I have a message from another time...
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera
The Federation Lives Forever!
by Benjamin D. Hutchins
© 2014 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
One thing it didn't take the girls of the Light Music Club long to realize was different about their new faculty advisor was that she didn't sneak up on them the way the old one had.
Sawako Yamanaka had possessed the uncanny ability to just appear, such that the first indication any of the club members had that she had arrived in their midst was when she suddenly dropped into the conversation. Not always in the clubroom at school, either - she'd done it several times during off-campus discussions, including one memorable occasion when they'd all suddenly realized she was at the table with them during dinner at Yui's house.
On the first Monday of her time at Sato Academy, they had all been unconsciously expecting Kaitlyn to do a similar thing, just sort of materializing at the clubroom conference table in the middle of after-school tea. Indeed, since she was evidently some sort of ninja or something (if you believed the press accounts of her various adventures), it would have been less weird than when Sawa-chan did it. But no. She just came in the door at a quarter past three, like a normal person. So far she'd done that every day.
Ritsu found it faintly disappointing, but only faintly, because Kaitlyn-sensei (virtually nobody in the school called her by her last name, which the Kokugo-trained tongue found rather challenging) had proven to be good times in other ways. She took the music aspect of the Light Music Club a lot more seriously than Sawa-chan had, for one thing, but not in a grouchy, bossy way like Azusa did. Rather than badgermole them to practice like their kōhai often did, Kate would set them playful little musical challenges, or show them new tricks - always accentuating the fun aspect of making music rather than treating it as work, even when it was work.
Today, as she began her second week at the school, she arrived at her usual time, took her place at the end of the table, and received her cup of tea and slice of cake (today's offering was a deliriously frothy strawberry cream affair that had Yui floating slightly above the cushion of her chair with delight). The chitchat flowed as ever, covering mainly matters that were only peripherally musical, as the five at the table ate their cake and drank their tea.
After finishing her cake and complimenting Mugi on its excellence, Kate asked, "So where's Azusa today?"
"Her class drew after-school cleanup duty for all the year-1 classrooms," said Mio. "She probably won't be here until four."
"Hmm." Kaitlyn took a sip of her tea. "OK, I guess Stupid Guitar Tricks will have to wait," she mused. "In that case..." She rose and walked around the table, pausing behind Mio to regard the item standing against the wall, then turned back to the girls and asked, "Do you ever use this?"
"What, that old organ?" Ritsu asked.
"No, we've never used it," said Mio, shaking her head.
"I just use the Hammond mode on my keyboard," Mugi agreed.
"I'm not even sure it works," Yui added. "It's been here forever. It's in the old pictures of Sawa-chan's band when they were students here, but they didn't use it either."
With a thoughtful sound, Kaitlyn brushed dust from the console organ's cover, then opened it to regard the single manual and colorful control buttons. "Hmm... looks a lot like an old Lowrey Genie," she said, then regarded the badge mounted above the main control panel. "'Future Industries Sato-Phonic'. I guess that's the local equivalent."
The four girls got up and gathered around behind her as Kate pulled out the organ's bench and seated herself at the console, then switched on the main power. The speaker came online with a thump, and then the faint hum of energized but idle electronics. She fiddled around with it for a few moments, toggling switches and watching the status lights, then played a short segment of Bach's "Dorian" Toccata. The sound of the organ was not really suited for a piece as large as that - it was only a household console organ, after all, not a church or concert instrument - but it was nevertheless impressive to her audience.
"Well, I guess it works," she said. "Good sound, too. I love these old transistor organs. Nothing else sounds quite like them." She turned to look back over her shoulder at the club members. "You really ought to think about using it sometimes. It's a shame to just let it sit here gathering dust, and besides, it could expand your horizons."
Ritsu scratched her head. "How can it do that? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad it still works, but... we don't really need it. Mugi's keyboard does just as good an organ voice, and it can sound like all that other stuff."
Kate regarded her for a moment, then smiled the little smile that the members of Hōkago Tea Time had already learned meant, "Oh, you think so, eh?" Without further comment, she turned back to the console, scanned the controls, found the switch she wanted, and toggled it, then pressed a key. The organ sounded a note as before, except that instead of a constant, sustained tone, it was pulsing now, as if Kate were rapidly tapping the key instead of holding it down.
"... OK, that's cool," Ritsu admitted, but Kate released the key and remarked (as if to herself),
"Hmm. Too slow. Hang on."
Then, rising, she turned off the organ and, to the girls' surprised, pulled it away from the wall. She turned it 90 degrees, so that its back faced the table, and then took a small sonic screwdriver from her pocket and started removing the back cover.
"Umm... what are you doing?" Mio wondered.
Kate looked up from her work with a smile. "Something my dad told me when he first started teaching me what I would need to know to be a safe space traveler. He says he heard it from his first captain when he was in Starfleet, ages ago - 'You have to learn why things work on a starship.'" Returning to work, she went on, "I believe in a similar philosophy for music."
