Talk of the Town: All the Investment

Well, that was an interesting night.  I got my back fixed but I did not get a Unicorn Frappuccino because the Camp Hill Starbucks are run by asses and didn’t have enough ingredients stocked.  So no magical comments for you guys, and if you don’t have one ready for me tonight when I return, you are gonna be toast here tomorrow.

This after all the running around I did last night, I returned home about fifteen minutes before a bus captain webinar I logged into for this Saturday’s trip to D.C. for the March For Science.  Yes, I’ll be in Washington doing the captain of the bus thing again, but this weekend won’t be a big as the last time I was down about that way.  The last number I saw was an estimated 100,000 showing, which is still pretty respectable.  Hey, I’ll be making my voice heard–and I’m not getting paid.  Trust me.

One thing I did manage was to lay out Chapter Twelve.  And if I’m even luckier I’ll start the next scene.  If I do I’ll show you the scene titles so you can have a laugh…

Speaking of laughs–that’s something Helena isn’t doing.  And as we end the scene Ramona is more or less with the head sorceress:

 

 

 

 

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

 

Helena was about to say something when Ramona interrupted. “Did you notice Isis playing around with her tablet throughout the test?”

“As a matter fact, I did.” Helena removed her arm from the back of the chair and folded her hands together in her lap as she leaned forward. “You think she was streaming the test?”

“The only reasons she would’ve kept checking her tablet is one, she wanted to make certain her firewall in place and no one was hacking the signal; two, she’d want to make certain the bit rate didn’t fall too low.” Helena glanced up at a point on the wall above Ramona’s head. “And three, she would’ve also been watching the Marionette streams.”

There wasn’t anything in Ramona’s logic that Helena saw as incorrect. Given the large number of Spy Eyes in the room, she’d already accepted the possibility that San Francisco wasn’t just recording but live streaming as well. And given the way the homunculus acted—particularly during the third phase—it wasn’t difficult to believe there were puppet operators working the other end.

“All that makes sense.” Helena leaned sideways against the arm of her chair and sighed. “When that test started it was a little after five in San Francisco; that means they were getting people in place at four this morning.” She shook her head. “That’s a hell of a lot of preparation for a four minute test.”

 

Yeah, when your zombies are working together to take out one person, you can bet there are live people on the other end pulling those puppet strings.  What Helena says is also true:  a lot of prep work when into this test, and it seems as if San Francisco was, pardon the pun, pulling a lot of strings.  This is not normal procedure and it leaves both women wondering what it all means…

 

Ramona nodded. “That’s what I thought. That’s also why I thought this wasn’t approved by Gabriel: I don’t think he’d of had the audacity to invite people out that early in the morning to view this test live.” She, too, leaned against the arm of her chair. “You think you can find out who was involved in setting up this test?”

Helena shrugged. “Doubt it. While I’ve done my fair share of work for SOP, I’m in a completely different division. That means that some of the inner manifestations to go along with an SOP test are kept hidden from me.”

“You have any contacts who might be able to looking to those inner workings?”

“I have a few, but…” Helena rubbed her hands together as she considered the matter. “While those contacts don’t mind helping me out in a pinch with something they also see is bullshit, they’ll likely balk when I start asking them organizational questions—particularly who is doing and what at a continental headquarters.”

While Ramona knew nothing of the internal workings of the Guardians, she could see members of a super-secretive organization being just a secretive when it came to revealing their table of organization. “I guess we’ll find out who’s running things there eventually.”

Helena smirked. “Eventually.”

“So what do you think this means for those two?”

Helena pressed a fingertip against her right cheek as she contemplated this new reality. “It means someone has taken a rather exuberant interest in our couple.”

Ramona was quick to notice the deep frown crossing Helena’s face. “What’s wrong?”

The sorceress gave a deep sigh. “I’m somewhat torn.”

“By?”

She stared off into a corner of the room so that she didn’t have to look across the desk. “I don’t know if I should be excited, pleased, or terrified at that prospect.”

 

You know, when Helena is worried, everyone should worry.  You should worry more when she doesn’t know how she should feel, though, ’cause that’s always bad.  The take away here is the Guardians are upping their game on my kids and since we know they’re getting a mission, you can expect said missions won’t be anything like Kansas City.

And yes:  you will find out what’s going on behind the scene and those questions will be answered in this novel.  Act Two:  don’t miss it.

With that done, it’s time to move on to one of the moments that my kids get to share together…

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Talk of the Town: Not Who You Think

It took a few weeks, but I reached another milestone last night: I finished Part Three in the novel.  It didn’t take a lot–just a little over eight hundred words–but that was enough with the scene the bed, finish the chapter, and set the part aside.

