How Super Was My Lab: What You Have to Say

Quite a lot has happened in the last two days.  For one, I’m back to writing.  Believe it or not, I hadn’t written anything this last Friday and Saturday, which comes close to the longest time that I’ve gone without working on my novels.  I did almost 700 words this morning, which is a good stretch for me.

Today I also figured out how to use Dragon in a public place, and this blog post–as well as the writing I did my novel this morning–were done with Dragon.  The solution was simple: it was necessary to mute the microphone on the laptop so that the only ambient sound being carried by the head mic was my voice.  Speaking aloud, albeit in a soft tone, in order to write.  It’s not like I haven’t done anything this strange before.

The biggest thing to happen occurred last night.  I headed out with a friend to take in a presentation of The Vagina Monologues.  We made a pretty full night of it: we picked up sushi to go, stopped and had a beer, met a new friend who happens to be a schoolteacher, and enjoyed the presentation together.

Out with Mary getting a beer.

Out with Mary getting a beer.

 

And watching the show begin.

And watching the show begin.

We laughed, we cried, we came away with a greater understanding of camaraderie between women.  I nearly had a full on breakdown during one monologue which was presented by a transgender woman telling us of her coming out in the things that she had heard while growing up–many of which were things I heard growing up as well.  It was a great experience and were already looking to going back next year and doing it again, maybe even getting a few more friends together so we can reserve a table right up front.

But, let’s get back to the writing…

Said writing being right here.

Said writing being right here.

Because I didn’t write for two days, after today’s excerpt I shall only be fifty-nine hundred words ahead of you.  But I don’t have much to do today, so the likelihood that I will add another five or six hundred words to the current scene are high.  Believe it or not, I’m eager and ready to get back into my writing.  Maybe all one needs is a little rest and recharging to recover the energy needed to continue a project that.

The last time there was an excerpt back on Thursday, Erywin asked Annie of her opinion of Alex in relationship to the tutoring she was receiving for Formulistic Magic.  And, of course, Annie is ready to offer that opinion–

 

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

 

Annie was a bit worried by voicing her concern it wouldn’t matter how good Alex became, her words could prejudice any future consideration. At the same time, she knew that part of being a good sorceress instructing another student is that the instructor must not fear voicing those concerns– “She wants to work in the superlab. She’s considering a career as a chemical engineer, but she’s also considering a career in another field. So…”

“So she wants to give the class a spin to see if this is to her liking.” Erywen’s expression turned serious as she considered this information. “Given what I’d seen of her work in the last two weeks I was planning on extending an invitation tonight after dinner. Even with the information that you’ve given me, I still plan on making that invitation.”

Annie was somewhat surprised to hear this. “You’re not worried she may not have serious intentions for this class?”

“I think she’s extremely serious about this class—otherwise why would she go through three weeks of tutoring with you? If she finds this is not the field she wishes to go into, it is better she do it now then after she graduates school, yeah?” Erywin chuckled. “Besides, she may discover that this is the field she wishes to go into and she’ll end up working her arse off to be the best. Isn’t that what we all want?”

“Absolutely, Professor.” She started smiling as she found herself agreeing with Erywin’s position.

 

Annie’s hard work with Alex paid off, and it brought about an improvement good enough for Erywin to notice.  The real truth is Alex must’ve been just on the cusp of going from being good to becoming excellent, and Annie’s help was enough to push her over the line.  This is what Alex hoped for and the hard work paid off.  We knew that Annie was capable of teaching; the real question was whether Alex was capable of learning.  Apparently, she was.

So how does this finish out?

 

“Right, then.” Erywin picked up her tablet. “I would appreciated if neither of you say anything before I speak to her.  If she should ask why I want to see her tonight, just say you have no idea.” Both students nodded. “And, Annie?”

“Yes, Professor?”

“Thank you for giving an honest assessment of the student.”

She smiled as she gave a slight shrug. “It’s what I was trained to do, Professor.”

Erywin smiled back. “Helena will be glad to hear that.” She turned and walked out of the cubicle.

Kerry crossed his arms, tucking his hands under his armpits. “Alex will be happy to know her hard work paid off.” He took two steps across the cubicle and wrapped his arms around Annie’s waist. “Then again, she had an exceptionally good tutor helping her.”

