The Last Laps: Warnings Amid the Possibilities

After a pretty good night of writing the second scene is finished.

But of course it is.

But of course it is.

It’s an interesting one, because it once more shows the kids stepping up and taking charge of situations that are normally handled by adults.  When the school is attacked kids join up with the adults in charge and help defend the place:  it’s not all instructors calling for Foundation aid from outside the walls.  When you got a beef you can meet with another student and, in a controlled environment, whack the shit out of each other.

And when it comes to telling racers your age how you expect them to act on the race course for the final big race, it’s the kids who seem to make the moves.  And sometimes they give the other kids a real ear-full . . .

 

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

The Cernunnos team captain nodded in older girl’s direction. “Thank you, Rivânia.” He faced the rest of the room. “We three began discussing today’s race last night before the Madness. After Blodeuwedd and Ceridwen race we do the last heat of the year. For those who raced last year I don’t need to tell you about the race, but for you new people, our race is one of the toughest of in-school events: The Fifteen and Finished. Green Line to Blue to Red and back to Blue then Green, performed three times each.

“A lot can go wrong out there today without people screwing around, and given how close so many races are today, the urge to settle old grudges is gonna be high. And none of the people in the back of the room—” He did a quick point towards Vicky and the coven leaders. “—or us up here want to see anything other than good racing happen as soon as the courses go green.” He looked past Rivânia to the girl on her left. “Nadine.”

A wicked grin began forming upon the Mórrígan team captain’s face. “Since I’m already considered the mean girl of this bunch, I don’t mind laying a little truth on you. And it’s this: anyone caught screwing around out there trying to hold people up or flat-out wreck them is gonna get their asses parked. Anyone pulls any shit out there today gets ordered off the course. No throttle back penalties, no time added on at the end: you get fucking parked.

 

I wonder if Nadine wears pink on Wednesdays to Wednesday’s?

We’ve seen Nadine throw around the language before, so this is not surprising that a D Level is gonna get coarse with fellow students.  We’ve know kids her age swear:  we know kids Annie’s and Kerry’s age swear, because we’ve heard them.  In my kid’s cases, they usually pop one off in their own or different language, but English has suited them both well at times.  And just wait until next year:  both are gonna find reason to drop an f-bomb or two.

With Nadine, however, you get the feeling that if you weren’t taking her advice, she’d just haul you out of the room and beat your ass just to make a point.  Maybe even right now–

 

“And if anyone sitting here right now suddenly thinks, ‘Oh, well, fuck it, I’ll just take someone out and be done with that shit’—” Nadine shook her head. “We’ve already discussed this with Race Control. The race goes red, we get your replacement from the B Team, and if the person you crashed can’t continue we pulled their replacement and continue with the race. You may screw up someone’s Individual standing, but you are not screwing up the Coven Team standings.

“If you should do something that stupid, you are out of racing at Salem for the rest of the calendar year.  And if you are allowed back into racing after the first of the year, you’ll start back on the B Team for at least the rest of the next season—assuming you’ll keep your shit together long enough to keep from melting the hell down there.”

Nadine pointed at her eyes before pointing to the rest of the assembled crowd. “We’re gonna have eyes on everyone today. You gotta a grudge you wanna settle with someone, then call them out to the Manor tomorrow and toss spells around until one of you goes down. But no one is burning down this race today.” She shook her head. “Uh, huh. That shit ain’t happening.”

Rivânia cleared her throat. “Thank you, Nadine; thank you, Manco.” She regarded the people seated before her. “In case you’re wondering we were thinking along the same lines as Professors Salomon, Arrakis, Semplen, and Sladen, and we went to them with this idea before them came to us. And they agreed that it was better if we tell you this, because hearing it from us means your captains care, and we the standings to reflect the best in Salem racing—and not the fact that people began losing their minds and started acting like a bunch of pendejos.” She turned her gaze to the back of the room. “That’s all we want to say, Vicky.”

 

The point made here is that the instructors were going to give this little speech, but they thought that having the other students hear these words from kids their age would help get the message down faster.

 

“Then you can rejoin your teams.” As the captains took their seats Vicky made her way to the rostrum. “I want to reiterate that we all want clean racing out there today, and there are a few people in this room which whom we’re going to give special scrutiny.” Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t need to mention names, but if you do hear me saying your name at some point during today’s race, it’s because I’m ordering you off the goddamn course.” She shook her head slowly with a grave look upon her face. “Let’s not make that happen, shall we?”

