[Fan Fiction] Player Piano

Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:21 AM
Roger Smith sat and sipped at his coffee in the informal dining room on the eighth floor at his house. Sounds from the piano upstairs trickled down the spiral staircase as Dorothy continued practicing.

Instro paused in the doorway. “Roger Smith, I would like to talk with you.”

Roger stood and smiled at his friend. “Come on in, Instro.” He gestured to a seat and sat again. “What’s on your mind?”

“How far do you expect Dorothy to go with her lessons?” At Roger’s look of inquiry, he continued, “As I told you at the start, I have nothing to teach her about technique. She’s done very well as a solo performer; she has played occasionally at Amadeus for the past two months, and my regulars are quite happy to hear her. I think it is time she worked with a larger musical group, and in front of a larger audience.”

“That being?”

“The Paradigm Orchestra,” Instro stated without hesitation.

Roger blew a slow silent whistle. “That’s quite a step.”

“Challenging, but not impossible. I know the conductor, Kieren Zaworski, and I think she would be agreeable to a guest performer.”

“And do you think my negotiations may be necessary, Instro?”

Instro inclined his head. “They may be. We androids are expected not to take an active role in business or negotiations.” He looked down at his hands. “In any case, I have not played with the Orchestra in years. Not since my father died.”

Some part of Roger’s mind noticed that the piano had stopped. “Before I take your case on, I think we had better let your pupil in on this discussion.” He stepped to the door. “Dorothy, could you come down here?”

Dorothy appeared a little too quickly to have been doing anything but eavesdropping. Roger suppressed a smirk; no need to let on that he’d found her out. Silently, he seated her and returned to his chair. “Dorothy, Instro thinks that you need experience playing with a larger group. How do you feel about that?”

It was a measure of her excitement (he’d learned that much about her) that she waited a second before giving a nod. “I would like to play with the Orchestra, if it can be arranged.”

That was a straight answer. Roger stepped to the side table, picked up the phone and dialed. “Kieren Zaworski, please. This is Roger Smith.” After a pause, “Good morning, Dr. Zaworski; this is Roger Smith. I am calling on behalf of R. Instro Amadeus –“ he was interrupted by the voice on the other end. He nodded. “Yes, he’s doing very well. He would like to meet with you.” He listened again, eyebrows rising. “One o’clock will do, thank you. Good-bye.” He hung up the receiver, and turned to the others.

“Well, Instro, it looks like your stock is pretty high with the Orchestra. Dr. Zaworski wants to see you at one. Care to stay for lunch?”

Instro shook his head. “I have some work to do at Amadeus. Would you pick me up from there?”

“Sure; then we’ll see you at 12:45.”

Instro rose and bowed slightly. “Thank you, Roger Smith. Until then.”

After lunch, when they were in the Griffon Dorothy said, “Instro seems to be of interest to the Orchestra.”

“He used to be a regular guest performer several years ago, before his father died. Dr. Zaworski is eager to see him, so I’d say we have a good start for negotiations.” They pulled up at the steps to Amadeus just as Instro stepped up to the street. He had a black folder in his hand. Dorothy got out and moved to the back seat, and Instro took the front.

“All set, Instro?” asked Roger.

“Yes.” He turned to Dorothy. “I have some music for you; Madame Z will want to hear you.” Dorothy accepted the folder and paged through the music.

Paradigm Orchestra Hall was inside the main dome. Roger parked off the main street, near the performers’ entrance. Instro led the way inside, quite at home. A stagehand directed them to the stage, where Dr. Zaworski was.

“Instro!” A trim grandmotherly woman spotted him and waved him over, meeting him halfway. She gave him a quick hug, “How are you, my dear? And these are your poor hands,“ she turned them over, looking at them. She shook her head sadly. “Such a dreadful accident. You can still play, though?”

“I can, but I’ll never be what I was.”

She shook her head, smiling. “None of us are. But you still have what’s in here --” touching his head “-- and here --” his chest, “ -- and so you understand the music.”

“You are flattering me, Madame Z,” Instro said cheerfully. “I would like to introduce my friend Roger Smith, and my pupil Dorothy Wayneright.”

The conductor shook hands with Roger, then turned to Dorothy. “My dear, in a sense we’ve already met. I knew your original.” She gave Dorothy’s hands the same quick examination she had Instro’s. “She was a promising child; beautiful voice, but her piano was adequate at best. What a pity that she died so young.”

Roger saw Dorothy stiffen at this mention of her “original,” the human Dorothy Wayneright. He’d seen her do this before; was she unsure of what to say, or merely unhappy at the comparison?

She said only, “I’m pleased to meet you, Dr. Zaworski.”

“Come along, then. We’ll see what Instro’s made of you,” said Dr. Zaworski. She led the way to a piano on stage. “Did you bring your audition music?” Dorothy looked puzzled, then held up the folder. “Very good.” The older woman flipped through the sheets, pulled one out, and handed it to Dorothy.

Dorothy sat at the piano and began a lilting air. Roger could tell that it was a waltz, but he didn’t recognize it. When she reached the bottom of the page, she placed her hands in her lap and looked up at the conductor, who slid a second sheet over the first.

