This was the third time Bay had been called into the supervisor's office, a nerve-wracking ordeal.
"Mr. Tovin, it says here in the report that you mismanaged the controls and consequently the crane dumped its load on the
newly constructed south end of the base."
"Yes, Sir," gulped Bay. Last time his pay had been docked. He looked down at his new right hand, barely six months old,
state of the art plastirubber and circuits, able to do simple functions. Bay winced and looked away from his hand,
remembering how his career had been ended abruptly.
"Lucky for you, there was a planning change, and we were to demolish the greenhouse that you already managed to take
care of yesterday," continued the supervisor. Bay was relieved. Maybe he'd make it through his one-year stint on this
remote planet after all.
"However," continued the supervisor, shifting back in his chair, "We cannot retain you as a crane operator."
"I understand. Perhaps a loader..."
"You see," interrupted the supervisor, "Your mechanical hand is just not nimble enough to control our machines.
Otherwise, you are a dependable worker. I am assigning you to the Internal Survey Unit. A falling transit does less damage
than a crane load of girders."
Bay went white. He couldn't speak. This was the worst fate, for he had to go out into the site of echoes, which he had
successfully avoided up till now. On his way back to his room, Bay was mentally cursing himself for not researching this
planet more thoroughly before coming here. He recalled his first dismay when a moustached fellow he met on the shuttle
that brought them here had laughed at him for ferociously turning off the shuttle's pipe-in music system. Bok had found it
very ironic that someone who hated music would end up at Echo Base on the barren planet of Koncherta.
Bay was so lost in thought and regrets that he forgot to avoid the night life corridor. As he passed the door to the cabaret, it
opened and two guys came out, laughing over the 25th circulation of a worn-out joke. The honky-tonk sounds of the old
piano escaped via the opening to wrench his attention to it. A glance at the piano stirred a buried passion within him. How
he had searched and searched for just such a piano, the antiquated kind, the collector's item. But that was before the
accident. Then the door thankfully shut to close out the cabaret sound and the memories. Bay quickened his steps towards
the solitude, the quiet of his room.

*  *  *

Bay prided himself on being a quick study. Transit in hand, he carried out the duties of his new position, concentrating on
accuracy. It helped to keep his mind off of worrying about what might happen out here under the dome.
The food caddy came. Bay hadn't noticed the time passing that rapidly. Bok, who turned out to be his new supervisor, and
Bay relaxed in the picnic table area which afforded a view of the three quarter mile expanse of partially surveyed land. There
were a couple of other men eating lunch, but it was otherwise quiet. Bay appreciated that.
"You're good at this," said Bok, "What did you do before coming here?"
"Miscellaneous," said Bay evasively.
"Rather not talk about it, eh?" said Bok. He got a distant look in his eye. "I understand that. Some of the guys come here
after prison stints. These remote construction jobs are easy to get; they're unpopular."
"I wasn't in prison," said Bay, slightly insulted.
"Lucky for you," said Bok bitterly. Bay glanced at him with a new understanding. Bok pushed aside any somber thoughts
he may have been having and looked towards the dome. "I wonder if the echo phenomenon is happening today," About to
pucker up and whistle, Bay touched his arm.
"Please," he begged, almost panicky. Bok looked surprised, then said, "Oh, that's right -- you don't like music. Lucky you
weren't here while the shuttle crew was grounded for a couple of days playing flutes constantly."
However, one of the men at a neighboring picnic table had decided to test the echoes. Bay whirled around as the man
whistled a few bars from a popular song. Bay noticed a slight variation of some of the notes from the version played on the
radio, and this rhythm was off. Curiosity stayed Bay's hands from rushing to his ears. Silence. Perhaps the echoes
weren', here it came. A high, almost bell-like repetition of the popular tine rang out at the same volume it had been
Bay puzzled aloud, "It's a full octave higher, but the rhythm, key and pitch of the notes are precisely the same as he
whistled them."
Bok glanced at him, "For someone who hates music, you sure have familiarity with the subject."
Bay chose to ignore this comment, still staring up at a spot 40 feet away and 20 feet above the ground where the echo
seemed to originate. "What causes it?" he asked.
"Well, if you ask the boys in the science department," said Bok, stroking his moustache, "You'll get a lot of talk about
'special magnetic fields,' 'electronic activity in the ground coupled with our artificial atmosphere' and 'geo-radiation.'
Nevertheless, it all boils down to this: They don't know."
The others continued whistling as if they were talking to mynah birds. Bay spent the rest of lunch with his hands over his
ears glowering at his plate.