All those First Drafts looking nice and pretty.

This means it’s time to move on to Part Four, which means I’m into the last part of Act One. It also means I’m into the first of the chapters, Chapter Twelve, that need to be laid out now.  Chapter Eleven was the last chapter in the book which I plotted out, and now it’s necessary to move on ahead and start laying out scenes.  Tonight I’m likely going to do that for Chapters Twelve and Thirteen and perhaps lay down a few scenes for the remaining three chapters of Part Four.

Yeah, I got some work ahead of me. But it’s not like I don’t know what’s coming…

Speaking of that–not knowing what’s coming, that is–let’s move a little further along in our conversation between Ramona and Helena and see what they make of the Great Musical Zombie Killing:

 

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

 

“How do you think I felt when Isis braced me last night?” Ramona leaned forward in her chair. “And then this morning she tells me additional things, like it’s a Do or Die test and there’s going to be music played. I didn’t understand that at all.”

Helena snorted. “And what was with the music? Who the hell picked that song?”

“I assume someone in San Francisco. I mean, if anyone wants to know what sort of music Kerry likes, all they need to do is go out to his YouTube account and take a look at his playlists. It’s all public, so it’s not like anyone would need to go out there snooping about in secret.”

Helena rubbed her eyes as she considered Ramona’s remarks. “It’s goddamn stupid, if you ask me. I’ve never seen a test conducted that way.” She tilted her head back and let herself go slightly limp. “Gabriel must’ve been tripping bear balls when he put this test together.”

Ramona stared across her desk at Helena for about five seconds before she shook her head. “That test was not authorized by Mr. Gabriel.”

 

First, we now know that Kerry has a bunch of public playlist on a YouTube account–which makes him sound just like a certain author we all know.  Well, it is cheaper than paying for Pandora or Spotify, though one day Kerry likely will start doing that.  (As to whether or not Annie has Pandora and/or Spotify, I think we already know the answer to that question.)  Second, this is the first time we’ve also heard Helena use an expression like “tripping bear balls”, which is an unusual thing for her to say, but not completely out of the question.  It also makes me wonder if she is somehow related to Cheryl Tunt…

Lastly, though, we see that Helena is just too close to the problem and can’t see something that Ramona picks out immediately: that a person she’s had dealings with in the past concerning Guardian affairs didn’t do something she thinks he did.  And Ramona’s reasoning?

 

Helena sat up long enough to recross her legs and throw her left arm over the back of her chair. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it doesn’t seem like his style.” She tapped her index finger against the tip of her nose several times as she thought. “I’ve only had to deal with the gentleman a couple of times, but everything I’ve seen leads me to believe that he would never authorize a test like the one we had this morning. His style is classical, while the one we saw today—” She gave a quick shrug. “Totally modern pop.” Ramona lay her right hand on her desk and tapped it for a few moments. “Did you recognize any of the names on the emails you received?”

That was an easy question to answer as there was only one name on Helena’s email. “I recognized the name on my email right away: I’ve been dealing with her for six years.”

“There’s been three or four people I’ve had to deal with in the last six years and only one of their names popped up among the three I saw on the email they sent me regarding additional requirements for the test.” Ramona gave her head another shake and tapped her fingers on the desk once more. “Between that and the conduct of today’s test, I don’t think I’m entirely off base when I say I’m not sure the old guard is still in place in San Francisco.”

Though Helena wasn’t ready to agree with all of Ramona’s assessment, her comments concerning Mr. Gabriel and how it seemed unlikely he would’ve authorized the test they witnessed today did ring true. Though Helena didn’t work directly for SOP—she was actually a member of Field Operations Division, or FOD, which some wags in the Guardians said was the acronym for “Forced on Operation and Died”—she had plenty of opportunities to cross from one department to another, and had had more or less a cordial relationship with Gabriel for little more than a decade.

This meant she knew something of the way he conducted himself, as well as the way he conducted business as the director of San Francisco SOP, and Ramona was right: there was no way he would’ve authorized today’s test. His idea of a test would’ve been far more traditional—possibly more homunculus on the test area at once as well as a shorter time period in which to achieve goals. But he would’ve never set this up as a Do or Die operation, nor would he have allowed music to be played—at least not the music they heard today.

Helena was about to say something when Ramona interrupted. “Did you notice Isis playing around with her tablet throughout the test?”

 

Once you establish yourself as having a particular style, it’s easy to notice when that style changes.  With most of these witches, style change doesn’t come about easily, so something drastic occurs one can assume that someone new is calling the shots.  That’s what Ramona noticed right away, probably because while she’s had dealings with the Guardians, they’ve been limited.  This would make any change in procedures stand out rather dramatically.