This piece was something complex and baroque. Beside him, Instro shifted slightly and said, sotto voce, “Bach fugue. The left and right hands are playing the same melody, but not at the same time.” Roger realized that Instro was a bit on edge. His teaching, like Dorothy’s playing, were on test.

Next came a section from a sonata, the rhythmic bass line challenged by a passionate treble. Some idlers had drifted to the stage, and they stood quietly, listening. Roger could see that they were as interested in the music as in who was playing it.

Roger hadn’t paid much attention to Dorothy’s practicing. Hearing those three sections in quick succession brought home how much her playing had improved over the last two months.

Dr. Zaworski glanced at Instro. “Is this music new to her?” Instro nodded.

Dorothy said, “I looked at it on the way here.”

Zaworski smiled slightly. “That’s what you are supposed to do. It was well played for the first time through. You will do, Dorothy.” Her gaze rose to include the three of them. “Let us talk in my office.”

Once there, she offered them coffee and showed them to chairs facing her desk. “It happens that I have been asked to perform a charity concert next month for the Children’s Hospital,” she stated. “I am working on the billing now. I think perhaps you are not surprised by this, Instro,” she said challengingly.

“Daoud Levy mentioned something of this last night, when he visited me at Amadeus,” the android stated.

“Daoud Levy is an inveterate gossip, but this time I forgive him,” she replied. “Instro, it would be a fine draw if you were to play. What are you thinking of?”

“Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos,” said Instro.

“Hmmm.” Her eye rested speculatively on Dorothy. “Has she performed in public?”

“At Amadeus. I think she is ready for a larger audience.”

“The Mozart would be a fitting finale. I think you should take a piece to open, and the orchestra will play one or two in the middle.” She turned to a filing cabinet, pulled out two sheets, handing one to Instro and the other to Dorothy.

“Instro, your previous contract was signed by your father on your behalf. You should read this through and sign if it is acceptable. Dorothy, this is a contract for part-time employment with the Orchestra. It spells out the ownership of any pieces you might play with the Orchestra, and the pay rate. You should read it through, ask for advice if anything is unclear, and send me back the original, signed.”

Dorothy asked, “If it is a charity concert, Madame, why would we be paid?”

“The charity is from the Orchestra’s profits, not its performers. We don’t expect you to give up your daily bread – or oil.” She smiled briefly. “Rehearsals will begin next Monday at nine a.m. with a first read-through. I will see you two then.”
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:22 AM
Roger yawned and sat up in bed. The clock showed 12:04. It’s not like Dorothy to let me sleep even one minute late. He pulled on his robe and kicked into his slippers, walking toward the common room. No Dorothy. He continued downstairs to the kitchen, where Norman was cutting lard into flour in a bowl.

“Hello, Norman. Where’s Dorothy?”

“Good afternoon, Master Roger,” replied the butler. “Miss Dorothy is still at rehearsal, I presume. I’ll have your coffee and eggs ready in ten minutes, as soon as I put this dough in the refrigerator.”

“Fine,” Roger yawned again. He returned upstairs to change.

Roger was eating his scrambled eggs, when Dorothy came into the room carrying a folder and a cup of tea. “Hello, Roger,” she said, sitting in her usual seat at the other end of the table. She looked considerably more animated than usual.

“Did you have a good practice?” he asked.

“Yes, Instro and I will be playing the Concerto for Two Pianos, by Mozart.” She sipped the tea and carefully did not look at the folder. She did not fidget, of course – an android never fidgets, she’d told him that herself – but he saw that she did not try to eat, even to be sociable. She seemed to be counting the number of bites on his plate, calculating how long it would take for him to finish….

“Dorothy, you don’t need to keep me company if you have something else to do,” Roger said.

Dorothy started. “Thank you, Roger.” She stood slowly, gathered the folder, turned, and sedately left the dining room. He grinned as he heard her feet race upstairs to the piano.

Norman cleared his throat. Roger looked up at the butler. “Is there something else?”

“Well, sir,” Norman hesitated. “I wanted to ask about Miss Dorothy’s evening gown for the concert.”

“I’ll leave it your capable hands.” The butler bowed slightly and turned away. “Oh, and one more thing, Norman,” Roger added. “Don’t forget you’ll need your dress suit as well.”

Norman smiled. “Certainly, sir.”

Roger carried his coffee cup down to his office. Time to get to work.
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:23 AM
Roger left the house at one o’clock to meet his client. The negotiation this afternoon was one he’d earned his fee on; two neighbors had been feuding, with their “practical jokes” on each other becoming increasingly annoying to all the neighbors. Said neighbors had banded together to bring him in, telling him to use whatever means necessary to get the roughhousing to stop.

He’d been sorely tempted to bring the two pranksters together and bang their foreheads until they saw eye to eye, but he’d been able to shame them into sitting down and talking, and it looked like there would now be peace.

He unlocked the Griffon, climbed in, and sighed. What he needed was a drink, and a quiet place to relax. His watch said that dinner was almost an hour away, so he started the car and drove toward Amadeus.

The bar was lively tonight; a slight, swarthy man was playing clarinet, with Instro at the piano. Roger didn’t recognize the tune, but it had a jazzy air, ending on an improbably high note. The muscles behind his ears tensed; this was not what he had in mind for relaxation. The other patrons seemed to like it, however.

