How Super Was My Lab: Let’s All Look

And here you thought you were gonna get an author’s interview…

I spoke with the author last night and she decided that since she can’t actually start her Facebook giveaway until Friday, she wanted me to run the interview that morning.  Being the understanding person I am I said okay, so you’ll see that interview in a couple of days on 3 March.

In the meantime I arrived at work in my latest dress–

Gotta greet the new month in new hotness.

Gotta greet the new month in new hotness.

And I’m ready to take you into the superlab–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Annie had seen pictures of the super lab of being inside was another matter. She hadn’t realized it, but given the height of the ceiling she figured they were actually in the sub level and that the entire of the lab cut through into the lower level above. It wasn’t necessary to guess why the additional space was needed: pipes and HAVC conduits covered most of the ceiling.

She recognized at least a half-dozen chemical reactors, two condensers, two cookers, and in the far corner of the room three distillation columns. Her now trained eye saw that the system was set up for batch processing, there she spotted a couple of control panels which told her that it was possible the lab could be switched over for continuous processing if necessary. There were safety stations every ten meters and next to every station was an emergency vent button that could be used to clear the room of noxious and toxic fumes in seconds.

There were two powered exoskeletons stationed between the supply entrance and the personnel airlock which she guessed were used for moving around chemical containers inside the lab. To her right, about eight meters away, was a safety cage where the two hundred liter barrels of chemicals were stored, and off to her left was an open door that she assumed led to a locker room and a rest area.

 

There’s a lot of big words there and even bigger amounts of equipment:

Sort of like this without the witches.

Sort of like this without the witches.

But trust me, it’s put together in a way that’s gonna allow these kids to make a whole lot of mixtures that are designed to do good things for a body.  You might say they’re magical…

 

 

Annie was standing in an area which was unknown even to her parents. As they had once mentioned, they both took three years of Formulistic Magic before electing to move on to other studies in their D Levels. Her father specialized in classes revolving around magic as applied to mechanical technology in the Tesla Center, and her mother’s pharmaceutical research was performed at another location, as the school didn’t have a proper superlab when they were here nearly twenty years ago. One day when they came to visit she would make certain her parents saw this laboratory, for while it wasn’t in her nature to boast, she felt a certain pride in being the first Kirilovi to enter this room.

Erywin positioned herself in front of a large chemical reactor and clapped her hands. “Here we are: the Tesla Center chemical superlab. We will hold class here once a month and everyone in this class will be required to perform at least three assignments during this school year. As we have done over in the Chemistry Center you will work in pairs— though, as in the case with our F Levels, they will work together as the trio for now. When you are working on assignments in here they will be done at times when we would normally be holding lectures in the Chemistry Center—” Erywin turned slightly to her right and something caught her eye. “Kerry, what are you doing?”

Annie’s soul mate and climbed atop a rolling safety ladder and appeared to be looking over the contents of an open chemical reactor. He turned slowly back toward the rest of the class with a huge grin on his face as he shouted out his reply. “Yo, Gatorade me, bitch.”

 

Annie is fairly proud that by entering the lab she’s actually doing something that her parents didn’t do when they were students–though I’m gonna say the odds are good neither of her parents killed a couple of Deconstructors when they were students, so she’s got that on them, too.

But, you know, leave it to Kerry to just have to let his inner Heisenberg out and come up with a completely different idea of why they’re there.  And where does he get the idea to yell out the need for an electrolyte replenishing refreshment?  From here:

Yes, Kerry just has to go all Jessie Pinkman the first chance he gets.  Fortunately for him Erywin knows the source material and has a sense of humor:

 

Though Erywin rolled her eyes Annie noticed that she covered her mouth for a few seconds, probably to hide the smile on her face from the rest of the class. “Kerry.” She motioned at the boy. “Come down from there, please.” He stepped down from the safety letter an approach both Erywin and Annie, who were now standing close together. She lay a hand on Kerry’s shoulder. “If possible, can we have less of you pretending that this is something more than a chemical superlab? After all, if Isis suspects someone was here trying to cook meth, she’s going to become exceptionally upset.”

He shook his head slowly. “I won’t do that again.” He cast a quick glance to his left and gave Annie a wink.

As soon as the couple stepped back Erywin continued addressing the class. “As I was saying before being interrupted, this year you are required to perform three assignments. The objective of these assignments is to create a successful mixture in bulk. Most of what you’ll create will be of pharmaceutical grade purity, so it is not only important that you may be required to create three hundred liters of a particular mixture, but it will be necessary to ensure that the entire batch is equal to or greater than a specified purity.” She held up her right finger to emphasize the point. “If a small portion of the test sample falls several percentage points below purity, that means your entire mixture has fallen below a specific purity level and you will be required to either take a hit to your proficiencies for that assignment, or start over.

“The whole idea behind working in the superlab is to gain an understanding of what is required in these exceptionally large batch processes. Many of you will not go on to a future that involves Formulistic Magic, but it is necessary for you to gain an understanding of the protocols and procedures required for this sort of work were you to advance into the various chemical engineering fields.” She smiled as she looked around the room. “And for those of you will be moving up a level next year, you get to do it all again.”

