Paths of Pain and Glory

Hey, now, I’m coming to you from Indiana, back in the old Red State Homestead, and working on my post in the confines of my comfortable library.

This was moments after I started playing Steve Winwood's "Valery" last night before working on the novel.  The party had started--

This was moments after I started playing Steve Winwood’s “Valerie” last night before working on the novel. The party had started–

The drive home wasn’t that bad, at least until I hit Indiana, and then it was like one hundred and twenty miles of near heavy traffic the whole way, with idiot drivers and truckers who don’t mind blocking both lanes and slowing traffic the hell up.  If I’d had my War Wagon, I’d have left bodies in my wake.

Simpler times in eastern Ohio, before I know of the hell that awaited.

Simpler times in eastern Ohio, before I knew of the hell that awaited.

Believe it or not, I wrote last night.  I finished the current scene, and came near the totals I’ve done the last few nights.  It’s taken me four days to do this scene, but my numbers show my slow yet steady progress:

Words 07/07/2015: 435
Words 07/08/2015: 652
Words 07/09/2015: 670
Words 07/10/2015: 615

Of course, as soon as I saved this mess off, I crashed hard for the night.  I consider myself lucky to have finished the scene.

What is happening now that Penny wanted to speak with Kerry?  Well . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry glanced to Annie; she gave him a quick nod. He headed up the stairs with Annie beside him, feeling a tremendous amount of trepidation. I think I know what this is about— It didn’t take long to reach the top of the stairs where Penny was waiting. “What’s up?”

“Come on.” She turned and headed off, with Annie and Kerry behind her. She reached the hospital entrance and pushed open the door, holding it for her guest. “He’s here.”

Professor Semplen was standing in the waiting room when Annie and Kerry entered. “How are you, Kerry?”

“I’m—okay.” Seeing the professor only increased his hunch about the summoning.

Annie stepped inside and let the door swing shut behind her. “Hello, Professor.”

“Hello, Annie.” Holoč gave both students a faint smile before he turned to Kerry. “We need to speak.”

“That’s what Penny said.”

“Yes . . .” The professor turned to the girl on his left. “You want to tell them?”

“Sure, Professor.” She exhaled hard, looking tired. “The boys went out early for practice—”

Kerry looked slightly puzzled. “The boys?”

“Manco, Darius, and Hasan from the A Team. They were out running the Green and Blue Lines, trying to get in some practice time before breakfast. They were on the Blue Line and . . .” Penny shrugged. “About twenty minutes ago Hasan lost it going through Helter Skelter and crashed and burned.”

Annie didn’t seem surprised by this news. “Was he hurt bad?”

Holoč answered her question. “Broke his right leg; we were just back there speaking to him.” He touched the frames of his glasses as if he was unsure if he wanted to adjust them. “Coraline’s marked him as ineligible to race today.” He paused once more, this time setting is glasses back further on his nose. “I’m moving you up to the A Team today, Kerry. I need you to fill out Hasan’s slot.”

 

It should come as no surprised that this was the lead up to moving to the A Team.  But first, before we get to that–

I talk about Helter Skelter a lot.  As you are aware I’ve named spots on my various race courses just as, on real courses, drivers have names for various spots.  Helter Skelter is one of the most technical, and difficult, turns on the Blue Line, and made even trickier due to the changes in elevation.

See, that’s one of the things that come into play when you’re dealing in three dimensions.  The Green Line stays close to the ground, but the Blue Line starts getting people into the air, and up their the only thing to limit your speed is the need to hit certain elevation gates–otherwise, how do you know where the course is actually located?

Helter Skelter comes off of Skyway, which is sort of the West End of the Blue Line:  a long, slightly curving area where one can pour on the speed–and since Skyway is fifty meters, or one hundred and sixty-five feet, above the ground, that means you can get a lot of speed.

The fliers approach the first part of the turn on a slight left-hand turn, then begin to descend just a little before they switch back to the right.  And I do mean switch back:  the turn is about a one hundred and sixty degree turn–while descending.  The fliers keep losing altitude until they are right over the trees, and then make another switch back turn to the left while dropping into a space in the trees.  And just as soon as they’re close to the ground, they make a ninety degree turn to the right and shoot up out of the trees.

So when you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide, then you turn and you go for a ride . . . ergo, Helter Skelter.  Here’s what it looks like with the course highlighted for better viewing:

From up here, not so bad.

From up here, not so bad.

From here, however--

From here, however, not so easy.

And what students standing on the roof of the History Building see.

And what students standing on the roof of the History Building see.