The next piece was a change of pace; low and mellow, it was as refreshing as the scotch Roger sipped. This song must have been the end of the set, because the clarinetist put his instrument down, and he and Instro circulated around the room. When they reached Roger’s table, Instro said, “Hello, Roger Smith. I’d like you to meet my friend Daoud Levy.”

Roger stood and shook the man’s hand. “You must be the clarinetist for the Orchestra.” The three sat.

“That’s right,” Levy answered in a clear tenor. “Instro asked if I’d moonlight here a couple times a month.”

“Dorothy Wayneright works for Roger,” Instro said.

“Ah! And did you come to learn how she did today?” Levy asked with a grin. At Roger’s headshake “no,” he said, “But I will tell you anyway! What a girl! What talent! What brains! What looks! A little quiet, perhaps, but that is only natural in a new setting. You’re a lucky man, Mr. Smith.”

“Thank you,” Roger replied uncomfortably.

Instro noticed Roger’s discomfort. “Now, Daoud,” he said, “don’t bulldoze Roger. He hasn’t developed immunity to your silver tongue.” To Roger, he said, “Daoud is a bit enthusiastic, but we did do well for a first practice session.”

Roger forced a smile. “That’s good news.” He sipped his drink, casting about for a topic. “I understand you’ll be playing Rhapsody in Blue.”

Levy grinned again. “That’s a challenge. That long run up to B-flat – all on one breath -- is one of the most fiendish runs in music.”

There was no peace to be had here. Roger finished the drink and stood up. “I need to get home to dinner. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Levy.” They shook hands again.

“Give my regards to Miss Wayneright,” were Levy’s parting words, and they set Roger’s teeth on edge.

The evening started badly. Dorothy had been practicing when he got home, and his attempt at a joke about “all play and no work” had drawn a swift retort about promptness at mealtimes. Conversation was chilled and formal at dinner, and even Norman’s apple pie couldn’t sweeten the mood.

Roger stepped out on the rooftop after dinner. It was dark outside, and the overcast had dropped to form a hazy fog, blurring the outline of the dome to the west. At times like this, with the domes invisible, he could imagine what this city would look like without Paradigm Corporation’s presence.

A movement inside caught his eye; Dorothy sat down at the piano. He watched her page partway through the music on the stand, then sketch out the right hand’s section. She frowned in concentration as she traced the sheet music and played it slowly. She repeated the same section, this time with her left hand playing and her right tracing the music. Finally, she played the passage with both hands, still very slowly. She paused to turn the page and continued.

He opened the glass door and stepped inside. Dorothy stopped and looked at him. “Do you need someone to turn the music for you?” he offered.

She relaxed slightly and nodded. “Yes.”
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:26 AM
“Good morning, Master Roger,” Norman said.

Roger opened his eyes. “Norman, what’s the matter?” He looked blearily at the clock; 11 a.m. “Why are you in here before noon?”

Norman bowed slightly. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir, but Miss Dorothy is at the Orchestra Hall. It’s now raining hard. She shouldn’t be riding her bicycle in this weather. I’ll have your breakfast ready in ten minutes.” He left.

“And why can’t she take a taxi?” Roger asked the air, but he got up. Once dressed, he made his way down to breakfast. While he rapidly ate his eggs and toast, Norman said, “I received a telephone call from the tailor shop. Miss Dorothy’s dress is ready.”

“Right. We can pick it up on the way back.” He finished, wiped his mouth, and stood up, heading for the elevator. After he had put on his overcoat, Norman handed him Dorothy’s.

Rain sluiced across the street, overflowing the gutter and pooling at the corners. There was even less traffic than usual, as nobody wanted to be outside in weather like this. Even Roger drove more slowly than usual.

By the time he made it to the Orchestral Hall, the rain had slackened, but the streets were still full of water. Roger parked near the performers’ entrance, and walked inside. The sounds of practicing lead him to the stage.

Madame Zaworski was standing by Dorothy at one piano, pointing out something on the sheet music. Dorothy looked up at her, nodded, and looked back to the music. Zaworski returned to the podium, picked up her baton, and said, “One more time through the rondo, gentlemen and ladies.” She swung the baton down, and the orchestra started to play.

Instro’s entrance was right on the beat, and so was Dorothy’s. But where Instro seemed to be part of the music he was playing, Dorothy was laboring to keep up. When the movement ended, Instro looked ready to keep going. Dorothy dropped her hands to her lap and sat looking down at them.

“That’s a good finish,” commented Zaworski. “Thank you all, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” The players filed off the stage, passing Roger in the wings. Daoud Levy stopped for a few words with Dorothy.

Roger stepped up to Instro. “Hello, Instro. Good practice?”

“Hello, Roger Smith. There’s an old saying, ‘Get your mistakes out of the way in practice.’ Today has been quite productive for that.”

“What’s with Dorothy?”

Instro looked over at her. Levy was still talking. “I would say that she is working too hard at this piece. She had the essence of it Monday, but now she’s belaboring it. I suggested she’d be the better for a break, but I don’t think she took the hint.”

Roger thought back over the last three days. “No, I’d say she has been working on this whenever she was at the piano.”