And for the first time we find out which section of the Guardians Helena works for: Field Operations Division.  She stated before that she’s done work for SOP, but they are not the boss of her–at least not directly.  Because of her injuries we know FOD doesn’t put Helen out in the field as much as in the past, and when she does go out it’s usually in a supervisory capacity.  Which may or may not be all right with Helena, but there’s little she can do to buck her bosses at this point.  Besides, like it or not she’s collecting a paycheck from both the school and the Guardians, so why complain?  And, being at the school as she is, she’s usually the first to see new talent. Like, you know, a couple of kids who arrived at Salem two years ago–

With these questions out of the way close again quickly on the end of this conversation…

Talk of the Town: What Was That BS?

Yesterday was not what I would call a good day.  Though, in a way, it was a good day–perhaps it was really not that good of a night.  I had a lot to do during the day, and believe it or not, I got it done. Even I was surprised.  But then I started thinking about something… And that set off the triggers, and for a significant part of the evening I was nothing but a slimy, blubbering mess.

Also, I discovered I need to buy a corkscrew.  Bummer.

What this means is that I’m no longer had of the curve.  The end of this excerpt is about twelve hundred words ahead of where I’m at right now in the story, so unless I get my butt into writing, pretty soon I’m going to hit one of those points where I’m going to be writing just get the excerpt out.  And I don’t want that ’cause that’s even more stressful.

Ah, how did I ever get in a situation?

Now the test is over the recriminations began.  Well, maybe not so much recriminations as a postmortem as to what “that test” was about.  And just as it was at the beginning of this chapter with the first scene, this scene returns the same players, with Annie and Kerry mentioned but not seen.  And it doesn’t take long to get right into the discussion:

 

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

 

It wasn’t long after half past sixteen that Ramona received word that the instructors who spent the afternoon in Boston had returned that she heard the clacking of heavy boot heels in the hallway outside her door. She opened it some forty-five minutes earlier, for she had anticipated a visitor—
And now that visitor was here.

Helena stopped in the open doorway and let out alongside. “Well.” She stepped inside the office and waved the door closed behind her, waiting until it latched before continuing.

“To paraphrase Kerry, what was that bullshit we saw this morning?”

“Quite the spectacle, wasn’t it? I was just going over the video from the test.” Ramona looked down as she chuckled in a low voice. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen either of them flustered after a test—or ever, for that matter.”

The right corner of Helena’s mouth curved upward in the smirk. “I think they were caught up in the moment. I know I’ve trained them not to act that way, at least during a stressful situation.”

“They were finished with the test, so I think I can allow them a little slack.”

 

My kids have expressed frustration in the past, but it’s almost always been in the private sector: they rarely shown that frustration publicly.  In the last book Annie get frustrated with Kerry, who was getting frustrated learning Exsanguination, and both experienced some frustration both with family and, um, “frustration”, if you know what I mean.  The closest there’s been a public frustration moment was the first night at Advanced Spells when Annie had trouble doing levitation and we discovered that while she always wanted to be a bad ass sorceress, she hadn’t always kept up on the real simple spells.

But to get so frustrated in the aftermath of a devilishly hard test that you turn and start screaming at your instructor?  Yeah, the kids need to work on that.  Oh, and about what Annie said–

 

Silently Helena admitted that she agreed with Ramona; publicly she’d say nothing. “While we were out I wanted to ask Annie what she said while we were out, but I was afraid she take it the wrong way.”

“She said ‘Who put this fucking test together?’.” This time Ramona’s chuckle was much louder. “I had Sabrina translate the comment.”

Helena raised an eyebrow as a smile slowly formed on her face. “That girl is getting quite a mouth on her.”

“Can’t imagine where she getting that from.”

“Yeah, and you can fuck right off with that shit.” Helena crossed her arms as she looked away for a moment. “Though her question about the test remains valid.”

“I’m wondering about that same thing as well.” Ramona motioned Helena to a chair. “Not only was I surprised by the orders I received, but discovering that Isis had additional orders that she didn’t past either of us wasn’t something I expected.” She shook her head. “It’s not often I have to work with the Guardians, but they’re usually straightforward in their dealings—and when they are being sneaky, you can usually tell.”

The matter of having three different people involved in today’s test, and not seeing information passed from one person to the next, had bothered Helena through most of the afternoon. She had to agree with Ramona’s assessment: it wasn’t unusual for the Guardians to be sneaky, but one could usually tell when that was happening. “I don’t know what the hell this was. I mean, why it wasn’t such a big deal to add on six additional homunculus and then not have you tell me?” She sat back and crossed her legs. “I don’t get it.”

