Authors: Sean Platt,Johnny B. Truant
THE BEAM: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
by Sean Platt &
Johnny B. Truant
Copyright © 2013 by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited. The authors greatly appreciate you taking the time to read our work. Please consider leaving a review wherever you bought the book, or telling your friends about it, to help us spread the word.
Thank you for supporting our work.
To our readers
Who encouraged us to listen to our muses
and write in whichever genres spoke to us.
The Beam: Season One
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Welcome To The Golden Age
Before you begin reading
, there’s something you should understand:
It’s not like an ordinary book. It’s so much more exciting than that.
The two of us are huge fans of what we think of as the “second golden age” of television. TV really stepped up its game a handful of years ago, bringing movie-quality stories to the small screen, led by paid networks like Showtime and HBO. The first I (Johnny) watched end-to-end was
. But now those great shows are everywhere:
Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones
… you name it.
— and some of our other work — brings that experience to your e-reader.
When you flip to the next page, you’ll see that the story begins with “Episode One.” There are six episodes in this complete “Season.” Like those great Second Golden Age TV shows,
follows several story lines that rise in action and tension until each episode ends … and then they all begin to rise again. One story, but edge-of-your-seat pacing.
Just keep that model in mind as you begin reading.
We don’t think you’ll dare to flip the channel.
Of all the truths and lies perpetrated about Natasha Ryan in The Beam news feeds and so-called independent media, the only story that truly bothered Natasha was the one claiming her voice was enhanced by an add-on called an Audibox.
Rumor said that once, when Natasha had gone in for a resurfacing of the skin on her long neck and aristocratic chin (a job nanobots were notoriously bad at, given that it involved so many dying surface cells), she’d discreetly called a high-end enhancement dealer and ordered an implant that would subtly tune the reverberations of her larynx and make her perfect pitch that much more perfect. Beam reporters didn’t have details on exactly how the Audibox worked (seeing as its existence was a damnable lie), but they claimed it worked via biofeedback and that Natasha had needed to train herself to use it — to hold discreet notes in her mind so the Audibox could help her produce them. But that was utter and total bullshit. If she’d have to train herself to use a device, why wouldn’t she use that same time to train herself to sing properly instead?
None of the other lies bothered Natasha nearly as much. The gossip sheets claimed she’d cheated on Isaac with his brother. They claimed she’d been
early to try nanobot injections (nearly predating The Beam’s 1.5 iteration, back when it was known as the Crossbrace project) that she’d been over forty when her first album had dropped — a fact that would make her almost a hundred today. Both were bullshit. She’d cheated, but never any of the times the press had accused her of it and never with Micah. And when she’d released
in ’36, she’d been twenty, as claimed. And as to the rest? Well, Natasha denied most of what came up about her on sheets inside The Beam, but the truth was that most of those stories were true. It was hard to argue too much without losing the ability to look yourself in the eye, so Natasha usually allowed her winning smile to speak for her, neither denying nor accepting.
As she stood in the spotlight on the Aphora Theater’s stage, the footlights nearly blinded her to the crowd. Still, she could see them well enough to know what her unenhanced voice (still raw and naked, as had been her signature since her debut) was doing to them. A girl with Natasha’s credits and social circle couldn’t be blamed for having a filter lens installed while she was getting a surgical eye lift, or for directing her circulating nanobots to spend extra time on her rod cells so as to see better in the dark. Because oh…
she could see! The dress circle in the front, decked in the very best finery, hung from her every note, their eyes wet and dreamy. The main floor (decked in still-decent finery) leaned forward, their lips slightly parted, occasionally holding hands. Even the lottery and contest winners at the back (in mismatched suits that shone at the elbows; God bless their hearts for trying) were rapt with attention.
Natasha didn’t need any goddamn Audibox in her throat to sound amazing. She was
Natasha Fucking Ryan.
Some singers could shatter glass with their voices, but
Natasha Fucking Ryan
could shatter hearts. She hadn’t
to fame. She’d taken fame by the balls and demanded her due. Back then, in 2036, she’d been a fat girl with a dream, standing on stage as nature had made her. Today she was thin, supple, beautiful, and would live longer — and yes, she had had some help, but her
hadn’t changed. Her pitch hadn’t been enhanced, nor the power of her songs altered. No one wrote Natasha’s lyrics other than herself, and while the source of the soul-tearing torment beneath her songs had changed, the torment itself remained. The people watching her performance would never know the elite nature of her daily hardships, but they all knew what it was like to be human. And in the end, human was human.
Natasha held up her arms, raising her voice an octave, increasing her volume precisely without artificial help. She held it, cascaded down, and ended in an elasticized note that trembled to a whisper. The crowd followed her movements, their eyes and chins lowering subconsciously. She could almost see pieces of their souls wisp from their chests and float away. Right now, Natasha could make them do anything. Right now, every person watching — live or via the Beam feed — was totally in love with her, as they always had been.
Natasha brought her hands down as her voice shimmered away. She lowered her head, looking toward the foot of the stage. Her posture caved, curling her shoulders down and forward, defeated. The note collapsed, then died. The lighting director dimmed the lights on cue. The last thing the crowd saw in the faltering light were Natasha’s eyes — her deep green irises, soulful enough to penetrate all the way to the cheap seats — as they wet, as they fell, as the crowd hushed.
The spotlight winked out. The stage fell dark. For a moment, there was nothing, not even a whisper. The world had vanished.
Then, all at once, the hall erupted in applause. The house lights came up, and Natasha watched as the crowd stood, beating their hands together, most of their faces plastered with tears. In the back, where inhibitions were lower, the questionably dressed attendees jumped and clapped overhead, cheering, whistling, crying out. The stage light went bright. Natasha bowed. A rose landed at her feet, followed by another. A full bouquet.
Natasha bowed again, her heart full.
The few people who hadn’t already stood came to their feet. Their faces didn’t look reluctant or goaded; they looked overwhelmed. It had taken them a while to rise because they hadn’t felt emotionally capable of standing. These last applauded slowly and quietly, because it was all they could muster. Yes, Natasha had done her job well.
She bowed again and again, letting her face portray more exultation and overwhelm than she actually felt. The room’s emotional swell was impressive, but adoration had long ago stopped giving Natasha a high. These days, it merely saved her from depression, and got her back to normal.
She could hear a few people in the crowd calling her name.
Natasha, we love you!
Natasha, you’re beautiful!
Get off the stage, bitch!
Her head jerked up. Something else landed on the stage amidst the roses. It was a tomato. An honest-to-God
Natasha wasn’t the only person who’d heard the anonymous heckler. All across the crowd, heads searched the room, looking to see who dared to ruin the mood and the moment. The voice had seemed to have come from Natasha’s right. But then from the other side, a chorus of boos burst out, becoming a taunting chant.
Natasha was turning to find the source of the discord when some sort of heavy rubber ball struck the stage at her side and skittered away, making her jump. Boos bounced through the crowd from every direction. Natasha spied a few of the people making the boos, hands clapped to mouths and faces angry. The offenders were among the most shabbily dressed, their appearances unenhanced, the grit of below-the-line living embedded in their skin. There were only a few of them, but they were so loud … and they looked so
. It was a species of anger Natasha vaguely remembered but had mostly forgotten: the anger she’d once had for those who had plenty when she’d had so little. It was the anger of a young girl whose family had barely gotten by — who’d seen the way the rich got richer during the disaster years, while the rest of the world crumbled.