Erywin let everyone down to the north end of the lab; it was not only the entrance to a personal break area, but along the wall were several work cubicles. “Each of you have an assigned workspace where you can keep track of your progress as well as use a computer terminal to look up information related to your assigned. You will use these cubicles as a team and they will remain yours throughout this level year.” She clapped her hands. “Find your cubical; the sooner you do, the sooner we can get to making magic.”

 

This is not an easy class and these are not going to be easy assignments.  Here a simply screw up could see a few hundred liters of mixture getting poured down the drain while your proficiencies take a massive hit–yeah, the superlab is no joke.  Not only does your magic gotta be on fleek, but being just a few steps off in your protocols will jack you hard.  But I’m certain Annie and Kerry will do okay–

But we are not finished with the lab.  Oh, not quiet yet–

How Super Was My Lab: All the Setup

Here we are once more and it’s superlab time.  As suspected, I didn’t in get much writing last night.  In fact, I didn’t get in any.  I suspect tonight’s going to be much the same way, though I can’t guarantee that.  I may get back to the house in time to get in than hour or so.  We’ll see.  It’s not like I’m working under some sort of deadline to get the stuff published.

Speaking of publish, tomorrow I’m actually going to run the interview that I did with an author friend last night.  I spent about seventy-five minutes interviewing her via PM over Facebook and all I need to do now is bookend the interview and set up some links and photos.  Then everybody can have a good time seeing how I do when it comes to interviewing one of our own kind.  And for anybody else would like an interview, just let me know: I’m ready with the gab time.

So now that we’ve got everything laid out to get to the lab, why don’t we actually get to the lab?  Hey, Cassidy, good idea!  Let’s do that:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

The lobby of the Tesla Center but like the entryway to a large business: all that was missing was a security guard. The building itself was in the shape of a huge ‘T’, with the bottom of the stem facing northward towards the Instructors Residence. The lobby formed a semi-sphere nearly ten meters across. A single hallway ran down the center of the stem of the building where it met up cross hallway covering the top of the T. The hallway continued onward a few meters more to the back entrance which then led to The Hangar, were students worked on large-scale projects.

Erywin entered the building followed closely by Itsaso Ocampo, a Mórrígan student from Mexico. Seeing her made Annie once more realize that not only were Kerry and she the youngest students in class, but of the five other students three were F Levels ready to graduate at the end of this school year, and the other two were E Levels. By this time next year the class would be down to just four students unless Erywin began bringing in new people.

She looked around the lobby at her students and smiled. “Based on the eagerness I see on everyone’s face, I’m assuming you’re ready to get started.” She started walking or the hallway and motion for everyone to follow. “This way.”

They they stopped in the middle of the four-way intersection at the top of the T. Erywin pointed to two doors set into the west wall of the north-south hallway. “That door—” She indicated the door at the northwest corner of the intersection, one with a Class 10,000/ISO 7 placard set in the middle. “That’s the door for personnel entrances only. These double doors over here—” She indicated a set of doors said midway between the intersection and the south entrance of the building. “Lead to the service lift. Were going to take the lift today, but in the future unless you are taking supplies with you, use the main entrance.” She waved open the doors and stepped into the alcove leading to the service lift. Once everyone was comfortably inside with her she shut the door, raised the safety door and gate, and motion for everyone to join her on the left.

 

Believe it or not, that “Class 10,000/ISO 7” designation took about forty-five minutes of research to make certain I was getting it right.  You can go ahead and look that up on your own by doing a Google search on the information inside quotes on the previous sentence, or you can trust me.  If I were you I’d trust me.

What that designation means is that there are some clean room requirements in place for the Tesla superlab.  And that means there are certain type garments that have to be worn.  Not always, but when the processing begins the kids probably want to make certain that they’re not contaminating their batches. Otherwise, it’s twelve hours of work right down the shitter.  And nobody wants that.

And speaking of clean rooms, why don’t we find out about that?

 

The descent lower level only took about ten seconds and when they finally came to a stop Erywin once more raise the safety gate and door and motion for everyone to follow her. They found themselves in a large windowless gallery with the spiral staircase from the personal entrance set against the far north wall. Along the west wall to the left were several lockers which they knew contained clean suits and respirators. Along the east wall to the right were two sets of windowless doors: one large enough for people in the other a tracked door that raised into the wall above them. To the left of each door were lights, both of which were green.

“All right now, pay attention.” Erywin stepped to the center of the gallery and made certain that everyone paid attention to her. “As we’ve learned in other classes when these lights are green clean room conditions are not currently in effect. That means we can walk into the room now without having to wear safety gear. It also means both these doors can open without issues.

“When that light is red clean room conditions are in effect. It could also mean that there are contaminants present: in either instance, you will be required to put on safety garments before you can proceed into the superlab. On the other side of the personnel entrance is an airlock, and you will have to cycle through that airlock to enter the lab. Only two people can enter the airlock at a time, so keep that in mind. The supply door in front of the lift locks down when clean room conditions are in effect: you cannot enter through that door at all.