Another fifteen minutes was spent going over the specifics of the race—particularly the issues that might and likely would come from tackling the Red Line on Class One PAVs, the only time during the race season Class Three were not used there—before Vicky released everyone so they could head to their individual ready rooms to change and prepare for today’s even.

 

Next novel, for sure, we’ll see a run on the Red Line, and everyone will get a chance to see the Class 3 “jet ski” PAVs that are normally used.  Here, they end the season the same way it’s started, on the basic Class 1 “brooms,” and this is the only time these are used on the Red Line.

Now there’s time for a little team comradery–

 

Kerry was surrounded by Penny and Alex the moment all three were standing. Penny bounced slightly on the balls of her feet before addressing Kerry. “Nervous?”

He nodded. “Just a little.”

Alex patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’ve done well on the Red Line before—and it’s not like you’ve not had a Class 1 up a klick in the air before.”

Before Kerry could reply Manco leaned in on the group. “Let’s get down our ready room and get changed so we can go over race strategy.” For a moment he looked a bit sheepish before recovering quickly. “You guys are the Top 5, and making sure you finish there will keep the coven in second.”

Penny nodded. “We’ll meet you there.” After Manco walked away, followed by Darius, Penny sighed aloud. “I can’t believe the coven has a shot at second.”

Alex nodded. “I can’t, either.”

“Yeah.” Kerry nodded towards the stairs. “Let’s get to The Diamond.” All three teammates headed for the Hangar and the outside, where they’d mount their brooms and take a quick hop to the racing stadium.

 

–Before I get into some history stuff, which you may or may not have known was coming.  Because I like doing this stuff, and you find out that someone close to Kerry is a bit tied in to racing history at Salem:

 

There wasn’t any reason to go over their coven’s racing history: Kerry knew it well. The last time their coven had seen a Team podium finish was 1993, which was, coincidentally, when Annie’s father raced for the coven. Annie told him that the coven finished third three times when her father was a member of the team, but try as they might they never had a team come together enough to make a good run at second.

Kerry knew that the last time Cernunnos finished second in Team standings was 1986, and they’d not seen a first place finish since 1972. The last time someone finished third in the Individual standings happened in 1997, and it was Holoč Semplen who did that as well as finishing second two years before, in 1995. Annie’s father was the last person to finish first for Cernunnos in the Individual standings, something he did in 1992.

Penny was in position to become the first Cernunnos girl to stand on the podium in third place since 1989—though it was possible if Penny had a horrible race Alex could take that spot—and she, Alex, and he had an excellent shot at putting three Cernunnos racers in the Top 5 since 1984. Kerry possessed enough of a lead over Rezi Lahood from Åsgårdsreia that he’d have to crash and not finish in order to lose fifth to her—and the same could be said about moving ahead of Alex and Penny: both girls would have to DNF for him to have a shot at third. Rivânia and Nadine were the only ones with a realistic chance at first, though a horrible performance, or a DNF, from either could rocket the other to the top of the standings. And if both—

Kerry cleared his head as he stepped outside into Selena’s Meadow. Don’t think about what could happen— He pulled his broom from Hammerspace and prepared to mount. Do as Annie said: race your own race.

It’ll all shake out in the end.

 

There’s been mention here and there that Annie’s father did some racing when he was at Salem, and here’s the proof:  Victor Kiralov was the last person from Cernunnos to finish first as an individual.  I also show that Holoč was the last people from this coven to finish on the podium as well, so we know he’s got the chops to watch over his racers.

If it seems like the boys have hogged the Horned God’s glory, remember it was stated back about two hundred thousand words ago, that the race team here tended to favor the boys, where as the others favored the girls.  That seems to be changing, and we’ve seen what happens when you let the ladies do their thing.

And in case you’re wondering how I knew when certain students were in school?

You didn't need to ask.

You didn’t need to ask.

Right there in the middle you see Palvlina Ganchev and Victor Kirilov (misspelled on the time line, I’ll fix that tonight) and the times when they were students.  You even get to see here when the headmistress went to school, back in the mid-80s and early-90s.  One of the reasons Jessica recommended Mathilde for the headmistress’ job is because she remembered her as a fellow student, even if she was below her a couple of levels.  Hummm . . . she must have done something to make an impression.

Next up:  part of the final race.  Wonder what’s going to happen?  I mean that:  I have no idea yet.

Really.

Paths of Pain and Glory

Hey, now, I’m coming to you from Indiana, back in the old Red State Homestead, and working on my post in the confines of my comfortable library.

