Chapter Thirty-Six is finished, almost reaching the same word count as the chapter before. Which means the next chapter will likely be a little longer, and I’ll probably ride Chapter Thirty-Seven out until just past Christmas–and that means this current section, Part Twelve, will probably finish up right around the first of the year. After this part’s out of the way, there are only five chapters remaining until the end.
It’s almost there: it’s almost the end.
Only we gotta get out of Kansas City first . . .
So . . . the question was asked: who is this new girl? I asked it, and you can bet other people in the story asked it as well. Don’t believe me? Take a look–
All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)
“How is it that the Guardians missed this?”
Helena was asking herself the same thing. It didn’t worry her, but she was slightly bothered that what they’d discovered hadn’t appeared in any of the documentation she’d examined while preparing for this operation. “I have no idea, Erywin.” They were back in th instructor’s suite at the hotel after a quiet, hurried dinner, and Helena wasn’t concerned that they were going to be overheard using their own names. “You read the same reports I read. There was nothing there about this.”
Erywin hadn’t stopped pacing the suite since they’d returned. “Another Aware girl—speaking with Tanith. How long have the Guardians been monitoring her?”
“Months.” Helena turned to Kerry. “You’re certain that ID is correct.”
Kerry, who was sitting on the sofa with Annie, had the tablet next to him with the information still pulled up. “Ruth McRoberts. She’s in the school system and in the same grade as Tanith.” He sat back and tried to look confounded. “It’s legit.”
“I checked it as well, Helena.” Annie sat close to Kerry and nodded at him. “The software Isis gave us worked perfectly. I also looked up her address and found her home address and mobile number. It checks out with the number I pulled off Tanith’s phone when the picture they took together was sent to her.”
“But are we sure that’s not just a cover?” Erywin didn’t care for the feelings that sprang up inside her the moment they discovered that Tanith was being visited by another girl who was now only Aware, but whom appeared, based upon the brightness of her aura, had been that way for some time. “I mean, that has happened before.”
Erywin is alluding to something that’s about to break in a big way in this discussion, but Helena–trying not to be the paranoid sorceress and Guardian in the room–isn’t ready to go there. She’s her own compelling counter-arguments.
“Honey . . .” Helena wasn’t ready to go where Erywin was already residing. “It is entirely possible the team that was here watching Tanith never encountered this—”
Kerry spoke up. “Ruth.”
“Yeah, her. That has happened before as well.” She pointed out the window to her left of where she sat. “There’s no coverage out there; The Foundation has no presence in this city. For all we know there are more than a few people out there who are ready to become Aware, or who may already be there.” Helena slapped the chair arms and sighed. “We only know about Tanith because she’s been observed.”
“Which goes back to my concerns about this Ruth.” Erywin finally sat on the edge of the bed and slipped off her shoes. “They’ve had Tanith under observation for a while, so why wouldn’t they have picked up any signs from her?”
“Maybe because they didn’t see them together.” Helena stood up, stripped off her jacket, and tossed it on the chair behind her. “Maybe they didn’t watch Tanith as often as they wanted us to believe. Or maybe the observation team consisted of arseholes who didn’t like coming to the middle of the US and did their job half-assed.” She turned to Erywin. “That’s been known to happen, too.”
Yeah, it’s always possible that the Guardians aren’t always the best of the best of the best, and they did a pretty crappy job keeping a twelve year old girl under observation. However, that doesn’t address the two hundred kilo witch in the room . . .
“That’s bullshit, my darling.” Erywin was having none of these explanations. Having lived with Helena for thirty years, she knew her moods, she knew her body language, and she knew when she was trying to hide concerns from others—in this case, Erywin suspected she was trying to avoid bringing up a certain subject in front of the children. “You’re thinking the same thing that everyone else in this room is thinking about this girl.”
Helena turned on her partner with intensity. “And what is everyone else in this world thinking about this girl?”
“You know what I’m thinking—”
“Yes, I’ve figured that out.”
“Well—” She waved out an arm at the sofa where Annie and Kerry sat. “Why don’t you ask what’s on their mind?”
She almost told the children to go back to their room so she could discuss this matter with Erywin, but they were the most important part of the team, and they had a right to voice their opinions. She turned to the one closest to her. “Kerry, what are you thinking about this girl?”
He kept his eyes locked on Helena and didn’t once turn to Annie. “I wonder if she’s a Deconstructor.”
“Do you, now?” She knew he’d discuss this matter with Annie, so she wasn’t surprised by his answer. After all, of the two, Kerry had come the closest to having direct contact with them, and was probably leery of most contact.
He nodded. “Yes.”
She turned to Annie. “And you, Annie?”
Annie didn’t hesitate with her answer. “I agree with Kerry: I think she may be a Deconstructor.” She cast a sideways glance to the woman on her left. “And I agree with Erywin: I don’t see how the Guardians missed this girl.”
Helena sighed loud and long. “I agree. I’m wondering the same thing on both counts.”
There it is, out in the open: the bad guys may be in town. Perhaps they came for the ribs and stayed for the magical girl, or they just are here because they are. Either way, things have possibly become a little dicey, and Erywin–who has found herself in this position a few times–what’s to know the story, morning glory.
Erywin crossed her legs. “So are you pulling your plug on this operation?”
