Save the Band Geeks!
This story is the sequel to "Battle of the Band Geeks". You should probably read that before you read this. Just saying. Well, enjoy the latest adventures of Juneau the Speckled Cybunny and the rest of the Band Geeks!
I was walking to band with my three best friends in the world: brash Aiwa the Island Ixi, timid Candia the Orange Gelert, and the newest member of our group, friendly Wandol the Werelupe. We were talking and laughing about something that one of our teachers had said last period when we entered the auditorium, where band was held.
We could tell immediately something was wrong. The stage was cleared, and the band members were sitting in the fold-down chairs that made up the audience. Our principal, a studious Camouflage Elephante named Mr. Campel, was standing somberly at the front of the stage, near our only working microphone. He leaned on the stand, almost knocking it over, and then seemed to realize his mistake. You can’t lean on microphone stands.
Our band director Miss Elie, a sprightly Faerie Ruki who had just transferred from a different school, stood next to him. Her face looked strained and horrified. I frowned, puzzled. I had never seen her with an expression other than ecstatic.
Mr. Campel saw my group arriving. “Take a seat, students,” he called over. His voice was hoarse, and he shuffled a portfolio of papers in his hands. Nervously, my group and I sat down in the first chairs we found.
Miss Elie seemed to be taking attendance. “Yew?” she said loudly, commandeering the microphone.
“Heeeere.” The drawn-out answer came from somewhere to our left. I looked over and saw the leader of the drummers leaning lazily on the arm of his chair.
“Cindr, Renki, Fiere...?” Miss Elie continued.
“Here, here and here!” the rest of the drummers chorused. I chanced a glance at Wandol, who sat beside me. He was stiff, his paw gripping the arm of the seat, and he was looking at the drummers with a pained expression. I nudged him.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered, half listening for my name if Miss Elie should call it.
“Nothing,” he answered under his breath, looking away.
“It’s something,” I hissed insistently.
Miss Elie seemed to have noticed our group was here. “Wandol, Aiwa, Candia, and Juneau?” she called.
“Present...” from Candia.
“Yeah?” Aiwa said, not paying attention.
“Here,” I said quickly.
“I’m here,” Wandol answered, before turning back to me. “It’s nothing, okay? I’ll tell you later, maybe.”
Maybe? Why maybe?
Well, that seemed like that’s all I was going to get. I turned back to our principal, who had somehow wrestled the microphone back.
“Students...” he said, trailing off. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Students, due to lack of funds and Miss Elie’s horribly high salary...”
I think Yew and I realized what the principal was going to say at the same time.
“No!” we both yelled. I looked at him, grinning a bit.
“We have to cancel band from the curriculum,” Mr. Campel finished. Wandol, Aiwa, and Candia sat, shocked. That certainly wiped the smile from my face.
Yew stood up. “No! You can’t do that!” I shot him an amused look. I hadn’t realized he actually enjoyed band so much.
“Unfortunately, Yew, he can,” Miss Elie replied with a sad slump of her shoulders. Her wings actually drooped! I’d never seen her sad before. She was such a happy person by nature: always singing, always dancing, and always waving her wings while conducting. “Apparently I cost too much!” she muttered, shooting a sharp look at our principal. “And unless someone somehow comes up with 150,000 Neopoints in about a week—”
Gasps from the audience, though not from any of the expensively-painted or limited edition pets.
“Yes, it is that much to keep band running for another year.” Miss Elie’s chest heaved, and after a moment I realized she was softly crying. Apparently she wasn’t as afraid to show her emotions in front of all her students as I (or anyone else) would have been. “I’m sorry, guys and girls, but I guess we are done here.”
Mr. Campel descended the stage, heavily. He earned himself many glares as he made his slow way to the exit. He hesitated just before the door, turned... then thought better of whatever he was going to say and left.
I turned around to look at my friends. Candia was staring at the door with a panicked expression on her face, while Aiwa looked almost vaguely impassive.