“Safety garments are also available inside the lab. That’s because during the time when you are preparing large mixtures it may become necessary for you to protect yourself from fumes and spillage. It’s the same reasoning we have for wearing lab coats, goggles, and gloves working in the normal lab: some of the things we deal with are dangerous enough on their own before you add a magical component. You all know this, so I shouldn’t have to worry about any of you violating protocol when working here.”

She pointed at the track door in a second later they began rising and locked into the open position after about ten seconds. Erwin strode past her students. “This is it, kids. Let’s go inside.”

 

Clean room conditions are important when you’re mixing up stuff, as I pointed out above.  It’s too bad that in the novel it’s the year 2013, because in two more years in real life some idiot over in England will talk about how lady scientist are a pain in the butt because they tend to cry, fall in love with their male colleagues, and are generally just too damn distractingly sexy when they’re in the lab.  This, of course, led to female scientists on Twitter doing an epic burn on this fool posting pictures of themselves working in the field all while being #DistractinglySexy:

I mean, when Annie dresses like this Kerry won't be able to keep his mind on the cook.

I mean, when Annie dresses like this Kerry won’t be able to keep his mind on the cook.

The kids at Salem won’t have to worry about this: they are there to get an education and would not find any of their partners, female or male, all that sexy while wearing clean room safety gear.  And if Annie and Kerry do manage a kiss now and then while waiting for their mixtures to complete, it’s not because they’re turned on by the side of themselves in full-body yellow suits and respirators. It’s because they’ve already found each other distractingly sexy–

Don't worry:  Erywin's already put up warnings at the lab.

Don’t worry: Erywin’s already put up warnings at the lab to cover all possibilities.

Don’t worry: we’re just about the see the inside of the lab and get on with this class.  Tomorrow will be a bit of a detour, what you want for 1 March?  I gotta come in like a lion, you know.

The Final Solo: Not One of Those

Finally–finally–I managed to break five hundred words in a sitting.  Given that I had finished churning out a recap that took longer than I imagined–honey, they all take longer than I imagine–and I was feeling the Brain Dead Blue creeping up on me something fierce, I got into the point because there was something that needed addressing.

Kerry admitted that he was a touch rattled on the flight out to Marker One, and it was because he didn’t like zipping along at high speed a couple of hundred meters above the sea.  This is the same kid who, a year and a half earlier, traveled on the same kind of broom at nearly the same speed, and did it a few meters above the ground with trees all around him, while also negotiating a couple of curves and another flier.  He wasn’t thinking about what he did then, and ever weekend he goes out and doesn’t think about doing the same thing, or that he’s crashed into the ground at speeds that, were he a Normal kid doing the same, he’d likely die.

Why is he a bit rattled?  Simple:

 

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

“It’s—” The rain and cold, misting air make Kerry’s blush all the more brighter. “It’s not that I’m traveling so close to the water at high speed, because, like you said, I’ve went that fact a couple of hundred meters over land. It’s that the land is so far below the surface. We go in the water and you don’t just lay there waiting for pickup—” He gulped. “You sink.”

“I understand perfectly.” Annie removed her right glove and let it hang by it’s attachment cord as she caressed his face. “Being a mountain girl, I’m not all that comfortable being on the water, either.” She looked down as she blushed. “I’ve never been on a boat. And other than the few excursions we’ve made over water while at school, this is the first time I’ve been out to sea.” Annie began chuckling “You do understand that flying at high speed a few hundred meters over the ocean is a psychological ploy, right?”

He nodded. “I kinda got that feeling. Everything they’re putting you through is designed to rattle you in some way.”

“The flying doesn’t bother me, but—” Annie quickly slipped on her glove. “The rain makes it feel colder.”

“It’s not just the rain.” Kerry clenched his arms tight around his torso. “The water temperature is like minus two Celsius, and it’s acting like a heat sink—at least that’s true here in the Gulf of Maine.” He pointed towards the mist in the east. “The Gulf Stream is way out there, so we don’t get all that warm southern water here.  It feels colder out here than it would over land because everything below us is colder.”

 

Kerry’s problem is pretty straight forward:  he has a small fear of drowning.  Crashing into the sea at high speed he could handle–it’s the sinking to the bottom that kinda freaks him out.  And here we learn something new as well:  Annie’s never been on a boat.  Planes, yes.  Brooms, for sure.  Flying free on her own:  she’s doing it now.  A boat?  Nope, not even once.  Which means at some point I gotta get these kids on a boat.  Cue The Lonely Island–

And Kerry is once again right:  the Gulf of Maine is cold, and that’s due to the influence of the Labrador Current bringing cold water down from Greenland and Northern Canada.  It sets up a barrier that prevents warming from the Gulf Stream, so the Gulf of Maine tends to remain cold though the majority of the year.

And with cold water comes all this sort of nasty looking stuff.

And with cold water comes all this sort of nasty looking stuff.

Yeah, that picture is a pretty good approximation of what they’re seen, though it’s just a bit nastier than that.  And they’re floating above it like it’s no big deal.  As Annie pointed out, keeping the kids out here is probably a psychological ploy of Vicky’s, and both kids know this.  So best to concentrate on each other and ignore the water below.

However, Annie does bring up something else:

 

Annie checked the collar of her parka, making certain it was secure. It was only after discussing the temperature of the water that she felt the chill. “This isn’t as bad what you went though back in December.”