Annie touched Kerry’s lips with her fingers before kissing him. “But as we both know—”

“Yes?”

“The student has to be able to take the information that tutor gives her client correctly.” She wrapped her arms around him and rubbed her lips against his before engaging in another kiss. “And I was fortunate in that I had an incredibly skilled student.”

 

That last line goes both ways: Alex is an incredibly skilled student, but her primary student is also incredibly skilled: he has to be if he wants to keep up with his soulmate.  That’s the thing about being one half of a team that wants to excel at so many things–whether you realize it or not you push each other harder than you might push yourself where you working alone.

And working alone is exactly what were going to see in the next two scenes, for the scenes actually take place simultaneously on seventeen September, 2017, which happens to be a Tuesday evening.  We already know from the last novel that Tuesday evening is when Jessica teaches Advanced Transformation, and while Carrie is there for every class Annie comes in when she feels she needs to get a handle on the particular spell before she starts learning it from Kerry.  This evening she’ll take a pass on class and head off to get mentoring of her own–

Which means it’s time to head out to the Witch House…

How Super Was My Lab: About This Extra Work–

So here we are, Day Four of Cassie’s Big Week of Excitement, and while I didn’t officially go out last night, I did go down to have dinner and ended up sitting next to a woman who’s a lawyer who’s been working in Harrisburg for a few weeks and was getting ready to return to her regular office in Reading.  After I returned home I wrote my weekly Humans recap, then headed off to bed before the massive wind storms hit us.

Which they did.  And woke me up at a little before four in the morning.  So I’m kind of running on empty at the moment as is nearly six now and I know I’m going to need coffee before I get into work.

What excitement awaits me tonight? I have a political get together which is being held at another person’s house.  I should be home before nine, which will allow me and hours so to get in some writing before heading off to bed.  Tomorrow night me walk down to the local coffee shop to watch a band play between seven and nine, and Saturday night I will be heading out to Carlisle to see a performance of The Vagina Monologues, which I’ve never seen.  And that will be it: no more excitement plan for this week.

I may actually be able to work on my novel.

And speaking of that novel, I’m still stuck down in that goddamn superlab and my kids are finding there were cubicle. Is anything interesting going to happen to them?  What you think?

 

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

 

Annie and Kerry found her cubicle quickly: there is was the second cubicle down on the right from the personal rest area. It was much like the cubicle they used in transformation class with one exception: where those cubicle walls stopped at about mid-chest level, a meter of safety glass continued upward and there was a sliding door on the outside of the cubicle that could be used to seal it off from the rest of the lap. Annie suspected this was in place as a safety measure in case there was an accident in the lab and students were unable to get out through the airlock. It was likely that in that instance once the door was sealed shut, a stasis enchantment would go in place over the cubicle freezing time for those inside and preventing them from being harmed.

She was about to ask Kerry—who was busy checking the computer system—when Annie realized Erywin was standing just outside the cubicle looking at them. She smiled at her instructor. “Do you need us for something, Professor?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Erywin stepped into the cubicle entrance but did not enter the cramped area. “I actually need to speak with you, Annie, more than I do Kerry.”

Annie nodded. “What can do for you?”

“I’d like to discuss Alex Chorney.” Erywin held the tablet in one hand and used the other to grip the wrist. “You’ve spent the last three weeks tutoring her.”

 

First off, we find out that these cubicles are probably safety zones for the students in case something goes wrong in the lab.  We already know that there is magic that will basically allow you to freeze time around a person, and that same magic works for areas as well.  So each cubicle sort of acts like a panic room in case you are unable to leave the lab, and Annie is likely correct in assessing that once inside time stands and your prevented from being hurt by whatever’s happening outside.  So no worries: even if the building collapses around you and it takes people a week to get to your cubicle, as far as the people inside are concerned they just shut the door.

And second: Erywen wants to talk about a special pupil Annie is had for the last few weeks.  This brings up the situation that was discussed in Kiev between Alex and Annie about getting some tutoring, and since Erywen is asking about it it would seem that Annie did exactly as she promised…

 

“Yes, I have.” Since spending the last three Saturdays working with Alex in the Chemistry Building, she figured it wouldn’t be long before Erywin asked her what was going on. “I visited her over the summer and she asked if I would tutor her because she’s hoping to secure a spot in this class.”

