APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 10 November, 2000


Mall Rants 2:

Pitching In

Grizzly Bryan Lee

[Note: This story's prequel, Mall Rants, appeared in the September, 2000 issue of APAGear II. -Ed.]

Naomi spun around, startled at the sound of the voice. "Wha?" she stammered out as she focused on the individual who had awoken her out of her daydream. The woman who now stood in front of her was covering her mouth with one hand and trying very hard not to laugh.

"I said 'Reality to Naomi, you're drifting off course.'" The newcomer said, flashing a big grin.

"Cripes Kayla." Naomi said as she tried to steady her pounding pulse. "You scared me."

"Warning Naomi Aschenbach! Warning!" Kayla replied as she waved her hands wildly at her side. The moment now passing, and her fun had, Kayla moved over to the railing that her friend was leaning over. "You were totally out of it. So...who were you mooning over?"

"I...I wasn't mooning!" Naomi protested as she turned back to the railing.

Kayla looked over at her roommate, not fooled by the false protest. "You can't fool me girlfriend. With the way you're dressed, I know you're on the prowl for someone. Now who is it?"

Naomi looked at her ensemble. Her blouse fit snugly and was bare at the shoulder. The short skirt was pleated and flowed with her every movement, accentuating her walk. Her hair was tied back with a thin but colorful ribbon with two long bangs that framed her face. It was definitely more feminine than what she normally wore. She leaned on the railing and cupped her chin in the palm of her hand. Maybe she was wearing her intentions on her sleeve. It was almost funny that she had not realized it but Kayla had. Her psych professors would be rather amazed that their star pupil was acting in such a manner. "You're one to talk Miss Thang." She said determined to get back at Kayla. "Still into that Western Shock scene?"

Kayla cocked her hip to one side and tilted her head to look at Naomi. The black leather pants that she was wearing displayed her every curve and she knew it. To add to the enticement were random slits and holes along its length showing a little more flesh. Her top was black and displayed more of her torso than her roommates. Over the small top she wore a thin weave blouse that merely added some shading to her curves. This week Kayla had decided to dye her hair purple with white streaks. "What can I say? I'm a slave to fashion. Shock is the in thing now girl. You'd better catch up."

"No thanks." Naomi said. "That look just isn't me." Of course Kayla had left out the main reason. It was true that Kayla followed the fashion trends closely, she only started getting into the Shock scene after she met Cosimo.

"So who are you after?" Kayla asked, bringing Naomi back from her musings.

"Uhm...it's...nobody." Naomi was not going to give Kayla any satisfaction in being right. That happened far too often anyways.

"Let's deduce you target of affection then, shall we?" Kayla loved puzzles. People often thought, that had she not gone on to pursue a degree Kayla would have made a great police detective. "Now you were looking over this railing when I happened upon you so the object of your affection is not on this floor but on the one below. From the angle at which you held your head we are looking about 50 degrees down from the horizontal, give or take 10 degrees. That puts us right at the Northern Guard Gear display."

There was a moment of silence as Kayla studied the display before she continued. "Around the display right now are a gaggle of pre-teens, certainly not in your age range so they can be eliminated. People on the floor below are not in view for much more than a minute so we can get rid of that idea. Plus you came here purposely dressed like that, knowing that the one you are trying to impress would be here. That would leave that incredibly hunky soldier boy manning the display."

Kayla suddenly turned to Naomi, her face brightened by a look of over-exaggerated surprise. Oh great, Naomi thought, here it comes. "No way!" Kayla exclaimed. "Don't tell me that little Naomi's tastes have swung back towards guys." She threw her head back and brought up one hand to her forehead. "I've forever lost my chance to be with Naomi. Oh my love. Say it isn't so."

Naomi started to fume, she hated the way that Kayla often teased her about her sexual interests, and was about to retort when another voice cut Kayla's play-acting short.

"Good afternoon Ladies." Milo said as he came upon them.

"Hey Milo." Kayla said cheerfully, giving him a small wave. Naomi sighed. At least his appearance had stopped Kaylas teasing. "What's up?"