“That whole flight—” He shook his head. “Oh, man: The Polar Express isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be like a lot like this, only a little—”

“Worse?”

“Could be. I didn’t say anything, but during the debriefing the next day Vicky told us not to fly back like that again.” Kerry glanced around the featureless ocean. “She said if we tried a five hundred kph run back in temps like we hit coming back from Nova Scotia for more than a couple of hours we’d probably end up dead, and she didn’t want to go searching about Canada for our bodies.” He watched the waves slip by to the southeast, driven by the wind. “I don’t want to be one of those people.”

There was only one thing Annie could add to her soul mate’s statement. “I do not want you to be one of those people, either.”

Vicky’s voice broke thought their thoughts. “Salem Final Solo, this is Flight Deck. How you holding up? Over.”

Annie didn’t move away from Kerry as she gave the reply with a warm smile. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. We are holding up just fine. Over.”

 

During the kid’s C Levels The Polar Express is going to become something of a deal.  Kerry will fly it, and Annie will deal with Kerry being out there in the arctic wilds of Canada almost alone for three days.  This is the first time he’s admitted it’s not going to be easy, and he’s saying aloud that he doesn’t want to do anything stupid that could get him killed.  Though it hasn’t happened in some time, students have died during The Polar Express–but then, we’ve already seen students die in the process of defending the school.  Shit does happen, even to my witches.  And they both know how dangerous said shit can get.

Kerry is not the only one who knows next school year can bring at least one nasty event.  Annie knows it, too, and she’s ready for some down time.  She does want to find an environment more conducive to, well, relaxing.

"This year he gets water, next year he gets snow. *sigh* When do we get Paris?"

“This year he gets water, next year he gets snow. *sigh* When do we get Paris?”

You’ll get it soon enough, young lady.

First you gotta get through the flight.

Getting Science All Up In Here

I don’t get out my these days–that’s sort of clear to a lot of people.  And one of the things I don’t get out to do is see movies.  Most of that is due to having sort of a high standard when it comes to seeing a movie, and that’s to be entertained without having too much of my intelligence insulted.  That’s why I’d only seen Mad Max:  Fury Road this year of 2015 and nothing else.  I’m just a cranky bitch when it comes to film.

Yesterday, however, not long after posted on my blog, I headed out to see The Martian, the movie based upon Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name.  One reason I wanted to see the movie was because it was science fiction, and from everything I’d read of the novel, pretty accurate science fiction, with the emphases on science.  I will say now that I have not read the novel, but I’m probably going to pick it up and give it a read just to see the differences between the printed and visual versions.

The interesting thing about the novel is how it came about.  Weir wanted the novel as scientifically accurate as possible, and did a lot of research on the surface of Mars, on botany, astrophysics, space craft design, and orbital mechanics, going so far as to write is own program so he could track the orbits of the ships in his novel.

Which is something only a few crazy people do for, say, a game.

Which is something only a few crazy people–like the one who wrote this a few years ago–kinda sorta do for games.   Crazy.

Weir had been writing since his twenties, and The Martian was his first novel.  He shopped it around, and when none of the publishing houses showed interested, he started publishing the book for free on his website, going thought chapter by chapter.

That's insane.  What sort of nut does that?

That’s insane. What sort of nut does that?

After a while people asked him to put out a Kindle version of the story, and he did, and he sold the book for $.99, the lowest price one can offer for a work on Amazon.  After he sold thirty-five thousand copies in one month, Crown Publishing Group approached him and asked if he’d like a sweet deal for his book.  The deal made him another one hundred thousand dollars and got him a movie, so it sounds like he got what he was looking for.

If you’re asking, “What’s this about?”, it’s about a guy who, through no fault of anyone, gets stranded on Mars and has to find a way to stay alive until he’ rescued.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that says the same thing through Apature.

If nothing else, fall back on a meme that makes you wonder if Aperture Science runs the space program.

That’s the story in a nutshell, and without going into a lot of detail, it’s what the movies shows.  What I loved was the attention to detail and how everything was so . . . sciencry.  As I indicated I haven’t read the book, but there were things in the movie that because of my knowledge of Mars and space stuff in general, I got right away.  (There was a scene in the movie where the main character was looking at a map, and the minute he realizes something and was hit with a light bulb moment, so was I.  Geeks, I know.)

The movie is magnificent in appearance.  The Mars stand-in was Wadi Rum in Jordan, which has stood in for Mars in a couple of movies, and one of the locations used in Laurence of Arabia.  With the help of a little CGI you feel like you could be there on the Red Planet.  All the tech looks workable and has an authentic feel.  And the spaceship Hermes and the Mars HABs . . . Oi.

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

Magnificent spaceship porn, yo!

I can look at the ship above and see stuff that’s supposed to be there on a real spacecraft, and that makes me happy.  There are things I saw happening in the movie that shouldn’t have happened (when you decelerate in space, your engine is supposed to be pointed towards the forward edge of your orbit, thank you), but they were minor and nitpicky.  Even Weir admits that he made the storms on Mars more visually impressive than they would be in real life because, you know, sometimes you have to do that.