“And you’ve been working with her since she arrived.”

“I’m not the only one—” She glanced to her right. “Kerry’s been helping out as well.”

Kerry nearly snorted. “I’ve been helping get things organized and assisting Annie where necessary, but she’s the one doing all the heavy lifting.” He leaned against the counter on his side of the cubicle as he turned to look at his soul mate. “Only telling the truth, my darling.”

Erywin chuckled. “It doesn’t matter whose doing the majority of tutoring: what matters is that it’s occurring.” She stepped into the cubicle and set her tablet down on the counter next to Kerry. “What do you think of her progress, Annie?”

Though she had on producing any reports, Annie had been keeping verbal notes on the classes on her phone so she could review Alex’s progress. “Her execution of formulas are not in question, nor is her knowledge. I think her biggest obstacle is she’s afraid she’s going to be allowed in class and she won’t live up to expectations.”

“Is that the fear students have of every class, not just the advanced ones?”

“That’s what I told her yesterday. I said since all the classes are nothing but a series of tests, you have nothing to fear if you’re invited into the advanced class because it’s already assumed you will be able to do the work.”

Erywin picked up on a slight shake of Annie’s head and knew it meant something. “You have an opinion on this?”

 

Well, of course Annie has an opinion on this matter. If there’s one thing that both kids have picked up over there B Levels, it’s that they have to be honest when evaluating the progress of someone they are mentoring/teaching/tutoring.  Annie has always been honest about Kerry’s progress, which means she’s going to be honest about Alex’s progress.

The good thing is Erywen knows this, and she can expect Annie to give her an honest evaluation.  And what is that evaluation?

Maybe you’ll find out tomorrow.

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.

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: All Dressed Up

Let’s get the personal business of the way first.  The stuff I need for my weekend Women’s March on Washington–which occurs in a little less than two weeks–has begun arriving.  Tonight I get my portable phone charger; tomorrow I get my wall socks; and I’m waiting for my thermal underwear and mukluk insoles to ship out.  Yesterday, however, I received my first item:

I have the Pussy Hat!

I have the Pussy Hat!

Yes, the Pussy Hat is here and while it’s a little big it’s still wearable.  One shipment I’m worried about is the thermal undergarments: they’re coming from Land’s End and I haven’t received notification that they’ve shipped.  I’m hoping that all ships this week, and the one shipment I can do without are the new insoles for my mukluks, because all have wool socks as of tomorrow.

And the totally ironic thing is the weather for 21 January in DC is expected to be somewhere between 50 and 55 F/10 to 13 C.  If we get those terms I may not even need the thermal undergarments.  But it’s always nice to have them just in case.

Now, let’s finish up but I was in the middle of yesterday.

There’s about a thousand words left in this last seen, which just happened to be the first of Chapter Eight.  Last night they ran off another eight hundred and fifty words, and I figure I might have another fifteen hundred to two thousand words to write to finish off this current scene and the chapter, at which point I can move into Chapter Nine, which finishes off Week One and it’s the kids to the Midnight Madness.

Things are zipping right along.

So, let’s finish up with the meeting in the Witch House and see how Helena and Erywin are dealing with Kerry’s particular situation…

 

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

 

Helena moved her chair closer to her desk so she could lean her arms against the top. “No one is thinking any less of you, Kerry, and no one in this room believes they can’t count upon you. As you indicated, your main concern is whatever group you’re working with—but you need to watch your own arse as well.”

A concerned look came over Erywin’s face. “If you’re feeling a little bit of trepidation about any, you and I can always speak. I mean, I do have a little bit of an understanding of what it’s like dealing with what might seem unusual emotions.”

Annie leaned so she was a bit closer to Kerry and could speak softly. “Something to consider, my love. And it couldn’t hurt to discuss these things with another person.”

He gave a slight nod. “Maybe later.”

Helena yawned for a few seconds. “Oh, sorry: didn’t get much sleep last night. Anyway, I have given you notification that you are in an on-call status with the Guardians as of this moment. Congratulations.” She threw up her hands in mock cheer. “You’re now like hundreds of other Sentinels wondering if you called out on a field operation any time soon.”

