The Apprentice

Lori Hicks

May 1991


The pipe chamber. This was a magical place, a massive maze of thousands of pipes, each in a different direction. Each pipe heading off to its own different and special destination. To anyone else, the noise level in this particular chamber was almost too much to bear, but Pascal heard only the music of the pipes. Each pipe traceable by its pitch, tone and clarity. This was the place that he loved to be the best. This was the only place that truly felt like home.

Over in the corner there was a small cot and a large shelf on which sat the books that contained all of the codes known to the tunnel community. Pascal was the one person who could contact anyone in the community in an instant. He was the one upon whom the responsibility of keeping communication open fell.

The rest of the community went their own ways and had their own favorite places, but for Pascal, there was no other place in which he would rather be. The pipe chamber was the only home he ever wanted or needed. When he was away from the pipes, it was as though he was away from a part of himself.

Standing watch and listening to all of the messages on the pipes, he reflected on how he came to be the master of the pipes. His father had been pipe master when the community was first formed. Then, the form of communication was a mutated version of Morse code. When Jacob and John had originally formed the tunnel community; the pipes were merely for emergency notification. Pascal's father however, had soon seen the need for everyday communication and had come up with the idea of using the pipes as a message center. Pascal the Elder, had devised the new codes and as each new one was formed, he placed the code where everyone could learn it. By this time the community was beginning to grow and Pascal the Elder realized that he was going to need some help. Being blessed with perfect pitch and an ear able to remember any sound that it heard, made him the ideal pipe master, but who would take over after he was gone. An apprentice needed to be found.

No one was more surprised when the person turned out to be Pascal the Elder's own son, Armin. Armin had the ear and the memory needed and soon began learning all that was necessary. Pascal the Elder's death in the next five years forced Armin to begin much sooner than anyone had planned on. Soon no one was calling him Armin anymore, but he was now simply Pascal, as his father before him had been.

Bringing himself back to the present, he smiled. Had he only known then that it would take a lifetime to learn all the codes because he was constantly coming up with new and better ones. Maybe now was the time for him to think about finding someone to apprentice the pipes. But who and where should he start looking? The music classes were the most logical choice. Who better than a music teacher to know who had perfect pitch and a good ear? The apprentice must be able to hear the differences in the pipes. Hopefully there would be someone young enough to have the time to learn all that was needed, but mature enough to handle it. Someone around 14 or 16 should be perfect. The next step was to talk to Father about it. Leaving the pipe chamber, Pascal walked the distance to Father's chamber in silence. What if no one could be found? What would the community do?

"Father, may I speak with you," Pascal asked as he entered the chamber?

"Certainly Pascal, what is the problem?"

"It's not actually a problem. Iíve been thinking that it is time to start looking for someone to apprentice to me so that he or she can eventually take over the pipes someday."

"Yes, Yes, I quite agree. It would not do to be out of communication with everyone. How do you propose to find this apprentice?"

"I thought that I would start in the music classes. I must find someone with a perfect ear along with a perfect memory."

"That's a pretty tall order to fill. Do you think we have someone here with those qualifications?"

"I'm not sure but some of the children are very good. May I have your permission to interrupt classes today?"

"Certainly," Father replied quickly, "Do whatever you think is necessary."

"Thank you Father," he said and turned to leave.

"Oh, Pascal, you might want to ask Vincent for his help. He is around the children much more than you are and his ear is almost as good as yours is."

"Thank you Father, that's a very good idea. Do you know where Vincent is right now?"

"As a matter of fact, he is teaching a literature class that should be just about over. If you hurry you can probably still catch him."

"I'll track him down. I'll keep you up to date on how things are going with the search." Pascal said as he left Father's chamber and headed for the classroom chambers.

Pascal found Vincent sitting in the classroom going over some notes. When he heard Pascal enter, Vincent looked up from his notes. "Hello Pascal. What brings you out of the pipe chamber and to the classroom?"

"I've decided that it is time to begin searching for someone to help me in the pipe chamber. Someday, someone is going to have to take my place. That person should begin his or her training as soon as possible. I have come looking for some help. Will you help me Vincent?"

"Of course Iíll help you Pascal, but what do you need me for? I do know the children better than you do but that is all."

"No Vincent. I am looking for someone around 14 to 16 years of age with a perfect ear and total recall. I need someone who is mature enough to handle the responsibility that will befall him or her. I also need your ear. I mustn't make a mistake in this. I need your ear to help me make the right choice."

"Iíll be happy to help. I have a few of the children in mind already. When did you want to get started?"