 

First off, we get Annie dropping a F Bomb once more, and this time in Bulgarian.  Being that this is the third novel, she gets one more opportunity to say that particular word again–which means Kerry has a three F Bomb limit as well.  Hey, Patrick O’Brian did something similar, and that means I can as well.  And as far as Ramona’s question about where Annie may be picking that up–yeah, we know Helena’s a good influence for that as well.

Speaking of frustration we start seeing it both with Ramona and Helena.  Neither of them can understand where the Guardians are coming from, particularly Helena, who knows how they operate.  And tomorrow will get into their frustration a little bit more…

The Kali Test: The End

Yesterday was a good writing day.  I wrote almost twelve hundred words in the morning, came home and wrote eleven hundred word TV recap, then ended up writing another two hundred and sixty words later in the evening to include something I meant to include in the morning, but didn’t.  Add all that up, and I wrote close to twenty-four hundred words, something I haven’t done in quite some time.

That doesn’t mean I’m back in the groove: it simply means yesterday was a good rating day.  The trick to all this is doing something like that nearly every day, and not just on a Sunday in April.  Most times I’ll be lucky to get five hundred words a day.  But I have to say, yesterday felt good.

Since I’m on the way to ending Chapter Eleven, here’s the end of the test scene.  And you knew this was coming; why wouldn’t you?  But based upon what you’ve seen so far, this ending is a little unusual–

 

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

 

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

Ramona waited until she was absolutely certain that Annie and Kerry were the only creatures moving on the other side of the safety enchantment before casting it away.

She waited a few seconds for her students to gather their bearings before speaking. “The test is concluded. Based upon the final results—”

Kerry turned toward Ramona and Helena and screamed at them, raising his arms and hands in the air. “What was that bullshit?”

Annie stepped around the bodies on the floor as she wiped blood from her face and eyes. She, too, was not happy, and the moment she was alongside Kerry she also yelled out her frustration. “Koĭ postavi tozi shiban test zaedno?”

Ramona quickly raised the safety enchantment, putting a barrier of silence between her angry students and the rest of the people in the hall. She turned to Helena and shrugged. “Apparently they have some questions.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Helena turned to her left as she sensed Isis walking away. “Where are you going?”

 

The kids usually stick by their mantra of “A good sorceress keeps their head about them while everything is going to hell around them.”  But nothing is going to hell around them anymore: that’s already happened, things to them.  And these kids get just as frustrated and confused as adults, who often vent her frustration once a momentous task has completed.  Plus, when you add in the fact that both these kids are raging hormone factories, it’s easy to understand why they lost their cool and started screaming.  At their instructor.  In front of a room full of people, including the Head Sorceress.

Fortunately, Ramona is fairly even-tempered and she understands that emotions run high at times, particularly when you’ve been in a difficult match.  Also, it’s likely fair to say that the kids aren’t known to start screaming and swearing at the same time while in the Advanced Self Defense class–and you know Annie swore, because Kerry is already mentioned that usually when she’s upset and says something in Bulgarian, it’s likely she’s cursing.  You’ll find out in the following scene what she said.

So it’s probably a good idea to let the kids simmer down, or at least get rid of witnesses–

 

She held her tablet at her side as she addressed the Head Sorceress. “I’m finished with my side of this test, so there’s no need for me to stick around.” She tapped something on her tablet screen then looked up at Ramona. “My people will be by in the afternoon to collect the Spy Eyes. Shouldn’t take too long to get them out of here.”

Ramona nodded in acknowledgment. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Cool. See you ladies later.” Isis juanted off.

With the Chief of Security gone Ramona now turned to the students who’d observed the test, with a few appearing to have not handled the bloody spectacle well. “This test is concluded. For those while visitors, you are free to leave. For those of you remaining for class, I will need about twenty minutes to clear the testing surface so that we may start. Feel free to mill about outside: I will call you when ready.”

Students filed out of the Manor and it was empty save for the two instructors and the two testes standing on the other side of the safety enchantment. Ramona took a deep breath. “I think we can continue our dialogue.”

Helena nodded toward the two students. “By all means, let’s.”

 

Testing is done, so Isis isn’t needed anymore.  Or at least she seems to think so.  This will get brought up in the next scene as well.  Hell, a lot of things get brought up in the next scene…

Since Ramona and Helena are pretty easy-going in most situations, they’ve given Annie and Kerry time to cool off.  That time is over: now it’s time to talk.

 

The Self Defense instructor removed the safety enchantment and addressed her students. “Have you had time to calm yourselves?”

They answered simultaneously. “Yes, Professor.”