The android spread his hands. “That’s the problem, then. Maybe you can persuade her. It would be a shame to perform the work as poorly as we did today.” He stood up. “I should rescue her from Daoud’s encouraging words.”

Roger and Instro walked to Levy and Dorothy. Dorothy had not said one word the entire time, but Levy had talked enough for both.

“Dorothy,” said Instro, “I’m sorry to break into your conversation, but I need to talk with Daoud about “Rhapsody in Blue.” He led the other off.

Roger looked down to Dorothy, still seated at the piano. “Hello, Dorothy. Ready to go?”

“I brought my bicycle, Roger.” Despite her usual lack of expression, she seemed tired.

“I know; I’ll put it in the back. It’s been raining hard, and Norman didn’t want you getting soaked. Besides, we need to stop by the tailor’s and pick up your dress.” She obediently stood and walked with him to the back door. She collected her bicycle from the storage room next to the back door, and he opened the trunk and fit it in. He had to remove the front wheel and turn the handlebars before the lid would close. The rain had stopped, but the streets were still wet and slick.

She sat silently, staring straight ahead as he maneuvered on the main street. When he didn’t turn at the usual place, she said, “That is the turn to go home.” She wasn’t looking at him.

“I’m taking a different route, down by the river.” He pulled up at the greensward by the East River.

He opened her door, but she didn’t move. “Dorothy, please come with me.” She silently complied, and they walked slowly along the promenade.

“Did I ever tell you about my time at the Police Academy?” Roger asked, after they had gone a few hundred meters.

She shook her head.

Roger’s lips twitched. “There was one time… we all participated in intramural sports. I was quite a sprinter back then, so I was the lead man in the 400-meter relay. Our team was the fastest in years. We were all eager for the last meet of the season. I’d practiced for weeks on my start, shaving my reaction time to a minimum. You might say I’d done little else.”

He leaned on the handrail, looking out over the river and back ten years. “I shaved it too fine. When the meet came, I jumped the gun for a false start not once, but twice. A third time would disqualify us. I was so tense the third time that I tripped and nearly lost the baton. My three teammates made up much of our time, but we still came in last, by a fraction of a second.” He cleared his throat. “It seems petty now, but at the time, I thought it was the end of the world. They would’ve won, had it not been for me,” he finished bleakly, looking down at his hands.

“Dorothy…” he stopped and turned to face her. She looked up at him for the first time. “You know the music. You can play it. Right now, you need to let it go until the concert.”

“But –“ she stopped.

He shook his head. “No buts. I’ve seen how you’ve been practicing morning and night. Instro said he had suggested rest; now I am asking you. Please?”

Did her posture relax fractionally? “Yes, Roger. I will rest,” she conceded.

“Good,” he smiled. “I think we’d better head to the shop and get your dress.”
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:27 AM
Roger pulled up to the tailor’s shop. The building’s brickwork had been repaired in the weeks since Heaven’s Day Eve. The new bricks gave the wall a garish appearance.

Dorothy lead the way into the shop. “Hello, Miss Wayneright,” called a voice from the back, and the tailor came forward, dusting off her hands. She recognized Roger, and added, “Good afternoon, Mr. Smith.”

She walked to the rack, reached in, and brought out a long black dress. “Come try this on, my dear.” She walked with Dorothy to the changing room in the back, while Roger eyed the spindly chair near the front door. He decided against sitting and stood, looking out the main window. He had examined half the buildings across the street when his survey was interrupted.

There was a sound behind him. He turned. “Ahhh,” he breathed.

Dorothy wore the long black gown with unconscious grace. It was made of some textured material. The skirt was full from the hip, and the cloth split at the bosom and gathered at the shoulders. She seemed somehow older, taller. She looked at Roger without expression, but somehow conveyed her acknowledgement of his reaction.

The tailor pulled out a stepstool, and Dorothy stepped up. The older woman fussed at the hem for a few minutes, then looked up. “That does it.” Dorothy went back to the changing room, and Roger paid the bill.

They went out to the car. “Thank you, Roger.”

He smiled. “Don’t thank me, thank Norman.”

“I’ll thank him as well.”
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:29 AM
Dorothy returned from the final rehearsal looking better than she had in a week. “Tomorrow Madame wants us there half an hour early, at 6:30,” she told Roger at dinner. He made a face, quickly suppressed. He liked his habits, and dinner at seven was one of them.

Norman said to Roger, “I’ll make something light before the concert, sir.” Roger nodded with what good grace he could muster.

“In that case, I’d better tell Dastun to be here by 5:30. It’ll do him good to get out of the office on time for once,” he decided.

Dorothy was standing by the piano in the penthouse’s main room when Roger finished dressing and stepped out from his bedroom. She was wearing the black beads her father had given her, highlighting her slender neck and emphasizing the deep V of the gown.

He watched her finger a tune in the air above the keyboard, nod, then close the cover.

Norman’s voice broke the stillness. “Master Roger, Major Dastun is here.”

Dorothy turned to Roger. He smiled at her, conscious of how he filled his dinner jacket . “Can’t keep our guest waiting, Dorothy. Shall we?” He gestured down the stairs.

Dinner was a simple meal of soup and sandwiches, to minimize cleaning. Roger noticed that Dorothy ate next to nothing, and although she followed the conversation, she was distracted. Norman begged off staying with them, saying that he needed to change.