"I was supposed to meet Coz here." Milo took a quick glance around. "Have either of you seen him?" Moreso than most students, Milo stood out. He was of average build and dressed rather slovenly, but his most striking feature was his blond curly hair, which he liked to keep long and generally unkempt. At any given hour of the day, Milo looked like he'd just fallen out of bed. Milo occupied the room across the hall from Kayla and Naomi and was probably one of the most laid back students on the floor. Almost nothing bothered the Philosophy major. Of course he tended to over analyze just about everything.

"We haven't seen him, thank the Prophet," Kayla huffed. "You know something Milo, I can't understand how you can stand to be around him, much less be his roommate. The guy is a way total jerk."

Milo raised an eyebrow behind his glasses. "Indeed? He's not that bad really. His reputation is greatly exaggerated."

"We are talking about the same Cosimo right?" Kayla turned around to completely face Milo, and leaned against the railing. "The same guy that ran around the campus wearing a cape and tights calling himself Captain Cosmo Galaxy. The same nutbar that tap danced on the bar of Banty's Roost with a lampshade on his head. The guy wrote a song about Grenades and Whipped Cream!"

"I seem to recall that you were also dancing rather provocatively with him that night." Naomi added in with a devilish grin. Kayla would deny it but there was something between her and Cosimo.

"I was Drunk!" Came Kayla's oft used excuse. She hated people bringing up that incident. One little social error and look what happens. "Look...the fact is that the guy has a horrid personality and shows no regard for other people. I don't even know how he managed to get enrolled here."

"Actually I find his personality to be fascinating." Milo adjusted his glasses, more out of habit than any real need to fix the way that they were sitting on his nose. "He is truly a man shaped by his environment and he does show more regard than you think. I can understand where you are coming from, but I've lived with him for almost a year. I think I have a good understanding of his behavior and where it comes from." Naomi could feel a lecture coming on and she was right.

"Bear in mind that Cosimo grew up in the Western Frontier Protectorate. That should give you a good indication of his possessing 'self control'. Westerners are not a wild and unruly peoples by upbringing. The Clan family structure teaches the young to take an active part in the welfare of the Clan, since the entire families reputation is based on the standing of their name. Very rarely will you find a Westerner who acts up. Maybe one time before the Clan steps in to adjust their behavior. All clan members are taught how to tow the line, so to speak, for one loose cannon can cause problems. An individual reflects on the whole."

"Well they should have taught him better." Kayla was getting drawn in, Naomi noted. Milo loved to talk and hypothesize about anything. At times it could be really annoying but provided some entertainment when he debated social systems with Rico. Rico would get all worked up while Milo would continue to talk in his normal almost-monotone voice.

Undaunted, Milo continued. "But they did. I have seen Coz study and study hard. Not many have seen it, but he does hit the books. How else could he pass his courses? When he studies Coz is very focused, approaching the course and exam in a manner bearing close resemblance to a soldier planning a campaign. This is not all that surprising either, as his Clan was actively involved in the WFP Military in Fort William. His father, mother and several aunts and uncles I believe. I suppose in the olden days it was necessary to live like you were in the army, for survival purposes." Milo paused for a moment. "Of course! And this was passed down through the generations until it became a natural trait, whether it was still needed or not. I'll have to write that down." The student pulls out a small, well-worn notebook from a pocket and quickly jots down this recent thought.

"Where was I? Oh yes. While the Clan concept is fairly sound in theory, some members may find it to be rather restrictive. This is the basis for my thesis this semester and I'm using the rising popularity of the Shock Music movement as proof. My theory is that human beings, by nature, require a certain amount of personal freedom otherwise they begin to feel too boxed in, trapped if you would, and they will lash out at what is trapping them. If you back an animal into a corner regardless of how timid it may be, it will attempt to escape or fight back. Humans are essentially animals so this theory holds true for us as well."

"You've tied Shock into this?" Kayla asked. It was hard to believe that her current fashion obsession was being used in a term paper.

"Of course. I find Shock to be a very intriguing cultural counterpart to the rigidity of the Western social structure. You see, the Western clan structure breeds almost volcanic-like energies in its youth through its strict behavioral model. Once children reach a certain age they start to develop a desire to carve out their own identity and do their own thing, and this will often clash with the wishes of the Clan. This is only natural and every species exhibits this to a certain extent. Maybe it's nature letting the young ones know when it is time to leave the nest. Hmmm. I'll have to write that down as well." The thought is recorded in his notebook and Milo moves on.