"Right away. Iíll need to test their Ďearí. The music chamber would probably be the best place. I will also need to find out how their memory is. Ideally, I would like to begin teaching the student as soon as possible. It is going to take a very long time to learn everything."

"Then let's begin. The children that I have in mind are in the music chamber right now. Why don't we go over and listen to them practice. That should give you an idea of how well they can hear a tune."

Vincent and Pascal make their way to the music chamber and stand just outside the entrance to watch as the lesson goes on. Todayís lesson was in vocal music and the children were singing some of the popular music from the world above. The beautiful sentiment of the song "From a distance" floated out to Pascal and Vincent.

"Do you hear anyone that you think might be right Pascal," Vincent softly asks.

"Yes, there are three different children that I hear that might do quite nicely. Anna, Terri, and that boy over by the wall in the blue. I don't know his name."

"Thatís Jonathon. Heís only been in the tunnels about a year. Anna and Terri are very good choices. I know they do excellently with their schoolwork. The memory would not be a problem for them. I don't know much about Jonathon. He has kept to himself since he has arrived. He lost both parents in an automobile accident. They were both musicians. He hasn't quite recovered yet."

Pascal and Vincent tested each of the children's Ďmusical earí and memory. While Anna and Terri had very good memories, they didn't quite have the ear that Pascal was looking for. When it was Jonathon's turn, Pascal was very impressed but hid it so as not to give away his decision. Asking Vincent a few more questions later, Pascal had made his decision.

"Jonathon sounds like he might be the right person. The person who fills my shoes must be able to enjoy solitude; the pipe chamber can be a lonely place for someone who doesn't understand it. We must make sure that we are not asking more than he can give. Can you arrange to bring Jonathon to the pipe chamber later so that we can meet?"

"Yes, I'm sure I can. Would you like me to explain why I am bringing him to meet you?"

"No Vincent. If Jonathon is, as I think, the right person, he will ask me if he can stay. The pipes will call to him and he will have no choice but to answer. Thatís how it was for me. There was no other possible choice, the pipes needed me. We will know soon enough if Jonathon is the right person. The pipes will tell him."

Two hours later Pascal was so absorbed in his work, that heíd almost forgotten Vincent would be bringing Jonathon by. Vincent had to clear his throat loudly twice before Pascal realized that anyone was there.

Startled, he whirled around and nearly jumped out of his skin to see Vincent and a young man waiting expectantly. Pascal was just about to ask what it was that Vincent wanted when he remembered.

Jonathon, meanwhile, was in awe. He had never seen a place such as this. There were pipes going in all directions, it was like a three dimensional maze. The most beautiful sounds were coming out of the pipes too. Clear ringing sounds like thousands of wind chimes singing all at once. Jonathon thought that the sound was the most beautiful sound that he had ever heard. Slowly he began to walk around, very gently, almost reverently, touching the pipes, feeling the vibrations that they made. Gently, he put his ear to one of the pipes and he could hear its song even clearer. While he knew that the pipes were used for communication, Jonathon had never been taught more than how to bang for help and the code for his name. Knowing that messages were being sent and that he was in the place that they were relayed from sent shivers up his spine. For the first time in his life, Jonathon felt as though he was at home.

Jonathon was so lost in the beauty of the pipes that he never heard Pascal and Vincent calling to him. After calling him three times, Pascal looked at Vincent and shrugged, "Iíve found the person that Iíve been looking for. He can't hear us; the pipes are talking to him. He won't have a choice now; heíll have to learn their language just so he can talk to them as well. Thank you for your help Vincent. Iíll make sure that he doesn't stay to long tonight. Tomorrow Iíll have to talk to Father about arranging for a lighter class schedule for him. Jonathon's training must begin at once. He won't be able to concentrate on anything else if he doesn't start learning the codes."

"Pascal I did nothing," Vincent began, " all I did was provide you with a name and bring Jonathon here. His destiny has taken over and is making the decisions now. Once destiny steps in and takes charge of your life, there is nothing anyone can do to alter it. I am just happy to have been a small part in helping Jonathon to find his destiny. I will tell Father to expect you sometime tomorrow morning. Please remember to eat Pascal," Vincent said laughingly as he left the pipe chamber.

Pascal stood watching Jonathon. The look of pure joy that was on his face was one that he well remembered. As a child Pascal had grown up in and around the pipes but it wasn't until he was about 14 that he actually connected the sounds to words. The moment that happened, he was hopelessly lost to the magic of the pipes.

