they raised through the roof. It was like the creature was breathing or sucking the smoke into itself. It noticed the audience at the roof door and with a casual gesture, a force shoved Paul back through the door and slammed the door shut.

By the time the rest of the crew had gathered at the roof door, Paul had already tried more than once to force open the door, with no progress. Rocky tried to kick the door down but only succeeded in kicking a hole through the door and getting his leg momentarily stuck. The resulting hole did give them another look at the roof and they could see that the smoke creature had gone.

They returned to Tao Chi house and began their research. Doc broke some of their samples down in the lab to check the chemical agents but found nothing truly unique. There were chemical tracers in a few of the materials but he was only able to track them as far as typical chemical agents that were ordered by many campus biochemistry labs. The group's thought was that this pointed to whatever evil hump at U of M who was trying to magically cheat. Doc verified that in and of itself, this chemical formula would do nothing. The thought was that the drug must serve as sort of a chemical dye marker and the magic did the rest.

Paul's research mostly pointed toward a creature that fed on energy from the donor. Consuming the drug served as implied consent for the demon's deal. From what he'd seen at the party, Paul was fairly certain that this particular demon was feeding on the memories of whoever was marked by taking the meme drug. Since it was taking the memories from the time while the victim was under the influence, they were none the wiser, thinking the memory loss a side effect of the drug.

The research continued, with an eye toward counteracting the drug or banishing the demon. Technically there were no active ingredients to counteract in the drug and they would need to know a whole lot more about the summoner and what specific spell was used to summon the smoke demon in order to banish it. There were some herbal concoctions that might interfere with the magic connected through the drug but they would have to get everybody under the influence to take the herbs and that could lead to a whole set of its own problems. And the herbs would only interfere, not stop anything.

However, there were some indications that the effects of the spell might be countered with a spell couched in music and might actually be a way to attack. Their thinking was that since the demon was leeching memories from the victims and since music accessed the human brain's memory centers in a different way, perhaps they could sort of sneak a spell in through the back door to attack the demon that way. Hearing this, Rocky chuckled and said sarcastically, “Great. So, all we have to do to defeat the demon is Get the Band Back Together!”, the last bit said in mocking voice imitation of some garage band slacker, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, movie character. The big joke, of course, being that the crew had never been together as a band.

But then it struck them all that this might not be such a bad idea. Music did seem to be their strongest possibility of a weapon. They would of course need a spell but Paul felt that he was up to the challenge. And it turned out that they had all at least dabbled a little bit with music, some more than others. They had all crammed for tests during their college careers and figured they could handle this the same way as long as they focused on just putting together one gig worth of cover songs and practicing the spell song that Paul had already begun figuring out. (Cue intense band practice montage.)

Within a week, they were able to pull it together, just in time for the weekend party scene. They went with a heavy metal sound since the music needed to be complex and very strong. Their sound was passable, at least as good as the typical cover band. When he let loose his techie side, Doc turned out to be pretty darned good at putting together a well choreographed light, smoke and pyrotechnic effects show, as well as the keyboards. Rocky and Brendan took lead guitar and bass, respectively and provided back up vocals. Lead vocals, strange though it might seem, came from Ellen. Dressed up in (hiding behind) the proper goth/rock chick leather and chrome gear and with enough encouragement, the group was surprised to find that she could actually pull off the gravelly heavy metal sound. Last but not least, Paul lined up to be the drummer, since that was the position least likely to have to sing and easiest able to keep smoking the entire time they were playing. Paul also drafted the music and lyrics of the spell song that would hopefully destroy the demon.

Luckily, they didn't have to put much effort into publicizing the event. They made sure to invite the same guest list as from the Council party since they wanted to make sure they had their best chance to snag the drug dealer. From there word spread, ticket sales climbed and it turned out it was a good thing they had been able to rent an outdoor venue. The gig started well and just got better from there. Their practices had been pretty good but when they climbed up on stage and started playing for real it was like they were truly inspired.

Before too long, the crew began to see the signs that the meme had started circulating through the crowd. Keeping a sharp eye out while they played, they were finally able to spot the one guy in the crowd who seemed to be the center of attention for only one or two people at a time and for only maybe half a minute at a time. They had found their meme dealer. When the party got to be in full swing, Brendan and Paul used their mystical senses and spotted the smoke tendrils rising from the crowd. They tracked the smoke higher until they were able to spot the smoke demon over their heads, gathering in its tribute.

As agreed beforehand, Brendan and Paul gave the rest of the group the high sign to indicate that their target was in place. With subtle gestures they were able to direct Doc as he fine tuned the targeting of the special pyrotechnic cannons that were mounted all around the venue. After Doc signaled back from his combination keyboard and effects panel, the group brought their latest song to an end and skipped down the play list to the very last piece, “Shaking Off the Waters of Lethe”.

The opening chords of the new song came from all around as Doc kicked in the back up speaker systems that surrounded the entire area, focusing the music in and up. Those with mystical sight could see the smoke demon begin to turn back and forth, seemingly agitated and confused as it began to feel the loss of connection to its offering and then realized that it could not get away. Their performance built and built toward its crescendo and right on cue Doc triggered the pyrotechnics finale. The spell combined with the pure salt contained in the pyro mortars and the crowd was treated to quite a fireworks display as the salt sparked to brilliant clear blue flames and destroyed the demon over their heads. And as the demon's magic was broken, the entire crowd collapsed unconscious to the ground.

The band mates quickly descended from the stage and made their way to where they had seen the drug dealer fall. They picked him up and then scrambled back toward the stage. As he turned to look back out across the somnolent crowd, Rocky pouted, “We played great and they're not going to remember any of it. Crap!” Just then, rain began to fall, looking like it would soon grow from sprinkle to downpour. The crew realized they had just the right cover to explain why, as far as the crowd could remember, the concert never happened. Somebody picked up a microphone as the unconscious crowd began to wake up and made an announcement, saying the cover band 'Boot to the Head' was sorry the party had to finally be cut short because of inclement weather but they would try again real soon.

The Tao Chi team packed up their most essential equipment, along with a well trussed up and gagged drug dealer, and made their getaway. They could only hope that their less than willing guest might prove to be a font of information.

Notes



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