“Aiwa?” I asked her, wondering why she looked so uncaring.
“Hm” was her only response on the subject. I stared at her for a minute before I noticed her eyes were welling with tears. Oh. She was just being a tough girl, then.
Wandol was chewing on his lip, an almost-fatal habit for him because of his sharp teeth.
“Wandol, chewing,” I reminded him.
“Oops.” He stopped, but he had already punctured his lower lip. I sighed.
“I’ll go get you a tissue.”
He grinned sheepishly. “Sorry. Thanks, Juneau.”
I got up and slowly walked out. The hallway was deserted, typical for the middle of class. A few students scurried up and down the stairs as I passed. The door to the principal’s office was cracked.
Frustration and tears burning at my eyes, I crept up to it and put my ear to the crack.
“I didn’t want to,” Mr. Campel was saying. He sighed.
Well, listening to that certainly wouldn’t improve my mood.
“If only they could raise the money themselves!” said another voice. I recognized it as our school secretary.
My eyes widened. Raise the money ourselves! Could we? It would take a lot to raise a hundred and fifty thousand Neopoints in a week, especially since our owners played the games for us.
Could we learn?
I dashed into the girls’ bathroom, grabbed a few paper towels for Wandol, and ran back into the auditorium, not caring if anyone yelled at me for excessive speed. I hurtled into the room, handed Wandol his paper towels—“Thanks, Juneau,” he called and pressed the towels to his lip—and darted up onto the stage. I grabbed the microphone and tapped it.
A horrible squeal of feedback echoed throughout the auditorium. “OW!” I heard many pets yelling. I hauled the microphone away from its stand and backed up a bit. The shriek of static stopped, and slowly the room quieted. The band geeks all stared up at me, wondering what was going on.
“Okay guys,” I began with a deep breath. “I’m assuming most of you want band to continue?”
A general noise of assent rumbled through the room.
“Do you think we can raise the money ourselves?” I asked.
Silence. I gulped, fearing the reception my idea was getting.
Yew stood up. It was hard to keep myself from gasping. Jeez, what an unlikely ally!
“I think we can,” he said boldly.
Thanks, I mouthed at him. He grinned back, and I could read the message in his eyes: this is only to save band.
The drummers looked discontented, but they mumbled various degrees of agreement. I could see my friends in the back of the middle section giving me the thumbs-up sign. Well, Candia and Wandol did. It’s hard to move your fingers around when you have hooves like Aiwa.
“What can we do?” That came from a Yellow Nimmo named Tiran who played the saxophone.
“Play games?” I said back into the microphone. I waited for a reaction. The rich pets snorted. Pretty much what I had expected.
“Play games?” somebody called. “Play games! You expect us to work! That’s what owners are for, you know? I don’t even know how to play most of them!”
“Owners can’t help us get band back into the curriculum!” I yelled. “Owners can’t help us now! You’re going to ask your owner to save band? You’re going to get your owner to help the band geeks? That won’t help, it won’t work! Are you gonna sit back on your lazy behinds and watch us get booted out, or are you going to work?”
I hadn’t realized how loud my voice had gotten until I heard the echo of my shout rebounding from the farthest reaches of the auditorium. I shivered as the force of my voice came back to me.
Tiran grinned and stood up supportively. Since he was arguably the tallest pet in band, and possibly in our whole school, others noticed his support and stood up too, wanting to follow his example. Within a few minutes, the whole band was on its feet and clapping, except for one person in the back of the middle section who was still seated, sitting firmly on his paws, biting his lip and pouring out distaste with his eyes, a hurt expression on his face.
Except for him... except for the one Werelupe in band.
Except for Wandol, my newest friend but not my least, who I thought would always support me.
As I watched in disbelief, he stood and left the auditorium.
There was nothing I could do. I just stayed on the stage and let him go.