Norman joined them at the elevator with their overcoats, and the four descended to the garage. Norman and Dorothy sat in the back of the Griffon, and Dastun took the front passenger seat. Roger pulled sedately into traffic, driving to the Concert Hall.

There was a brisk traffic around the Hall. The evening air was chilly, and made the men’s overcoats a comfort. Roger offered his arm to Dorothy, while Dastun and Norman walked behind them. They circled the crowd at the front steps and continued to the performers’ entrance, where Dorothy shook hands all around and left them. The three men retraced their steps to the front door, where the crowd outside was rapidly entering the hall. When they were inside, Dastun headed for the phone to check in at HQ. Although he was not on duty and had left his aide behind, he wanted the shift lieutenant to be able to reach him.

Their three seats were in the center front section, in the third row. “Nice seats, Roger; I’m going to have to let you talk me into these events more often,” commented Dastun.

Roger smiled. “They are donor’s perquisites.” When Dastun raised his eyebrows at that, Roger said, a little nettled, “Even I can make a donation; this is a benefit concert, after all.” He opened his program pamphlet to forestall further questions.

A group found their seats in the row behind them with more discussion than necessary. After they had found their seats, they drifted to a bitter complaint about the two “special guest performers” on tonight’s program.

“Art is corrupted by money,” a man behind Roger sneered. “I have it on good authority that these android ‘performers’ are only on stage because they lend a sideshow air to the concert.”

“Of course they are,” agreed the man to his left. “My brother is in the Orchestra, and he says that there was, hmm, ‘financial pressure’ brought to bear on the board. I don’t say that they can’t play,” he conceded grudgingly, “but the Orchestra will certainly need to accommodate itself to them, rather than the reverse. Androids have no place playing with humans.”

Roger gritted his teeth, then tried to relax as he saw both Norman and Dastun look his way. He forced a smile and shook his head, turning casually to scan the rows behind him. The two men were still talking.

“I think it is a great imposition on season-ticket holders to support such carnival antics,” complained the first again. He was a bit older than middle age, with a sallow face set in lines of disapproval.

The second looked like a wrestler gone to seed. He chuckled. “Given the event, perhaps they will come out dressed as clowns.”

Roger glared and opened his mouth to speak, but the lights blinked, then dimmed. He faced front as the curtain rose and the Orchestra started playing a bright fast overture. He was calm enough to enjoy the piece before it was finished.

Dr. Zaworski concluded the work, then turned to the audience for its applause. She smiled regally, said “That was the ‘Festive Overture’ by Shostokovitch. Now it gives me great pleasure to welcome back R. Instro Amaedus, here for ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’” She turned toward the right wing and nodded.

R. Instro walked across the stage as calmly as if he were at home at Amadeus. He passed the first piano and sat down at the second, looking up at the conductor. She nodded, lifted the baton, and Daoud Levy started the clarinet solo to begin “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Roger had not heard Instro play so well since his new hands were installed. He and Levy seemed to be talking directly to each other through their instruments. The rest of the Orchestra kept up, but this performance was almost a duet.

The applause crashed like a wave; Dastun clapped, leaning over to Roger and yelling “What a song!” Roger looked up at Instro, who looked straight at him. The android gave a satisfied nod, then stood, bowed to the audience, and walked off stage.

Slowly the applause subsided, and Dr. Zaworski said, “Our third piece is written in the style of a court dance; ‘Pavane for a Dead Princess.’” She raised her baton. After the energy of “Rhapsody in Blue,” this was a controlled, even spare, song that calmed and steadied the audience. When it finished, there was a hush for a moment, then the audience responded with reverent applause. It seemed sacrilegious to show excitement at this work.

When the hall was silent, Zaworski turned to the audience and said, “Our final piece this evening is Mozart’s ‘Concerto for Two Pianos, no. 10.’ We are able to play this tonight thanks to Instro and his pupil, R. Dorothy Wayneright.” She nodded toward the right wing. Instro and Dorothy emerged, walking side by side across the stage. Dorothy sat at the first piano, and Instro continued to the second as before. Dorothy looked out at the audience; her gaze met Roger’s, and she looked straight at him for five long seconds until Instro had settled himself at his instrument. Roger smiled encouragingly at her; she nodded slightly, turning to the conductor.

“Concerto for Two Pianos” was a conversation in three parts among the pianos and the orchestra. The orchestra led, and the pianos entered after a long musical phrase. During the final movement, each pianist played two voices, so the effect was that of a racing follow-the-leader up and down the keyboard.

Dorothy would glance up at Instro while the sounds from their two pianos interleaved, overlapped, and then broke into a racing dance up the scale. Roger saw in her face a fine fierce look that reminded him of a bird of prey he’d once seen pictured.

The concerto came to a dramatic close, and for a moment nobody moved. Then the hall erupted in applause. Dorothy looked toward Roger, but at that moment, the critics behind Roger hissed, “What a waste of an evening!” His face twisted angrily, and he turned in his seat.

Dastun had overheard the same comment. Laying a hand on Roger’s sleeve, he said, “Roger, not here!”

