Kendra’s eyes flicked to her phone – there was no response from the text message she had sent out – then flicked back to the first note on her sheet.
“A-One…A-two…a-one two three-“ Marshal, his voice tight and controlled and his face wearing the mask of someone who was trying very hard to not think about something, counted off the tempo for the piece and then the slightly nasally sound of imperfectly maintained saxophones being played by less-than-professional students filled the space behind the bleachers that the section had chosen to practice in.
There was a simple truth to high school music: You could have skill, quality instruments, or a life. Pick two. Since Kendra and the rest of the sax section rather enjoyed having life, and the Samville Cockatrices prided themselves on sounding like they were actually worth listening to despite coming from Samville, that meant that their instruments were not the best instruments in the field. A combination of poor school, flagging interest in the music programs and lower median income for the students involved made for instruments that bore the years of use in the same way the Titanic bore years of sea-water.
Proudly, yes. With some measure of historical significance, sure. But no one would ever call it beautiful. Or...particularly functional for that matter.
For Kendra, her alto sax had a slightly bent connector – normally, when she pressed a button at the top of the instrument to bring out a new note, the sax was expected to open certain vales. However, for the past three months, despite liberal amounts of valve oil and fiddling with screw drivers and lots of creative (and very quiet) swearing, the valve hadn’t opened properly. That meant that when Kendra wanted to shift between two notes, she had to let the valve open half a second before you would normally expect and take a breath – to cover for the fact that the valve was slowly creaking open rather than just popping up.
Every member of the saxophone section had to deal with similar quirks. With that in mind, Kendra was just a little shocked at how good the piece started to sound by the time they hit the end of measure twenty and Marshal did a quick circular motion with his instrument to get everyone to stop.
“Nice!” Bernard – the only person in the band with a name that began with a B – looked pleased.
“Wait, did anyone else notice me going a little flat on measure three?” Stanly asked, looking at his sax’s reed, frowning at it.
“Nope!” Bernard said, with more eagerness than actual authority.
“A little…” Marshal shot Bernard a look. The way sections were supposed to work was that the first chair led the rest of them – because, theoretically, the first chair tested highest during the auditions – and the lower you were slotted, the less complex the music was. That fact seemed to have shot over Bernard’s head, and the fact that Marshal glared at him every single time he tried to help the others just amused Kendra to no end.
It was a bit like watching a cat and a puppy try to direct a small military unit at the same time. A really really thick puppy.
“Why don’t you play five to ten, and we’ll-“ Marshal started. Before he got any further, Kendra’s phone started to blare rap music at the top of its speakers. Everyone in the section looked at Kendra, who flushed and grabbed her phone, looking down at it as her sax dangled from her neck strap. She slid her free hand to support the sax, not wanting her strap to give way and dump a seven hundred dollar instrument on the ground.
“Nice ringtone…” Lisa – the other girl in the section – muttered.
“Uhhh, I need…to…get this,” Kendra said, looking up at Marshal. “Be right back! Sorry!”
Marshal clearly wanted to do something that only teachers could get away with. But as he was not a teacher, and this was after school, and Kendra was the second best player in the section, he gritted his teeth, then waved his hand to her – like an Emperor granting a loyal subject leave.
Kendra shifted, putting the cellphone against her ear as she ducked around the corner of the practice spot and into a small alleyway between the bleachers and the fence that ringed the school.
“Hey Bijay…” Kendra whispered.
“Kendra, you need to get to the compound right now.” Bijay said, his voice serious.
Kendra blinked. “W-What’s wrong?” She moved her hand to more firmly grip her phone, as if worried that it would pop out of her hand.
“Adder is in the area.” He stopped talking for a moment, and then continued. “He’s an Immortal, and he…well, he runs a small mercenary corporation. His men are the kind of psychos would are willing to do anything for their boss.”
“Even kidnapping a girl from high school campus,” Bijay said.
“Oh great. Just great.” Kendra looked back over her shoulder. “What do I do?”
“Run.” Bijay’s voice was tight.
Kendra glanced over her shoulder again and saw that Bernard was looking around the corner, his brow furrowing. Kendra flushed, trying to think of something to say to the other sax player, while also listening to Bijay.
“Crichton’s goons are attacking us here.” He sighed. “We’ve got them bottled up, but if we leave, then…” He paused. “Well, let’s just say it would be less than enjoyable.”
“Great, great, great…” Kendra turned back away from Bernard and looked out at the football field. “I’ll…”
Three men were advancing across the field. They wore simple white t-shirts, loose fitting khaki pants, and sunglasses. They didn’t seem to be armed – but they had the kind of thick shouldered, wide necked, stern as all hell look that made Kendra think of soldiers. Ex-soldiers. Mercenaries. People who would be bad guys on Burn Notice. That kind of people.
“Gotta go Bijay,” Kendra said, hanging her phone up, sliding it into her pocket. She turned around, as if to remind herself that there was a tall, barbed wire fence that looped around the back of the bleachers. For a moment, she felt as if all the attempts to make school safer had betrayed her. Then she turned back around and saw that there was still a thin opening to the left of the men. She ran, as fast as she could with a saxophone in one hand, along the front of the bleachers. The men broke from their walk and started to run as well.
It was embarrassing how easily they kept pace with her. One of them actually managed to get ahead of her and cut her off. She stepped back, looking at the three of them. She gulped, taking another step backwards, her calf bumping against the first seat of the bleachers.
“Come on, girl, we don’t want to hurt you…” One of the men said.
Kendra looked around, for teachers, for anything.
“Hey!” Marshal’s voice came from the left. Kendra glanced-
One of the men made a motion.
Kendra felt something like a punch to the shoulder, that then turned into the worst pain that she had ever felt, that then turned to her collapsing to the ground, writhing on the AstroTurf. She gritted her teeth and tried to-
And then she was standing on her feet. For a moment, the world seemed to be frozen: The goons were around her. One of them held something like a pistol – and two wires reached past her shoulder, two needles sparking against the bleachers behind her. She had moved an inch to the right.
Kendra took advantage of the distraction to unhook her saxophone. With an internal apology to the marching band’s budgeter and the school council that had voted them at least a little money for instruments, Kendra brought the curved front of the saxophone whistling around to smash into one of the goon’s heads.
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