This was moments after I started playing Steve Winwood's "Valery" last night before working on the novel.  The party had started--

This was moments after I started playing Steve Winwood’s “Valerie” last night before working on the novel. The party had started–

The drive home wasn’t that bad, at least until I hit Indiana, and then it was like one hundred and twenty miles of near heavy traffic the whole way, with idiot drivers and truckers who don’t mind blocking both lanes and slowing traffic the hell up.  If I’d had my War Wagon, I’d have left bodies in my wake.

Simpler times in eastern Ohio, before I know of the hell that awaited.

Simpler times in eastern Ohio, before I knew of the hell that awaited.

Believe it or not, I wrote last night.  I finished the current scene, and came near the totals I’ve done the last few nights.  It’s taken me four days to do this scene, but my numbers show my slow yet steady progress:

Words 07/07/2015: 435
Words 07/08/2015: 652
Words 07/09/2015: 670
Words 07/10/2015: 615

Of course, as soon as I saved this mess off, I crashed hard for the night.  I consider myself lucky to have finished the scene.

What is happening now that Penny wanted to speak with Kerry?  Well . . .

 

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

Kerry glanced to Annie; she gave him a quick nod. He headed up the stairs with Annie beside him, feeling a tremendous amount of trepidation. I think I know what this is about— It didn’t take long to reach the top of the stairs where Penny was waiting. “What’s up?”

“Come on.” She turned and headed off, with Annie and Kerry behind her. She reached the hospital entrance and pushed open the door, holding it for her guest. “He’s here.”

Professor Semplen was standing in the waiting room when Annie and Kerry entered. “How are you, Kerry?”

“I’m—okay.” Seeing the professor only increased his hunch about the summoning.

Annie stepped inside and let the door swing shut behind her. “Hello, Professor.”

“Hello, Annie.” Holoč gave both students a faint smile before he turned to Kerry. “We need to speak.”

“That’s what Penny said.”

“Yes . . .” The professor turned to the girl on his left. “You want to tell them?”

“Sure, Professor.” She exhaled hard, looking tired. “The boys went out early for practice—”

Kerry looked slightly puzzled. “The boys?”

“Manco, Darius, and Hasan from the A Team. They were out running the Green and Blue Lines, trying to get in some practice time before breakfast. They were on the Blue Line and . . .” Penny shrugged. “About twenty minutes ago Hasan lost it going through Helter Skelter and crashed and burned.”

Annie didn’t seem surprised by this news. “Was he hurt bad?”

Holoč answered her question. “Broke his right leg; we were just back there speaking to him.” He touched the frames of his glasses as if he was unsure if he wanted to adjust them. “Coraline’s marked him as ineligible to race today.” He paused once more, this time setting is glasses back further on his nose. “I’m moving you up to the A Team today, Kerry. I need you to fill out Hasan’s slot.”

 

It should come as no surprised that this was the lead up to moving to the A Team.  But first, before we get to that–

I talk about Helter Skelter a lot.  As you are aware I’ve named spots on my various race courses just as, on real courses, drivers have names for various spots.  Helter Skelter is one of the most technical, and difficult, turns on the Blue Line, and made even trickier due to the changes in elevation.

See, that’s one of the things that come into play when you’re dealing in three dimensions.  The Green Line stays close to the ground, but the Blue Line starts getting people into the air, and up their the only thing to limit your speed is the need to hit certain elevation gates–otherwise, how do you know where the course is actually located?

Helter Skelter comes off of Skyway, which is sort of the West End of the Blue Line:  a long, slightly curving area where one can pour on the speed–and since Skyway is fifty meters, or one hundred and sixty-five feet, above the ground, that means you can get a lot of speed.

The fliers approach the first part of the turn on a slight left-hand turn, then begin to descend just a little before they switch back to the right.  And I do mean switch back:  the turn is about a one hundred and sixty degree turn–while descending.  The fliers keep losing altitude until they are right over the trees, and then make another switch back turn to the left while dropping into a space in the trees.  And just as soon as they’re close to the ground, they make a ninety degree turn to the right and shoot up out of the trees.

So when you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide, then you turn and you go for a ride . . . ergo, Helter Skelter.  Here’s what it looks like with the course highlighted for better viewing:

From up here, not so bad.

From up here, not so bad.

From here, however--

From here, however, not so easy.

And what students standing on the roof of the History Building see.

And what students standing on the roof of the History Building see.

Since Annie’s dad drives in Formula 1, he’d likely call this a chicane and refer to it as a “passing opportunity.”  The students are likely to refer to it as “terrifying”, and they know there’s little room for error in this section.  Yes, there are safety enchantments in place to keep students from crashing head-on into trees, but it’s still possible for a racer to screw up and hurt themselves bad.