Roger transferred his glare to Dastun, but his good sense prevailed, and he turned back to the front. Putting on an artificial smile, he patted his hands together. He looked up at Dorothy, who had lost a certain something in her expression after the conclusion of the piece. She wouldn’t look at him. His smile vanished.

Dr. Zaworski bowed, Dorothy and Instro bowed, the Orchestra rose and bowed, and still the applause rolled over them. Zaworski stepped off the podium, met Dorothy and Instro at center stage, and the three bowed again. Under cover of the sound, the conductor talked to the two, and they nodded and walked to one piano, sat down, and looked at the audience.
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:30 AM
“Thank you all for coming tonight,” said Zaworski. “Instro and Dorothy are going to play an encore favorite written by Amadeus – ‘Ragtime Four Hands’.” They sat at their respective pianos, waited a few seconds, and started.

There were a few cheers, quickly suppressed. Roger remembered when Instro and Amadeus had played it together; so, it seemed, did a number of others, because someone in the audience started the traditional clapping during the two-step bridge halfway through the song. At the finish, the applause was brisk, but eventually died down and let the performers escape backstage.

Roger, Norman, and Dastun let the tide ebb before moving to the aisle. Roger led the way to an inconspicuous door near the stage. “Instro suggested we meet them backstage after the show. We’ll avoid the crowd.”

But backstage was almost as crowded. Black concert dresses and white ties mingled with the more-colorful garb of the spectators come to share the celebration. Roger snagged three champagne flutes as a tray was carried by, and handed them to Norman and Dastun. They contrived to move, by a sort of Brownian motion, toward the end where Dr. Zaworski was holding court with Instro and Dorothy in attendance.

Dr. Zaworski was standing between Dorothy and Instro. She tilted her head up as Instro replied to a question she had put to him. When she saw Roger, she stepped forward and took his hand with both of hers, saying, “Welcome Mr. Smith! We have you to thank for this very successful evening.” She suddenly stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.

Roger blushed. “Thank you, ma’am, but it’s the performers who should be congratulated.” He smiled at Dorothy, who looked straight at him with something of the same fierce joy she had shown on stage. “Well, Dorothy, did you enjoy your outing?”

Dorothy’s face became expressionless. “The performance went very well. Hello, Norman, Major Dastun.”

Dastun said gallantly, “I’ve never been to a better performance. Thank you, Miss Wayneright.”

Dr. Zaworski excused herself, saying that she needed to circulate, and drifted toward the other end of the room. Norman and Dastun talked with Dorothy.

Roger noticed that the crowd seemed to have two poles; the larger group was at this end, but another group had formed around the far corner of the room. In it, he recognized one of the two men that had sat behind him during the concert. He was talking animatedly to a beefy younger man standing next to him.

He moved next to Instro. “Instro, do you recognize any of those people in the far corner?”

Instro looked over briefly. “There’s a half-dozen members of the Orchestra in that group. I know them by name, but they are not acquaintances. Why?”

“The taller blond sat behind us, and complained about your playing tonight.”

“That must be Edward Bell’s brother; Bell is standing next to him. He’s the most outspoken of the ‘art for humans only’ faction.” Instro’s voice sounded amused. “As you can see, his obsession is not generally shared.”

Roger drained his glass. Instro shot him a glance. “I take it he was airing his views before the concert, as well,” he added drily.

“Yes, he was,” said Roger with some heat. He quieted his voice. “He as much as accused the Orchestra’s board of being bribed to let you perform.”

“We did get a generous donation two weeks ago,“ Instro remarked.

Roger nodded. “No good deed goes unpunished,” he confessed wryly.

“I’m afraid that in a group this size, there will always be some who try to put the worst interpretation on any action, however benevolent. Edward Bell had hoped to have a solo part in this concert. Our participation spoiled his hopes.”

Roger looked around. The room was uncomfortably full to his taste, and outside of Dorothy and Instro, there was nobody he wanted to talk to. “I could use some dinner,” he suggested.

Instro nodded. “I know just the place.”
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:31 AM
They emerged on the sidewalk. Instro said, “It’s only a block this way,” and led off to the right. Roger and Dastun flanked Dorothy, and Norman took up the rear.

“Talk of the Town” was a small ground level bar with a tiny stage dominated by an upright piano. There were only a couple other customers inside, so Roger and Instro simply pushed two of the round tables together to make enough room for the five of them to sit. Roger and Dastun ordered scotch, Norman a brandy, and the two androids soda water. The short menu leaned heavily toward burgers and steaks. Roger suggested the latter, and Dastun agreed. Norman decided to forgo dinner.

For some reason, Roger found it hard to say anything to Dorothy. He’d open his mouth, but her steady gaze drove the words from him. He finished his drink, ordered another.

Instro seemed restless. His words came faster than usual, almost as if he were still in the grip of the concert’s excitement. He talked about previous concerts, how his father and he had made a habit of visiting this place after a concert, and how they’d often end up playing duets.

He got up and talked with the bartender, who nodded and gestured toward the piano. Instro sat before it, tried an octave, then started into another of the ragtime pieces his father had enjoyed. This was, oddly enough, a march. He followed it by a ragtime waltz.

One of the other two customers walked up to the piano, smiling, and Instro surrendered it to him. This new player played a type of jazz involving runs up and down the scale. Instro called it “stride.”