 

It seems as if this is about the third or fourth attempt to get Kerry to “talk things out”.  There’s a bit of a conundrum here with the boy, because for all of his life he’s been conditioned not to talk about his feelings, simply because his parents don’t want to hear about them.  Now he’s starting to find himself wading into some shit and he’s hesitant to put his feelings on display.  Sure, he might talk to Annie, but she’s not a trained counselor.  Getting him to open up to adults who really do want to help him is going to be something of an ongoing battle.

And with Helena’s last statement Annie hear something that may or may not be good for her–

 

Hearing the phrase “on-call status” made Annie wonder about their actual standing with The Foundation intelligence division. “Does this mean we’re—?”

“Actual Guardians?” A faint smile crossed Helena’s lips. “That was the last thing is gonna bring up during this meeting. You’ve both been moved to Provisional status, which is to say you’re old enough to go out on field operations, but you’re not old enough to be sworn in as actual operatives.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have to be considered emancipated before the Guardians will allow you to take the oath. One of the reasons you are allowed a Right of Refusal is because you haven’t reached the Age of Emancipation, but once you hit that then you can have the Guardians Oath administered and become full-time Sentinels.” Helena chuckled as she scratched her arm. “Of course, once you are full time that means that you can’t turn down any missions unless you have a damn good reason. Taking that oath means you get all those nice Guardian benefits without being able to walk away from the shit missions when you feel like it’s necessary”

“I didn’t expect it to be perfect.” Annie gave a slight shrug. “One has to take the bad with the good.”

Helena raised one eyebrow. “What do you expect the good to be in the Guardians?”

Annie had her answer ready. “To be able to protect The Foundation and its people, and by extension Normals who know nothing of our existence but benefit from our largess.”

Helena turned to Kerry. “What about you, Ginger Boy? What does serving the Guardians mean to you?”

Kerry had an answer ready as well. “By protecting the interests of The Foundation we keep the rest of the world safe. We’re not protecting a single country; we’re basically protecting people the world from the bad guys who would like to turn the lives of Normals to… shit.”

It was evident from Helena’s reaction that she hadn’t expected these responses. She turned to Erywin. “I really expected something a little more boilerplate.”

“You should know better.” Erywin chuckled. “You dealing with two highly motivated teens here.”

“Obviously.” Helena swiveled her chair back towards the two across the desk. “All right, is all I have to say. If it becomes necessary to have another meeting like this in the future, I’ll send you both a secure email with nothing more than the time: you’ll know where were going to meet.”

Both Annie and Kerry nodded with her replying. “Always here.”

 

At times it’s interesting to watch the reaction of adults around Annie and Kerry.  We know they’re bright and articulate, but they’re also quite perceptive.  Helena asked a gotcha question and then admits that she expected the kids to give a far more boilerplate answer than what they actually gave.  In short, she had low expectations for what they were going to say–which is something she shouldn’t have done.  But as Kerry might say, everything is a test, so perhaps Helena was actually testing the kids.  Perhaps?  We don’t know–well I do, but you don’t.

And with that it’s time to close down this meeting:

 

“Correct. Okay, you two, that’s enough for now.” Helena stood as did Erywin. “Kerry, as soon as I hear something back from San Francisco I’ll let you know. For that will likely send you a secure, encrypted document. And if you get one of those—”

Kerry gave a slight nod as he stood. “Read, delete, and clear deleted messages.”

“Sounds as if you been doing this spook business for a while.”

“I know how to take precautions.”

“Good.” Helena waved both kids toward the door. “Go on now. I understand a couple of instructors are taking some kids into Salem for lunch and an afternoon of shopping and relaxation. If you get back to the Great Hall by ten, I’m certain Erywin and I will be more than happy to let you accompany us.”

Annie waved back. “See you both at ten.”

Rather then head back up to the ground floor of the Witch House, Annie and Kerry decided to take the tunnel back to Memory’s End and emerge above ground there. They felt that is no one would be in the comments—at least not in this area school—they would be able to speak freely.

