Jam Room, which you might have seen posted here in 2018 in its original draft form, is a one-scene episode in The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches. Honestly, Jam Room should have been combined with the previous full-length episode: Rings of Ceres. But it wasn’t until after Rings was published and I started the next story that I realized I’d forgotten something.
Since the scene didn’t fit the pacing of the title story in The Battle of Vesta 4, I made it a standalone piece followed by supplemental material not included here: song lyrics from–and magazine interviews with–bands and characters in the stories. Mags and her crew might be villainous pirates, but they are also talented musicians. Jam Room is the crew’s last jam session before the life-changing events at Mags’ birthday party, and it shows how “the new girl” from Rings of Ceres makes friends with her eventual bandmates in Dumpster Kittens.
9 November 2029: Vesta 4.
The day before her 106th birthday, Meteor Mags showed off her drum set to the new girl, Jinx. The two convened in the jam room Mags set up so Sarah and Anton could practice and work on songwriting.
Patches stretched out with her eyes closed, resting her fuzzy face on one outstretched limb atop a tube head on an Orange amplifier.
“It’s a beautiful kit,” said Jinx.
“Bird’s-eye maple,” said Mags. “Custom-built on Mars. But if I had it to do over, I’d go with mahogany. Not as pretty, but a heavier sound that could kick a god in the balls.”
“Can I play it?”
“Anytime you want, dear. But if you fuck it up, you’re paying to fix it. Deal?” Mags held out her hand, enclosed in a fingerless biker glove.
Jinx slapped her hand into the older woman’s leathered grip. “Deal.”
Mags’ eyes twinkled like stars in a telescope’s glass. “Check out this bass pedal. I keep tweaking the action on it, but I think I got the right tension now.”
Bronze cymbals glowed in the jam room’s light. They perched atop polished chrome stands and hardware. The bass head bore a ring of skulls. Mags sat on the drum stool. Her ample backside and swishing, fluffy tail enveloped it.
Jinx said, “I thought you’d play with a double kick.”
Mags scoffed. “Batalla plays a double kick for the 78s, but I prefer the old-school approach. One foot for the bass, and one for the high-hat.” She gave the high-hat an expressive flourish, demonstrating its glistening sound closed, open, and a half-dozen states in-between. “All about that high-hat.”
Corrugated foam panels lined the walls to reduce the ambient, reflected noise of the kit and the stacks of amplifiers around it. A hint of jasmine piped through the air vents to mask the stale scent of recycled air. Tattered couches and love seats along the walls sat so close to the array of instruments that ear damage was practically guaranteed, but they gave the close quarters a lived-in, homey feeling.
On one couch, Tarzi reclined with his feet on an armrest and his head smushed against a pillow on the other. He had arrived a few hours earlier after spending his morning in a spacecraft with Ryder. The older man’s conversation left him with a need to immerse himself in George Orwell’s book, Homage to Catalonia. He lifted an eyebrow to gaze over the top of the memoir. “John Bonham didn’t need two kick drums.”
Mags pointed a drumstick at the adolescent she affectionately called her nephew. “Right on, T-man. All in the wrists? All in the ankle, too. Speed, precision, lightness, power.” Mags pounded the bass pedal with her right foot and made it fire as rapidly as a machine gun.
Jinx took note. “How do you get it to go so fast but still keep time?”
“Come here and watch.”
Jinx stepped behind the kit and observed.
Mags blasted another staccato bass burst. Then she rested her sticks on the snare head. “Stay loose. You can’t tense up. But you need to stay firm, too. Don’t get all flabby. When you find that balance, you can do anything. I don’t just mean with a drum. I mean anything in life.”
Jinx did her best to absorb this advice. “When my ankle gets better, I’ll be all over it.”
“That’s the spirit.” Mags twirled the drumsticks in a blur. “Sarah and Anton could use a drummer, and you seem like you have the right attitude. Why don’t you show me what you got, but without the footwork?” Mags held out the sticks.
Jinx grabbed them. As soon as Mags slipped off the stool, Jinx filled it. She adjusted the tilt of the ride and crash cymbals, brought the high-hat a little closer, and executed a brief roll across the three rack toms from smallest to largest, ending with the floor tom. “You’re taller than me,” she said. “But I can work with this.”
Tarzi called out, “Drum solo!”
Jinx twirled her sticks with almost as much panache as Mags, tossed one into the air, and caught it. “You’re on.”
Mags lit a stolen cigarette and appraised the girl’s technique and timing. Jinx blasted into a speedy 4/4 punk beat then stretched it out into a flurry of syncopated, off-beat fills—not with the facility of a seasoned New Orleans drummer, but showing solid ideas and spontaneity.
A knowing smile crept across the smuggler’s face. Jinx was not yet a percussion expert, but she would be just what Sarah and Anton needed to jam out their tunes and kick some arse: straight-ahead rock beats, with a generous amount of creativity to help their songwriting and improvisation. Mags made a mental note to thank Tinta for the introduction.