More customers came in, and the bar was soon half-full. Most of those there were performers, and quite a number came up to play at the piano.

Roger grinned at Instro. “Is performing limited to professionals?” Instro shook his head ‘no.’ “Well, in that case,” Roger continued, standing, “I’ll give you a song.” He stepped briskly up to the piano as the current player finished his number.

“Can Roger play?” asked Dorothy. She’d never seen him perform at the piano.

“Certainly he can; I taught him,” replied Instro. Dastun smiled and nodded.

Norman said, “He used to play regularly before you arrived, Dorothy.”

Roger stepped up to the stage and sat at the piano. He flipped through the songbook up on the piano until he found what he wanted. “Paper Doll,” he announced, and started a moderately slow, jazzy rendition:

I guess I had a million dolls or more
I guess I've played the doll game o'er and o'er
I just quarreled with Sue, that's why I'm blue
She's gone away and left me just like all dolls do

He glanced up at the table. Dastun and Norman were smiling, Instro looked neutral, and Dorothy had a puzzled look in her eyes. He took a breath, and continued with the second verse:

I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal
And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes
Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

“Hey,” said a voice by Roger’s side. He looked up, smiling but irritated, and recognized Edward Bell. He was built like a linebacker, but one not in top condition.

“Can I help you?” Roger inquired, his hands poised over the keyboard.

“You can shut that damn trap of yours,” snarled the other. You can’t sing any better than your robot girlfriend can play.”

Roger heard a buzzing in his head. “I appreciate the compliment,” he said slowly, “but this isn’t the place to discuss artistic merit. Perhaps we could adjourn to your table,” he said, and started to stand.

Bell didn’t wait. He swung and connected with Roger’s left eye. Roger stumbled back, tripping over the stool. He kicked the stool away, and rolled to his feet.

The buzzing became a song. Roger felt clear-headed and happy, the way he did in Big O. “Wanna play rough, do you?” Roger chuckled.

Bell snarled something incoherent and charged toward Roger, who side-stepped off the stage. The tables and chairs on the main floor were an inconvenience he dealt with by sliding all within reach out of the way.

“Damn you,” shouted Bell, “you can’t just waltz in and rent the Orchestra for your toy. We have our standards!” He jumped off the stage and stalked toward Roger.

“You might try taking the blinders off,” retorted Roger. “She auditioned like anyone else.” He circled to give himself some room.

“Sure, she auditioned,” Bell commented bitterly. “It was a put-up job. Any player piano can do the same. Just stick in the right roll.”

Roger’s voice shook. “Instro and Dorothy are persons, not machines. They have their talents, as I presume even you do.”

Bell’s eyes glittered as he saw his last hit score. “You can’t call it talent when they are built for the purpose.” Roger shook his head in denial, and Bell pressed on, “And what does she have that’s worth a bribe that size? She’s nothing but a stick!”

“You have no right!” shouted Roger. He feinted at Bell’s face to make the other flinch, then swung low with the other hand, aiming at his midriff. Bell was just fast enough to block that, but he couldn’t stop the third jab that connected with his nose. Roger followed that with a punch to Bell’s gut that folded him over and dropped him to the floor. Roger stood over him, breathing hard. “Get up. Get up, so I can knock you down again.”

“Grab him, Norman,” came Dastun’s voice behind Roger, and Roger found himself held. Roger tried to turn around, but Dastun had his other arm. He was immobilized.

“Now, gentlemen,” fussed the owner, “this is not the place for fisticuffs.” Something had gone wrong with Roger’s sense of time. It seemed so long since he’d stood from the piano, yet except for the open area on the floor, nothing had changed in the bar. Even their dinners had only just arrived.

“We’ll just step out a minute,” said Dastun over Roger’s shoulder. They hustled him out before he had a chance to protest. He tried to look at Dorothy, but she was looking away from him. Was she pleased, or upset? He couldn’t tell from her posture.

“Thank god I am not in uniform, or I’d have to arrest you for disorderly conduct,” commented Dastun. “Roger, what in hell got into you?” Norman detached himself and returned to the bar.

“I’m not disorderly, he swung first,” Roger enunciated.

“Up on the stage, yes. You went after him on the floor, yelling ‘You have no right –‘” He looked at Roger. “Who was that fellow, anyway?”

Roger sighed, “Oh, he’s the brother of the noisy clod behind us at the concert. He felt his place had been usurped when Dorothy and Instro were guest performers tonight.”

Dastun guffawed. “Hard to imagine classical music inspiring such passion.”

Roger looked at him narrowly. Was there a second meaning there?

The door behind them opened. Norman came out with their overcoats. “I’ve taken care of matters inside, Master Roger. Instro and Dorothy will be right out.”

In silence, the five returned to the concert hall, where Instro wished them a good night and left.

Norman looked at Roger and suggested, “I think you will want to rest that eye, Master Roger. I’ll drive the Griffon.” In the aftermath of the fight, Roger’s eye was swollen and his right hand had two split knuckles, which he wrapped in a handkerchief and thrust in his pocket. Norman dropped Dastun off at his apartment, then drove home.
Pygmalion 01-03-2004 10:33 AM
Roger, Dorothy and Norman got out of the elevator at the eighth floor. Norman gathered their overcoats and left to hang them up.

