"A One and a Two..."

The conductor raised his arms and smiled out at the fifth grade band members. Most of the children lifted their instruments to the ready. One kid was tying her shoe. Another took gum from his mouth and stuck it unceremoniously under the music stand. The conductor waited patiently for undivided attention. Then, his smile wider, he brought his arms down. He was rewarded with two trumpet players starting early and the whole of the clarinet section completely out tune.

Jazz repressed a shiver that ran through his body. He zeroed in on one particular clarinetist. She was consistently out of tune. Every day for the last week, she would start in, making a racket that was beyond description. Every time he heard the indescribable wail, he thought that the scream of rending metal would be more soothing. But he could not say a word about it. He was, after all, a "guest."

Jazz nearly snorted. Guest! he thought, as he watched one of the trombone players follow his music a full measure behind the rest of the band. More like a torture victim.

It had all started with a simple little bet. Jazz was sure that he would win. Blaster never got questions about classical music right. But somehow he nailed this one. And Jazz inexplicably got his question wrong. Blaster, a wicked smile on his faceplate, then decided what Jazz would have to do for losing. Usually he took his punishment in stride, but as he listened to the thirty-five music students basically playing notes at random, he couldn't help but think that this was beyond cruel.

I guess you could say it's partially my fault for saying we'd bet for something other than credits, Jazz thought glumly.

Jazz looked past the conductor, but could see little due to the bright spotlights shining down on the stage. He could easily filter the light, but he didn't bother. He knew they were out there. Not just Blaster, but several other Autobots who went on and on about how they weren't going to miss this.

For his part, Jazz tried to play it cool. He liked humans and human children were interesting. The first notes played by the band at the first practice he attended quickly changed Jazz's mind. He understood that they were just learning and would, maybe, possibly, get better over time, but the way they sounded now was nothing short of torture for Jazz's audio circuits. He soon found that he was dragging himself into town for the band's practice, too often with random Autobots tailing him to see it for themselves. Listening to the noise wasn't even the worst part. Jazz looked down at the child next to him and looked longingly at the human's snare drum.

At least that instrument would be somewhat more respectable, he thought, barely believing his envy of the 11-year-old beside him.

The human beamed a huge smile up at the Autobot. Jazz couldn't help but smile back. The kids certainly liked having him there. Not just a robot, but a robot from another planet. Jazz answered their questions happily, which came at a clip of thousand a minute.

Hey, he thought, if they're asking questions, they ain't attempting to make beautiful music. He eyed the snare drum jealously once more before looking up at the conductor again. His big solo was coming.

The conductor continued to try to keep the young musicians on the right beat. As his arms started making larger motions, the kids played their instruments louder. And, Jazz couldn't help but notice, faster as well. Finally, the conductor pointed toward Jazz. With a forced smile, Jazz lifted his triangle and tapped it once.


The conductor slowly lowered his arms. The students followed suit, dropping their instruments into their laps. The conductor stepped away from his podium and motioned proudly towards his students. Raucous applause from the audience quickly followed. Jazz continued to smile as he watched human and Autobot sized silhouettes clapping and whistling. Though the humans were likely parents trying to encourage their children, they genuinely seemed to love the concert.

A hint of a smile grew appeared on Jazz's face. Suddenly, he had an idea on how to get Blaster back for this.

He's gonna pay, he thought, bowing with the rest of the band. Oh yes, he's gonna pay.

To be continued...