While her students thought that over, Kate finished taking the back off the organ, switched her screwdriver to flashlight mode, and took stock of the internals. It looked a lot like an old Lowrey organ in here, too, all dusty boards of old-fashioned electronic components. Her practiced eye took only a few moments to dope out which of the boards must control the system she wanted, and few more to zero in on the item she needed.
"See this?" she said, moving aside so the girls could look into the cabinet. "This board is where the 'repeat' function I was just using comes from. And this," she added, pointing to a tiny knob mounted next to one of the big capacitors on said board, "is a thing called a potentiometer. It's similar to the volume and tone knobs on your guitars, only in this case, what it does is..."
She reached inside and turned the little knob a bit, considered, then tweaked it just a little more before withdrawing her hand. She put the back on the organ again, securing only the screws in the four corners, and pushed it back into its place, then turned it on again and pressed a key. The pulsing note sounded once more, only this time the pulse was faster - Ritsu's drummer's ear judged it to be around 120 beats per minute, as opposed to the 90-odd it was doing before. The four glanced at each other, smiles breaking out, as they all realized what their teacher had done.
"It controls the speed of the repeat function!" said Mugi, delight in her voice.
"That's amazing!" Mio declared.
"I never knew you could do something like that," Ritsu said. "I always figured something like this would be just... you know, like an amp."
"'No User Serviceable Parts Inside,'" said Yui in her furrowed-brow Serious Business voice, nodding firmly.
"Yeah, exactly," Ritsu agreed.
"Actually, there are some fun things you can do inside of most amps, too, but that's an advanced class," said Kate. Satisfied, she shut off the organ again, pulled it away from the wall, and finished re-securing the back, then returned it once more to its place and sat down at it again. "And now, ladies, if you'll take your battle stations, I'll show you what one of these old things can do for you."
The four shared an eager glance, then scrambled to their places. Kate let them get situated - Mio and Yui cabled up and ready, Mugi at her keyboard, Ritsu behind her drums - then turned the organ's volume up a little and began, with the accelerated repeat function still switched on, to play a sharp, choppily arpeggiated, constantly shifting riff.
Ritsu recognized it instantly, Mio only a half-second behind her, and Mugi just a couple of bars later - in plenty of time to switch her Triton to its piano voice and join Mio in throwing down the appropriate part at the appropriate moment.
Yui was still a little confused as Ritsu came hurtling in with even more than her usual manic energy, but she got the idea when Mio, still laying down her intricately flourished bassline, stepped to her stand mic and started singing:
Out here in the fields
I fought for my meals
I get my back into my living
I don't need to fight
To prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven, no no no, no no
By the time Mio finished the verse, Yui was fully on board, almost quivering with anticipation. She might not be quite so enormous a fan of the Who as Ritsu and Mio were, but she did love a chance to rock Pete Townshend style. She slammed into the line with gusto, windmilling it up properly with a huge grin on her face.
Azusa arrived just in time to see her, still with that same broad grin, step to the mic and declare,
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland...
and then leap in the air and throw down a power chord as Ritsu drove Mio into the second verse with a thunderous fill.
Sally take my hand
We'll travel south crossland
Put out the fire, and don't look past my shoulder
The exodus is here
The happy ones are near
Let's get together before we get much older
Azusa skirted the band, eyeing them a bit warily, and took a seat on the bench to observe the rest of the song. As she did, she cast a glance behind her at Kaitlyn-sensei's back, where she sat hunched over the old console organ, pounding out that frenetic arpeggio line that drove the whole song. That was also not something Yamanaka-sensei had ever done. She'd once claimed that she was "letting you girls have your space" by declining to jam with them, but Azusa had always suspected that her real reasons were a combination of a metalist's disdain for their usual pop-punk style and simple laziness. (The latter would fit with the rest of the club culture, after all.)
Come to that, she had to admit it freaked her out a little bit to come into the prep room and find her senpai actually playing, rather than just sitting around. She wondered if that meant it was already too late for her to get back her edge - and then suddenly realized that sitting on the bench watching them certainly wasn't going to get her anywhere in regards to that goal, now was it? Jumping up, she scrambled to get plugged in and join them before they ran out of song.
Azusa wasn't a violinist, so she couldn't jump in and help them finish the song in the canonical manner, but she did a creditable job improvising a similar finale on her guitar (to Yui's visible delight), and they were all flushed and pleased with themselves as Ritsu brought them to a crashing halt.
"Oh yeah!" said Ritsu. "That was awesome!"
"Sorry, you guys, I was a little out of tune," Azusa apologized.
"Who cares, you were amazing!" Yui told her. She took off Gīta and stood it against Ritsu's bass drum, then declared, "Phew! That was intense!" and threw her arms around her young colleague from behind. "I need to recharge my Azu-nyan battery," she added, nuzzling Azusa's cheek.
"Senpaiii," Azusa grumbled, but - as ever - did nothing to free herself. "Jeeez."
"See?" said Kate. She shut off the organ, rose from her seat, and came around the bench, smiling at them. "Not so useless."
Ritsu got up from her stool, stuck her drumsticks in the pocket of her blazer, and bowed to Kaitlyn, her hands making a firebender's salute. "I stand corrected, Kaitlyn-sensei," she said formally.