*  *  *

Early the next morning, Bay sat at the picnic table trying to figure out how to make workable
earplugs out of a piece of rubber. He couldn't believe that the canteen didn't stock them. "I'll
order them for you," the sales clerk had said with a wink, knowing it took six months for
anything to arrive by shuttle. Nobody else had arrived on the worksite yet. Bay had awoken
early and couldn't go back to sleep. Most likely he was still disturbed about the eager young
man who had come up to the table where he and Bok had sat in the dining area last night.
"I know you! I couldn't place you before. But, you're that famous pianist, right? Your last name
is Tovin. Right, Bay? I love your work; I heard you play that long sonata of Beethoven, Hammer
Klavier. Incredibly long. And you really did justice to those beautiful, difficult Chopin ballads. Classical music was my minor
in college. Maybe we could get together sometime and talk shop."
"Not now," Bay had said.
"Sure, I understand, what with the accident and all. I'm sorry. Maybe later."
Bay had felt useless, a subject of pity. He had to leave the dining area to escape the curious and sympathetic looks of those
who had overheard.
Now Bay was having success at cutting the rubber piece with his knife. Distracted by his thoughts, he began whistling
Beethoven's 9th symphony without thinking of the consequences. He stopped mid-melody when he realized he was
whistling. This was the third time since he'd been in the Internal Survey Unit that he had whistled to himself, but luckily, no
echo had responded. Sixty feet away came the Beethoven response exactly as he had whistled it, an octave higher. The
tones were richer than a bell, and most intriguing, soothing and potentially pleasing. He found it curious that only whistling
and some musical instruments would cause echoes what with all the other noises that were around. Bay quickly cut the
rubber for the second earplug.
It was a bit eerie being in this large empty field, nothing around but building materials and the ever-present blue painted
dome above, designed to hold in the atmosphere. Bay kept looking up, sensing someone approaching, but seeing nobody.
He didn't expect anyone for another twenty minutes or so. Suddenly, from thirty feet away, the echo began Beethoven's 9th.
Curious. Nobody was around. Bay had been under the impression that the echoes only responded once. He'd have to ask
Bok about it. And was it really closer? He didn't want to think about it anymore; he quickly stuffed the earplugs in his ears.

*  *  *

Bay awoke in his room the next morning fuming. Had his neighbors no consideration? He had requested them to play their
music through headphones, but last night he kept half-waking to strains of music intermittently the whole night through.
Fortunately, both neighbors were out in the hall, chatting with Bok. He hated to dampen their cheerfulness, but he felt
grumpy and everything he said came out grumpy.
"I don't appreciate being kept awake by your stereos!" he raged.
The two neighbors, startled at his antagonism, exchanged blank looks. They had the audacity to deny it. Bay left muttering,
heading for the "roller coaster," which was the local name for the track and detachable car transport system in the
construction base. Bok followed.
"Aren't we sweet-tempered today?" said Bok. Then he became angry and grabbed Bay's arm, "Hey, stop a second! Listen,
Bay, I'm getting tired of this music hang-up of yours, and those guys, I'm sure, don't appreciate your harassment."
Bay sighed, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be hard on them."
"It's not just them, Bay," insisted Bok, "You're hard on yourself. This is no way to live -- your life will be miserable. Music is
part of life, from advertisements, to video films, to bars, to guys singing in the shower. You can't run forever. At some point,
you'll have to face the fact that you are a concert pianist who lost his hand and can no longer play -- and life goes on. Quit
torturing yourself and others!"
"You don't understand," began Bay, "The torment...." He pushed Bok aside roughly and marched glumly down the hall.

