I have a message from another time...

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
presents

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!

by Benjamin D. Hutchins

© 2014 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Chapter Three
"Arrival"


Xinqiliu, Liuyue 5, 291 ASC
Saturday, June 5, 2410
Sakuragaoka, United Republic

For the second Saturday in a row, Yui Hirasawa awoke to a text message from Ritsu.

She was alone this time, which she found obscurely disappointing. With a yawn, she rolled onto her left side and snagged her gearPhone from the bedside stand, thumbing it open.


FROM Ritchan
TO HTT Group Alias

Special meeting this afternoon @2
in the clubroom. No instruments
required, just bring yourselves.

- Rit

"Huh? Another special meeting?" Yui wondered aloud. Then, shrugging inwardly, she sent back "ok c u there", put her phone down, and went to ready herself for the day.


She was running late when she got to school, having gotten distracted by the particularly yummy lunch Ui had served that day. Naturally, that meant she'd also missed the traffic light at every crosswalk along the way and had to stop for the train at the light rail station, so even running flat-out when she was able to, she couldn't make up much time. She was out of breath and sweaty when she got to the second-floor landing - and, to her surprise, heard music coming from up above.

Journey
"Higher Place"
Arrival (2001)

They're playing? Yui thought. That's weird. Ritchan said we didn't need our instruments. Then, with a smile, she raised a hand to her gig bag's shoulder strap and remarked to herself, Good thing I brought Gīta anyway!

By the time she got to the top of the stairs, though, she'd realized that the sound was coming from the main music room, not the Light Music Club's room - and that whoever was in there playing, it wasn't her bandmates. The drumming couldn't possibly be Ritchan's, and there were two guitars, one of them in the midst of a high, wailing solo. In fact, it sounded like...

She burst into the room to find her bandmates all clustered just inside the door; arms windmilling, she tried to halt her headlong dash before she ran Azusa down, but then tripped over her own feet, converting the inadvertent charge into a particularly fierce hug-from-behind instead. Her kōhai didn't seem to find that in any way surprising; she just braced her feet to keep from being knocked over, and looked back over her shoulder with an Oh, it's you sort of face just as the Art of Noise dove into the last chorus.


Ooh and I try
I try to reason why
Don't you know I can't go on this way?
Baby please don't walk away
There is this place
Where I toss away my pride
So you can see that I'm the one
To take you to a higher place this time!

Disentangling herself from Azusa, Yui stood panting in the sudden silence that followed the last cry of Azalynn's guitar, acutely conscious of the nine pairs of eyes that were all regarding her.

"See what happens when you're late, senpai?" quipped Azusa dryly.

"I'm sorry!" Yui blurted, bowing so furiously with her gig bag still on her back that she whacked herself in the back of the head with Gīta's neck.

Ritsu grinned. "It's OK, we were only a couple minutes ahead of you. They'd already started playing when we got here!"

Azalynn ducked out of the strap of her guitar and stood it against her amp. "Sorry, we couldn't resist," she said. "So hey, guys! Let me introduce you." She put a hand on the shoulder of the slim, blue-haired young man next to her, leaning in as if about to snap an arm's length self-portrait, and said, "This fine-looking piece of precision engineering here is my rhythm guitarist partner in crime, Miki Kaoru! Look all you want, girls, but don't touch, he's Kaitlyn's!" she warned with a wink.

A couple of the Hōkago Tea Time girls blushed at that, but Yui's attention was entirely focused not on the musician, but the instrument he held.

"Ritchan, Ritchan!" she said, tugging at the sleeve of Ritsu's sweatshirt. "Look! It's Gīta - a blue Gīta!"

"Huh, yeah, so it is," Ritsu agreed, looking more closely. Sure enough, the guitar Miki held was a Gibson Les Paul, very similar to Yui's own beloved axe, but in a rich and mellow shade of blue instead of Gīta's Heritage Cherry Sunburst finish.

"I thought you played a Rickenbacker 620," said Azusa.

Miki grinned. "I do - just not always."

"Back here on the drums, Dorothy Wayneright," Azalynn went on. With a quiet little smile, Dorothy rose from behind her kit and gave an oddly formal little bow, like a karateka at the start of a sparring match, which didn't really go with her industrial-safety-sign tank top and red headband. "And on the bass guitar -" Azalynn continued; she turned to the black-haired young man who stood next to the drum kit, then recoiled in feigned surprise and blurted, " - Who are you?!"

The bassist grinned and raised a hand. "Hi," he said. "I'm just filling in until Moose gets here - Hoffman's a long way from Zipang. I'm Kate's brother, my name's Corwin Ravenhair."

"Oh! I've heard of you!" said Ritsu. "I didn't know you were a musician, though."

"Well, whether I am kind of depends on who you ask," said Corwin, "but I was in a band in high school..." He put a hand behind his head, his grin becoming a little sheepish. "Even if it wasn't quite as successful as my big sister's."

"And this," said Azalynn, darting over to the woman standing among the little cluster of keyboards and effects racks, "is Kaitlyn, of course."

"I'm pleased to meet all of you at last," said Kate with a smiling bow. "Azalynn's told me so much about you."