The characters are good, though I think NASA in the middle of the 21st Century would be a tad more diverse than shown, and in one major instance, a character was completely whitewashed. The moment I saw the character’s name I thought “Shouldn’t she be Korean?”  This, again, came without reading the novel, and after a little investigation last night I discovered I was correct.  It isn’t impossible to find an actress of the proper ethnicity these days,  so Hollywood, you need to stop that shit right now.

There is one scene in the movie that got a huge laugh out of the audience I was with–and with me as well–and without going into detail:

When you see the scene, you'll get this completely.

When you see the scene, you’ll get this completely.

I came out really happy, not only because I saw what I’d say was a real science fiction movie, but because there was a scene involving engineering that was done while ABBA’s Waterloo played on the soundtrack.  I mean, come on:  that’s something I’d do in my stories, so you know I was smiling like crazy and bouncing in my seat as the scene played out.  And in a moment of disclosure, in a game I was running some twenty years ago, I’d planed to use Waterloo as a song-over during a scene were some people were preparing in invade a planet.

See?  Great minds think alike.  And so do those who know what makes science fun.

Down On the Deck: Response Gambit

Let me get all the happy news out of the way first.  I did, indeed, pass one hundred fifty thousand words last night.  Writing started out slowly because I seemed to have trouble getting focused–part of that may have been due to having the movie Elysium on in the background and not listening to music–but I ended with eight hundred and sixty-eight words total before the end appeared.  But I got there in the fastest sprint to ten thousand that I’ve had in a long time:  only eight days this time.

Eight days and then off to sleep, actually.

Eight days and then off to sleep, actually.

So there we are:  one of the big milestones I expected has arrived, and it’s got me wondering again if I’m going to finish this novel around the two hundred fifty thousand word mark.  Answer right now seem to be “no”, but you never know.  I’m thinking I should add another fifty thousand to that total–maybe?  Could be?  Should be?

So what is going on now?  Take a look:

 

 

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

Alex look as if she were considering pushing for an answer when popped up out of her chair. “Hey, they’re here.”

On the edge of the display were four bright blue dots moving rapidly towards the image of Cape Ann in the middle of the hologram. Annie stepped next to Penny. “Why only four?”

“We’re only seeing those brooms with active tracking—that means Vicky, Erywin, Nadine, and Riv right now.” She leaned forward, scrutinizing the images. “Damn, they’re really moving.”

 

Now, it was already stated in the excerpt yesterday about the active tracking, and Penny’s stating something that obviously wasn’t either known to Annie, or she may have been under the assumption that all brooms were being tracked.

 

Alex reached in and tapped the area above the dots. “Svyate der´mo.” Her eyes widened as she read the numbers. “Speed five-seventy-five kph: altitude thirteen hundred.”

Penny gasped as if she’d been slapped. “Meters?”

Ta.”

“Nearly everyone’s flying Espinozas.” Annie was torn between being impressed and shocked. “Five-seventy-five is over the maximum speed for those.”

“For unmodified ones, yeah—”

Alex stepped around the display. “None of the Espinozas at the school are unmodified. Vicky tricked them out so they’ll hit six hundred easy.”

 

For the less metrically inclined, six hundred kilometers per hour is right at three hundred seventy-five miles an hour, so five seventy-five works out to three hundred fifty-six and a half miles an hour.  Remember when Emma worried that others wouldn’t be able to keep up?  This is why:  right now they’re on those flying mountain bikes traveling along at just over three hundred and fifty miles and hour four thousand, two hundred, and sixty-four feet up.  That’s eight-tenths of a mile if you’re keeping track.  And you can bet Annie is . . .

 

Annie stepped a little to her right so she could see the flight in the display. “They’re up so high.”

“It’s ‘cause it’s been dark a while; whatever team’s in the lead was probably chancing the last bit of light before the sun set.” Penny slipped an bud into her ear activated the enchantment. “Let’s find out who’s bringin’ the flight home.” She lightly tapped her ear three times so the response would broadcast to everyone and spoke in her clear, clipped English tones. “Salem Overnight, this is the Flight Deck. We have you in the bubble: lead team, please sound off. Over.”

While the girl’s voice was clear, the slipstream around flight was clearly discernible over the speakers. “Flight Deck, this is Team Myfanwy on lead, pilot speaking. We’re coming straight in. Over.”

“Roger, Myfanwy, we have you as Overnight lead; transferring call sign to you. Please stand by.” Penny pointed at Alex. “Check their course.”

Annie knew what Alex would find. “Kerry’s navigating; they’ll come in right on course.”

“She’s right.” Alex crafted a line from their point of entry into the bubble to their present position, then drew it forward towards Cape Ann. “They’re gonna hit Rockport head on and then right to the meadow.”

“Where are they coming from?” Annie hadn’t noticed the position of the flight before, but now noticed they were approaching from the ocean.

Alex expanded the display so it took up most of New England and parts of Canada, then backtracked the course. “I’d say Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.” She checked the calculated distance. “Three hundred and eight-four kilometers from there to Rockport.”

“Wait, what?” Penny touched the comm. “Overnight, this is Flight Deck. How long have you maintained your present speed? Over.”

Kerry’s voice rang out clear. “For just over three hundred kilometers. Over.”