*  *  *

Bok opened the door at Bay's request to let him stay the night. Bok looked at him through half-asleep eyes and asked,
"Something wrong with your room?"
"A bit noisy. I realized I had falsely accused my neighbors. It was those echoes that were keeping me awake. Just now they
were repeating a strain of Beethoven's 9th I accidentally whistled out on the site."
"Echoes? They can't be in your room. Besides, they only speak when spoken to."
"Are you calling me a liar, or implying that I'm crazy?" Bay asked caustically.
"Or perhaps a bad dream?" suggested Bok.
"I'm sorry I'm snapping at you. I appreciate your hospitality," said Bay lying down on the couch, "I know I haven't been the
easiest person to get along with."
"Everybody has his moment," replied Bok as if it were no big deal. He dimmed the lights from a panel at the head of his bed.
They lay there in silence.
"Bok, for what were you in prison?"
"I was foolish. I listened to a friend and we did an embezzlement thing to a large corporation."
"What happened to your hand?" asked Bok softly after a while. Bay didn't reply. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't ask," said Bok.
There was a grave silence, then Bay spoke. Bok had struck a chord with Bay; somehow, it was the right circumstance for
Bay to unburden himself.
"I was on my way home from playing a concerto. I lived in Europe and the concert was in New California, so I flew in an
airbus. I was playing these local concerts, but what I was really doing was waiting to hear back from my audition with the
Universal Symphonic Orchestra."
"Wow," said Bok, impressed, "You got an audition with them? That's a rare honor indeed. Most people never get past the
"Yes, an honor, but I assure you I was on pins and needles the whole time. As a schoolboy, I had practiced at least one third
of each day. I had learned all I could about the classical masters. I knew all about Beethoven's deafness, Chopin's mistress
with the peculiar name, Bach's sixteen children. I sought to immerse myself in knowledge of each of their lives until I could
play from their point of view. I composed my own music to taste the thrill of creation they must have felt. I tried to keep busy
waiting the six months it took for the audition committee to make its rounds of inhabited planets on its circuit. I was well to
do, had a beautiful girlfriend, Tressa, who supported me in every way and I had a private airbus. I was driving that night. The
racejet came out of nowhere. The drunken fool was miles from any race sector. By the time I saw him, it was too late to avoid
collision. I banked it hard and avoided crashing into the body of his craft, but his stabilizer beam burst through our cockpit
window, severed off my right hand and pinned it on the wall, mangled it beyond any repair."
Bay paused. Bok was silent, listening. This was the first time he had talked to anyone about the accident since it happened
less than a year ago.
"Tressa was relatively unhurt. She stood by and supported me during the operation, the rehabilitation. I was probably mean
to her. I was angry about the whole turn of fate. When the rehabilitation was nearing the end, two months after the accident, I
confronted her and told her to quit stalling; I had to know. With a tear, she brought me the fax of the letter, dated the day
before my accident." Bay's voice was breaking up. He had to pause. Only the luminous digits of the clock and other
mechanical devices lit the room, lending a somber atmosphere to the story.
Bay was finally able to resume, "I read the letter. Out of thousands of applicants, I had been accepted to play for the
Universal Symphony Orchestra."
"Wow. I'm sorry," said Bok, wishing he could say something to help, "I'm sorry."
Bay just sighed and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, Bay woke up more refreshed. Bok was in the shower; he could hear the running water.
He was aware, vaguely at first, of a melody. The shower muted it a bit, but it struck him as being very aesthetic. His usual
rejection of music was temporarily laid to rest by this intriguing piece.
"What is that music? A little-known Debussy?"
"If Debussy is a rock group, it's probably my neighbor."
Bay laughed, "Not hardly. He was a nineteenth century composer." He mused to himself, "Maybe it was an echo. They're
everywhere these days." Bay could not dismiss the melody, so fresh, so unique and so exciting. As he dressed for work, he
automatically stored it in his mind in a place where he kept ideas, themes, unfinished half phrases of what were to be
developed into future works.