Sarah ran into the room, dragging Anton behind her as she had nearly every hour of every day since the boy’s father brought him to Vesta. His embarrassed expression of the first few days had disappeared, and a newfound contentedness shone on the face of the boy who had so recently lived under the threat of terror on Mars.
Mags said, “Now this jam session can officially start.” No one heard her over Jinx’s drumming.
Jinx saw the founding members of Dumpster Kittens and stopped playing. She didn’t smile, but she lifted her head in a gesture of recognition.
Sarah said, “That would be a cool beat for Agents of Cruelty! Are you feeling better?”
“Fever’s gone,” said Jinx. “Ankle is damned useless right now, but at least it isn’t throbbing.”
Mags introduced Anton to Tarzi, and a comfortable chatter filled the room.
Ryder showed up to see what all the racket was about, and another round of introductions followed.
Mags said, “This is the guy who planned the Yeltsin job.”
“I’m retired,” Ryder lied. “Now I’m just a chauffeur to Mags’ teenage sidekicks.” He plopped down on the edge of Tarzi’s couch.
The young man held out a hand and received a hearty slap on his open palm. “Thanks for the lift.”
Mags asked, “Are you two friends now?”
Tarzi said, “You were right about his having shite taste in music but awesome stories.”
“Dude,” said Ryder, “I played you the good stuff.”
“Sweet bleeding fuck,” said Tarzi. “It was like eight hours of Ted Nugent.”
“That reminds me,” said Mags. “Drum fills! Some of the all-time greatest are in Stranglehold. We need to add that to our list.”
Tarzi said, “I am not putting that right-wing jackass on our list.”
“Then I am,” said Mags. She took the sticks from Jinx and settled again on her drum stool.
Anton piped up. “We could do a jam on it. The riff is pretty easy.” He lifted a Gibson SG from its stand and tuned it.
Tarzi returned to reading. “All hope is lost.”
Sarah said, “I don’t know the words.”
“I got you covered.” Ryder snatched up a pencil and paper. He recited the words as he wrote, until he came to the second verse. “The road I travel’s a—” He raised his head. “Mags?”
“She’s just a little girl. Are you sure you want her singing this?”
“Because it says bitch? Jesus, Ryder, you’re getting soft in your old age. This girl’s seen some shit you don’t even know about. Sarah, what’s a bitch?”
A pair of sweet, angelic eyes met Mags’. “A female dog. Or, in prison, a person who performs sexual favors for protection from gang violence.”
Mags pointed a drumstick at Ryder. “See?”
“Oookay. Bitch it is.” He completed the line on the paper. “And if your house gets in my way, baby—”
Tarzi barely lifted his eyes from the pages. “We’ll get sued for this, you know. Quoting song lyric without permission.”
Mags laughed. “The Nuge was assassinated when he ran for President in 2020. Nobody’s suing us over Stranglehold. And if they do, I’ll kick their arse.”
Sarah asked, “What’s the melody?”
Ryder sang a few lines for her.
Celina appeared in the doorway. “For fuck’s sake, Ryder. Sing it in the right key!”
“Celina!” He descended on her like a storm and crushed her in a hug, sloshing her drink over her hand. “Goddamn, is it good to see you again!”
Celina slapped his bum. “You too, you lousy felon. Now let go, before I suffocate.”
He released her, but his eyes were held captive, and his smile faded not one bit. “What’s a key?”
Celina rolled her eyes and wiped her wet hand on her jeans. “Let me do this.”
Sarah listened intently to the older woman’s singing. “I can do that.” She stepped up to the mic. “Who starts?”
Mags aimed a drumstick at Kaufman’s boy. “Anton. I’ll count it off.” She smacked the sticks together crisply four times, establishing the tempo.
The young man began the riff, looking to Mags to make sure he had it right.
She gave him a wink and a smile and four extra bars to get settled. Over the blaring guitar amplifier and its crackling distortion, she shouted to Sarah. “Ready?”
Sarah closed her eyes. Anton’s riff was a warm liquid, a comforting bed of fuzz, a sound as soothing as a city being bombed off the map.
On Anton’s eighth time through the riff, Mags exploded a drum fill on snare and bass. It shook the room so hard the building seemed in danger of falling off the asteroid into space. The precise, sharp sting of her snare made Ryder jump. He’d almost forgotten what a musician his partner in crime was.
The twelve-year-old Sarah launched into the first line. She didn’t really know how a dog in heat felt, but she was pretty sure it felt like kicking arse, the freedom to say anything, and a desire for something immediate and personal.
Celina sipped Kraken black rum, nonplussed by the wave of sonic annihilation rolling over her. She tapped her foot as if the ear-splitting racket from the speakers was the most natural thing in the world. With cool detachment, she noticed the new girl’s eyes never left Mags.