Penny and Alex exchanged looks. “Overnight, do you have a reading on your current wind chill?”

There was a long pause before Emma spoke. “Low, Fight Deck. Over.”

“Roger, Overnight.” Penny tapped her comm off before speaking. “Alex, contact the hospital, tell whomever you get we’re probably going to need some warming blankets down here: it looks like we got a Narjinary Gambit going.”

This was an expression Anne had never heard before, but given how grave the other girls appeared, she didn’t think it was good. “What’s a Narjinary Gambit?”

 

First, Penny could probably work flight control duties at Heathrow right now the way she’s handing the incoming flight.  Second, Annie was right on when she said with Kerry one-half of the lead team, because she’s already talked up how he loves that.  Third, they’s been in the air at there current speed for just over a half-hour, if you’ve done the calculations as I have.  Which brings us to four:  The Narjinary Gambit.  And what is that?

 

“Something that happened during the Polar Express back in 2005.” Penny turned towards Annie. “One team—Indu Narjinary and Zhanna Mirokhin—got dropped in the middle of Labrador, Canada. After they determined where they were, they calculated they were sixteen hundred kilometers from the school. So, rather than fly back at a normal speed, they figured if they got their speed up to five hundred kph, they’d be home by late Friday afternoon and they wouldn’t have to camp out.

“So they ate as much of their rations as possible to calorie up, set course for the school, and flew for ninety minutes at five hundred kilometers per hour. They touched down, warmed up for a couple of hours, then struck out again—”

“Only their course was off and they missed the school by about thirty kilometers.” Alex stood up from in front of the display she’d used to contact the hospital. “By the time they figure out their mistake they were past Providence, Rhode Island, and spent another ninety minutes getting back.” She turned to Penny. “Hospitals coming down with warming blankets.”

“Great.” Penny finished the story. “You fly that fast in this weather, you’re hitting wind chills of minus forty to fifty Celsius, and while we got great arctic winter gear, even with magic you’re still gonna get a good case of frostbite and hypothermia after a few hours. That was what happened with Narjinary and Mirokhin: they came down with hypothermia on the first leg, didn’t warm up enough, and started having mental lapses during their second leg.”

“They received special recognition for being the team to complete the Express the fastest from over a thousand kilometers out—” Alex grinned. “—but the way Vicky tells the story, she wasn’t at all happy.”

“Not to mention they spent Friday through Saturday night in the hospital recovering.” Penny nodded towards the display. “They’re probably hitting below minus fifty right now; they’re gonna need warming when they land.”

 

Remember how I’ve spoke about meta-plotting everything out but when something comes to me, I get it in?  Well, this is one of those things. The Narjinary Gambit didn’t exist until two days ago, and it came about because of . . . thinking about future scenes.  See, there are reasons why people do things and reasons why they don’t, and one of the things that came up was, “Well, if I can zip along at five hundred kilometers per hours, and I’m dropped off some fifteen hundred kilometers from the school during The Polar Express, what’s going to keep me from just opening up the broom and getting home as quick as possible?”  And that’s easy to ask now, because back before the 1990s the gear being used in The Polar Express normally wouldn’t allow for a lot of fast zipping because frostbite and hypothermia would put you down fast.

But with the new gear you can withstand colder temps, or so the reasoning goes.  These two girls decided to put that reasoning to the test, and almost flew out over the Atlantic in the process because mistakes.

See?  Mistakes.

This is what a near-fatal mistake looks like.

That’s the route I worked out, and you can see–to the far right is there first camp where they were set down; the next dot to the left of that is where they figured out their course; the dot in the middle is where they stopped half-way; the dot at the far left is where they realized they screwed up; and the final dot is the school.  If they hadn’t realized they were way off course and well beyond the school, they’d have sailed right out over the Atlantic, where they probably would have succumbed to hypothermia and crashed into the ocean.

If you’re interested, -50 C is just about -60 F, and if you don’t think that’s cold, go outside the next time the wind chill is like -10 F/-24 C, get on your thermals and your best coat, mittens, and hat, and just stand in the open for about five minutes.  Once you come back inside where it’s nice and warm, imagine it being another fifty F/twenty-five C colder, and then imagine you’re on a bike a quarter of a mile up above the ground moving along at something like 250 mph/400 kph.

Yeah.  You don’t get to make a lot of mistakes under those conditions.

Needless to say I didn’t finish the scene last night.  Tonight?  Yeah, I think I will.  I’m sure I will.

Or not.

Either way, I’ll be here tomorrow, because it’s thirty days hath September, and the witch month is upon us . . .

Tilting My Horizons

With all the writing I’ve been doing of last–believe it or not, about three thousand words yesterday–I haven’t had a chance to talk about something I’ve started playing with.  But if you have Goggle Earth on your computer–which is something that comes with Maps and requires a newer computer–then you’re in for a treat.  Because now, you can feel like you’re flying over cities, hills, and plains.

I discovered this one day while fooling around with images, and I saw one of the icons in the lower right that, when I hovered over it, said “Tilt the View.”  Being curious I clicked it and saw that, yes, the view did tilt, making the scene look as if I were approaching the area from the air.  I figured I’d return things to the “flat” view and clicked it again . . . and everything flattened out more.  Whereas the first view made it look as if I was pretty much overhead, this new view shows me everything as if I were sitting several hundred feet in the air and seeing everything all the way to the fuzzy horizon.