And the Class 2 PAVs are a lot faster and far more nimble than the Class 1 brooms, which means an enterprising pilot can try and tempt fate by negotiating this portion of the course with higher speeds and snap turns.  Sometimes this results in gain positions; sometimes it results in broken bones.

Let’s move on–

Kerry’s worried:  not about moving up, but about pissing someone off–

 

This was what he’d half expected to hear, and the news came with some reservations. “Are you sure Madhushri or Victoria wouldn’t be better suited?” He wasn’t trying to talk himself out of the spot; he simply wanted to know for sure that moving up wasn’t going to cause trouble with others in the coven, particularly with his two B Team members who were also of higher levels.

“No, not at all.” Holoč shook his head. “Madhushri only agreed to be on the B Team to fill out the roster, and Victoria’s not nearly as good as you: in two races she’s only pointed once, and that was for sixth. In the same two races you’ve had one podium and missed another by a second . . .” He looked down for a moment, then raised his head nodding. “No, Kerry: I haven’t made any mistakes.”

 

When you have that kind of record it’s easy to see why you moved up.  Even if it is only two races.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.  There is a wrinkle, however:

 

Penny cleared her throat. “There is one thing . . .”

Kerry half-turned so he didn’t release Annie’s hands. “What?”

“You’re going to have to run your B Team races as well.”

Holoč nodded. “If you don’t run them, we’ll have to forfeit. You know the rules.”

“Yeah: you have to start with three racers.” He’d gone over the racing rules whenever possible, and it was necessary to begin a race with all your team members, or suffer a Coven Team penalty of fifteen seconds for every missing flier. While the A Team could usually make up that in the Coven Standings, the B Team, with only three members, couldn’t. And with this being the Samhain event, with each team doing three races, no one wants to suffer that sort of hit on their standings.

Annie was concerned with one thing. “Two races in the morning and three in the afternoon: that’s a lot to ask of Kerry.”

“I know it is, and I’m sorry, but I don’t want the B Team to lose position in the standings.” Holoč laid a hand on Kerry’s shoulder. “Here’s what we’ll do: the moment you’re finished with your last race, come to the team ready room in the Diamond. You remember where it’s located?”

“Yeah, I remember.” Each A Team had their own ready room so they could prep for races, and the B Team members were invited there the first day of team orientation. It reminded him a great deal of the ready room in the Flight School, save there were fewer chairs, and come of them were able to recline so pilots could relax between races, or lay still if they were waiting for medical attention. “We’re over by Exit Two.”

“That’s right. Come there and you can lay down on one of the recliners and take a nap. If you need help with that, I can ask Coraline to get something to you. When the team meets for lunch in the Dining Hall, you can either join us, or I’ll have lunch sent down.” Holoč turned to Annie, who was now looking less apprehensive. “It’s not usually allowed, but if Kerry decides to eat in the ready room, you can join him.”

“If he decides to do that—” Annie latched onto Kerry’s arm. “—I’d love to join him. Thank you, Professor.”

 

Holoč is gonna wear that boy out if he’s not careful, and he’s trying to minimize that effect–hence the “Come in and get a nap” thing before the afternoon festivities.  It’s a real calculated risk on the professor’s part, and he knows it–but he also knows that Kerry’s young, he’ll have plenty of energy reserves, and there’ll likely be a huge adrenaline outpouring once the green lights flash and the race is underway.  Which can be a plus or minus . . .

Only thing left to do is get breakfast, but after leaving the hospital Annie has something else in mind:

 

“I told you.” Upon reaching the ground floor she pulled him under the first floor overhang and eased him back into the shadowy landing leading to the lower levels. “I don’t want you to be nervous; you’re doing to do great.” Annie kissed him slowly, letting him fall into the comfort of her embrace. “Tonight, when we arrive at the dance, you’ll be the proudest boy there.”

“Why’s that?” He fell back against the wall happy and content. Though the news brought about a nervousness he’d knew would one day come, it vanished in the aftermath of his soul mate’s kiss. “Because of the races?”

“That and . . .” Annie giggled as she rested her head against his shoulder. “You’ll be with me, my love.”

“Oh, well—” He kissed her forehead and held her tight. “That always makes me proud.”

 

That Annie:  she’s so modest.  And Kerry knows it, too.  And loves her for it.  Then again, she’s his tasty little cabbage roll, so why wouldn’t he be proud to have her call him her soul mate?

The setup is complete.  All that remains is a little orientation before getting to the point of ladies and gentlemen starting their, um, engines?

For sure something will be revved up.