I’ll tell you, coming down to my local coffee shop on Sundays and writing for three hours straight has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve finished the current scene after writing seventeen hundred and sixty-eight words, I’ve pushed the chapter over five thousand words, and the novel is now a few hundred words short of two hundred and twenty-nine thousand words. I’m also sitting by a great window seat and dressed about as comfortably as ever.
Yes, that’s what I’m wearing today. I’ve swapped out the Uggs for my leather Clark’s boots, but the leggings and Old Navy sweater dress are a reality, and I’m totally not sorry for being out like this. It’s quite comfy, and it’s warm enough to be out like this, so it’s really great to get out and enjoy myself. So I can work. Yeah, why not?
A whole lot has happened out on this start/finish line, and I’m gonna give it to you all, because that’s the way I am. And it more or less proves that I’ve been working, yeah? Sure does. So what did Kerry see after seeing Emma off? Well . . .
All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)
He joined the group and hovered his helmet and gloves to his left. “Hey, guys: what’s up?”
Manco nodded in Kerry’s direction. “I just wanted to say a few things.” He looked down for a second before speaking. “First off, I need to have this said. Beginning of the season, when you came up—” He nodded towards Kerry again. “—Darius and I were pretty shitty to all you guys—”
“Pretty shitty?” Penny crossed her arms while a slight smile played upon her face. “I’d say it was more than pretty, considering you acted the same way towards Alex and me the season before.”
Manco considered Penny’s comment. “You’re right, we were—I was. The way we treated you last season sucked and was totally uncalled for.” He paused to see if someone else would comment, and proceeded when no one spoke up. “You all proved me wrong; you showed everyone—not just me, but all the other teams—who the best racers were in Cernunnos, and you did it where everyone could see: out on the track. I know it’s probably not going to mean a lot, but I want to apologize.” He looked at Penny and Alex. “You should have never been held back last season. It was wrong, and the team got screwed because it happened.”
Neither girl spoke for a few seconds, then Alex put their thoughts to words. “Thank you for telling us this, Manco, but you know, you’re team captain, and this is something you should have said in the ready room in front of Darius and Professor Semplen. It’s good that you’re saying this, but you should say it to everyone.”
Penny nodded. “This should be said in front of the whole team. You’re team captain, man; you gotta stop letting Darius get away with all this lame shite because you’re worried he’s gonna piss and moan.”
Manco chuckled as he looked down. “Yeah, well, you don’t have to share a room with him.”
Kerry figured it was time to speak up. “Yeah, but you’re just enabling him to act like a butt muffin to the rest of us. Anymore, all he does is race pissed off and he doesn’t do the team any good.” He looked around. “You notice he isn’t here.”
And the phrase of the day is “Butt muffin.” Manco is trying to write a wrong here, and he’s actually apologizing to the girls more than to Kerry. Which is fine with him, because he knows Penny and Alex should get apologies from the captain of the team. Penny is right on the mark as well: Manco should say this in front of everyone, not just the only girls on the team when he’s away from a disruptive teammate who we now discover is also his dormmate. He’s getting the message, though, as well as a bit of support–
“I almost didn’t make this, either.” Manco looked away, not wanting to face anyone. “I’m lucky to be here.”
“Yeah, but you can race—” Penny lay a hand on his arm. “You can race; you’ve gotten a couple of podiums this season, and damn near won a few times.”
“You can turn this around.” Alex took a step closer to the boy. “You need to tell Darius to come with the rest of us, or tell the professor that we need to bring up another flier from the B Team.”
Kerry nodded. “Yeah, man; that’s your job.” He chuckled. “That’s why they pay you the big bucks.”
Manco finally laughed which got everyone else to laughing. “Yeah, right. I don’t know what to do with all the cash they’re sending my way.”
They had no sooner stopped laughing when they heard a voice in their comm helmets. “Attention, this is Race Control. The race will begin in ten minutes. All fliers make final preparations. We will light the starting grid in five minutes. Please stand by.”
The four students looked at each other while allowing the silence to fill the moment. Manco finally spoke, as he was team captain and felt it was his duty. “I know you guys are gonna do great. I’m gonna do my best to point: like the professor said, this is the first time in a long time the coven’s had four racers on this course, and all of us pointing would be a hell of a jump in the team standings”
Kerry playfully slapped Manco’s shoulder. “You can do a top-ten with ease, man.” He looked toward Penny and Alex, who were both nodding in agreement. “This is gonna be a good day.”
“You know it.” Penny stuck her right arm out and made a first. “Cernunnos.”
The rest of the team pressed their fists against Penny’s and echoed her sentiments. “Cernunnos.” Manco had the final word before they began their final preparations. “Let’s have a good race.”
The one thing we have not seen from Kerry’s team is a lot of unity, and this is really the first time we’ve seen them come together seem to be not just individual racers, but a real team. I guess this is what comes of first acting like a butt muffin and thinking the girls and the new kid on the team are gonna suck, then continuing to act that way because they’ve proven you wrong as hell. Tweener/Teen Drama: even witches can’t get past this shit.
It looks like that’s changing with fist bumps all around and a general feeling of good will upon the course. Now that Race Control–which is really Vicky as the over-all coordinator–has spoken, it’s time to get the show rolling:
Kerry grabbed his gloves from his helmet and slipped them on before pulling his hard racing helmet on over his soft comm helmet. He flipped up his face plate before touching the right side of his head. “Race Central, this is Starbuck. Comm check. Over.”