Ramona approached and stopped two meters from them. “According to the rules of this engagement, you have successfully completed this test. Will see to it that the results are passed along to the appropriate authorities.” She gave them both a quick smile. “Go clean up and change, and once you have you’re both free to leave.”

Annie looked the most surprised of the two. “We don’t need to return for class?”

A soft chuckle escaped Ramona’s lips. “I think you’ve both proven that there isn’t any need for you to work on forms or spar today.”

“That’s for sure.” Helena moved up closer to Ramona, though she knew better than to stand next to her at this point. “Erywin, I, and a few others are heading into Boston about eleven to have lunch and do a little shopping. Why don’t you come out to the Instructors Residence when you done cleaning up? You can relax a bit before we leave.”

Both seemed happy to hear this news. Kerry reached out and gave Annie’s hand a squeeze before responding. “Thank you, Professor.”

Annie smiled as she returned to squeeze. “Yes, thank you, Helena.”

“All right, then.” Ramona straightened slightly. “Face me.” Annie and Kerry turned to face their instructor and bowed as she did. When they straighten Ramona wave them away. “Go on: go clean up.”

The instructors watched Annie and Kerry make their way through the carnage they left behind only to stop just past the last of the bodies so that they could share a short kiss. When they finished they both cast a glance back before heading off to the locker rooms and vanishing.

Helena rubbed her eyes as she chuckled. “Love among the zombies.”

Ramona only partially turned to head to look at the sorceress. “Didn’t you ever do that after test?”

“We didn’t have homunculus as nice as the ones you make.” She turned towards Ramona. “When I get back from Boston this afternoon, you and I are going to have a little discussion about what just happened here.”

Ramona crossed arms and gave her friend an unconcerned look. “Believe me, Helena; I want to talk about this.”

 

There you have it: the kids get to kill a bunch of zombies in front of the third of the student body, they then got this work their instructor, and then they were released from class for the rest of the day so they can go hang out in Boston with other instructors.  All in all, not a bad day–or, I should say, a bad four minutes, as that’s all it really took for them to establish themselves as the Bad Ass Zombie Killers of Salem.  And given what was seen, and the rumors that will come out of what was seen, one has to assume that anyone who calls these two out now is simply looking for a beating.

That doesn’t mean that neither of them won’t get called out–

And now that the fighting is done, it’s time for the instructors to ask a few questions…

The Kali Test: Required Rules

Good morning, everyone, and Happy Cosmonauts Day!  Yes, today’s the day that humans–particularly Yuri Gagarin–and space shuttle Columbia first went into space.  But in a certain history that I’ve created, this is also the day–a chilly, wet day–in 2013 that Annie Kiralova took her final solo flight.  And right about now she was waking up and getting ready to head down to the Flight School for breakfast of steak and eggs.

What a lucky girl.

Yesterday you may have noticed that I re-blog post.  That post was to commemorate that two years earlier I had started Book Three of my series, B For Bewitching.  Which means it seems like it was a good time to finish the current seen I’m excerpting now and move on to the next.

And right here it is.

It turned out to be almost five thousand words long, which makes it one of the longest scenes of written a bit.  But that’s because there’s all sorts of stuff going on inside and that takes time to get out.  And it also puts me five hundred words closer to the end of Part Three.  Which is good because the next part of the novel gets really interesting…

So, we’ve seen some of the pretest shenanigans, but they’re done–so let’s move on to the next part: the rules. You know there have to be rules.

And there are:

 

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

 

Walking past the half-dozen cabinets at the far end of the Manor’s floor, Annie and Kerry made their way towards Ramona. Both were dressed in the loose top and pants worn by all students in the Self Defense classes, Annie’s hair was tied back in a pony tail, and as usual both were barefoot. The biggest difference in the outfits these two wore was the color: most of the time the uniforms were white, but Annie’s and Kerry’s were black. Helena was aware that Ramona only ordered this change if she was certain and upcoming test was going to get bloody.

Both students came to a halt facing Ramona and bowed. Ramona returned the bow, then turned and faced the rest of the students, addressing all in English. “If I may have your attention, please?” The talking subsided and vanished as every student did as instructed. “I thank you all for coming out to the Manor on this early Sunday morning. As such, I would like to remind you all that you are invited guest, and as such I expect you to show a modicum of decorum for the event we are about to witness.