*  *  *

Bay woke up, not knowing where he was or how he got there. It was dark. Pain in his head.
Oh, yes, knocked unconscious. By whom? He thought back, trying to retrieve his memory
from wherever it had fled. Ah yes, that idiot of a crane operator, just a kid, showing off. Bay
wasn't hit hard with the beams, but the angle of the swing and density of the load had been
enough to knock him over into the foundation trough where he must have hit his head.
Bay sat up and tried to rise. His leg wouldn't budge. Had he broken it? No, it was encased in
plasticement. It was really stuck. His watch said it was 3:00am. Hadn't anyone known he was
missing? Bok? Maybe they wouldn't think to look here. This was one and a half miles from
where he was surveying today. He yelled for a few minutes, but there was no answer. Where was the night security guard?
Bay was beginning to panic a little. He wasn't sure how much of this equipment was automatic. If another load of
plasticement were dumped into this trough....
Bay yelled again, louder. Silence. He was miles from the residence buildings. He gave a whistle. Not even an echo
responded. Now, when their activity would possibly alert a security guard to a human presence, where were they?
It was a strange phenomenon, off sometimes, on others. He wondered who had originally whistle the beautiful Debussy-like
melody he had heard in Bok's room. Perhaps it had been that musician who had recognized Bay.
How did it go? He tried to remember. He needed to sound it out. He whistled. No, that wasn't right. He whistled again.
Almost. Before he could pucker up again, the soft bell-like echo began. He'd have to wait until it finished in order to hear
himself whistle. The echo didn't reflect either of the two incorrect versions. It repeated its original version.
There was something strange going on here.
Bay whistled the tune's original version. This time he got it exactly right. This time he felt as though he was the one doing
the echoing. Only silence came from the empty space 20 feet ahead. Well, the echo was operating now, for whatever reason,
so Bay decided he could put it to use. What would create a stir? It would have to be Beethoven. He'd use the dynamic
energy and power of a Beethoven symphony to attract attention. But, before he could decide which symphony, there came
the bell-like imitation of his 9th symphony, abruptly stopping at the place he had when originally whistling it.
"Again? I'd better teach you the rest of it," he said, then reflected that it was as if he were teaching it. That meant.... No, the
scientists had said the echo phenomenon was purely magnetic/electrical/sonic and could be explained.
Something clicked for Bay at that point. Due to his blindness caused by his unwillingness to face his accident and its
consequences, he had missed all of the signs, the clues. Was it all materially explained, or was there a life form here, a life
form so different from any previously encountered that it wasn't recognized as a life form? His repugnance of music in the
face of this possibility could not be maintained. It was too intriguing, too likely, too much of an opportunity.
Bay began whistling Beethoven's 9th, robotically, methodically at first, and then he began to take the care to infuse it with
feeling, with the zest and power it deserved. He wished he had the drums and other instruments.
If these were life forms, they lived on a planet without an atmosphere. Thus sound would not be their usual medium of
expression, for only under the human domes was the conduction of sound waves possible. He wished he could meet them
in their essence, the essence of music. Pure music as a life form was an idea his mind could not wrap its wits around. They
were perhaps playing with sound waves, the way dolphins frolic in Earth's ocean undulations created by a passing ship.
Bay crescendo'd the finale as loudly as he could. He was breathless at the end and felt the old pride of a performance well
The echo began repeating the long symphony rendition.
Bok had said the echoes never occurred in rooms. But, these echoes had sought him out as if they wanted to be taught the
wonders of classical music by a true professional. It was not only to be taught. Bay now knew that the Debussy-like tune
was not of human origin. What other gems of composition did they know? What a treasure of creativity!
Bay decided at that point to note down their music and share it with the human race, with full orchestration added.
At last, the bell-like rendition of Beethoven's 9th was finished. Bay sat in awe, staring at the invisible musician 20 feet in front
of him. This was no amateur performance. There was definite feeling and power to it.
Forty feet to his right, the echo began again. This was simultaneous with another echo 50 feet away. Echo after echo began
chiming in, all in a synchronized rendition of Beethoven's 9th symphony. Each had a slightly different quality of tone.
The dome reverberated with dozens, maybe hundreds of musicians apparently giving it their all. Bay was so impressed, and
so moved, that his mouth hung open listening, appreciating. No stereo system or human orchestra anywhere could ever do
this justice.
It took his name being called three or four times before it registered. Bok had found him and rode over, along the "roller
coaster" track, in the back seat of the security guard's patrol vehicle.
"Ah, cement overshoes? I thought that went out with the gangster era. Who did this to you?"
"It was an accident." Bay went on to outline it. The security guard radioed back for an ultrasound jackhammer.
"Boy, you really got those echoes going. You are a real pro, pal."
"They're the pros," countered Bay, and he went on to explain the fact that they were actually life forms indigenous to this

*  *  *

The Universal Symphonic Orchestra musicians had finished tuning their instruments, the conductor was poised with his
baton above his head and the audiences, present and remote, were silent. The overture began. Bay was in the front row,
dressed to the teeth. A soft hand took his in hers. He looked down at the hand of Tressa, at the ring he had bought,
remembering presenting it to her, and remembering the resultant wedding. He smiled at her. A lot had transpired in the eight
months he had been back. Then the music stole his full attention, as was due it by its remarkable nature. The first notes of
an echo-composed song were being played by the violinists, cellists and flutists. This piece had the zip of Telemann's Suite
in A minor, but the sound came across fuller, richer. Bay knew there were more musicians than met the eye performing from
every corner of the giant concert hall. While whistling in the shuttle, he had discovered an echo had come back with him to
Earth, to his astonishment and delight. Then he discovered there were two, then three, then more. Las week he realized
there had been at least a dozen stowaways on his return flight. Now they all joined in to embellish the reverberation of this
striking tune.
As he sat listening to the music, he felt grateful that the Universal Symphony Orchestra
Directors had granted his request to play the music of the echoes. He looked around the
concert hall at the end of the piece. The crowd was ecstatic, moved, animated. The music was
fresh, new and dynamic. It somehow had an uplifting quality, almost magical, and stirred up
the finer of human qualities of inspiration, peace and hope. This could truly be the start of a
new renaissance. Bay was proud to have contributed. Some of what had been lost in him was
His new friends were invisible, but he knew that more than one dream was being realized here
at this moment, this night.

The End

For More information about Rebecca (Becky) Mate,
click here.
"Live Music"
By Rebecca L. Mate
Carl Watts, Nutrition Response Testing Certified, WFG Associate,
Nutritionist, Artist, Designer, Problem Solver, Author, Publisher, Philosopher
PO Box 285
Tujunga, CA 91042

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