Professor Semplen voice came back soft and clear. “Starbuck, this is Race Central. We have you five-by-five. Over.”
“Rodger, Race Central. Read you five-by. Over and out.” Kerry pulled his Espinoza from Hammerspace and waited for his grid position to light up. He was slightly amused by the notion that for a race so long and arduous they still did this even on Class 1 PAVs. The reasoning, he was told, was one of tradition: since the race was run on the old, classic wooden brooms, there wasn’t any reason to make any changes. However, Erywin had told him a few weeks earlier that one of the reasons they’d decided against using Class 2 or 3 PAVs was the fear that someone would kill themselves.
“This is Race Central.” Everyone at the Start/Finish turned attentive as their final order began. “The race will begin in five minutes. We are lighting the grid in one minute. Remember that this is an inverted start, with those lowest in position starting up front and the best positions beginning at the rear. Each individual position will have you name and indicate your position. Once you position is illuminated, place your broom in position and await further instructions. The grid will appear in thirty seconds. Please stand by.”
Kerry stood about where he thought he would start, and a few seconds later, when the grid appeared, he discovered he was off by only a few meters. He set his broom on the red “X” hovering a half meter above the ground beside his name and his starting position for this race. Being sixth in the over-all individual standings meant starting eleventh on the Katahdin course, which actually put him slightly behind the middle of the pack. Being first in the individual standings Nadine was all the way in the back, five positions back and on Kerry’s right, while Rivânia two rows direction behind him on the left side of the course, and Penny in the row ahead of them and directly in front of Nadine.
Alex, fifth in the individual standings, was in the same row as Kerry and to his right and slightly behind him. He watched her shoot a death stare at Emma, who was directly ahead of Alex in the next row and starting in tenth due to being seventh in individual standings. He knew the reason for the animosity: on two occasions Emma had beaten Alex to the finish line through what the later felt was overly aggressive racing, and three weeks earlier Alex lost a race to Emma when, on the last lap, Emma slid into Alex as they negotiated the Green Line’s Diamond Chicane. The bobble was enough to cause Alex to lose momentum and come in second behind Emma’s forth win, and though she’d appealed the aggressive move to Race Control, they ruled that Emma’s move didn’t appear intentional, and refused to penalize the Mórrígan racer.
This didn’t sit well with Alex, and after the podium presentation she exchanged words with Emma, who responded by flipping off the Ukrainian racer. While no spells were thrown, Alex nearly connected with a punch to Emma’s face before Nadine, Penny, and Kerry got between the two girls and stopped the impending fight.
Since that time both teams kept an eye on the two fliers, and before the pre-race briefing, Penny and Kerry pulled Alex aside and reminded her to not worry about Emma. Kerry wasn’t worried about trouble on the course: this was a first-time race for all three of them, and all the new people were fully aware the race difficult enough without bringing personal issues to the track.
We learn a few things here. One, everyone still uses the Class 1 brooms for racing because back in the old days the witches ran this course on the real brooms, those damn uncomfortable wooden things they stuck between their legs. There probably is some truth to the fact that people might have a better chance of getting killed if they did the faster, more responsive brooms, but let’s face it: if they aren’t dying at the school on those suckers, they probably won’t on the Katahdin course, either. It’s all about tradition, kids, don’t let anyone fool you.
And we also learn of the Emma/Alex Issues! First she takes out her wingmate because she’s a little pissed, and now she’s done pissed off his team mate, and done so enough that Alex went in swinging on her ass. The Bolder Ginger needs to watch herself, ’cause the last thing she wants is a crazy Ukrainian gunning for her–
–but you can imagine if three people jumped in to break the sucker up, it was serious. Also, you have to wonder about the look on Emma’s face as a fist went sailing past her nose while the air was filled with Ukrainian curses. It was probably a bit humorous for everyone watching. Makes you wonder, too, how Emma would react to a piss-off sorceress throwing death spells at her . . .
All that remains to getting ready:
“This is Race Control. All fliers mount your brooms and remain in hover. The race will begin in two minutes. Please stand by.” Kerry slipped his leg over his broom and used transformation magic to slip his genitals into his body before getting comfortable in the saddle. He looked back at Alex and gave her a thumbs up, which she returned. He faced forward and mentally prepared himself for the difficult hour and fifteen minutes ahead—
“This is Race Control. One minute to race start. Light are on the course.” A row of steadily glowing red lights appeared several meters ahead of Anna, who was starting on the pole due to making the race the week before. “Spyeyes in place and active. Activating elevation gates.” Down the length of the course ahead the hovering gates the races needed to pass appeared. “All flier, attend to final preparations.”
Kerry slapped down his face plate and leaned over his broom, waiting for the signal to begin. For just a second he imagined Annie sitting at their table in the Dining Hall, watching the race playing upon holographic screens. They’d done the same thing last year; this year she and Jairo, maybe Alex’s boyfriend Kahoku as well, were watching him prepare to take on the mountain—
“This is Race Control. Fifteen seconds to start. Set the light.” The red lights started flashing. “Ten seconds.” The row of lights went to black, then a single red light appeared on the left as a beeping tone sounded in everyone’s comm. As the beeping continued the lights began activating from left to right, turning to yellow as it continued to the right. “Five seconds, and . . .” The last light on the right illuminated, all turned to a flashing yellow for a few seconds before every overhead light turned a bright, steady green. “GO.”
With that we are totally off and running, and you know what’s coming–
Yeah, I’d say that’s a good bet.