“What will happen in the next few minutes is an officially sanction Foundation test. It has not been requested by the school, but rather by an outside agency associated with The Foundation—”

Helena instantly noticed the glances exchanged between a few of the students and took this to mean that the rumor she had heard through the last school year about Annie and Kerry being somehow affiliated with the Guardians was considered by some students to be a bit more than a rumor. Now was not the time to give the matter any concern, so she returned her attention to Ramona’s introduction—

“—and as such they have stipulated guidelines under which they wish this test conducted.” Ramona pointed to the six cabinets at the opposite end of the Manor’s large training area. “Each of those cabinets contains a homunculus. Annie and Kerry are required to combat six homunculi in each phase of the test.”

 

Helena shouldn’t seem that surprised that kids are passing knowing looks when they hear of a “Foundation outside agency”, because most of the kids have put two and two together and figured out that Annie and Kerry are likely doing some sneaking and peeking–and who the hell knows what else?–with Helena and her merry gang of Guardians.  Maybe she isn’t surprised.  Maybe she knows that these kids know more than they’re letting on, but she doesn’t care.  As she’s said before, a bad ass rep is a good thing to have, and having a bunch of people come out to watch you kill fake zombies improves that rep even more.

Now for the actual rules:

 

She turned to her two students who were now eyeing her hard. “There are eighteen homunculi which you are required to defend against in three separate phases. In the first phase you may only take Mano Mano actions along with any spells you are capable of crafting. In the second phase—” She pointed to the small weapons racks against the walls on her left and right. “You are permitted to use these weapons along with the live hand and magic. In the third and last phase you maybe continue to use Mano Mano and magic, though the only weapons you may use are those which you craft out of mystical or dark energy.

“The first phase begins when the homunculi at the far end step across the white line.” She clapped her hands twice and the cabinets opened, revealing the homunculi inside. As everyone had seen before they shambled out slowly before stopping at the edge of the far white line. “As soon as they cross the line six more will appear and wait their turn to engage. Each phase will only begin when all of the homunculi of the prior phase have been dispatched.

“This is also a timed test. It will last for minutes, though the test itself should take up approximately three and a half minutes of that time. All three phases of the test must be completed before the music ends—”

For the first time since greeting their professor Kerry spoke. “Music? We’re getting music?”

Ramona nodded. “Yes. Our instructions were to play a particular song during the test that lasts just short of four minutes.” She gave him a stern look as a way of warning him not to speak out of turn again. “Do you require further elaboration?”

Kerry shook his head. “No, Professor.”

 

First off, some clarification.  The term Mano Mano is an expression used in Kali that means “hand-to-hand”.  And that is exactly what they do in the first phase: they fight only with their hands and with magic.  The second expression, used in phase two, is “live hand”.  This indicates that in some instances you have a weapon in one hand and your other hand is empty. It is the empty hand which is your live hand, and that means you can use that against her opponent along with your weapon.  Kali was actually developed as a weapon-based martial arts and the hand movements used reflect the same movements used for weapons.  This means it is heavily based upon muscle memory in terms of how one faces their opponent and disables them.

Now we see some additional shenanigans as well. Helena put in a cook order for twelve homunculi: instead, there are eighteen, which means Ramona received a different order when she sent off her acknowledgment to the Guardians.  And while Annie and Kerry are out fighting, they get to listen to music!  Some of you may remember that a few months back I said I was focusing on a scene where a particular song was played as the scene played out.  Guess what?  Here’s that scene.

And now for the last of the rules:

 

Ramona nodded once to show she understood, then continued. “As defined in the instructions, this is considered a ‘Do or Die’ test.” Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Helena’s head whip about at the mention of the test condition, but Ramona paid no attention. “A safety enchantment will go up at the red line, making it impossible to step out of the testing area as a way of ending the test.

“Therefore, the conditions for the completion of the test are simple. If one of both of you are subdued by the homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If you have not dispatched all homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If, however, you destroy all eighteen homunculi before time has expired, you pass. There are no other situations that will allow a pass.” Ramona scrutinized both her students. “You understand the conditions as explained?”

Annie responded with a curt nod. “Yes, Professor.”

Kerry looked down for a moment before meeting Ramona’s gaze. “Yes, Professor.”

“Excellent.” Ramona pointed to the rectangular outlines on the floor a few meters from where they stood. “Please take your positions.” She turned to face the now over fifty students who were waiting for the next few minutes unfold. “The test will begin momentarily.”

 

Do or Die.  No, doesn’t sound a bit overly dramatic at all.  Nor does it sound all that grave–

Yeah, who are we kidding?  Someone in the Guardians decided they were going to make this test fairly difficult, and the only way my kids are going to beat this test is if they beat–or as Ramona says, destroy–their eighteen undead opponents.  Yes, it sounds like the guardians are piling a ton of crap onto my kids, but believe me, there is a method to their madness.