As Sarah’s vocal chords ripped into the verse about bitches and houses burning, Celina considered Jinx. Many of the young women the Australian had worked with in the club over the past few years were basically nice girls who had survived terrible events. But this newcomer had a good helping of the antagonistic, punk-rock attitude Mags exuded. It was a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it showed an inner anger and strength. On the other, it might be a guard against a deeper, overwhelming sadness. Rage was a wall, a barrier, and Celina wondered what unspoken torments Jinx carried with her. Would they destroy the young woman, or was she strong enough to conquer them? Celina decided to keep a watchful eye on her, lest inner turmoil lead Jinx and her new friends to destruction.
A woman who had dealt with immeasurable sadness for too many years, Celina relegated all these thoughts to a space she held inside her. She returned to the joy of the moment. It was time for the guitar solo.
Mags backed off her assault on the drum heads and let the band bring it down. Anton was no Ted Nugent, but he took a credible turn at a solo. His father’s illegal Sonic Youth records had influenced him, so he eschewed Nugent’s shred style for an atmospheric, textural romp. He set the headstock of his guitar against the amp. A wailing cascade of feedback poured out like a lake from a broken dam.
The raucous, flowing noise excited Patches. She leapt down from her perch on Anton’s amplifier and shoved her face between the speaker’s tweed cover and the microphone in front of it. With her ears pressed flat against her tri-colored head and her whiskers shimmering in the soundwaves, she howled into the crisscross pattern of the microphone’s metal head.
The guitar solo gave way to a caterwaul that nearly paralyzed Patches’ friends. The criminal calico filled the room with noises that spoke of her prehistoric ancestors: the fury of a smilodon sinking its teeth into a cave bear; the iron flavor of a mastodon’s blood in her mouth; the despair of watching spear-wielding primates rob a continent of its massive, mammalian fauna.
No one in the jam room would forget that cry, but only Mags understood it on a primal, genetic level. The smuggler shut her eyes and saw in Patches’ song a place of bestial beauty and torment. A place of perfect belonging and never-ending loneliness. It smelled like Earth and rain and matted fur.
Mags’ drumsticks smashed into the tom heads like they called out for war. She attacked the crash cymbal repeatedly and released a forlorn, unearthly wail in duet with her kitten.
Again, Mags backed off the percussive assault to let in the band. Sometimes, she thought, you gotta start low.
Sarah sang the pirate’s thought, and her voice led the group to the finale.
Four Action-Packed Stories Full of Anarchy, Asteroids, and Excessive Ammunition Continue The Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches! Hoist the Jolly Roger and Get Ready to Rock!
Rings of Ceres: A hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat return to a decimated asteroid civilization to rescue friends and kick ass, but they get caught up in violent riots between the desperate citizens of Ceres and the mercenary security forces guarding the mining corporations.
Jam Room: Meteor Mags leads a jam session with the teenagers who want to start a punk band called Dumpster Kittens!
The Battle of Vesta 4: Meteor Mags and her fun-loving crew throw the birthday party of a lifetime—until death rains down from the sky! Mosh at the rock’n’roll party of the century as the Psycho 78s record their new album! Flee in terror as Club Assteroid falls under the dragons’ assault from space! Discover the underground caverns of Vesta and join the resistance! Take one last hell ride aboard the Queen Anne before it all goes up in flame! Strap on your battle armor and get ready for the most brutal, barbaric, blood-soaked fight of your life: The Battle of Vesta 4!
Hunted to Extinction: Meteor Mags and Patches undertake one last hunt to exterminate the space lizards from our solar system. Their journey reveals the fate of Tarzi’s parents, a tragedy that connects our criminal crew to a powerful potential ally. Plus, Mags gets a new ship, and it’s got even more kick-ass stolen technology to help her plunder the System! Her club might have been destroyed, but Meteor Mags and her friends will never accept defeat so long as they live.
May not be suitable for children or carbon-based life.
Get ready for asteroids, anarchy, and excessive ammunition, because Meteor Mags and Patches are back—bigger, badder, and louder than ever!
On the asteroid mining frontier of the near future, a hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat rage against the forces of law and order, “liberating” cargo and racking up a massive body count—until they come face-to-face with an alien invasion!
Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew, the hard-rocking Psycho 78s, in fifteen tales of interplanetary piracy and total destruction. Run for your life in the tornado that wipes out Ceres! Thrill to the savage mating rituals practiced by the evil space lizards! Learn how to smuggle cigarettes and shoot pool with the solar system’s number one dancer! Witness the unearthly energies of the machine that transforms Patches the cat, and merge your mind with a telepathic space kraken!
From rescuing a pirate radio DJ in a hail of bullets to dancing naked with a tribe of Russian space monkeys, Mags and her outlaw friends rock the Belt. But how long can they survive when everyone on Earth wants them dead?
Now Available on Amazon as a 588-page paperback featuring black-and-white art plus Asteroid Underground articles and interviews with the crew. Also available in a text-only version for Kindle for $9.95, or get the Kindle for free when you buy the paperback.
Naked, we run at night
caring nothing for heat or cold
only for what can be killed
only for what is ours.
We mark it, maul it
and make it our own.
is our sole inheritance
and we have no prayer
of leaving it alive.
Doubt we never entertain
We leap into the unknown
and if it will not catch us,
then we die.
But what is that