Annie felt she needed to reassure Kerry. “I hope you don’t think that we don’t believe you could do a field operation as a girl.”

He shook his head. “I don’t. Anyway, it was my suggestion I don’t go out like that right away because I’m not sure I can handle—you know—” Kerry tilted his head to the right as if to indicate something. “Like Erywin said, all the hormones and stuff.”

Annie gave Kerry’s hand a squeeze. “It will take some time you to filter through all the feelings. As Erywin said we’ve had time to learn, whereas you’re going to be instantly immersed. But I want you to know I’ll be there to help you in any way I can, though it may not be much.” She gave their arm a playful swing. “I won’t abandon you.”

Kerry leaned into Annie and rested his head against hers. “I know you wouldn’t. You’re the last person who would ever abandoned me.”

As Annie kissed his head only one thought remained in her mind: I’ll always be with you—until death do us part.

 

Annie seems to enjoy the idea that the boy by her side will be with her until the day one of them dies.  If one didn’t know any better, one might say Annie almost saw the relationship as something of a fairy tale–and given that some fairy tales were gruesome and bloody as hell, perhaps she’s not wrong.  The only question remains there is will they live happily ever after?  Like I’ve said before, I know when, where, and how they die, which means I know how they lived.  I know their happiness, I know their sadness, and I know some of their regrets.

In other words, they’re going to have lives like a lot of us.

Only we don’t get to have real magic in ours…

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: Not Ready to Come Out Alone

Last night my Dragon was being naughty, doing things it shouldn’t do like using one word when I for sure said another, but when I swore it was able to replicate that perfectly.  Regardless, I wrote 1,234 words last night as I put the kids in their first minion class of the year and allowing Annie to remark on the new A Level from Ireland who has been making eyes at Kerry because–well, she’s a Ginger, he’s a Ginger, wouldn’t they like to make some Gingers, too?

It also gives Annie an opportunity to make a snarky remark about Kerry’s mom, which is more proof that Annie won’t be the perfect daughter-in-law Mama Malibey hopes for.

Last time we found out that the Guardians were not only thinking of sending the kids out on missions with others but that they were considering sending him out after that little change thing happened.  Well, Kerry has some thoughts on that…

 

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

 

Kerry clamped his right hand over his mouth, something he did when he was thinking quickly. “Can I say something?”

Helena gave a slight shrug. “Go ahead.”

“I don’t mind going on a field operation with other girls. I mean, by now—” He held up his hands to indicate the other people in the room. “Doing stuff with other girls is pretty much second nature to me. But I gotta do a field operation without Annie, I’d rather not do it as Girl Me. I probably won’t have had a lot of time to get use to being that way and I’m probably gonna feel a little self-conscious. Not to mention, doing all new stuff in a new body…” Kerry shook his head. “I’d spend a lot of my time feeling like I’m about to screw up. And that won’t be fair to everyone else on the team.”

Helena was about to offer a retort when Erywin spoke first. “I agree with Kerry.”

“What?” Helena swiveled her chair to the left. “Why would you say that?”

 

Since Kerry got an earfull about that witch’s brew called The Estrogens it’s likely he’s been giving some thought to how he’s gonna feel once the tap is wide open–and figures it might not handle things all too well.  After two years of hanging around girls who deal with hormonal issues on a daily basis it’s pretty much even money he thinks he might not be able to handle Deconstructors and hormones at the same time.

"I'm supposed to help bring you in--why is my BRA SO IRRITATING?  I'LL KILL YOU ALL!!!"

“I’m supposed to help you bring them in so I’ll stay in the back and watch…  Why is my bra SO IRRITATING? I’LL KILL THEM ALL!!!”

Yeah, might not be a good idea to have her out in the field.

And Erywin agrees.  Why?  Well–

 

“Because it’s true.” Erywin’s right eyebrow shot upward he saw the disbelieving gaze Helena was turning her way. “Do you want to hear, or would you like to disregard my opinion even though you asked me here as a counselor and advisor?”

Helena knew better then to argue with her longtime partner. “Please, let’s hear it.”