You know where I started going with this, don’t you?

When I started putting together Emma’s and Kerry’s Scavenger Flight, I started looking at the sights as they may see them.  Now, this kind of viewing isn’t perfect:  the computer is trying to render a stereo-graphic image of a satellite picture, and sometimes the scenes look as if they came right out of The Lawnmower Man.  Other times it looks pretty great, and there are some images that are pretty damn spot on.  But if you’re a writers, and you want to get an idea of what a particular area of the world looks like, and you want to see the area in a way that you can reimage your own way on the printed page, then this is a fun tool to use.

For example, this is what I see when I’m over Cape Ann looking west:

You can't see the school--only I can see it because magical.

You can’t see the school–only I can see it because magical.

Even if there were buildings there, most of what you’d see are trees.  We’re directly over Selena’s Meadow here, and you would see the Areodrome, the west wall, Sunset Tower, maybe a few other things, but that would be here.  That brown section of trees in the middle of the picture?  That’s where Emma and Kerry had to hide out during the Day of the Dead, and where Annie asked Kerry to be her Dark Witch.  Now you know.

Thirty clicks to the east you find the Danvers Apartments, site of the original insane asylum:

Looking just a touch Lovecraftian here--must be the non-Euclidean geometry.

Looking just a touch Lovecraftian here–must be the non-Euclidean geometry.

And way off to the west and southwest, the Connecticut capitol building in Hartford.

Pretty much see at the angle Emma and Kerry would see.

Pretty much see at the angle Emma and Kerry would see, though they would be closer.

You can actually hold down the left mouse button and move the image around a little, but if you hold down the shift and the left mouse button, you and start tilting and rotating the scene to get the best view.  Doing that helps you get things to look as you would like them to look.

South of Hartford we have the Port of New Haven, which Team Myfanwy had to visit–

As it would have looked while they approached from the north on their way to Long Island, just across the sound.

As it would have looked while they approached from the north on their way to Long Island, just across the sound.

And then, finally, their trip into Queens.

Ballpark, World's Fair site, Unisphere . . . and keep an eye out for aircraft landing or taking off.

Ballpark, World’s Fair site, Unisphere . . . and keep an eye out for aircraft landing or taking off.

On their way out of New York they’d head east again, down Long Island, and all the way to Montauk Point and the lighthouse:

Where, if they come in over the south shore, they'll see the cliffs there.

Where, if they come in over the south shore, they’ll see the cliffs there.

Now, that radar dish on the left of the above image:  that’s Camp Hero, a holdover from Cold War better known as the Montauk Air Force Station.  At one time there was a hidden coastal battery here that was kept ready in case the Russians decided to invade New York City, and once they came this way their ships would get blasted.  Or if there were aircraft, that radar would discover them and rat their commie asses out.  The radar is the only one of its kind in the world, and you can actually walk around it, though it’s behind a big fence designed to keep people out.  There are rumors–otherwise known as crazy ass conspiracy theories–that say all sorts of strange stuff happened out here, including mind control, time travel, teleportation, and contact with aliens.  Maybe The Foundation knows something about this . . .

While I was at it I looked up a couple of locations that made it into the last book.  Like a certain pedestrian bridge in Kansas City:

The Deconstructors must be making things look so strange.

The Deconstructors must be making things look so strange.

The Foundation hospital where Annie and Kerry were sent after the Battle of Link Bridge, otherwise known as the Center for Disease Control:

And not a zombie in sight.

And not a zombie in sight.

And, lastly, the take-off point for the Mile High Flight, Mount Katahdin.

That lower "Mt." label is just about in the spot from where they departed.

That lower “Mt.” label is just about in the spot from where they departed.

And, just for laughs, I included this:

Because airports in the middle of the desert are so interesting.

Because airports in the middle of the desert are so interesting.

You may ask, “Cassie, what’s this?” and the answer is, it’s Groom Lake Test Facility, but you know it better as Area 51.  Why would I include this, because it’s not been mentioned.  Could it be because it may get mentioned?

You be the judge of that.

Tricking Out the Trade

I’m much better today.  Yesterday I had to come home early from work and get some sleep because a proto-cold was knocking me up, and I wasn’t handling it well.  I had a stuffy nose and soar throat, and I felt as if my energy reserves were below zero.  After sleep, rest, and medication I seem better today, and I’m doing my best to stay warm.

Even though I did some editing last night–and managed to finish a scene and a Part to Kolor Ijo–I pretty much took it easy.  Which means I’m ready to answer another reader question.  And this one comes from Skye Hegyes, who asks:

 

You use many things I’d love to hear more about, but recently the one that has me the most curious is the research involved to find out where everything is (place-wise) in your stories, what the weather is like certain days, and things like that. Sometimes it drives me nuts. I see all your screen shots and I’m like, “How did she find this out?!?” It would be a cool thing to learn.  I am good at research, but nowhere near as good as you. Tips of the trade would be awesome.