Since Annie’s dad drives in Formula 1, he’d likely call this a chicane and refer to it as a “passing opportunity.”  The students are likely to refer to it as “terrifying”, and they know there’s little room for error in this section.  Yes, there are safety enchantments in place to keep students from crashing head-on into trees, but it’s still possible for a racer to screw up and hurt themselves bad.

And the Class 2 PAVs are a lot faster and far more nimble than the Class 1 brooms, which means an enterprising pilot can try and tempt fate by negotiating this portion of the course with higher speeds and snap turns.  Sometimes this results in gain positions; sometimes it results in broken bones.

Let’s move on–

Kerry’s worried:  not about moving up, but about pissing someone off–

 

This was what he’d half expected to hear, and the news came with some reservations. “Are you sure Madhushri or Victoria wouldn’t be better suited?” He wasn’t trying to talk himself out of the spot; he simply wanted to know for sure that moving up wasn’t going to cause trouble with others in the coven, particularly with his two B Team members who were also of higher levels.

“No, not at all.” Holoč shook his head. “Madhushri only agreed to be on the B Team to fill out the roster, and Victoria’s not nearly as good as you: in two races she’s only pointed once, and that was for sixth. In the same two races you’ve had one podium and missed another by a second . . .” He looked down for a moment, then raised his head nodding. “No, Kerry: I haven’t made any mistakes.”

 

When you have that kind of record it’s easy to see why you moved up.  Even if it is only two races.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.  There is a wrinkle, however:

 

Penny cleared her throat. “There is one thing . . .”

Kerry half-turned so he didn’t release Annie’s hands. “What?”

“You’re going to have to run your B Team races as well.”

Holoč nodded. “If you don’t run them, we’ll have to forfeit. You know the rules.”

“Yeah: you have to start with three racers.” He’d gone over the racing rules whenever possible, and it was necessary to begin a race with all your team members, or suffer a Coven Team penalty of fifteen seconds for every missing flier. While the A Team could usually make up that in the Coven Standings, the B Team, with only three members, couldn’t. And with this being the Samhain event, with each team doing three races, no one wants to suffer that sort of hit on their standings.

Annie was concerned with one thing. “Two races in the morning and three in the afternoon: that’s a lot to ask of Kerry.”

“I know it is, and I’m sorry, but I don’t want the B Team to lose position in the standings.” Holoč laid a hand on Kerry’s shoulder. “Here’s what we’ll do: the moment you’re finished with your last race, come to the team ready room in the Diamond. You remember where it’s located?”

“Yeah, I remember.” Each A Team had their own ready room so they could prep for races, and the B Team members were invited there the first day of team orientation. It reminded him a great deal of the ready room in the Flight School, save there were fewer chairs, and come of them were able to recline so pilots could relax between races, or lay still if they were waiting for medical attention. “We’re over by Exit Two.”

“That’s right. Come there and you can lay down on one of the recliners and take a nap. If you need help with that, I can ask Coraline to get something to you. When the team meets for lunch in the Dining Hall, you can either join us, or I’ll have lunch sent down.” Holoč turned to Annie, who was now looking less apprehensive. “It’s not usually allowed, but if Kerry decides to eat in the ready room, you can join him.”

“If he decides to do that—” Annie latched onto Kerry’s arm. “—I’d love to join him. Thank you, Professor.”

 

Holoč is gonna wear that boy out if he’s not careful, and he’s trying to minimize that effect–hence the “Come in and get a nap” thing before the afternoon festivities.  It’s a real calculated risk on the professor’s part, and he knows it–but he also knows that Kerry’s young, he’ll have plenty of energy reserves, and there’ll likely be a huge adrenaline outpouring once the green lights flash and the race is underway.  Which can be a plus or minus . . .

Only thing left to do is get breakfast, but after leaving the hospital Annie has something else in mind:

 

“I told you.” Upon reaching the ground floor she pulled him under the first floor overhang and eased him back into the shadowy landing leading to the lower levels. “I don’t want you to be nervous; you’re doing to do great.” Annie kissed him slowly, letting him fall into the comfort of her embrace. “Tonight, when we arrive at the dance, you’ll be the proudest boy there.”

“Why’s that?” He fell back against the wall happy and content. Though the news brought about a nervousness he’d knew would one day come, it vanished in the aftermath of his soul mate’s kiss. “Because of the races?”

“That and . . .” Annie giggled as she rested her head against his shoulder. “You’ll be with me, my love.”

“Oh, well—” He kissed her forehead and held her tight. “That always makes me proud.”

 

That Annie:  she’s so modest.  And Kerry knows it, too.  And loves her for it.  Then again, she’s his tasty little cabbage roll, so why wouldn’t he be proud to have her call him her soul mate?

The setup is complete.  All that remains is a little orientation before getting to the point of ladies and gentlemen starting their, um, engines?

For sure something will be revved up.