And tomorrow you’re going to get see that madness played out.  For tomorrow begins Phase One…

The Kali Test: Surprise Setup

Last night was another thousand word session,  my first back-to-back writings in about a month, and I nearly brought this scene to an end.  Almost, but not quite.  I’ll probably finish it up tonight.

But we start The Kali Test, as I call it, right here and now.  Although I warn you, it’s probably going to be Wednesday before you see the kids kicking ass.  Which means tomorrow are the rules and today–today is the setup…

 

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

 

The moment Helena entered Gwydion Manor she noticed something was different—specifically, instead of there being the half dozen or so students who normally took Advanced Self Defense class on Sunday morning, about forty students were standing around looking as if waiting for something to happen. Though she didn’t often come out to watch a self-defense class, she knew the only time these sort of crowds appeared in the Manor was when a judgment trial was about to take place.

And she knew for a fact that nothing that was about to happen in the next fifteen to twenty minutes had anything to do with the judgment trial.

Helena spotted Ramona off to one side of the testing area speaking with a student. She spotted someone else: Isis was here, standing about six meters away an examining something on her tablet display. It wasn’t normal for her to be here as it wasn’t necessary for her to be present during this or any test. Unless, of course, she was here to check out something that was needed for the test, like equipment she may have installed—

The moment she saw Ramona heading in her direction Helena raised her head to gain her attention. The martial arts instructor headed for her directly and greeted her with a slight smile. “Glad to see you made it.”

“Wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” Helena stepped closer to to her fellow instructor and turned so her back was towards the majority of the milling students. “What the hell is going on? Why are all these students here?”

“Oh, this.” Ramona looked around and switched to Esperanto to answer the question. “You can thank Isis for this. Apparently she sent out an email before breakfast inviting students to the Manor to watch a training exercise.” Her left eyebrow raised slowly as she turned her gaze in the direction of the Chief of Security. “It certainly wasn’t my idea.”

Helena was surprised to hear this, as it was unusual, if not out of the ordinary, for Isis to interject herself in daily classwork. The Chief of Security never became involved with the instructor’s classes unless there is a security concern that needed addressing—and even then she herself rarely became involved. Unless…

She pointed in the tall woman’s direction. “What’s she checking on her tablet?”

 

So what better way to kick this test off than to make it a public spectacle, yeah?  It seems like a hit as well, since about a third of the student body has shown to watch Annie and Kerry beat up on the newly created undead, which means no pressure at all.

There’s also something else going on here–

 

Ramona nodded toward the test area. “Look out there; what you see?”

Helena tried to follow Isis’ gaze and immediately notice what was drawing her attention. “Damn, there’s a lot of Spy Eyes in the room.”

“Two dozen.” Ramona crossed her arms as she glanced over at Helena. “I was told last night after the Midnight Madness that one of Isis’ people going to be out here installing them for the test.”

Helena turned back toward Ramona, not caring if any students saw her speaking. “Why the hell would she be out here installing all these Spy Eyes?” Her eyes narrowed slightly. “What the hell’s going on?”

“Additional instructions.” Even though she was speaking in Esperanto Ramona kept her voice low so that the conversation didn’t travel beyond the two women. “When I sent off that acknowledgment the other day, I received additional instructions in return.”

“On?”

“I’m not permitted to tell you until after this test.”

Helena felt her jaw tighten. “What is this shite?”

Ramona held up a hand. “Not only did I get instructions, but Isis received them as well; I only found out about them last night after the Midnight Madness when she and I were walking back to the Instructors Residence.” She held up her tablet. “This morning she gives me additional instructions on how this test is to be conducted: I’ve had about fifteen minutes to review them.” She lowered the tablet to her side and returned to speaking English. “It’s all that damn compartmentalization: they don’t want one group aware of what the others doing, all the way down the line.”

It was impossible for Helena to argue, for she was certain Ramona was correct. She knew the Guardians were far more secretive than any of their other contemporaries in The Foundation, but this sometimes led to the same sort of secrecy taking hold in each of the individual headquarters. And when it came to the Special Operations and Procedures Division, better known as SOP, they were known for sometimes taking secrecy to a new level.

But what bothered Helena the most wasn’t that Ramona and Isis were given separate duties after they were told of the test, it was that someone in San Francisco had decided that it wasn’t necessary for Helena to know about these changes.

She was about to ask Ramona another question when self-defense instructor nodded at something behind Helena. “Here they come.”

 

Spy Eyes are magical little floating cameras that can be thrown up to monitor just about anything–like, say, a flight by A Levels to nearly two miles above sea level.  Here, two dozen are being used to keep track of the test, and that’s…  well, it’s a lot.  Someone doesn’t want to miss a beat.