"And much like pricking a balloon, once an outlet for these energies is uncovered, it will explode. Shock Music is this outlet. It provides Western youth with an outlet to expend these energies. Sometimes the path that these energies travel down happens to resemble some sort of youthful rebellion against the older generation. The younger generation is just saying that they do not agree with certain rules that have been put in place. If it weren't for people questioning the world around them like this then civilization would not have advanced. Change is a universal constant. Nothing ever remains the same, regardless of what the scientific community says. I suppose that you could say that Shock Music is a catalyst for cultural change. Hey that's pretty good. Let me write that down."

"So Shock Music is going to change the Western culture?" Kayla asked. "Revisionists may have something to say on that."

Milo paused to consider the question. "I would guess that Shock music won't change the Protectorate per se. If anything it will influence an individual who may get elected into public office, and from there they will change policy or bring in new policy that originated from an issue that Shock revealed or combated. But that is another tangent. Now as a WFP youth, Coz got caught up in this when he reached that age. Calling Fort William home did not help matters much as it just brought him closer to the influence of Shock Music. Shock appealed to him to such a degree that he became more and more involved in the lifestyle that it represented, the music, the clothing and the way of thinking. Perhaps he became too involved in it but we would have to look at this on a universal scale over the course of his life to determine if this is a good thing or not."

"There is an addictive quality to the music and lifestyle that portrays acting in a manner without worrying about consequences. Shock music provided a release from the controlled clan life. A way to gain acceptance from peers by demonstrating counter culture bravado. And once you become accustomed to acting in this way it is very difficult to embrace the older sense of self. After you've experienced the thrill or racing down the road at 120km/h, would you really be content to obey a speed limit of 60km/h on the same road? I suppose that is one of the reasons why he chose to study here and not in any university in the WFP. He was courted by them for sure."

"There's Coz Milo." Naomi pointed across the railing. Cosimo was standing against the railing chatting with Rico and sipping from a large drink. Something about the two of them talking made Naomi a little nervous. Yesterday she had to sit through a rant from Rico on the evils of the Northern Guard setting up a display in the mall. It was all he could talk about all last night. Milo waved over to Coz who returned the wave.

Maybe it was the way that they stood above the gear display.

"To sum up, Cosimo's wild streak is just his way of expressing himself in a manner that is anti-Clan. Not that he doesn't care about his family, it's just too intoxicating for him to pull off wild stunts as he is known to. All easily explained Kayla. I would imagine that any of us would act in a similar manner had we been exposed to the intensity of the Fort William Shock movement."

Kayla flashed a lopsided grin. "Do you have any normal hobbies Milo?" she asked half-jokingly.

"Do you think it's such a good idea for Coz to be talking to Rico unsupervised?" Naomi changed the course of the conversation. "Am I the only one concerned about this?"

All three looked over at the two men. Rico started to gesture towards the Northern Guard display with more emphasis. They couldn't see Cosimo's face, as he had turned his back to them to better listen to Rico, but he appeared to be nodding at whatever Rico was saying. Kayla was the next to speak. "Rico, a passionate Poli-sci student agitated by the NG. Cosimo, the Shock junkie, who has a demonstrated ability to display complete disregard for established social norms and spontaneous action. Hmmm. You don't think..."

"..that those two would do anything rash?" Naomi finished her roommates thought.

"Rico can be very persuasive when he wants to be but I've always found him to be a little over-the-top with his views and opinions." Milo moved beside Kayla. "I'm sure that Coz has enough common sense to avoid participating in any of Rico's hair-brained ideas."

The three students watched as Rico gestured some more. Spurred into action by Rico's idea, that neither Naomi nor Kayla nor Milo could hear, Cosimo took his drink, wound up a good throw and hurled it at the display. It struck the pilot on the side of his head, spilling a sparkling beverage all over his crisp, clean uniform.

Naomi gasped as she watched the attractive gear pilot quickly flick the sleeve of his dress tunic to remove some of the dripping liquid. The Pilot looked up at his assailants and frowned. Kayla looked up from the pilot to Rico as the student shouted "Down with the Military Propaganda machine!" Coz laughed out loudly and banged on the railing in triumph. He was obviously very pleased with his accuracy.

"Of course I could be wrong." Milo said as he started to mentally review his theory.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 10 November, 2000