The bell rang for the end of school. My mind buzzing with questions of why, why, why, I grabbed up my bag and dashed for the door, not even waiting for Candia and Aiwa. They caught up to me anyway, just as I was about to exit the school building.
“Juneau, what’s up with you?” Aiwa asked. “One minute you’re on top of the world, shouting out your plans to save the band... and then the next minute you’re all mad!”
“Wandol!” I said quietly. “He left right before I got off the stage. And you know how everyone else was on their feet and clapping? Including you guys, I saw—he wasn’t. He was SITTING on his hands!”
“It’s not you, Juneau,” Candia said in her usual barely-audible fashion. “He has a lot to go through right now.”
“You know?” I asked, mouth agape. “He told you?”
“Told me what?” she said cautiously.
“Whatever he refused to tell me!” I exclaimed a bit angrily.
“He’ll tell you when he’s ready!” Candia said, louder than her voice had ever been. She whirled around and stalked away. Aiwa glanced at me, jerked her mouth into an apologetic smile, and followed Candia.
I stood there frozen. On top of band being canceled, my three best friends had all abandoned me too.
That night, I Neomailed every pet I knew in band about learning to play games the next day, Saturday:
Hey guys. I know most of you supported my idea (play games to raise money for saving band) so if you want to learn how to play some games, we’ll meet at the arcade tomorrow (Saturday) at 9 a.m. NST. Thanks for reading!
I sent them off and went to bed with fierce tears burning in my eyes. I held them back helplessly.
Was everything in my life going to pieces?
I woke up the next morning feeling a bit better. A pile of Neomails lay on my nightstand. I sifted through them absentmindedly with one paw, the other stroking my ears. Three names jumped out at me: Aiwa, Candia, and Wandol. I pulled the three separate Neomails from the pile with shaking hands.
Aiwa’s was on top. I skimmed it quickly. It seemed to be an apology for going with Candia. Candia herself had written the next one: an apology for “yelling” at me. Wow. As if Candia could ever yell!
That left Wandol’s Neomail.
I picked it up, a sick feeling in my stomach, as if a bar of lead had suddenly dropped into my intestines. I began to read aloud, the lead getting heavier and heavier as the note went on:
Juneau: I’m leaving. It’s not by any choice of mine, but I have to go. I won’t be able to go to our school anymore, and I don’t think I’ll see you again for a while. I’m sorry—Wandol.
I slowly sat down on my bed. The words on the Neomail swam in front of my eyes, and I felt the hot tears break through my defenses. This time I let them flow.
Later, I made my sad and solemn way to the arcade. Most of the band was waiting. Yew stood at the front of the pack.
“Let’s get gaming.” He grinned. I allowed myself a quick smile before I realized who I was smiling at. Yew. Yew, my drummer arch-enemy. Gosh, what was I doing?
We stayed at the arcade for the better part of three hours. We had discovered we were pretty good at teaching ourselves the games, especially Key Quest. Quite a few band geeks decided to specialize in KQ because of its high payouts.
The whole time, I was distracted. My thoughts were occupied with Wandol. Where was he, and why had he left? Yew was actually being nice to me, but I was too unfocused to enjoy it.
The whole band met at the arcade for three more days afterward. I hung out and played games with Aiwa, Candia, and Yew’s group of drummers. Within that time, we had made over 150,000 Neopoints—enough to keep band running for another year.
“Juneau, it’s your turn,” Renki reminded me. I jumped and looked down at the Kacheekers board. I made my move absentmindedly.
“I win,” Renki said.
“Oh,” I mumbled. “That’s nice.” The Draik got up with a sigh and Yew took his place.
“Juneau,” he said gently.
“You miss Wandol.” It was a statement, not a question.
I heaved a huge sigh. “Yeah. I still don’t know where he went, or why.” I also didn’t know why I was telling this to the biggest jerk in the history of band geeks.
The cloud Grundo closed his great blue eyes and opened them again.