"So what is the rest of your band doing while we're all in school, Kaitlyn-sensei?" Azusa asked once they were all reconvened around the table.
"Well," said Kate, "Miki's still doing his regular work - he's a consulting engineer, so all he really needs is an Internet connection and a quiet place to sit."
Mugi giggled and remarked, "He's got a daytime job, he's doin' all right."
"Exactly," Kate agreed with a smile. "As for Azalynn, when she's not here, she and Ein are looking for a studio in town we can use. We have some ideas for a new album."
"Wow, really?" asked Mio. "That's amazing." She sighed, resting her chin in her hand, and said glumly, "Sometimes I really envy grown-ups."
Kate chuckled. "If you're good girls and eat all your vegetables, maybe we'll let you use it too," she said.
"Why is Azalynn still here, by the way?" Ritsu wondered. "Not that I mind or anything, but it's not like she needs to stay undercover now that the rest of you are here."
"Mm," Azusa agreed. "She isn't wearing her disguise any more, but she still comes to class every day."
"I think she's just having too much fun to stop coming," said Kate, shrugging.
"You might be right," Azusa mused. "I mean, she even stayed for cleanup duty today." She smiled indulgently. "She really got into it, too. When I left to come up here, she and Ui and Jun were waxing the floor in our classroom. That's not on the usual chore list, but they did it anyway."
"How much work was Jun-chan actually doing when you left?" Ritsu asked with a skeptical grin.
"Well, she was more sort of supervising by that point," Azusa conceded.
"I bet waxing the floor was Ui-chan's idea," said Mugi.
"That's my little sister!" Yui agreed cheerfully.
"Um... do you know when Moose, I mean Mr. MacEchearn will get here?" Mio asked.
"I can pretty much guarantee you that he'll tell you to call him Moose," Kate said with a grin. "In fact, if you do call him Mr. MacEchearn, I predict a 95% probability that he'll tell you that's his father. Anyway, I just heard from him a few hours ago. He arrived in Saikyō this morning and caught the midday train. He should be here sometime Wednesday. He's looking forward to meeting you."
"Oh... uh... well, I'm looking forward to meeting him, too," said Mio diffidently, going a little red. "Although... I do have to admit I kind of miss your brother, sensei."
Ritsu leaned forward, wide-eyed, and leaned her head against clasped hands. "Oh, what's this?" she said eagerly. "Can it be? Has shy little Mio-chan met an older man who holds the key that will finally unlock the fortress of her heart?" she declaimed dramatically, hand to chest. Then, with a sly grin, she added, "You do know he's married, right?"
"I didn't mean it like that!" Mio barked, rising to her feet and clonking Ritsu on the top of her head.
"You killed me, Mio. I am dead," Ritsu whimpered, slumping in her chair.
"Then maybe I'll finally get a little peace," Mio grumbled, returning to her seat.
"Squad Member Ritchan!" Yui cried plaintively, shaking Ritsu's limp form by the shoulder.
"Uh, what about Dorothy, sensei?" Azusa inquired, anxious to steer the conversation in less potentially violent directions.
Kate winked at her - I see what you did there! - and replied, "She has a job too - she's driving a taxicab."
Ritsu came back to life, straightened up, and tilted her head quizzically. "Seriously?" she said. "Weird."
Kate shrugged. "She likes being a cab driver. She says it's a good way to meet people and find out what's going on in town."
"I'm amazed she knows her way around the city well enough to do that kind of work," Yui mused. "She's only been here a little more than a week. I've lived here all my life and I still don't know where most of the stuff is."
"Well, you don't have a positronic brain," Mio pointed out.
"How do you know?" Yui inquired smugly. "Have you ever seen my brain?"
Ritsu made a smothered sort of snarfing noise, knowing that if she said what had popped into her head out loud, Mio would clobber her; the look her best friend shot across the table at her suggested that she was considering it anyway, but before either of them could get any farther with that, Azusa said flatly,
"No way, Yui-senpai. You cannot possibly be a robot. Who would build such a thing? For what purpose?"
Grinning, Yui got to her feet, crossed behind Ritsu's back to the end of the table, and leaned down behind Azusa's chair to embrace her again.
At that precise moment, the door opened and Azalynn bounced in, followed closely by Ui and Jun, just in time for them all to hear Yui declare cheerfully, "I'm a love machine!"
The three stopped in the doorway, blinking, as Ritsu and Mio both dissolved into laughter, Kate diplomatically suppressed a similar reaction, Azusa grumbled ineffectually, and Mugi sat with her hands clasped beneath her chin, taking in the tableau with undisguised delight.
"... I'll come in again," said Jun, and then she turned and went back out into the hall.
"Isn't modern technology wonderful, Azusa-chan?" Mugi asked with a happy smile.
Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Features Future Imperfect
The Order of the Rose: A Duelist Opera
The Federation Lives Forever!
Benjamin D. Hutchins
The EPU Team
Based on K-On! created by
Contains excerpts from
by Pete Townshend
E P U (colour) 2014