Dorothy said coolly, “Come into the kitchen, Roger, and I’ll treat that eye.” Meekly, he followed her. She pulled out antiseptic and a dressing from the first-aid kit in the cupboard. Gently, she dabbed the liquid on the cuts.

“Ow! That stings, Dorothy!”

“Sit still and I’ll be done sooner.” The antiseptic must have had a painkiller as well, because the cuts soon stopped smarting. Dorothy applied the dressing below his eye. “That’s done. Now, what about the hand?”

Reluctantly, he laid it on the counter. Dorothy unwrapped the handkerchief gently, shaking her head over the broken skin. “You should avoid hitting the bony areas,” she commented drily, as she applied antiseptic and an adhesive bandage to the knuckles. “Wiggle your fingers,” she ordered, and said, “That will do,” when he demonstrated they moved normally. She turned to dispose of the remaining antiseptic and the waste paper, then rinsed the bloody handkerchief in cold water in the sink.

“Dorothy,” he said, and stopped. She looked up at him.

“Dorothy,” he tried again, “I’m sorry I spoiled your evening.” He cast around for something positive to say. “I enjoyed the concert, except for the men complaining behind me.”

Dorothy’s face relaxed. “You looked angry. I didn’t know why.” She looked at his battered hand. “And that’s why you had to fight that man in the bar.”

Roger blushed. “You heard that, of course.” She nodded. He said, “I’m sorry you had to hear such bigotry.”

“You aren’t responsible for it,” she replied tartly.

“I am responsible for the evening ending the way it did,” he repeated.

She looked at him, considering. “Then come with me.” She walked to the spiral staircase, picking up a chair on the way, and climbed the stairs to the penthouse floor. He followed. At the piano, she placed his seat to her right, sat, and waited for him to do the same.

“I want you to play this with me,” she said. She opened the score to “Ragtime Four Hands” and pointed out his part. They played it through, slowly, one time. Then she picked up the tempo to almost normal speed and they played it again. It was a struggle for Roger to maintain the treble line with Dorothy's syncopation, but he played on, gamely.

“Roger, you have never played the piano since I came here,” said Dorothy, when they’d finished.

“You are so much better, there’s no point,” he defended himself.

“It doesn’t have to be a competition.”

They sat companionably together for a minute. Then Dorothy picked out the tune for “Paper Doll” on the piano and looked at Roger. “Was there another verse?”

He gave her a sidelong smile and sang:

When I come home at night she will be waiting
She'll be the truest doll in all this world
I'd rather have a Paper Doll to call my own
Than have a fickle-minded real live girl

She looked steadily at him. He reddened and said, “I guess it might be a little embarrassing….”

“I’d like to hear it again.”

He raised an eyebrow, then smiled and played it from the top.

- We have come to terms -

[Illustration by Falcon7. Thanks! - Pygmalion]
Advinius 01-03-2004 11:01 AM
Very, very nice. one of the better character peices i've read in a while. thank you. Smile
X Prime 01-03-2004 11:13 AM
*Claps* An excellent piece. My compliments.
Lady Tesser 01-03-2004 11:20 AM
Gorgeous, Pygmalion. Writing about music is hard, you've done it beautifully.
Tony Waynewrong 01-03-2004 01:38 PM
That was awesome, Pygmalion. Very inspiring. Smile

Looks like another Big O couple has hit the scene.

Lady Tesser (Awesome FanFic Writer) and Prince Count Tesser (Excellent Commentator and Scene Writer)

Zola (Excellent FanFic Writer and Analyst) and Falcon 7 (Awesome Artist)

and now...

A Clockwork Tomato (Superior Episode Writer) and Pygmalion (Up and coming and Fantastic Writer)

A family that creates together, rocks the Forum together. Smile

BigPrime 01-03-2004 02:47 PM
Great story, Pygmalion! Cool
Penny Century 01-03-2004 03:46 PM
Excellent work! I loved how you teased out one of the central elements in Dorothy's story, the Emperor's Nightingale theme, and used it to address the occasionally uncomfortable state of human/android relations in Paradigm City. The characterizations were very believable, and Levy was a truly engaging OC. Thanks for posting this!
Tifaria 01-03-2004 06:35 PM
You mean, in addition to Roger Smith's good looks, charming mannerisms, and sexy voice, he also plays piano? That's too much for this poor infatuated fangirl to take!

Seriously, though, I love this. Especially that end-- the image of Roger and Dorothy sitting side by side at the piano while he sings for her is one of the sweetest things I've read in a while. Smile )
Prince-Consort Tesser 01-03-2004 06:55 PM
:applause: Smile
Falcon 7 01-03-2004 08:47 PM
That was fabulous! Thank you so much for posting it. Smile )
dr_malaki 01-04-2004 01:16 AM
Brava! (I hope that's right.) Beautiful!

Standing ovation!

I wish I had some musical education, but even a musical ignoramus/dunce like me could follow and understand the story well enough, so well writen it was.

I'm so glad I read this. Thank you. Smile

Big Ben 01-04-2004 09:07 PM
Great story.

Hmmm, perhaps Dorothy and Roger should start a band. Smile