And now we get an idea of why Ramona probably said, “That’s interesting.”  Someone high up out in San Fran didn’t want Helena to know about changes in the test.  And Isis did the same to Ramona.  That damn compartmentalization the spooks love so much is being used like mad here, and pretty much all the players are feeling the effect.

Now Annie and Kerry are here, so listen up:  the rules are gonna get laid down…

All That the Guardians Want

Well, we are here again getting ready to delve into my kid’s lives.  Although this is one of those scenes where neither of them are actually here, they’re just spoke about like the stars they are.

This is the last part of the first scene where the big Kali test is set up.  We’ve heard what is needed and realize what is at stake.  However, that doesn’t mean our Self Defense and Weapons instructor is happy–

 

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

 

She leaned back in the chair, interlaced her fingers, and gave her arms and shoulders to stretch. “You do realize that this is the week I start cooking up all the homunculi for next Friday’s class?”

Helena appeared slightly amused. “The Great Zombie Killing lesson, am I right?”

“The one and the same.”

“While I understand that you need to cook up a few for all the new students to try and kill, one, it’s not as many as we need to cook up for Sunday and, two, the Guardians give zero shits.” Helena chuckled. “What the Guardians want, the Guardians get.”

Ramona snorted. “Which is what they always get.”

“Absolutely.”

“All right, then.” Ramona knew that any protesting from here on out was nothing more than bitching and it wouldn’t change the outcome of the request. “I suppose I could turn up the time enchantments a bit so we can get these dozen done in the next twenty-four hours. I really hate to do that—”

“Because why? You’re afraid of wearing out the APs faster?” Helena was aware that the majority of the homunculi creation was performed by Salem’s housekeeping staff, which meant it was all being handled by one of the schools APs. “They’re not going to notice if you crank up the enchantment to twenty times over normal; to them it makes no difference.” She sat back in her chair and began forming her fingers on her thighs. “What’s up your arse this afternoon? You usually don’t react like this when I put in a request.”

Ramona fidgeted in her seat delete before answering. “It feels like San Francisco’s up to something again and you know I don’t work well with all this secretive bullshit.”

 

Yesterday reader and blog follower renxkyoko told me that she thought the Guardians were being a bit unfair with Annie and Kerry.  Well, here we have Ramona feeling as if San Francisco–the HQ who have ordered and will oversee this test–are kinda being sneaky shits about something.  Wow, spooks being, you know, spooky.  That’s like unheard of, you know?

Helena knows how to handle this:

 

Helena’s tone softened: she didn’t want to give Ramona the idea that she was upset with her. “I get tired with it as well, but I tend not to let it bother me as I’m used to their crap.” She leaned forward slightly as she smiled. “Not the first time it’s happened, certainly won’t be the last.”

That’s certainly true.” Ramona tapped her tablet. “I’ll start work on this right away; I should have the first of the homunculi cooking before dinner.”

“Excellent.” Helena rose from her chair and began backing away from Ramona’s desk. “By the way, that request has an acknowledgment notification. Make sure you respond to let San Francisco know that you’ve received a request and you understand.”

Ramona flashed her best bitch face before scoffing loudly. “I have done this before, Helena.”

Helena realized her faux pas immediately. “I apologize; wasn’t necessary for me to say that.”

Ramona nodded once. “Apology accepted.” She smiled the show there were no hard feelings. “I’ll take care of this. See you at dinner.”

Once the sorceress was gone and the door to her office closed, Ramona sat back in her chair and sighed. She wasn’t upset with Helena, though it did same as if during the past week all the instructors were slightly on edge. She felt it had something to do with the A Levels, who appeared to be a little slower than normal when it came to learning to craft even the simplest spells. Ramona didn’t notice much in her Beginning Self Defense class, but every night at dinner there was always one instructor who was somewhat frustrated with the progress of their new students.

She wouldn’t let it concerned her. We’ve started out the year with slow students before and in the end we’ve managed to train them up properly. She tapped on her tablet bring up to request so that she could acknowledge its receipt. I’m certain this year won’t be any different than the others. Ramona checked the box indicating she’d received cooking request and sent it off to San Francisco.

She was in the process of bringing up something else on her tablet when there was a ding notifying that she’d received an email. Her face scrunched up as she saw it was an acknowledgment to her acknowledgment. “What the hell?” She opened the message and quickly scan the contents, Ramona’s confusion changing to amazement as she read. The moment she finished Ramona sat up and slowly ran a finger along her right cheek bone. “Well, that’s certainly interesting…”

 

Annnnnnnnnnnnd, it looks like the spooks are being spooky.  What does this mean for the test?

You’ll start finding out tomorrow.