Yanking the Strings

Well, now, things have become rather interesting.  I mean, I really took my time writing this last night, and thought that I wasn’t really getting anywhere, that this was going to be a short segment to the scene . . .

And eleven hundred words later I had not only finished the scene, but surprised myself.

This scene got huge fast:  just a word short of thirty-two hundred words, or about half the size of the last chapter.  And it could have been longer, much longer, because of something that gets stated in the scene, but that’s gonna get left for another chapter.

But that’s the future–what about the now?  Well, how’s this for starting 2013 out right?

 

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

Ramona waved the reflective air away. “As I said I didn’t cook these up as much as I might have others, therefore there isn’t a reason for genitalia and other physical accessories. The only reason Annie has a semblance of breasts and hips is so we can tell one of you from the other.”

“Meeks seens.” Since Annie didn’t understand much about the process of creating homunculi she didn’t want to get into a long discussion with Ramona on too many details, but thee was one thing that left her puzzled. “Wuh doan wu huv huir?”  (Makes sense.  Why don’t we have hair?)

Helena motioned with her hands. “Annie, come here.”

Annie shambled towards the sorceress. “Ur wu gunna du sumthin?” (Are we going to do something?)

“Yes, we are.” Helena gently took the girl by the shoulders and slowly half-turned her until she was looking more at Ramona than Kerry. “Though this is going to be a bit difficult—”

She nodded. “I undurstun.” Annie managed a weak smile. “Wuh du yu wunt meh ta du?” (I understand.  What do you want me to do?)

Ramona answered the question. “At the moment, nothing.” She turned towards Kerry. “I’m sorry.”

As much of a puzzled look as Kerry could possibly manage appeared upon his face. “Hue cun?”  (How come?)

 

Yeah, how come, Teach?  How come you’re sorry, Ramona?  Well . . .

 

“Because—” A jian, the straight double-edged sword from China that the professor preferred over a katana, appeared in her right hand. Using her Speed Gift she accelerated herself and brought the sword around so fast that it was almost impossible to follow. The sword caught Kerry’s homunculus just above the left ear and sliced the top of his skull off with little difficulty.

Annie sensed Helena moving around behind her as she watched the destroyed homunculus collapse. Her instincts kicked in and her limited training took over as she started to throw up a defense screen while turning to face the Head Sorceress. While they would have been simple matters in her normal body, her puppet didn’t allow her to perform the same way. Only a quarter of a way into the turn her legs buckled and pitched her toward the the floor, and her shield never appeared because she was unable to perform magic.

She watched as Helena stood over her, the sorceress’ face calm and emotionless. She flicked a finger downward and Annie felt pressure quickly building in the sides of her head only moments before there was a sharp taste of blood as it gushed into her mouth—

Annie’s eyes popped open as she shook and spasmed within her harness. The rig room was filled with moaning—most of it came from her right, but she recognized her own guttural cries joining his. Her body felt as if someone had smacked her across the chest and back hard, while her head throbbed with dull pulses of pain. It was a few seconds before she realized she was on the verge of hyperventilating, and she let herself go limp as she struggled to keep from passing out.

The door flew open and Helena and Ramona hurried into the room, each heading towards the person they’d worked with on the main floor. While Annie said nothing as Helena approached, Kerry screeched out a question in a high-pitched, emotional tone. “Why did you do that?” He struggled in his rig, shaking and breathing hard. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Despite her pain Annie chuckled as Kerry swore at the instructors. She glanced up at Helena as she gasped out her words. “You made him mad.”

“I don’t blame him.” Helena lightly touched the side of Annie’s head as both rigs pitched up slightly so the children could see the instructors without being lowered to the floor and removed from the contraptions. “You feeling okay?”

 

Ramona is Chinese, and she loves her jian, which if you’ve watched any good Chinese martial arts movie, you’ll know what they look like–

In Kerry's case, he got to see one up close and personal.

In Kerry’s case, he got to see one up close and personal.

Ramona’s Speed Gift means that for a short period of time she can move about five times faster than a Normal human–and given that at regular speeds she’s lightning fast, that means even the regular Kerry probably wouldn’t have stood a chance.  He’s learned a bit in a year and a half, but he’s no match for Ms. Hidden Dragon of Witches.

Annie knew what she was doing, and if she were back in her own body she might have stood a chance–instead she got her head blown off for her troubles.  A long time ago in a post far, far away, Helena spoke of how she used to practice a certain Morte spell on chickens, and because she wasn’t that good, she’d literally blow their heads right off their bodies.  Well, guess what, Annie?  You got to be a chicken–

 

“I’m fine, just—” Annie closed her eyes whiles she breathed deeply three times. “Just shaky.”

“Good.” She looked to her left. “How you feeling, oh significant other?”

Kerry let out a long, harsh sigh. “I don’t feel like I’m passing out, if that means anything.”

“It means you’re going to live to fight another day.” Helena stepped back towards the center of the room, with Ramona close by. “Standard practice for first-time puppeteers is to have them experience a snap-back, and the easiest way to do that is destroy their homunculus.” She nodded towards the woman on her left. “Ramona did what she does best, as did I?”

The martial arts instructor nodded. “Now you know the real reason why I didn’t cook up those puppets as much as normal.”

Annie was more interested in what Helena did to her rather than concentrate on her original statement. “What did you use on me?”

“Blood Hammer.”

“I thought so.” Annie closed her eyes and shuddered. “It goes fast.”

“Rushing all the blood into someone’s head does the job quickly.”

Kerry, however, remained fixed on the reply to his first question. “What’s a snap-back?”

“It’s what happens when you lose your connection to your puppet and your consciousness is tossed back into your own head.” Helena gripped one hand in the other and began to rock from side to side. “A small snap happens when you’re controlling your reentry into your head and you’re dumped back into your mind for one reason or another. They hurt, but it’s more like an annoyance than anything else. What you experienced was a big snap, when everything goes to hell and you get dropped back into your body feeling like someone dropped you off one of the coven towers.” She shrugged. “Like with a lot of stuff we do, if I told you this was coming you’d have been waiting for it to happen, and it’s better if you experience—”

“Like we would in the field?” Annie finally released her last sigh. “Yes?”

“Absolutely.” She chuckled. “Always better you learn it like this than elsewhere, yeah?”

The mood returned to normal, though Kerry semi-stared off towards the far wall. He finally spoke after a little more than five seconds of silence in a soft and dreamy voice. “Is that what dying’s like?”

Helena exchanged glances with Ramona as the two were about to discuss something. The sorceress turned slowly towards the boy. “No, it isn’t.” She looked down and away from both children as she completed her answer. “It’s a lot easier.”

Before either student could speak she looked up, smiling. “Okay, enough of that bullshit. Ramona and I are gonna get the next two puppets ready, and I promise these will be far more functional.” She looked about the room. “Let’s have some fun now, shall we?”

 

There you are:  teach the kids that suddenly losing the connection to your puppet hurts like hell–and dying is easy.  And now that you’ve seen what it’s like to almost die, let’s have fun!  That Helena:  she knows how to party.

Then again, if you’re training kids at the ages of, well, really, eleven and twelve the year before, to be Guardians, you ain’t gonna lie and try to gloss over stuff.  After all, Annie and Kerry have already seen that shit gets real on the streets, and Deconstructors don’t care about your age:  if you stand against them, you’re something to be eliminated and that’s that.

Chapter Twenty-One is half-way done:

Which could be a tag line for a movie if you think about it.

Which could be a tag line for a movie if you think about it.

And the next scene is Helena-heavy again.  Time for Death, you say?

You just wait.