New Management

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Howard the Hammer, leading man of up-and-coming rock band Hammerhead, needed some positive attention for his band. Lately, all anyone had been talking about was their backstage antics.

They were great fun and worth talking about, but there was way more to Hammerhead than debauchery. There was, for instance, what happened on the stage. None of the backstage fun would ever happen if there wasn't anything up front to get people's attention.

Howard chuckled. Yep, that sounded like Hammerhead, all right. Backstage, up front. All they needed was a girl, and they'd be living large.

If management wasn't all over him to clean up their image, he'd have done more with the front/back idea. Found a girl willing to model how much fun it was up front and how good the backstage was. After all, that sort of thing was the essence of Hammerhead.

The band had hardly been named for the shark.

"Be practical," Howard muttered to himself. "Focus on the music. Focus on the show. Stick to performing. That's all we gotta do, right?"

No one answered. Not that Howard had expected anyone to; it was hard to get an answer from an empty room. The rest of the guys knew better than to walk in on him when he was thinking. He needed space and time to think. And no interruptions. They'd learned; they gave him everything he needed.

Howard was the gravy train. Without Howard, there'd be no Hammerhead. He'd earned some space to do his thinking in.

Still, doing a show without any theatrics seemed... wrong somehow. To make matters worse, Howard had read an article about a show ShapeShifter had done once, way back when they were getting started. Trevor had riled everyone up by sticking a pair of pasties on his t-shirt.

It was like a dare. The kind Howard couldn't walk away from. Trevor had pulled that one night when no one had been around to see.

Hammerhead was going to stand up in front of five thousand people in a few hours. Five thousand people who would, to the last man, see rhinestone-encrusted pasties nestled in there with his chest hair. He wouldn't even need to say anything. The people who knew the ShapeShifter story would get it. The Hammerhead fans would figure it was nothing out of the ordinary, just another thing Howard the Hammer was doing. Anyone else could lick 'em off.

Howard pulled off his shirt and looked down at himself. Would these things he'd bought even fit over his pierced nipple?

He jumped at a knock at the door. It was his drummer, Stunning Stan. "Howard? It safe to come in yet? We're standing out here like losers and, dude, I gotta take a piss like you would not believe."

"Yeah, come on in," Howard said with a sigh. It was a calculated risk. Management had been clear: if they didn't get some positive attention soon, they'd be clearing out. Hammerhead would need a new manager. But playing it completely straight and narrow didn't sit right with Howard. They were Hammerhead, for crying out loud.

"Help me out here," he said when Stunning Stan came out of the john. Stan was the only one he'd ask for help; the other two would pull at the piercing, tell him he was being stupid, steal the pasties for themselves. Their chests were bare next to Howard's -- hell, a gorilla's chest was bare next to Howard's. The whole fun of this was the glitter peeking out between all this hair, teasing the girls who'd find their way backstage later on.

And even later, people would talk about this. They'd forget ShapeShifter had ever done it. It'd be Hammerhead legend.

New management might not be such a bad idea after all.

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