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Prompt #229 - Creative

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The Rainmakers



Byrum, MS 3:00am


David Case got the call about 3am. He always loved those calls. It was either a drunk ex or a desperate client.


Either way he won.


He answered the phone, "Yeah?"


"Dave You available?"


"What have you got Max?"


"The Superdome people have a big concert this weekend and they're scared shitless that they'll have a repeat of the Superbowl fiasco."


"I thought that they had Courtland Systems people all over those control systems."


"They did. Courtland has all of his assets in Brazil on a big job for Petrobras and the Superdome people want a good Systems engineer onsite. You want it?"




"Good. You've hit the lotto with this gig. Look at your email for instructions. Be in New Orleans by ten at the Marriott. Marty Lebeau will be waiting for you there."



New Orleans


Dean Stalls had a big problem. The producer of boy-bands had at least three in play at all times: one emerging, one in its prime and one hobbling around long after its members were too old to interest Tigerbeat's readers.


It wasn't a band that was his problem. It was his solo act Kevin Carter.


Stalls had seen him when he was twelve and signed him on the spot. The Carter kid was a producer's dream: cute, charismatic, talented and malleable. He sang what they told him to. He did what they told him to. Stalls quickly turned Kevin Carter into another adorable teen idol. That had been four years ago and millions of albums ago.


Carter was capable and bright. He mastered the piano and classical guitar and practiced tirelessly. He listened to other musicians and developed a taste for classic rock. He was often seen in the tabloids wearing a Pink Floyd or a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. 


Of course Stalls didn't care what the kid did in his spare time. He posed for pictures, behaved himself and played the songs that they gave him.


That was up until the boy turned sixteen and developed a mind of his own. Already a star, when it came time to press his fourth album, Carter had twenty-four songs produced and ready. It was his own original material and it was good. Damned good. It blew Stall's production people out of their shoes. They were excited. Some of the old hands that had worked for Cheap Trick or Supertramp and were in love with it. Against Stalls better judgement they pressed the album. It would serve the little shit right to fall on his face.


The album was pared down to sixteen songs. Carter named it Songs of the Highway. The CD cover was featured an empty instate with an electric guitar sitting on a stand. Who knew it would go triple platinum in near record time.


Old people- not just people in their thirties and forties, were buying it. People who had grown up on the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Even the kids liked it. They liked it so much that Kevin Carter went from being a cute kid playing bubble gum music to near mythic proportions almost overnight. Even the most snobbish of critics sat up and gave props to Songs of the Highway as one of the most original and fresh albums of the decade.


Older groups were being re-discovered. The critics compared Carter's new album to Supertramp in its prime, so the kids bought Supertramp. They said he had a stage presence like a young Mick Jagger so the kids googled Mick Jagger to figure out who they were talking about and bought old Rolling Stones CDs. In the space of a few short months, Carter's charisma and talent had created a renaissance of rock.


That was all well and good but it wasn't what Stalls was selling. His other acts were tanking and according to his accountants, he was losing upwards of a million dollars a week. He wanted bubble gum pop and the little shit had resurrected arena rock.


Stalls situation was so dire that he would be completely broke by the end of summer unless something changed and, by all appearances, Carter's popularity and success were just beginning. Already other producers were fronting power trios hoping to ride the wave.


Without any malice at all, sweet little Kevin Carter and all of his talent had put Stalls in a terrible corner. However, there were ways. In the music business all sorts of super-talented young people were found dead. Not that Carter ever used drugs but in this case, his first trip was going to be his last.



New Orleans Marriott 10:00


Case handed over his keys reluctantly to the valet. He was particular about his truck and he hated having anyone else drive it. He wasn't used to hotels like the Marriott and was startled when another bell hop grabbed his luggage and hauled if off to his room.


The hotel's staff were waiting for him. They bypassed the front desk and took him to a suite on the twentieth floor where Marty Lebeau was waiting with a pile of blue prints and schematics. He stood and extended his hand, "Dave. It's been a long time."


Case shrugged and said, "I know. I don't have quite the connections that Courtland's people have in the Louisiana legislature."


"And we didn't have the problems that we have now when you were running things. It all started when we did a whole bunch of upgrades after Katrina. Minor stuff really. Until it bit us hard on the ass in the middle of the Super Bowl in front of God and everybody."


Case stifled a grin. In such a situation a little schadenfreude was understandable but bad for business. "I heard about it. Courtland has been over every inch of that system with a fine toothed comb. A very expensive comb if I know them."


LeBeau shook his head and said, "Courtland blames an equipment manufacturer. The manufacturer blames incorrect installation. Its been months and we're still no where near a solid answer. The whole power distribution and control network has been rebuilt and we just don't have an answer. That's not the worst of it. We are having trouble booking big acts and even the NFL is looking past us for future superbowls. The Rainmaker concert has got to go off without a hitch. We've got a hell of a lot riding on it."


"OK Marty. I see you brought everything I need. Let me go over it this morning and I'll meet you at the Dome after lunch. I'll want to talk to some of your in house people and we'll see what we can find out."


