Here I am down to the coffee shop in windy Harrisburg, where last week I was in sandals, jeans, and a sweater, and today–
It’s cold as hell outside, and the wind blowing hard enough that the wind chill isn’t good to a body. This is what’s known as “spring” in this part of the country, and we’re supposed to be chilly the whole week, though probably not as bad as we are today.
This is probably some kind of weird revenge for the misery I’m putting my kids through right now. Strangely enough, Annie’s current solo flight is taking place right about the same time as today, only three years back in time. Which makes me think: I know exactly where they were last month, and . . . nah, I’m not gonna tell you. At least I’ll be able to tell you what the weather was like when I get around to writing their E Level adventures.
But right now they’re on their B Level adventures, and those adventures have taken them out away from the mainland for the first time and put them out over the ocean. Well, it’s put Annie out over the ocean for the first time: Kerry’s been here before, though now quite as close as they are now–
(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)
Contrary to what Vicky stated Annie’s journey to her next objective took ten minutes because she kept her speed to one hundred and thirty kilometers an hour. It was one thing to cross Salem Sound at night when she knew there was a sizable land mass on the other side that would let her know when she was no longer over water, while aiming for a small group of islands a dozen kilometers off-shore was something entirely different.
She maintained her course properly for the duration of the leg, however, and wasn’t all surprised when a cluster of small islands appeared out of the rain and mist while she was still a few kilometers distant. Her Band labeled each island in the group so Annie was able to locate Cedar Island without difficultly.
From four hundred meters up there wasn’t much to see of the Isles of Shoals, which to Annie’s untrained eye appeared as four large rocks surrounded by a number of far smaller ones, and she was hesitant to call the bigger rocks islands as the three largest didn’t appear to be much larger than four hundred meters in any direction, and the objective below Annie’s feet, Cedar Island, was no bigger than a couple of football pitches set side-by-side.
She was surprised to find habitations here. The island to her left—her Band indicated it was named Star Island—was covered with buildings, while the large island to the north, Appledore, possessed a number of buildings as well. The other large island to the north of her, Smuttynose, had two two structures standing, and Cedar, directly below, had four. Annie didn’t see anyone out and about on another of the islands, which she took to mean it was either too early for activity on a Saturday morning, or the structures were currently unoccupied. Either way it meant little to her, as it wasn’t her intention to make contact with anyone on the ground during this test.
First of all, what is this Isles of Shoals place? It’s pretty much like Annie said: a bunch of rocks in the ocean.
The Isles of Shoals is about ten kilometers off shore from New Hampshire, and has been at one time or another a major fishing port, an artist’s colony, the rumored location of pirate’s treasure, and the scene of a semi-famous murder.
These days there’s a no-frills hotel on Star Island, a research station on Appledore Island, and one of two lighthouses in New Hampshire on White Island. Everything’s pretty barren save for some grass on Star Island, so again, like Annie said, rocks in the ocean.
Her view is a little better than the one above:
Cedar Island is actually privately owned, though I can’t find out much more than that. Star Island has been owned and operated since 1915 by the Star Island Corporation. One thing of note about Star Island is that it contains, as of right now, the largest off-grid solar farm in New England, which makes the island nearly self-sufficient in terms of energy. It also has it’s own septic treatment plant capable of handling salt water, and a reverse osmosis water purification system for converting sea water to drinking water. In short, if you got enough food you probably could stay there year long.
Oh, and if you want to know how I know that Annie flew out to the islands at one hundred an thirty kilometers an hour–
Remember, folks: even when you make things up you should check that it’s also right.
And now they’re there, and Kerry is the first to notice something:
Kerry pulled to a stop next to her and yanked down his balaclava. “Welcome to Maine.”
Annie checked the map in her HUD. “We did cross the state border, didn’t we?”
“Yep. Three states in no time.”
“Since we’re here—” Annie twisted around so her back was now to the northwest wind. “—I better call in.” She exposed her face before speaking. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. We are in position over Cedar Island and my chase is documenting our position. Over.”
“We see you, Salem Final Solo.” Vicky’s tone softened a little from the professional demeanor it normally carried. “How are you feeling, Athena? Over.”
Annie wrapped her hands around her torso. “A little cold. It feels as if the wind has picked up speed. Over.”
“More that likely it has since there’s nothing to slow it down. Over.”
“True.” She twisted slightly so she could watch the waves crashing into Star Island. “At least at this altitude we’re not getting hit with ocean spray. Over.”
Kerry snickered. “No, we have the rain to keep us nice and damp.”
“Wouldn’t want you to feel too good, now would we, Starbuck?” Vicky nearly laughed. “We’re gonna give you a few minutes to rest up, kids. See you in a few. Over and out.”
Vicky ain’t about to let these kids get away with a snide remark here and there, is she? But Kerry is right: why worry about the ocean spray when you’ve got a chilly rain to keep you nice and wet, even when you are wearing waterproof parkas? This flight isn’t just about making sure Annie can cross her “t’s” and dot her “i’s”: there’s a few psychological factors going on as well. Something that Annie kinda picks up on–
While Annie softly giggled at the exchange Kerry lifted about ten meters higher than Annie and backed away a bit so he could set her up in his phone. “Look this way and smile.”
She did as asked then waited for Kerry to return so she could see the results. “I look so alone.”
“Well, it is just you and a few rocks and a lot of water.” He looked up from the image. “We may be the only people out here.”
“I’ve already considered that.” Her face turned up in a grin. “Can you levitate the phone out a few meters and keep it still?”
“I think so. Why?”
“Because in all these solo flights we’ve only taken a couple of pictures together, and this—” She waved her arms around. “This is an important milestone. We should have a record.”
“Not to mention no one will likely believe it when we say we were here.” He set the timer and moved the phone so it was floating about three meters up and away. It didn’t take much effort to keep it still in the gusting wind, and a few seconds later the phone was back in his hand with the photographic evidence. “There you go.”
Annie smiled while examining the photo. “Nice that you could get the island in as well.”
“If all anyone saw was sky, they’d just think we shot up a few hundred meters over the school and took this.” He slipped the phone back into his parka and zipped it closed.
“I imagine that’s true.” She tugged slightly on the hood, pulling closer to her face. “Where do you think we’re going next?”
“Well . . .” Kerry sighed before spinning around to face the open water to the east. “Out that way.”
If I were a better person–and I’m not, but that’s beside the point–I’d say the odds that Kerry’s correct are . . . well, pretty good.
It’s just a question of where out that way they may be headed . . .