"I like the Machines of God's new stuff."
"Meh, why can't they stick to good ol' rock and roll? Why all the hype and philosophy crap?"
"You call that music?"
"Wow their live show is fuckin' awesome!"
...so went the general consensus of the people. Through it all Glass weathered it, with June and the bandmembers at his back. And the Ghost Children, as the former I of the Radio members came to be called, especially the ones who followed the band and Glass personally. The first Machines of God album after Zero's change to Glass was tremendously successful, along with the tour.
"Buy! Be Happy!"
"We have any pleasure you want!"
"Working for a brighter tomorrow!"
...all the advertisements told everyone, but it wasn't working as well anymore. Glass and the Machines of God had sown discontent to the masses, a distrust of totalitarian government, a desire to be free. Nobody even knew what the First Chancellor of the Ruling Council looked like, and that brought unease. Fear. And that was dangerous to those in power, when they were used to blinding the masses with the Next Big Thing to keep them complacent. However, with the Machines' success riding so high and the money coming in by the billions they saw fit to bide their time.
Glass was again tinkering with his gadgets and the old, old antique radio he'd been taking with him everywhere he went. June merely shrugged and let him indulge in his offbeat behavior; she thought it cute. She knew he'd be engrossed for a while so she slipped into one of the interior bedrooms. She needed a fix...she needed to Transform. Pouring the liquid into the round palm-fitting receptacle she breathed the fumes in deep.
Transformer. It was a terrible addiction--no need for needle-marks, it gave you a high and pleasure so intense with a smooth down that allowed you to do it right under folk's noses, but once in its grip you couldn't live without it. Indeed stopping cold turkey had caused many to leap from buildings, starve to death from lack of appetite, vomit until dry-heaves made you so sore you wish you were dead, and that was just the milder side-effects. She'd been keeping it from Glass for she didn't want to disappoint and hurt him. She had no idea what to do about it, but for now she needed that fix.
Her eyes dilated and a lazy, languid smile spread across her sharp-angled face: that hit the spot. She grabbed the entertainment control and turned on some music. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head...a sweet sigh..
"June, have you heard from Thunder today?," came Glass's voice. Soon the footsteps of his long stride hailed his own emergence into the little-used room. "June? Where are you?"
Then he saw her. "June! What's wrong?," he rushed to where she was sprawled on the floor against the bed. Her vest and pants reeked with an unfamiliar odor, and then he noticed the small bottle and holder on the bed. Transformer. She didn't respond when he shook her, calling her name; she only focused for a few seconds before moaning and slipping back to her semi-comatose state. Lifting her large form as if it were a ragdoll he placed her gently on the bed before dashing out of the room. Using the intercom in the hall he shouted, "Lily! Stark! Get up here, NOW!" Transformer use was strictly prohibited, and if he took her to a medcenter everyone would know, the Council would have to be notified. People disappeared into the Penal Colonies and were never seen again.
All that the Voice wanted him to do would be shattered in an instant. All the hopes for freeing everyone from the shackles of this broken future, gone.
But it was his June, his one-and-only!
The two Ghost Children were racing down the hall to behold his stricken face. "Glass, what's wrong?," Stark, the young man, asked him. The man was brown-haired and short, the girl next to him with blue hair and close to his height.
They followed him into the bedchamber. Blood now flecked June's pale lips as she lay there like some perverted, stricken Sleeping Beauty. "Transformer," Lily said grimly. "She must've got hold of some bad stuff."
"What--what can I do? We have to help her," Glass agonized.
The pair glanced at one another--they too had tangled with the horrible drug and barely lived to tell about it. This was all before they joined I of the Radio, before they met Glass the Prophet, but Stark knew of some medicine that might help her ride the storm of this bad trip. "C'mon, Stark," said Lily. "I think I know where some mether is," and they rushed back down the hall to the lift.
"God, please. Don't take her away from me," the Prophet prayed. "I can't live without her. I want to do your will, please tell me what to do."
The Children soon reappeared and Stark held June's head up while Lily tipped a vial of thick liquid into the tall woman's slack mouth. After a few moments some color came back to her skin, but she still remained motionless. "She'll just have to sweat it out," the girl said.