LeBeau stood and said, "Thanks Dave. This is the first event that we've hosted since the Superbowl of national prominence. My job is riding on it going off without a hitch."


Case said, "Courtland's people are electricians that do systems. I'm a systems guy. I'll be looking at it from a whole different direction and I think you'll be pleased."



Canal Street Parking Garage 11:20


Dean Stalls drove up two levels from where most of the cars were parked and backed his rented Lexus into the parking place that he was instructed to park.


It wasn't long before a big, black Chevy Tahoe with tinted windows pulled into a parking space right beside him. The window came down and a revealed a small balding man.


He said, "Mr. Stalls. You may call me Remy. I heard about your problem and I'm here to make the arrangements."


Stalls handed the man a briefcase and said, "It's all there. The money, credentials and keys that you will need."


Remy opened the briefcase in his lap, took a quick look and closed it. "Very well Mr. Stalls. I ask this once and only once. Are you sure about this. Once I leave here, the plan is in motion. There is no backing out."


Stalls shook his head.


Remy said, "Killing one so young, it does things to you know? Just so you know. After its over, don't have an attack of conscious. It would be unfortunate."


Stalls said with a hard edge to his voice, "I made that little shit. Now he is ruining me and I have to break him."


The hit-man nodded, "Just so we understand each other Mr. Stalls."


He rolled up his window and drove away.



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Superdome Sound Set 11:45


Kevin Carter's young strong voice filled the sound stage.


Cheap hotels by the highways,

Smelling like diesel and sweat,

Make me long for the by-ways,

That will take me home to you.


As I travel the by-ways,

Most often the wrong ways,

As I sleep on cheap sheets,

I'm dreaming about coming home to you.

'm dreaming about coming home to you.


The sound engineer was a local pick up and had never worked with or heard the Rainmakers before. They were aptly named. They had a sound that he had not heard the likes of in a very long time. He sat in stunned silence in the booth as the song ended and finally said, "OK guys that's a wrap. Take lunch."


He took off his head phones and left his booth and stepped down to talk to the musicians. Several of them were set players who had been around for a while.


Wiley Cunningham on bass. Graham Norton on rhythm guitar. The drummer was a younger guy named Sam Erickson as was the keyboard player Riley Thompson who were friends and discoveries of Kevin Carter.


The sound engineer drifted down to where Carter, Erickson and Thompson were in a clump talking and said, "Hey guys, I'm James Ellison. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed working with you."


Carter grinned and said, "We surprised you didn't we?"


"Well yeah! I haven't heard stuff like this since the eighties. This is real get back to the heart of it rock and roll stuff and by God I'm glad to be a part of it. It's not the syntho-pop crap that the big labels have been pushing for the last twenty years. I haven't been this jazzed since I did a set with Rush back in '85."


Erickson said, "I'm just glad they let us do it. Even better that it worked out."


Carter said, "I think that my manager was just humoring me expecting that we would flop. When the album came out this spring, we only had a dozen concerts booked out West. It wasn't until it really took off that it became a national tour."


The engineer said, "You know, I used to buy a lot of CDs and listen to new groups. I don't know. I guess I was looking for THE SOUND you know? I sort of quit that. I stopped looking. With you guys, it's like it's all new again. Thank you. Thank you so much for helping me love my job again."



[beginning, more to follow]

Edited by jamessavik
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Superdome Master Control Room 1:25


David Case laid the big drawing he had spent the last couple of hours working on in Visio on the table. LeBeau and his team surrounded it with great interest.


Case said, "Of all of blue prints and schematics that you showed me there was no one diagram for the most important thing: the fiber optic network that ties all of the control nodes together. This is it. Notice that it's shaped like a race track."


The engineers all nodded. One of the younger ones said, "That's for redundancy. The spanning tree algorithm built into the switches uses it until there's a fault in the network and then re-establishes a new connection pattern."


"Quite right. But suppose there was a fault in the network here and here.", Case pointed to two key network nodes.


LeBeau said, "Oh shit. That would isolate..."


Case finished his sentence, "That would completely isolate the power control subsystem and your network would look and act like it was just fine. I'm guessing that it's not a hardware issue at all. It's the network."


LeBeau ordered, "Okay. This we can fix. Art: go get the fiber up-link spares. Matt: Go get us replacement patch cables."


Case asked, "That's all multi-mode fiber?"


LeBeau said, "Yeah.


Case said, "Have a look at this segment here and here- not on this network map but on the architectural blueprints."


LeBeau rolled out the blueprints and found the two junctions weren't even on the same page.


Case said, "This trunk and this trunk are too long for multi-mode finer to run reliably at giga-bit speeds. It was fine BEFORE the Katrina renovation but the new stuff runs at different tolerances. We need to pull single-mode fiber through the conduit and change the uplinks and patch cords to single mode. I think that will pretty much do the trick."


LeBeau looked panicky and said, "We don't have any single-mode stuff onsite."

"Relax", Case said. "Single mode fiber is big with the phone company. I've got suppliers on speed dial that will have what we need here in an hour. We'll have this done by this afternoon and you'll be able to rock the house tonight and keep your lights on."

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