First off, happy Winter Solstice to you all. This is the shortest day of the year, and as I told some friends, it’s all uphill from here until June. So while I would suggest going out and dancing naked around a tree, if you are of a mind, go out and do something to enjoy the day. Me . . . I’ll probably stay home and write.
And speaking of writing, I finished up a scene I started last night. I wanted to get that done before writing this post, and when I was done I checked my word count to see what I’d done this early, chilly morning, and discovered . . .
So there: finishing scenes and doing research–did I mention the research?
Yeah, that was last night, and one of the reasons I was a little choppy in my writing last night, because–well, you’ll see in a moment.
The actually moves over to the Crown Center mall now, but in order to get there, Annie has to do something she’s never done before . . .
All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)
Annie was glad to be out of the cold, but in doing so she’d stepped into a world that was far different from what she’d experienced before.
For one, she’d ridden a bus for the first time . . .
Their instructions had been to wait for school to get out, then follow Tanith to the Crown Center mall. Her normal routine was take the public buses to the Center, spend a few hours eating and working on homework if necessary, then taking the bus home. Since Tanith would ride the bus, they would have to ride the bus just so they could keep an eye on her.
Annie had never ridden in a bus in her life. She’d taken the subway in a few cities in here lifetime—she’d loved riding those in Paris and Hong Kong—but busses were something completely foreign to her. She had a pass and had been given instruction about how it was used. Still, it was a new Normal thing, and when it came to trying something new that everyone around was comfortable using . . .
There were no problems, however: Kerry went first, which allowed her to watch him closely. He entered and used his pass as if he’d done this forever, and Annie did exactly as Kerry. They took seats tow rows behind Tanith—Kerry let her sit by the window, which she enjoyed—and they were off to the Center.
They were fortunate that the bus route they were on, the 123, went directly from the school to the Crown Center. They didn’t say much during the trip, just kept their eyes on Tanith and tried to appear as if they fit in with the other riders.
Annie’s never ridden a bus. She’s been on subways, and has probably taken cabs and hired cars–read that as limos–now and then, but this is her first time doing the public transportation thing. It’s not a big deal for Kerry–he’s probably ridden a bus or two–but whole new thing for our Girl From Pamporovo.
And the bus thing is what held me up last night. See, everyone thinks I’ve got all my research down pat, but not always. I’d intended for them to take the bus from Tanith’s school to the mall because that’s what she does, but what bus? So I had to run out to the website that handles the Kansas City bus schedules, and hunt down the one they’d take from the school and that Tanith would take home. And what I discovered is Route #123:
But in finding this route, I discovered that it doesn’t run on the weekends, which sort of threw a curve at my story, because something coming up real soon involves Tanith taking the bus to the mall on the weekends, and if the one that runs by her house doesn’t do the Saturday thing, well, then, I had to find a route–or routes–that did.
I know what some of you are saying: “Just make it up, Cassie!” And I could, save I’m dealing with the real world here, and sure as the sun comes up tomorrow–unless it goes supernova tonight, which it can’t, so I’m certain it’ll be up tomorrow–someone would read my made up stuff and go, “That’s not right; in Kansas City–” Yeah, yeah, I know: that route doesn’t exist. I’ll probably get a few like that anyway, but who cares? I’m in the ball park, and that counts more to me.
So they’re at the mall and things are getting set up . . .
Tanith made their operation easy by headed for the Z-teca Restaurant, which offered quick Mexican food, mostly burritos, but tacos and salads were also available. The nicest feature for the place was the majority of the seating was outside the store in the mall concourse. Neither of them wanted too eat much as they were going to dinner after Tanish was back home, so Kerry ordered a couple of tacos for himself, and a salad for Annie, while Annie found a seat where they could watch the concourse and their target.
The phone Annie carried was enchanted so that she could eavesdrop on a person from any distance as long as they were in light of sight. Helena had told them they didn’t expect Tanith to have much to say, but she might receive a call. Annie could also pick up any text message the girl received or sent, as the enchantment could protect on to Annie’s phone whatever Tanith saw on hers.
