Zoo Station

A funny thing happened yesterday, when there was nothing else to do but watch it snow a lot:  I decided to start writing a scene, and I actually finished it in the same day.  Which was probably a good thing, since it would have normally taken me a couple of days to write while trying to find the time after work.

The scene before was Annie’s time to cry, while this one was Kerry’s time to fly.  Professor Salomon had, the night before, invited Annie and him down to the Flight School for a little Saturday morning fun.  This was all because of  what they’d done the Monday before while trying in the Storm From Hell, and she was interested in seeing if they could handle something a bit more complex than their Covington Trainers.  Now, we already know Annie was busy, but Kerry–hey, it’s Saturday, and there’s probably a good reason why Kerry is taking to flying so well:  it reminds him of something he used to do before leaving chilly San Fran behind.  But of course.

Rather than tell you all about this moment, here’s a big chunk of their time together, first draft warts and all (gotta remember that if you find a mistake).  Enjoy.

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

As they started their seventh circuit of the meadow, Vicky decided to change things up again. “Hey, Starbuck.”

Kerry was back in second. “Yeah, Nightwitch.”

“I feel like doing something different. You still with me?”

“You said to hang with until you told me otherwise—so I go where you go.”

Vicky smiled. “Roger, Starbuck. We’re gonna break left here in a second, so stay tight. And . . . break.” She turned sharply to her left and crossed the meadow towards the western edge. She checked her rear views and saw Kerry right where he should be, maintaining speed and altitude.

She snapped left when they reached the west side of the meadow and she made for the Flight School. As she pulled even with the building Vicky didn’t slow; she pulled a long, slow left, just skirting the south tree line. “Yo, Starbuck.”

“Yo, Nightwitch.”

“I’m gonna put on some tunes, but not so loud you can’t hear me. I’m coming around; watch it.”

Kerry saw the professor slow, then snap her broom around in a near one-eighty before waving him on. He pulled the nose of his broom around and followed her onto an path he’d never noticed before. A few meters inside the trees and it was evident that the path was really an old, unimproved road. They were moving along at the same pace they’d maintained on the meadow course, but the different here was no pylons, and trees were only a few meters away on both sides.

There was a rhythmic tapping in his ears as a song began to play. By the second bar he recognized the song: Zoo Station from U2’s Achtung Baby. He smiled while keeping his eyes on Professor Salomon, for he would have never guessed her to be a fan of this kind of music, but he noticed her head bobbing in tune to the music, he realized he’d guessed completely wrong.

Then she picked up the nose of her broom, put on a little speed, and left the road behind. Kerry followed.

Once clear of the treetops Vicky pulled around in a long, sweeping left turn, picking up speed as she did. She kept her eye on the view behind, and saw Kerry glued to her six. She circled south and picked up altitude as she approached The Diamond, knowing what she’d need to clear the forty meters tall structure. She overflew the racetrack, then continued turning left until she was once more facing north. She saw the meadow ahead and the Pentagram in the distance, and turned on the power.

Kerry didn’t allow his eyes to wander from the professor’s back, but it was impossible not to notice the huge structure below him—The Diamond, the enclosed racetrack he’d heard of but yet to see—and as they swung around to the north he made out the walls and towers that enclosed the southeast section of the school. He was looking slightly down on both, which meant he was more than thirty meters up, probably closer to forty, maybe even more than that. He saw landmarks in the distance—the large open area that must be Selena’s Meadow, another large structure to the northwest that he figured might be the Aerodrome, and well off to the north, the Pentagram and the Great Hall. From here, flying north at what he figured to be a fair speed, Kerry was finally getting an idea of the scale of this place, and sensing the immenseness of a place that housed fewer than two hundred people.

He was feeling one of his surreal moments coming on, because here he was dressed like an old-time aviator, flying a piece of advanced technology powered by super science and magic, zipping through the air within the confines of a place that people a few hundred meters beyond the wall didn’t know existed—and doing this all while listening to a twenty year-old album. It brought out a smile as he relaxed comfortably into the saddle of his PAV. Back home the kids with whom he used to attend school were probably sleeping, or hanging out on the street, or wandering the shopping areas.

Here he was playing his own version Sky Captain, and loving every moment.

The professor weaved to her left, and Kerry kept with her, following her to the west of the Pentagram. They came in above the roof of Ceridwen Tower, and since he knew each tower was closer to fifty meters tall, he knew where they were. They turned in over the wall before reaching Cernunnos Tower and flew over the library, then turned sharply to the right in front of Mórrígan Tower and gained even more altitude before buzzing Blodeuwedd Tower and Founder’s Gate, hanging another sharp right, and overflying Åsgårdsreia Tower as they headed north.

 

In the end they stop and hover more than a quarter mile over the school, because Vicky is the kind of instructor who likes to push people, and taking an eleven year old to a really high point in the sky on the equivalent of a magical racing bike, and then just sitting and chatting a bit–yeah, that’s some button pushing.

And in case you don’t think it’s that’s high, here’s a little perspective:  the observation deck of Willis Tower (or, as I still call it, “Sears Tower”, because that’s how I remember it) is 412.5 meters, or 1,353 feet, above street level.  And it is now fitted with this cool little extensions that jut out from the building, leaving you with the feeling of hanging in mid-air nearly a quarter of a mile up.

Vicky and Kerry were up to 426 meters, or 1,397 feet.  They were hovering forty-four feet higher than the observation deck of Willis Tower, sitting on saddles attached to pieces of carbon fiber technology, floating on nothing more than magic and willpower.  So their view of the school was something like this view of Chicago:

"It's a great view, but I wish these two witches would stop photobombing me."

“It’s a great view, but I wish these two witches would stop photobombing me.”

The fun part is over.

Now to get back to the real world.