That was what Pascal could see on Jonathon's face now. The joy and the magic filling his soul and singing to him. Jonathon didn't know it yet but he had found a calling that would last his whole life. Perhaps before the boy got too lost in the music, he should sit down and explain things so that Jonathon had some choice in the matter.

"Jonathon. Jonathon." no response. Pascal tried twice more. "Jonathon. Jonathon!" It was no use; the boy couldn't hear him. He walked over and gently laid a hand on Jonathon's shoulder. Startled, Jonathon spun around.

"Oh Pascal. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you approach. Did you need something?" "Where did Vincent go?"

"Vincent went back to his chamber. Come with me, I need to talk to you about something very important. Pascal very gently took Jonathon's arm and led him toward the sleeping area set up in the far corner.

"Sit down Jonathon, I want to talk to you. I want to ask you how you feel about being here in the pipe chamber."

Slowly Jonathon started, unsure of his words at first. "When I first came into this chamber, all I could hear was the noise. I couldn't believe anyone could live anyplace where all this noise was. Then I saw the pipes themselves. The way they twist and bend around themselves. The maze that they create. That's when I noticed that the noise wasn't coming from the pipes, the sound, not noise, was the pipes. The pipes seemed to be calling to me, telling me a story that I don't understand the words to. I feel at home here and I'm not sure why. You aren't sending me away are you?" Jonathon asked shyly.

Pascal smiled to himself, remembering the feeling. "No Jonathon, I'm not sending you away. I wanted to talk to you about the pipes. You see, I know the language they are speaking. I have felt the joy and awe you are feeling right now. I have felt the longing to understand the sounds. I can teach you what the pipes are saying. It will take a very long time for you to understand it all. I also have to tell you that if you make the decision to stay, you will not be able to turn back. The calling is too strong. The life of the pipe master is a solitary one. It is not lonely but it is being alone. The day that I first heard the pipes, I knew that this is what I had to do. I don't even hear the words anymore; I just understand the pipes. They are a very important part of our world. Without them, weíd have no way of communicating with each other. There would be no way to ask for help or to spread good news. If you decide to stay with the pipes, you will be given a huge responsibility. You must be equal to the task. I won't accept your answer today. You must search your heart and see if this is what you really want. You are looking at, 20 years as an apprentice, at least. Can you wait that long to be the master yourself? Are you willing to learn all that is necessary to learn?"

For a few moments, Jonathon was silent, absorbing all that Pascal had just told him. Softly, almost shyly, he began, "I will think hard about all that you have told me but I don't think that Iíll change my mind at all. This is the only place that I have ever truly felt at home. The pipes almost seem to be talking right to me. I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. I will come back in the morning to give you my final decision."

Pascal watched Jonathon leave with a small smile on his face. Heíd been right about Jonathon, he was the one. There wasnít going to be anything that would keep him from learning the language of the pipes. He would come back in the morning and beg to begin learning. Pascal had found his apprentice.

********

Early the next morning, Pascal walked the distance to Father chamber. There were many arrangements to be made, concerning Jonathon's schooling. Learning the pipes was no excuse for giving up schoolwork entirely; Jonathon would just have to rearrange the class schedules a bit. While Pascal knew that Father wouldn't mind the changes, he was still a bit nervous and wished that Vincent could be there to lend his support.

Entering Father's chamber, Pascal was pleasantly surprised to see Vincent sitting at Father's desk. Father, however was no where to be seen. Glancing up as Pascal entered, Vincent smiled.

"Ah, Pascal, how did the talk with Jonathon yesterday go? Is he the one that you were looking for? Vincent asked.

"The talk went very well actually. Yes, he is the one. Jonathon will be bringing me his decision later but I can tell just by the way he looked and listened to the pipes, that he has no other choice but to learn them. That's why I'm here. I came to talk to Father about rearranging Jonathon's class schedule. Where is Father anyway?"

Smiling, Vincent answered, "Father has great confidence in your feelings. When I told him that I had left you and Jonathon deep in conversation about the pipes, he assumed that Jonathon would love the pipes as much as you do and he went to talk to him. Father want's to make sure that this is indeed what Jonathon wants."

"I do too. That's why I told Jonathon I wouldn't accept his decision until today. I made him promise to think very hard about what he is considering."

Just then, Jonathon and Father arrive at the entrance to the chamber, talking very animatedly with each other. Pascal and Vincent watched them enter the chamber and head directly for the bookcases.

"... think Isaac Asimov is the leader in that field. Father was just finishing.

"But you have to agree that Robert Heinlein's writing is at the very least on the same level even if they have different writing styles," Jonathon replied quickly.