Erywin glanced toward Kerry. “We don’t know when his transition is going to occur, only that it’s going to occur sometime within the next six months. Even if it would happen tomorrow how many opportunities is he going to have to get used dealing with all the things that girls at his age will need to deal with? Maybe one or two times a month?” She brought a mischievous gaze to bear upon Helena. “Do you recall how moody you used to get when you were thirteen years old?”

“Slightly.” The right corner of Helena’s face screwed up in a frown. “I don’t remember being that bad.”

“That’s because one, you started going through puberty when you were about nine years old so you had a few years to adjust, and two, you’re full of shit.” Erywin chuckled. “You know goddamn well what you used to be like when you were a C Level, and it wasn’t always pleasant.

“One of the things Kerry’s going to have to learn to deal with are the new emotional and mental responses that come with being a teenage girl, and it’s not something he’s going to pick up in one or two turns through the new body. It could take months for him to get reasonably acclimated—” Erywin gripped both armrest as she settled back into her chair.  “Considering it takes some girls years to get acclimated within that timeline is not entirely out of the question.

“I’ve heard you say on many occasions that you often have to think of your duty to the group before you think of your duty to yourself.” Erywin twirled a finger around in her hair and stared at Kerry. “He knows if he goes out as a girl and she is not fully prepared for the internal onslaught she is going to deal with on top of whatever other shit she’s dealing with externally, that could put everyone in danger. And we don’t want that.”

 

Erywin is about the only person at school who can call Helena on her bullshit and not get death glares in the aftermath of the exchange.  And if there is anyone who knows exactly what a hormonal thirteen year old Helena was like, it was an equally hormonal fourteen year old Erywin, and she knows the girl was a tattooed hell-beast at times.  You can bet these two were a real party at times.

But Erywin is right:  Kerry might not be ready to mix estradiol and death spells right away and it might be best to keep Girl Me, as he says, out of the field for a while.  Even Helena begins to see the light:

 

Hum.” Helena scratched the bridge of her nose as she considered Erywin’s statements. “How about this: we put through the recommendation, based upon what you just told me, that Kerry not be allowed to go out to the group mission as a girl for a period of one year after his first transition? That way, if they do want him for a group mission, he goes as a boy.”

Erywin gave the matter some consideration. “That would work.” She suddenly remembered something else. “If nothing else Kerry could always invoke a Right of Refusal if they try to force him into switching genders for a mission.”

Kerry began laughing. “Yeah, what are they going to do? How would they make me change if I didn’t want to?”

Helena slowly turned and regarded the boy carefully. “They have ways.” She slid back up right in her chair and stretched. “I’m also going to include in the assessment that the

Guardians have to specify which gender they wish Kerry to present when informing him of a mission. That way—” She held out her arms and shrugged. “It makes giving a Right of Refusal easier.”

Erywin nodded. “Agreed.”

“I like that, too.” Only a moment passed before Kerry appeared slightly dejected. “Though it kinda sounds like I’m getting a lot of special treatment.”

Annie saw the glances Helena and Erywin exchange and felt it best to say something. “Kerry’s medical exam yesterday showed his estrogens count is higher than normal. It could affect his moods.” She gripped his hand. “I’m sorry, my love, but they need to know everything.”

He looked up rather sheepishly. “I’ll try not to let that happen too much; I don’t want people to think they can’t count on me.”

 

Now things are straight, or at least gonna get there, and Kerry can move one thing off his “I gotta worry about this” plate.  As I said before, Kerry’s got people looking out for me and he’s actually looking out for people he hasn’t met yet.  It’s a good think the Guardians have their eyes on Annie and him, because the other divisions in The Foundation would probably like them as well.

And how does this all end?  You find out tomorrow.

A Glimpse of the Coming Year: the Guardian Way

Yesterday was now only a lazy sort of day, but it was the kind where I had to get things done both in real life and on the page.  And that takes time, right?

First, I got the nails and brows down, just as I indicate in yesterday’s video.  It was a nice, relaxing time, and I always look forward to the time I spend getting pampered.

And this time I didn't even get wine.

And this time I didn’t even get wine.

So what did I go with?  A lovely dark purple called I’ll Take a Manhattan, which is a play on a Leonard Cohen song.

I have not, however, taken Berlin yet.

I have not, however, taken Berlin yet.