Kerry’s tablet would allow him to work on Tanith’s aura; he needed nearly twenty seconds with the individual in the tablet camera foci to get an interactive view of their aura. They couldn’t do it while they were invisible, and there were only a few times at school where they could have had a clear view of here as it was. This would be their first chance to get her in the clear, while they were visible, today.
Equipment is at the ready, the kids are all set to go. What happens next?
He returned to their table about a minute after Tanith sat at her table and began picking at her quesadilla. “Here ya go, Sis.” He set the salad in front of Annie, giving a wink only she could see.
“Blagodarya vi, moya lyubov.” She figured no one in the mall would know she was saying “Thank you, my love” since she didn’t expect anyone else to understand Bulgarian. She slipped in an earbud as Kerry took his seat across from her so they could mentally speak in private. Did she check her phone when she was ordering?
He almost shook his head out of habit. No. She ordered her food and headed out here. I was right behind her the whole time. He nodded towards the girl sitting a few tables away. She’s checking it now.
Great. Annie held up her phone as if she were trying to get a signal and turned towards Tanith. She was half-turned towards her when Annie launched the enchantment and received a shiver in her right arm as way of letting her know it had taken. Done. Now we can catch her conversations.
Let’s just hope she says something interesting. He reached into his backpack—which he’d brought with him from Salem—and removed the tablet that had been on standby since they’d boarded the bus. No time like now to give her an aura check.
So the spying begins. All pretty simple at this point, but do they find anything?
Kerry lifted the tablet and pointed it at Annie. “Here, let me get your good side.” He positioned himself so that Tanith was behind Annie and he had a clear line of sight on her. He activated the enchantment and then pretended to so something else on the display. “Just a minute; the app is being difficult.”
“Okay.” Annie knew there wasn’t anything wrong with the app, and that Kerry was simply stalling so he could give the enchantment time to work.
A few seconds later he set the tablet on the table and removed the kickstand from his backpack. I should have done this . . . He attached it to the back of the tablet and kept it turned towards Tanith. He waved Annie over. “Here you go; take a look.”
Annie scooted around the table so she was on Kerry’s left. She scanned the display. “Looks good.” She offered another opinion to him silently. You’re going to scan her constantly?
I don’t see why not; this way we can get the best reading yet. He pointed at the display. Is that reading right, you think?
I think it’s reading perfectly. Tanith’s area, seen in real time, was a yellow wavering back and forth before Normal dullness and Awareness bright. She’s on the cusp; she’s becoming Aware.
There you have it: All in All, Just Another Witch in the Mall–sorry, I had to do that. Now that they’re watching her, time to get the other player in on the show . . .
Yeah, that’s what it looks like. Kerry tapped his right earbud twice to bring in the other two witches on watch. Yo, Mom.
Erwin’s thought came across loud and clear. Is that a proper way to address your loving mother, young man?
Sorry, I thought you were my real mom for a second. He flashed a smile at Annie then continued. We have a positive aura here.
Annie chimed in. I’m looking at the display, too . . . Moma Phoebe. She grinned knowing how much Erywin hated her code name. Tanith is definitely on the cusp.
You gotta love the banter between everyone, and wonder if Erywin’s gonna get called “Phoebe” now and then back at the school. Probably not, ’cause that would blow whatever cover they have going back at Salem and make other students wonder why they’re referring to the Magical Formula instructor by the name of a spacey blond from the show Friends.
Now they know this is happening, and everyone wants to talk . . .
Helena joined the conversation. How are you observing her?
I’ve got the tablet on a kickstand. Kerry touched the tablet and turned it slightly as another girl about Tanith’s age sat at her table. I’m doing a constant scan.
Annie removed her phone from her jacket. I’m monitoring her conversations, too. We should start getting something because someone just sat with her.
Girl about her age. She just sat and . . . Annie caught Kerry’s sharp intake of breath and turned to him. What is it?
He nodded at the display. Look.
Annie did and swallowed hard when she saw what he’d seen. Mom?
Helena’s tone of concern carried through her thoughts. What?
We have something here we weren’t expecting . . .
What? Not expecting what? Lizard people? A transdimensional portal? A thirty percent off sale at Forever 21?
You guys can make your own guesses . . . and I’m certain you will.