There was a long pause while Helena turned and stared out the window. Based upon how she thought this conversation would go, she’d made up her mind considering the field op before they’d finished dinner. “No.” She turned to face Erywin. “I’m not.”
Erywin was off the bed in an instance. “And why the hell not?”
“Because everyone in the room thinking this Ruth girl may be a Deconstructor is not the same as her being one. And while I could shut this operation down this very second, doing so would leave Tanith in the lurch—”
“Not if you called in the Guardians and told them to take her under their wing.” Erywin wasn’t bothering keeping her feelings concealed. “You need to bring in a team that—”
“That knows what?” Helena waved her arm about the room. “This mission? The objective? We’re that fucking team, remember?” She calmed herself before she could explain more. “We know this girl, we know the local, and we now know there’s someone here who could be upsetting this equation. If this girl is a Deconstructor, she may know Tanith is on the cusp, and she should be preparing to force her into Awareness.”
Erywin calmed herself as well; it wasn’t good to be fighting in front of Annie and Kerry. “That would likely drive here insane.”
“It’s a possibility.” She turned to Annie. “You mentioned that Tanith and this girl talked about getting together for lunch tomorrow?”
“Yes.” Annie sat on the edge of the sofa and leaned forward. “They chatting about a lot of things, but they made plans to get together for lunch about thir—” She rolled her eyes. “About one in the afternoon.”
Helena nodded. “You said you have this Ruth’s number?”
“I want you to use that number and send a message to Tanith telling her you can get to the mall earlier and you’ll meet for lunch around eleven.”
Annie had been shown how to do that, so she understood the how, but . . . “Why?”
“Because we’ve moving up the time table.” Helena turned to Erywin. “I want you and the kids to be at the mall first thing tomorrow. When Tanith comes in—” She swung around and faced Annie and Kerry. “I want you to do what you were planing to do later in the afternoon: make contact, convince her you want to show her something, then take here across the street to Washington Square Park and give her a demonstration.”
Like it or not, Helena is right: they are the team for the job. They’ve trained for a month, they know the area and the target, and if they bail there’s nothing that says the bad guys don’t swoop in and take this girl ahead of time and mess here up. It’s not a good position to be in, and Helena will likely tell the people monitoring them of this twist, and that they may need to get out in a hurry.
In the meantime, however . . .
Helena knew, however, that this brought out another matter—and now that it was hanging in the air between Erywin and her, it needed addressing. “Honey, you brought a weapon, right?”
Erywin nodded. “As you instructed.”
“All right.” She glanced over to the sofa and slowly turned towards the children. Time to know our unknowns. “Kerry . . .” He turned his attention to the sorceress. “What can you do, sorcery-wise?” She glanced over at Annie, then back to him. “And I know Annie’s been showing you things, so don’t bullshit us. We need to know everything.”
He looked away from Helena’s glaze for just a second before returning it without hesitation. “The stuff we’ve picked up in class—”
“No: I need to know what you can do if your life—or Erywin’s life, or Annie’s life—depended upon your knowledge.”
“Right.” He glanced towards the window for a second, the came back to Helena. “Annie showed me how to do Shadow Ribbons. She also showed me how to put up a magical screen, and how to use dark energy with regular spells, and I’ve practiced doing that with our shields and with Air Hammer. And . . .” He slowly turned towards Annie.
She nodded towards Helena. “She wants to know: tell her.”
He stared off across the room, not looking at anyone. “Annie showed me how to do Electrify, both major and minor variants.” He looked up at Helena. “I don’t know how good it is, because I haven’t actually tried it on someone.”
“Understood.” Helena turned to Annie. “You know all the same, plus Exsanguination?”
Annie nodded. “And Cold Fire. I can do that, too.”
There you have it: all the little things that Annie has been showing Kerry on the side. See, this is what happens when you have a soul mate who can pretty much kill you with a look: she starts showing you the same things she knows. Just imagine if they do get married and they get into a fight . . .
That leaves on last thing that Helena needs to say. And it’s not, “We’re having waffles for breakfast tomorrow”:
“Yeah, that might come in handy.” She stepped back to take in the room. Helena had hoped she wouldn’t have too make this speech, but given the unknown situation facing them, she felt it was necessary. “I’m saying this now because I don’t want to waste the time saying it tomorrow. What hasn’t been mentioned—but I’m certain Erywin has already considered—if that if Ruth is a Deconstructor, she’s not alone: she’s probably working with one, maybe two other people. Now they wouldn’t have seen us yesterday, because we masked our auras, but tomorrow, when you start showing her what you can do, it’s possible if they’re watching her they’ll see you. And then they’ll know for certain we’re on to them.
“The three of you, when you are on the op tomorrow, if things go sideways and you find yourself knee-deep in the shite, you have full authorization to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself and your team. And I mean anything—so if you find yourself facing down one of these bastards, don’t hold back: kill them.” She took a slow, deep breath. “Because they sure as hell aren’t going to hesitate to kill you . . .”
“So, kids, this is where your education in black magic has taken you: be ready to off someone if becomes necessary, because if you don’t . . .” You can imagine the kids might not have the easiest time sleeping tonight, wondering if they’re gonna have to fight for their lives and dust a few Deconstructors in the process. And they won’t get any help from friendly spirits, or magic mirrors, or an army backing them up–
This is gonna be all on them if it it should turn bad.
No one ever said being a witch and a sorceress was gonna be easy.