And the brows are, as the kids say today, “on fleek”, which actually means your brows are perfect.

Though I look like I'm learing in this photo.

Though I look like I’m leering in this photo.

Last night I finished Deanna’s scene and was about to start the last scene of Chapter Eight when I realized that some of that scene had to do with the new A Levels, and while I know where those kids are from and what covens they’re in, I didn’t have names for them.  You know what that means, right?

I had to name them.  All of them.

That means I spent a good two hours looking up names for kids from all over the world.  But I achieved my goal, so let me introduce you to the 2013 A Levels of Salem–

We'll start at the top of the Pentagram.

We’ll start at the top of the Pentagram.

Åsgårdsreia gets kids from everywhere but Europe, as Vanuatu is considered part of Oceania.  They also get of the two kids from China, though Macau is considered a bit of a cheat as it was held as part of Portugal for nearly five hundred years.  Still, it’s been returned to the PRC and is administered by them, so China.

Now let's move to the bottom-right.

Now let’s move to the bottom-right.

What’s interesting about Blodeuwedd is that all but two of their A Levels come from island nations, and they don’t have a student from South America.  As for the girl from Ireland, do you think she’s a ginger?  Do you think Kerry’s mom will be excited to hear this news?

Now to the left bottom.

Now to the left bottom.

Ceridwen had the best gender equality, with the boy and girls being nearly equal.  All their kids come from relatively small countries an they have none from Oceania.  I wonder if by the end of the first week at school Ragnhild is pining for the fjords?

Let's jump over to the middle right now.

Let’s jump over to the middle right now.

Though usually last in the lists, I’m doing Mórrígan now because I can.  Just like Ceridwen they have no kids from Oceania, but they get the other student from China, one who comes from Shanghai.  I promised I’d someday mention why getting students from China is a big deal and I promise that will happen–just not yet.  Mórrígan also tied Åsgårdsreia for the most A Levels, though their girl-to-boy ratio is only 2 to 1 while Åsgårdsreia’s is 3.5 to 1; Blodeuwedd had the greatest gender disparity with girls over boys 7 to 1.

And last but not least--

And last but not least–

Once more Cernunnos got the fewest A Levels and they didn’t get one student from the Americas this time.   They did pick up two Muslims–Yaman from Syria and Rajani from India–and Hayley Turner from Pink Lake, Western Australia–where you can find the real Pink Lake–has the most boring name of any of the A Levels.  Maybe today I’ll give all the new kids towns so we know where they are from exactly.  Because that’s how I roll.

Now, how about an excerpt?

I said a couple of days back that this Guardian edict may come with a twist and it doesn’t take us long to find out what they want…

 

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

 

“So January to April?” Annie leaned forward in his seat, excited by this news. “I’m assuming they wouldn’t have us go out in May.”

Helena nodded. “Quite right. If they’re considering you for a field op, it will likely happen in the middle of winter or early spring. Also, given that these orders are coming directly from San Francisco, it leads me to believe that whatever it is they’ll have you doing will take place in North America. However, there’s a bit of a catch.” Once more she paused to ensure both kids were listening. “It is also highly likely you will not be going out together on the same mission.”

A puzzled look formed on Kerry’s face. “Wait, what? They’re going to put us on separate missions?”

Helena nodded. “It seems likely. Now wait—” She held up a hand as both teenagers began to protest. “While they were highly satisfied by how well you worked together in Kansas City, it’s standard procedure to break up a team at some point and see how they work with other people. The Guardians are nothing if not a team organization, and there’s only a few of us who get to work with the same team time and again, or even were alone.” She tilted her head to one side. “If you can’t work well with other operatives, your value as an operative is going to diminish. And I really wouldn’t want to see that happen with either of you.”

 

The Guardians are a group and as we’ve heard from Helena they usually work in groups.  That means you’re not always going out on your own, you’re part of the gang, and that means you have to know how to work with the gang.  It also means you likely won’t be working with the same people all the time, because it seems the Guardians like to match up skill sets and it goes without saying that Annie and Kerry are developing different skill sets.

If you can’t play well with others then it’s likely you’ll not become a good operative, and the Guardians are eager to check out these two ASAP.