"I..." Mio fumbled for words for a few moments, her face almost crimson. "It's... amazing to meet all of you," she finally managed, bowing deeply in return. "But... I..."

Azusa could see that her senpai wasn't going to be able to get it out, so it fell to her to say what they were all thinking:

"But why are you here?"

"I heard your demo," Kate replied, still smiling.

"No, I know that," said Azusa, shaking her head. "That's not what I mean. I mean... don't you have stuff to do?"

"Would you excuse us for a second?" said Ritsu pleasantly; then, snagging the younger musician in a headlock, she half-turned them both away from the Art of Noise and said in a stage mutter, "Cool it with that! What are you trying to do, talk them into leaving?"

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Azusa squeaked, her cat ears springing up.

Kate laughed cheerfully. "It's a fair question," she said. "But as a matter of fact, this is the stuff I have to do, for the moment. Starting Monday, I'm going to be your school's new music teacher, at least for the rest of this term."

Ritsu turned back to face her, neglecting to release Azusa and so dragging her along in the process. "Come again?" she asked, and then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw that, while Mio and Yui were both still looking starstruck, Mugi had that look. The one she got when she was Up To Something and reasonably sure it was about to pay off. Turning further (still dragging Azusa along), Ritsu rounded on her blonde bandmate and demanded, "What did you do, Mugi."

Mugi's blue eyes went wide with perfectly unconvincing innocence. "Me? Nothing! Whyever do you ask?"

That seemed to break the spell on the others. All of them crowded around Mugi, all firing questions at her at once. While they interrogated her, she just stood silently smiling, as if basking in the attention.

Azalynn leaned over and murmured to Kate, "See? What did I tell you? Adorable."

"Mm-hmm," Kate agreed, and stood there smiling while the five girls hashed it all out.

Mugi let her bandmates get the worst of their curiosity out of their systems, then held up a placating hand and said gently, "Now, now, now, now, now, now, now..."

Yui's eyes went wide. "Seven times!" she murmured in astonishment.

"I couldn't possibly have had anything to do with this," Mugi pointed out patiently.

"Yeah... you're right, Mugi," said Ritsu after a moment's reflection. "I mean, just because Sawa-chan-sensei happened to have the opportunity of a lifetime handed to her..."

"At almost the exact moment we found out that Rin-chan was really Azalynn from the Art of Noise..." Mio added.

"And just in time for the school year out in the 'big universe' to end," Yui chipped in.

"Wait, seriously?" said Ritsu, momentarily derailed.

Yui nodded vigorously. "Uh-huh!"

"How do you know things like that, senpai?" Azusa wondered.

Yui shrugged. "I dunno, I'm good with time differences and stuff," she said.

"OK, well, yeah, and that," Ritsu went on, shaking her head in faintly distracted wonderment.

"And the Board of Regents just happened to hire the lead singer of that same band in Yamanaka-sensei's place," Mio said.

"You're right, there's absolutely no reason why we should suspect the girl whose father owns half of the prefecture of having had a hand in any of that," Ritsu concluded with elaborately faked dignity. Bowing deeply to Mugi with her hands at her sides, she said, "Please forgive my boorish assumption, Kotobuki-ojōsama."

"You are forgiven," said Mugi magnanimously.

The five looked at each other for a long moment, and then all burst out in fits of giggles before breaking their huddle and turning to the Art of Noise.

"So, well, uh... gosh," said Mio. "Welcome to Sato Academy."

"I'll go and make some tea," said Mugi cheerfully, and she went across to the Light Music clubroom to do just that.

While she was about that, the other members of Hōkago Tea Time mingled with the Art of Noise. To her surprise, Mio found herself - usually the first member of the band to want to hide in any given social situation - being hidden behind instead. She turned and gave her best friend a can-I-help-you-with-something? eyebrow, asking, "Problem?"

"Huh? Noooo," Ritsu replied unconvincingly. "It's just..." She nodded toward the drum kit and its operator. "That's Dorothy Wayneright over there. She's the third or fourth best drummer, like... ever."

"Who's ahead of me?" Dorothy inquired, and Ritsu jumped and squeaked in a way Mio found very gratifying.

"She heard me!" Ritsu said unnecessarily.

Mio rolled her eyes. "Oh, good grief," she said. "Of course she heard you."

Ritsu peeked out from behind her friend; Dorothy, seated behind her drum kit, tilted her head curiously.

"Uh... well..." Ritsu emerged from behind Mio, hands behind head, trying hard to seem casual and failing completely. "Keith Moon... and Gene Krupa... and maybe Luke Yamada."

"Hmm," said Dorothy thoughtfully; then she nodded and said, "Acceptable," adding with a little smile, "Five points for saying Krupa instead of Buddy Rich."

Ritsu grinned, her hesitancy banished instantly now that she had shop to talk. "Nah, Krupa's the man," she said. "Rich is too damn perfect." Stepping closer, she went on, "I gotta admit, I'm a little surprised."

"About what?" Dorothy wondered.

"I expected your kit to be a lot bigger," Ritsu said. "Except for your floor tom, it's basically the same as mine."

