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The Final Solo: Head East

In what was one of my better writing days yesterday, I finished off the scene I started Sunday morning with another thousand word run that early evening, and then sat down to do about nineteen hundred words of snarking backup work for recaping the season finale of The Walking Dead, which Rachel will get out later today and to which I’ll add my thoughts after that.

But there was writing.  A lot of writing, though trying to imagine all the stuff happening in the my novel isn’t an easy thing as I’m pulling all the stuff out of thin air and getting it down on the page for you.  In finishing this, however, I realize that I’m now more than mid-way through Chapter Thirty and closer to the end of Annie’s solo flight than I am to the beginning.

I'm certain there's some kind of synergy here, but the coffee hasn't kicked in so I'm blankin' my butt off.

I’m certain there’s some kind of synergy here, but the coffee hasn’t kicked in so I’m blankin’ my butt off.

I left my kids hovering off a bunch of rocks off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine staring out into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and now Annie is gonna want to find out what Kerry meant by his last statement . . .

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015, 2016 by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie squinted out towards the east and widening ocean. On a clear day, at their altitude, Annie figured they could see close to fifty kilometers, but in this weather she estimated she could see perhaps a third of that distance. “Why do you believe that?”

He sat back in the saddle and crossed his ankles. “When it comes to your flights, everything with Vicky and Isis has been push, push, push. They said the night solo was supposed to be your third solo, but—” Kerry shook his head. “It always felt like BS to me. Vicky always tried to make it sound like that flight wasn’t that hard—”

“It was more difficult that it appeared, I know.” Annie rolled part-way on to her side, a floating position she found comfortably when resting. “The few times we flew at night during Basic Flight taught me that seeing things at night are not as easy as seeing them during the day. It’s easy to get lost in the dark.”

“And it’s easier to get turned around when you’re overflying a city and everything looks the same at night.”

“I don’t believe there was ever going to be a ‘second’ solo flight—” Kerry rocked a little back and forth. “The night solo was always going to be the second flight ‘cause Vicky wanted to give you something that wouldn’t be easy, and that was the best way to make the situation difficult.”

Almost as if she were waiting for the right moment to speak, Vicky cut into the conversation. “Salem Final Solo, this is Flight Deck. Ready for your next objective? Over.”

Annie flipped around so she was upright once more. “I’m ready, Flight Deck. Over.”

 

We return to a feeling that Kerry has had a couple of times, and that is everything is a test, but in their case, those tests are usually a hell of a lot harder.  Annie and his walking tour of London was a test; sending them to Kansas City was a test; and now, the second solo flight was never one that was “moved up”, it was always meant to be that way.  Add to this all the stuff with them being asked into advanced class, being able to tutor each other in a couple of magical disciplines, Emma’s and Kerry’s finally flight back from Canada during the first overnight, and the puppeteer work over at The Manor, and it does seem as if these kids are being given a hell of a lot more to do that the other little witches.

But that’s something to be told later.  Right now Vicky’s on the air and talking:

 

“All right, then.” The air went silent for a moment; when Vicky returned she once more sounded as if she were reading information verbatim. “You are to remain on IFR from now until you return to the school. Your next objective will require you to be in position within a specific time period. I will give you the heading, your altitude, the distance to the object, and the time needed to reach your objective, requiring you to calculate your speed. As your Band’s in-flight calculator was disabled for his test, you need to do this calculation manually.

“Here are the specifics: you will set off on a heading of eighty—that’s zero-eight-zero—degrees and maintain an altitude of three hundred fifty meters for the duration. Distance to objective is ninety-five kilometers; your time-on-target is twenty minutes. Your objective is an orange marker hovering at an attitude of two hundred meters above sea level. It has an active tracking system your Band will detect when you are within three kilometers of the marker. Are there any questions? Over.”

Annie exchanged glances with Kerry, whose expression indicated he had at least one question. “Flight Deck, this is Starbuck actual. Is this marker outside the school’s one hundred kilometer local detection range? Over.”