"We'll pray with you," Stark offered, but Glass rounded on him. "Get away! Get out! I must talk to God alone!," he spouted at them. Confused, the two Children backed away, Stark running out of the room and down the hall. Glass took June's hand and stifled a sob. Lily took a step forward, put a small, white hand on the man's hunched shoulder.
"Glass..?," she began.
"Just go," he whispered, eyes focused on something no one else could see. Lip quivering she joined her companion by bolting out of the room. He was the only father figure she'd ever known, and he'd driven her away in his time of need.
Closing his blue eyes he began to talk, and when he started he found it all came in a torrent and couldn't stop. He figured she wouldn't remember any of it anyway if she lived, but he had to tell her how much he loved her, how much she meant. She was his rock, his strength, his passion when he felt cold and tired. He told her of the Voice and his Mission and the Machines of God. He wept and kissed her pale lips, willing his own warmth into her wracked body. After some time it seemed to work, he bent his mind into making her well. His brain numbed with the mantra repeated over and over in his head he entered another state of consciousness...
He was hovering above the forms on the bed, floating, free...
"Believe in me," came a disembodied voice. It was a sign! He knew it! His spirit slammed back into his body, throwing him forward onto June, who opened her deep brown eyes and looked back at him, puzzled.
"What--what happened to me?," she rasped. Then she saw her drug paraphenalia in the floor beside the bed and paled. "Oh, Glass. I...I don't know what to say. I'm sorry."
"You kept it from me, but it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that you're safe. God healed you, don't you see? I prayed and She answered me!"
Shaking her aching head she tried to understand what he was telling her. She embraced him, shook up and confused. "I don't believe there's a God. You know that." She refused to partake in the official State religion of Great Ones who demanded obediance, temples where all the donations went straight to the Council. Neither did she buy into this great and beneficent God the Ghost Children believed in, the world was too bleak and ugly a place.
"How can you say that!," he declared, incredulous.
"I believe in you," she replied, kissing him.
The next concert Glass really meant to shake things up. There were more and more new converts to the new way of thinking and there they were, ready for him to preach his gospel. Yet there were always a few in the crowd yelling, "I want Zero! Play Zero's stuff!" Dressed in all black with a collar of blood red his bald head reflected the stagelights, and his lips pursed in annoyance.
This time, Glass screamed back. "ZERO'S DEAD! I've been reborn! I'M GLASS!"
The discontented fans harried him back. "YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD!," Glass shouted again, launching into a frenzied song in which he seemed to attack his guitar rather than play it. The hecklers actually began clapping and enjoying the song. June and Ruby were watching from the sidelines, the manager smoking profusely as was her habit and June with her arms crossed in front of her. Watching him was a spectacle in itself, his long legs with the tall lace-up boots and long arms draped over his instrument, hunched over, jumping straight up, screaming with fury, crooning with gentleness. Suddenly it felt very hot where June was standing as she admired this beautiful male creature.
She certainly wasn't expecting a riot, which was precisely what ended up happening. Riled by Glass's injunctions to 'smash the system' and 'take back your rights' they rushed the stage and pushed past the security guards June had posted. The backup automated security kicked in and spewed tranquilizer gas into the crowd, the mist rising up to wreathe Glass's outstretched arms. It was a chilling sight. "Stop," he said, looking right at June. "Turn off the AS. Now."
Wordlessly she obeyed, slapping Ruby's hand away as she tried to stop her. The gas dissapated and there he stood like some angel or demon she couldn't decide, but there he was as the audience poured over the stage like a great human wave and he embraced them, embraced them all. Taking a cue from him Nanci, Thunderjack and Snakeytooth simply let the wave engulf them as well, new-age disciples being devoured by their followers.
"Oh my GOD," squealed Ruby, dropping her cigarrette.
"Wait," said June, eyes straining.
The mass of people parted and the tall, spartan figure of Glass stood forth. The people were cheering him, lauding him, touching him as if they were lepers and only a touch could heal them. The other bandmembers were unscathed as well, blinking like owls in the sunlight. Then the crowd proceeded to trash the place, break out into the streets and began tearing down the signs and symbols of the hated ruling regime. Temples, stores, billboards, governmental workers, guard robots all were torn apart.
"My children," the Machines of God heard him say.