"You thought I would have one of those giant prog-rock rigs with a thousand toms and every cymbal ever invented?" Dorothy wondered, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, yeah!" said Ritsu. "I would if I had your budget."

Dorothy shook her head. "They'd just get in your way," she said. "Let me show you something..."

While Ritsu conferred with Dorothy, Azusa quizzed Miki about matters guitarly. Mio stood and watched for a moment, then turned to see that Yui - her arms around Azalynn from behind - was chatting breezily with Kaitlyn as if they'd been friends for years. Mio was not a naturally jealous sort of person, but she could never suppress a little surge of envy whenever she saw Yui exercising that particular one of her talents - that fearless ability to be totally at ease with anybody, anywhere, at any time, given even half a chance.

It was a talent Mio considered completely alien to her own makeup - a deficit she felt particularly acutely right now, as she wavered on the edge of slipping into wallflower mode in the face of one of her favorite bands of all time. Turning, she saw Kaitlyn's brother standing there regarding her with a thoughtful expression on his face, and felt her own face go hot with embarrassment. That happened whenever she realized anyone was looking at her, but the effect seemed particularly acute when the person doing the looking was, well, someone like that...

Look at the size of his hands, she thought irrelevantly, and then she suddenly noticed something.

"... You're a lefty too!" she blurted, then reddened even more when she realized she'd said it out loud.

Corwin grinned. "Yep," he replied. "We all are in my generation of the family, for some reason. Genetics - go figure." He nodded toward Kaitlyn. "Kate's so left-handed she can't even use righty scissors."

"I've been there," Mio agreed ruefully. "And..." She trailed off as she took a closer look at his guitar, now that she was over her initial paralysis. Her grey eyes went wide as she regarded it. "... Is that a Gibson Thunderbird?!"

"Yes it is," Corwin confirmed.

"Wow," said Mio, her awkwardness now completely forgotten. She stepped closer, regarding it as one might a golden idol. "I didn't know they even made a left-handed T-bird."

"I know, right?" Corwin agreed cheerfully. "I'm standing in the music store, looking over the extensive selection of two lefty P-Basses and thinking, Wow, decisions, decisions... arrest-my-ass red or bile green?"

Mio laughed. "Oh, spirits, that yellowy green. I think I may have passed on exactly the guitar you're talking about five or six times in the last two years!"

"Yup, and then I thought, Hang on, they put the pickguard on the wrong side of that T-bird, and here we are!" Corwin went on. He held the instrument an inch or two toward her. "Want to try it?"

Mio blinked, on the verge of diving for her shell again, then said, "Uh... really?"

"Sure. I've heard you play, you can handle it. Heck, you're better'n I am," said Corwin. He ducked out of the strap and handed the T-bird over; Mio turned it around and settled the strap over her own shoulder, flicking her long black hair out of the way with a practiced, effortless grace that was completely at odds with her hesitant demeanor. (She didn't see the little smile Corwin gave as he noticed it.) Lacking a pick, she dug a five-fen piece out of her pocket and laid down the opening few bars of "Fuwa Fuwa Time" with that instead.

Hōkago Tea Time
"Fuwa Fuwa Time (Eiga K-ON! Mix)"
Hōkago Tea Time in Movie (2012)

By the time Mugi got back to report that the tea was ready, a jam session was in progress. Yui had hauled out Gīta and plugged in on the amp that Azalynn had been using, and she and Mio were sharing the stand mic that had been Azalynn's as well as they traded off the verses and harmonized the choruses. Miki was playing the part that was usually Azusa's, while its normal proprietor stood and watched with an expression of rapt attention, her cat ears rigidly upright. Ritsu was at Dorothy's drums, thundering happily away, while Dorothy observed with a quiet little smile. Kaitlyn, at her keyboards, was improvising an organ part not too unlike what Mugi herself would've played.

Mugi stood next to Azalynn and listened, her own smile not too unlike Dorothy's, as Yui ripped out a blazing, inspired rendition of her usual guitar solo, skipped the rap, and dove headlong into the final chorus.


Aa, Kami-sama, onegai
Ichido dake no
Miracle time kudasai
Moshi sunnari hanasereba sono ato wa
Dō ni ka naru yo ne!

"Y'know what, I think it worked," said Azalynn, and the two shared a high five.

"I love it when a plan comes together," said Mugi with an air of great satisfaction.


Fuwa fuwa time!
Fuwa fuwa time!
Fuwa fuwa time!
Fuwa fuwa time!
Fuwa fuwa time!
Fuwa fuwa time!


Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
presented

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera

The Federation Lives Forever!
Chapter Three:
"Arrival"

Written by
Benjamin D. Hutchins

With
The EPU Team

Based on K-On! created by
Kakifly

Contains excerpts from
"Higher Place"
by Jack Blades and Neal Schon

"Fuwa Fuwa Time"
by Mio Akiyama and Tsumugi Kotobuki1

Next: Chapter 3½: "Got the Time"

E P U (colour) 2014

1 One assumes there were actual non-fictional musicians involved in creating the music for K-On!, but this is how it's credited on the soundtrack album.