They both could imagine Vicky nodding as she answered. “That’s correct, Starbuck. You’ll be outside our local detection range. We’ll still be able to communicate via the radios—we just won’t know where you are once you’ve reached this marker. Over.”

“Roger. Please stand by.” The look of concern was still in his eyes as he spoke with Annie. “They’re not going to know where we are once we’re out that.”

She tried to alleviate his concern with a smile. “I know. And I imagine most of this part of the test is outside that range.”

“That’s my guess, too.” He chuckled as he shrugged. “Not like it’s gonna make a difference.”

“No.” Her smile brightened. “Going to have to go there if I want to complete the test.” Annie turned back to the comm. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Solo Flight. Questions asked and understood. How much time do I have to calculate my speed? Over.”

“You have five minutes, Athena, starting now. Over.”

 

They are headed out to sea, just as they thought, and they’re even gonna end up flying off the school’s radar, so to speak, as they near their first objective.  What does this leg look like?

In case you're wondering, this is their route.

In case you’re wondering, this is Annie’s route.

There you go.  Between Isles of Shoals and this marker in the middle of the ocean, there’s a whole lot of open and empty water to cross.  And just so you have another reference, down in the left hand corner, where you see the word “Rockport,” the school is sitting on the “R”.

They are a long way from home and going out even further.  Not only that–

 

“Roger. Please stand by.” She turned to Kerry. “She’s giving me way too much time to figure this out.”

He laughed. “Oh?”

“Vicky probably wants me to rest a little more because this calculation is easy.” Annie straightened her body as she gripped her hands before her. “Twenty minutes is a third of an hour. Distance is ninety-five kilometers, so twice that is one ninety, and adding ninety-five to that is two hundred and eighty-five kilometers an hour.” She curled her legs slightly while relaxing. “Going three hundred kilometers an hour will get us there with time to spare.”

“And if we haven’t found the marker in twenty minutes—”

“Then I did something wrong and went off course.” Annie placed her right hand next to her head. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. I’m ready to proceed to the next objective. Over.”

Annie was certain she heard Isis said something over a muted comm because Vicky laughed for a couple of seconds before responding. “Okay, then, Athena. You have one minute to get underway.

Notify when you are so we can start the clock. Over.”

“Roger. Over.” She slipped her balaclava back into place over her lower face and glanced at Kerry. “Up for some high speed flying?”

Kerry recovered his face as well. “Totally.”

“Then we shouldn’t waste time.” Annie checked her hood and gloves. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. We’re preparing to depart in fifteen seconds. Over.”

“Roger, Salem Final Solo. Counting down now. See you in twenty. Over and out.”

Annie leaned slightly forward, preparing to depart. “You ready?”

Kerry nodded from under his hood. “Yep. Let’s do this.”

Annie nodded back. “Let’s.” After the fifteen seconds passed on her clock she waved her right arm forward and sped off on her proper heading as fast as she could will herself. In less than twenty seconds she reached three hundred kilometers an hour and settled in behind the windscreen her Band set up.

Kerry pulled into position close behind and to Annie’s right. Now that they were at speed he could only be heard over the comms. “How’s ‘bout some music?”

She rolled slightly on to her side for just a moment so she could see Kerry better. “I’d love music.” She slid back into position after only a second, seeing she lost neither her heading or altitude. One of Kerry’s songs began playing, something that began with a long, droning synthesizer and the singer lamenting that the city streets were empty—

Given where they were headed, the streets to her destination were certainly empty.

 

Not only are they heading sixty miles/ninety-five kilometers out to sea, but they’re doing it at three hundred kilometers an hour/one hundred and eighty-six miles an hour, which is sorta like race car speeds, right?  Annie has cranked it up before, but nothing this fast.  But she’s in a test, and when you test you get tested.  And this is how she’s getting tested, by heading out into the unknown at high speed.

And what song is Kerry playing as they leave?  Why, Electric Light Orchestra’s Turned to Stone, which begins with a lyric about how the city streets are empty.  Just like the ocean, am I right?

They’re on their way.

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