“I think that’s something he’ll have to tell you for himself,” he said and walked away.
The next day, we presented our Neopoints to Miss Elie and Mr. Campel. Our principal walked up to the speaker system and boomed into it, “Band has been put back on the curriculum!” We cheered our hearts out, loudly and raucously.
We had saved the band...
But Wandol was still gone.
The band started practicing again that very day. Our spring concert was getting closer and closer, and we had a whole bunch of difficult and complex songs to play. I shut my Werelupe friend from my mind and focused on the music. The music and my remaining friends...
Including my new ones, the drummers. We were still on polite terms—not exactly the huge rivalry of before, but we were not best friends, either. Confusing, much? Well, it was a little bit better than being at each others’ throats.
The day of the concert was arriving. The bright, hot spotlights were on, making us sweat, as we filed onto the stage. Before we began, Miss Elie gave a speech:
“A few weeks ago...” she began, “band was ready to be removed from the curriculum. In fact, it was being removed from the curriculum. Some quick thinking on the part of Juneau—stand up, Juneau—”
I stood, holding my trumpet loosely in front of me. The audience applauded dutifully.
“Saved our band,” Miss Elie continued. “It cost one hundred and fifty thousand Neopoints to keep this class running for another year. Juneau and the rest of the band—”
“Band GEEKS,” someone corrected from the clarinet section.
“Juneau and the rest of the band geeks,” Miss Elie smiled, “made enough money in four days to cover the cost of this concert, my salary, and every other expense the band might have.”
The audience clapped and cheered quietly at first, then louder and louder. I gestured for the rest of the band to stand up with me. They did so, and we were standing on the stage, shoulder to shoulder, an immovable force. We had saved the band geeks.
“And now...” Miss Elie said with a grin, “we play.”
She turned around, facing us, and we all sat down and readied ourselves for the first piece. Silently, I was scanning... searching... the audience for that one face I wanted to see more than any other, the one smile I longed to return again. Wandol.
The one drummer I desired to talk to was not there.
But I played anyway.
After the concert, we made our way off the stage and packed up our instruments.
“Good job, Juneau,” Yew called me. I returned the compliment absently, still searching, scanning, looking. Aiwa and Candia flanked me as I walked through the crowd, our three-across row parting them neatly.
“Juneau!” I heard someone call. I whirled quickly, but it was only Tiran, the tall Nimmo saxophone. Brokenhearted, I kept on going through the pets.
Laughter and light talk sounded from all around, but it didn’t affect me. I knew in the deepest reaches of my mind that I would never see Wandol again—but my heart refused to believe that true. He was my friend, and a friend never deserts you. A friend always comes back.
“Juneau?” Aiwa asked. I turned to her sadly. “We can take you home,” she said simply. I nodded, and with that I left my thoughts of Wandol behind.
On my way out, a paw grabbed at my shoulder. Roughly, I shook it off, not wanting to talk to anyone. The paw clutched again. I turned around, growling out a warning that was cut off when I saw who it was.
“You’re here,” I breathed.
“I wouldn’t let you guys go,” he said quietly, a melancholy expression in his eyes. “Besides, I know all this music. I was out in the audience drumming along.”
I laughed, but it was half-hearted and we both knew it. I looked up at him, so tall against the tide.
“Where were you?” I asked.
“I got traded,” he explained sadly. “For the avatar. I’m shuttling from home to home, staying just long enough for my new owner to get the avatar and trade me again. I won’t be able to come back to school for a long time.”
I hugged him. “I’ll remember you,” I said, tears running down my furry face.
“I’m not gone yet!” he laughed, but I could tell he was terribly sad too. “I thought of you and Aiwa and Candia all the time I was trading.”
“I’ll see you again. I know I will,” I said, more of a hope than a certainty.
“I know. We’ll always be friends,” Wandol said, and in that moment I knew not only had I saved the band geeks, I had saved the one who needed saving most.