 

I’ve been asked about research in the past, and I’ve even written about some of the things I do to bring a story together.  I think the best thing to do here is see how things were put together for The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced, because the world building started right there.

Originally the Salem Institute for Greater Learning and Education, or Sigle, was originally located on the southwest flanks of Mount Katahdin in south-central Maine.  The idea originally was to place it there to keep it away from prying eyes, but as I thought more about this aspect of my world, the whole “Hiding in Plain Sight” idea became stronger and stronger, and I finally decided it could hang out in a populated area because magic and technology would keep it hidden from the outside world.  Which meant all I had to do was find a place close to Salem where I could put a huge, walled-off school . . .

So it was off to Google Maps to look.  And after some looking around I was able to settle on Cape Ann because the center of the island was a forest and nature preserve–

Or is it?

Or is it?

I’m a bit of a map freak:  I love looking for things on maps, and Google Maps is a great place for me to loose time.  When I saw that blank space, I knew my school could go there.  And in doing my research, I discovered that Gloucester was the original location of Salem, but that the first colony failed and they moved to the location of the current city.  Hummm . . . I wonder if someone had a hand in that failure?

As for finding out a lot of things that I use in my research, I tend to Google and then search the hell out of the links.  Sometimes I’ll go several pages deep into a search and see what turns up, but I rarely stick with one site.  And if you look around you’ll find lots of interesting things . . .

I already knew Kerry’s name when I started the story, but that doesn’t stop me from going to my favorite naming places, Baby Center, and looking up his name.  Not only do I like all the information available, but I love using the Related tab, which shows you names that are like the one you’re considering–in case you decide you suddenly like Cary better.

I am not buying Homer, however.  Witches, yes:  Homer . . .

I am not buying Homer, however. Witches, yes: Homer . . .

I’ll also search by certain names as well, such as Persian and Gaelic, which I have done many times in the past.  Sometimes you just have to go that route.

Speaking of maps, I’ve been asked before about how I make some of the routes I have, and that’s done through Daft Logic’s Advanced Google Maps Distance Calculator.  I found this a long time ago–back in late 2012, to be exact–and I’ve used it to lay out several routes that will show up in The Foundation novels as they come out.

It looks like a couple of routes have been removed from your viewing.  I wonder what they were?

It looks like a couple of routes have been removed from your viewing. I wonder what they were?

This comes in handy if you’re trying to figure out distances through flight as well, since Google Maps will tell you the distance if you’re traveling by road.  But for making some of the things I’ve made–or, as you can see, laying out the flight from the school to Pearl Hill State Park–it can’t be beat.

Now, about the weather . . .  Historical weather can be had at Weather Underground, but there are a few things you need to understand.  The National Weather Service tracks weather at airports, so when I’m looking at the weather at the school, I’m really getting it from the airport at Beverly, MA, about thirty miles to the west.  This means that what I’ll have at the school may not be the same, but as far at the story goes, it’s close enough.  And when you’re traveling over a wide area, you may want to check with several airports along the way.

You can get a nice rundown of the daily conditions–

Hey, look:  it's the last day of school.

Hey, look: it’s the last day of school.

Or you can scroll down and see an hour-by-hour recording of the weather:

It's still the last day of school, but now there's a lot more of it.

It’s still the last day of school, but now there’s a lot more of it.

This is how I come up with those “Kerry looked out the window at the thick overcast” scenes.  I’ve not tried a lot of this with overseas locations, but eventually I will–only because I’m like that.

I’ve also written a little about Seat Guru, which I use to see aircraft layouts, but which you can use to get a good seat on a flight.  But if you absolutely, positively need to see the layout of a Air France 777-200 (772) Three Class V2–

dfdf

You know what to do.

And lastly I give you this, because I never know what anyone out there is working on, but as for me the need once arose to see the sort of effect a large blast would have on an area, and in looking about the Internet I found Nuke Map, which is the place to go if you wanna see what nuking a city, any city, looks like.  I’ve played with this before, and if you consider seeing the aftermath of a devastated area after you lob a twenty megaton bomb into the center of said area “playing”, then you’re just like me.

For example, I picked Indianapolis–the capital of Indiana, a place where politicians are working overtime to allow legal discrimination of people like me–and I decided to see what would happen if I exploded a standard 150 kiloton cruise missile above the capitol building, which used to be right across the street from where I worked.  And . . .

My therapist is well outside the blast area, so it's all good.

My therapist is well outside the blast area, so it’s all good.

As with any research, consult several sources.  When I was looking up information on runes I looked at four different sites, and correlated the information between them to get the results you may have saw the Annie’s and Kerry’s dreams.  Don’t assume that the first site you find will have everything you want:  you may need to consider a lot of information before deciding on what you want to use.

And another thing to remember is that most libraries have Internet access these days.  There’s nothing wrong with taking something you found on the Internet and seeing if there’s a hard copy source of that info you can take home–or visa versa.  If you can, use all the information.  It makes for a better story.  And don’t forget to bookmark anything you find that you like.  If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have found these lovely physics calculators that I’ve used over the years.  You never know when you might need math . . .

There you have it, and I hope the information I’ve given you is helpful.  If nothing else, it tells you about how I go about looking for things–

And some of the stuff I’ve found.