Vincent cleared his throat to let Father know that someone else was in the room. Startled, both stop talking and looked over at Pascal and Vincent.

"Oh, Vincent, I didn't know that you were up so early. I went to have a little chat with Jonathon. I wanted to find out if he had made a decision and we got talking about favorite Science Fiction writers and a friendly debate started. We were just going to show each other examples of the works we were discussing."

Noticing Pascal for the first time, Jonathon stepped forward and announced, "Pascal, I have made my decision. As a matter of fact, the decision was made yesterday but I waited like you had asked. I want you to teach me the language of the pipes. I don't want or need anything else in my life. I want to start as soon as possible. Father, you don't have any objections do you?"

"No Jonathon, I don't have any objection at all. I quite understand finding something that you feel you must do with your life. For me it was medicine. It's a wonderful thing to feel something calling to you like that. We just have to rearrange your schedule a bit; we can't have you forsaking your other schoolwork for the pipes.

For the next several hours, they were absorbed in making the necessary changes in the schedule. Pascal was all in favor of giving up such trivialities as music class but Father wouldnít hear of it. Jonathon must become a totally well rounded person, even if he would be spending most of his time in the pipe chamber. Playing a musical instrument could be a very soothing way to relax. Vincent had been trying to play mediator and Jonathon was just sitting back listening to all of it. He was still not entirely

comfortable with the thought of Father and Vincent considering him an adult now.

Finally, all the changes were made and a written copy given to Jonathon. Unsure of where to go now, he stood there as Pascal, Vincent, and Father chatted amongst themselves.

Always the sensitive one, Vincent noticed Jonathon's unease. Realizing that he is still a boy and unsure of many things, Vincent placed his arm around Jonathon's shoulders and gently lead him toward the entrance to the chamber.

"Jonathon, why don't you go to your chamber and gather a few of your things? I'm sure that you will be spending quite a bit of time in the pipe chamber from now on and you might like to have some personal things about you. Pascal can find an empty shelf for you to store them on. You can meet Pascal in the pipe chamber when you are ready. If you get there first, you can explore the pipes a bit.

"Thank you Vincent,Ē Jonathon said with obvious relief, "I wasn't sure exactly what to do next. It won't take me very long to gather a few things, I will be at the pipe chamber in about 10 minutes."

As Vincent watched Jonathon go, he remembered back to when Pascal first began his apprenticeship. He was just as eager and single minded about what he wanted. Pascal had indeed chosen well.

Jonathon hurried to his chamber to gather the few things that meant anything to him. Glancing around he quickly decided. The picture of his parents taken on their last vacation together and the copy of 'Stranger in a Strange Land' that his father had given to him on his last birthday. Until yesterday, that was exactly how heíd felt, a stranger, now he had a home.

It took Jonathon no more than a few minutes to gather the few momentos that he wanted and soon he was heading for the pipe chamber. When he arrived, Pascal had not yet returned. Finding himself alone, the pipes once again began calling to him. Almost in a daze he began to explore. Touching each pipe, feeling the vibrations that were the messages themselves, he had no concept of how much time had passed. Suddenly Pascal was standing in front of him waiting to be noticed.

"Oh Pascal, I'm sorry. I didn't see or hear you come in. Have you been waiting long?" Jonathon asked.

"Don't worry about it Jonathon. I see that you have been getting to know the pipes. Each one has a characteristic all of its own. When it is tapped on, each one makes a slightly different sound. That is one of the most important lessons. You can track any message by listening to the sound that the pipe it came in on makes. That is how we tracked Catherine last year."

"When do we start Pascal? I want to learn the language. I want to talk to the pipes. I want them to talk to me."

"Before we begin, I have something for you. Come over here with me," Pascal said, motioning for Jonathon to follow him over to the shelves. "You must promise to take very good care of these, they are what make the pipes sing." With that he handed Jonathon two, 12 inch long metal pipes. "These are what you will be tapping with. I never let mine out of my sight. Now we begin, the first lesson is the most important. It is the emergency all quiet signal. There are times you will only be able to hear a message faintly, then you give the Ďall quietí signal and all communication on the pipes except for the emergency will stop. That will allow you to trace where the message is coming from and get help sent there. The code goes like this."

Very quickly, Jonathon and Pascal were so caught up in their lesson that neither saw nor heard Vincent as he came to see how things were going. With a small smile, Vincent slowly walked from the pipe chamber. The master and his apprentice were hard at work and should not be disturbed.

--finis--