Annie wasn’t happy with this news but she saw how it was a good omen for them. She reached out and touched Kerry’s left hand. “I look at it this way, my love: if they didn’t think we were any good, they probably wouldn’t want us working with another team yet.”

“Annie’s absolutely correct.” Helena punched up something else on her display. “When I say they were pleased with how well you did in Kansas City, I mean they were extremely pleased with how you handled yourselves. If they thought you still needed work they’d probably assign you to another Level 1 field op.”

Kerry didn’t bother asking what a Level 1 field operation was: he knew their Kansas City mission was just that. “So what would we go on? A Level 2 op?”

“Nope.” Helena shook her head. “A Level 2 is just more of what you were already on, only they tend to be a bit longer and you have to handle more duties. No, my guess is they’ll move you up to a Level 3, which is a minimum of a five person group.”

Annie seemed pleased. “That doesn’t sound too bad.”

“It’s not. And any Level 3 either of you would get assigned to probably be people with fewer than a half-dozen of those missions to the record. In other words, relatively new operatives like you.” Helena shrugged. “Of course, I can’t guarantee that will happen.”

He wasn’t sure, but Kerry thought he picked up something in Helena’s voice when she made her last statement. “Is there something you can guarantee?”

Helena hesitated before giving her reply. “There’s nothing I’ve seen in the report, nor is there anything I heard unofficially, but I believe that one of the reasons the Guardians are waiting until 2014 to send you on a field operation is because the waiting for Kerry to undergo his transition.”

Both kids shot hurried glances at each other before Kerry turned to Erywin. “How does she know?”

 

Now we know what a Level 1, 2, and 3 field ops are, and Annie’s Girl’s Weekend Out is likely going to be a Level 3 field op.  I’ve got this all worked out and know all the things like location of operation and objectives.  When Kerry’s comes it’ll likely be the same, but–what is this?  Helena knows about Kerry’s secret?  How did that happen, as Kerry asks?  The answer is easy–

 

“She knows because I had to tell her.” Erywin sat up so she would appear more attentive. “Helen is your Guardian contact here, and since the Guardians were told about your Gift, she would’ve learned of it eventually.”

Helena locked her hands across her tummy and tapped her thumbs together. “If it’s any consolation, Erywin told me the night you discovered you had this gift and you sort of—finalized the process that night.” Her hands slid down to her thighs as she sat forward in her chair. “Remember, I’m particularly good at keeping secrets, so I wasn’t going to tell anyone else. As it was, the Guardians contacted me in July and briefed me on your gift: I never gave any indication I already knew.”

After a few moments Kerry gave a couple of quick nods. “I suppose that’s true; it’s not like you would’ve told anyone else. Sorry for overreacting.”

Helena returned the nod. “No need to apologize.”

Worried that Kerry might not ask the question, Annie gave it a voice. “Why would the Guardian want Kerry to participate in a group field operation as a girl?”

“I’m not sure about that. The Guardians are like every other organization in The Foundation: they’re seventy-five to eighty percent female. Since the chances are good of you being on an all-girl team, Annie, I can see the Guardians wanting to do the same thing with Kerry. And since it’s possible that by the beginning of 2014 they’ll know if his Gift is controllable, maybe they want to see how he’s going to relate to the other team members as just another one of the girls.”

 

This is some rabbit hole shit right here.  Coraline informed The Foundation about Kerry’s Gift going active and it looks like they told the Guardians because, well, Annie and Kerry has done things for them as well as continuing training during their B Levels.  Erywin knew to tell Helena because, yeah, she’s the Guardian contact at the school, but she didn’t let the Guardians know that she knew, even when she was between hospital visits during July, 2013, and the Guardians sat her down for a briefing where she never let on that she already knew.  Talk about secrets within secrets.

The really big deal here is that the Guardians called Helena to a meeting to give her a briefing on one of her students and probably Annie as well, since she’s being monitors at the same time.  Are we still wondering if Annie and Kerry are officially part of Team Guardian?  ‘Cause this makes it sound like they are within the fold save for not knowing the secret handshake–

Now it seems like the Guardians want to push the envelope a bit and see if Kerry is just “one of the girls” when out on a mission.  However, he has a few things to say on the matter…