Demonstrations of Death: Bloody Good Show

Before anything else goes down, there’s a little something that popped up on my Facebook time line today, and that something has to do with historical timelines.  I bring this up because one year ago today I posed The Coming of the Chestnut Girl, and we finally discovered the identity of The Chestnut Girl, about Kerry’s attachment to Annie through their dreams, how he first expressed something most important to her.

Of course that little coming out session led to my kids getting confronted by Helena as soon as they were done pouring their hearts out, and before long they’d find someone trying to rip their hearts out, because bad guys are assholes.  Not to worry thought, ’cause my kids were trained up enough that they managed to keep everyone from dying, and eventually Kerry learned (1) that someone wanted him to be a Dark Witch and (2) to stop overthinking everything.

What a difference a year makes–

Like almost a quarter of a million words difference.

Like almost a quarter of a million words difference.

I eventually wrote just over eighteen hundred words yesterday, and this section I’m showing today is all about practical demonstrations, and it starts off in a bit of a snarky way . . .

 

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

Kerry looked to Annie as she looked back. She half-shrugged her head to the right. “How do you feel?”

“You guys don’t have to do this.” Helena stepped so she was almost between them so she could speak more confidentially. “Like Annie said, you’re not here to show off.”

“True, but—” Kerry quickly glanced to his right, then between Annie and Helena. He lowered his voice. “I’m tried of Lisa’s crap.”

Annie nodded and spoke in the same hushed tones. “So am I.”

“Then it’s settled.” Helena returned to her spot to Kerry’s right. “Since I brought a few homunculi for those students who might be ready for a go at a quick test of their abilities, you’ll be able to see what my minions can do.” She glanced to her far left. “Annie, would you mind demonstrating the Exsanguination spell? I’ve not actually seen you do this on a full homunculus, and I would love to see it in action. I hear your spell is . . .” The right corner of her mouth curled upward. “Killer.”

Annie smiled darkly at Helena’s inside joke. “Of course, Professor.”

 

Who says Helena doesn’t have a sense of humor?  It’s just a little snark between Guardians, is all–and if you don’t believe Annie isn’t thinking of herself as a Guardian by now, you don’t know my Chestnut Girl.  As with all things involving her, it’s eyes on the prize, and this prize has a big “G” on the ID.

So let’s get Annie up there first with her killer spell:

 

Helena pulled out a tablet and began scrolling through something on the screen. A moment later one of the cabinets that were used for holding homonculi appeared about twenty meters from the group. “Since Ramona knows how much you all love those training zombies, she cooked up a batch this week just for you.” She tapped the screen a few times, then nodded at Annie. “You go first.”

“Yes, Professor.” She examined the cabinet as she stepped about five meters away from the other students. “Tracker homunculus?”

“Oh, yeah.” Helena grinned. “Those always give people an incentive to be good.” Her finger hovered over the tablet display. “Ready?”

Annie looked straight ahead, flexing her fingers. “Yes, Professor.”

“Here goes.” She tapped the display.

 

Right off the bat, when Annie says, “Tracker homunculus,” the students watching should have grown nervous.  Then you watch Annie standing there like she’d ready to beat the hell out of someone, and that should have been Nervous Moment #2.  So let’s open the door and see who’s about to try and lay the smack on Annie.

 

The door opened and the homunculus stumbled out. Annie was well acquainted with the type: a girl-like humanoid about her size dressed in a school uniform and appearing to be about a week dead. Like the ones Kerry and she had trained with in the past, this one didn’t stink of rotting flesh, though Annie half expected that at some point Helena would throw a few like that at them to test their concentration.

The tracker zombie keyed on Annie and snarled, then began shambling towards her. She was aware that these homunculus moved faster than they appeared to move, but in the short time she’d had to set up Annie knew what she wanted to do to this thing. All of them want some sort of an exhibition— She pushed her hair back over her shoulders and began to craft.

The zombie girl was about four meters from Annie when two black ribbons eased down from the shadows and wrapped around the homunculus’ upper arms. The zombie snarled and thrashed, but couldn’t free itself from Annie’s spell. It stumbled forward another three meters, finally jerking to a stop about a half meter from the unmoving, unwavering Annie. With Annie close enough to touch it reached out, trying to get hold of her so it could carry out its instinct to bite.

Annie stood in front of the angry, snarling creature, showing no emotion. Once she was certain the homunculus was secure she reached out and took the zombie’s hand in her right and pressed it down hard. It was only as she began crafting the transformation spell that a slight smile finally appeared upon her face.

Slowly the zombie’s hair changed from the the dark brunette to a light blond almost the identical shade of Lisa’s hair. Annie knew it wasn’t necessary to go this far to make a point, but as like Kerry she’d grown tired of the girl’s crap, and while she didn’t know if the argumentative girl would get the point Annie was about to make, she knew others in their level would.

The little sorceress inhaled deeply, clearing her mind. What she was about to do next she’d done before, and under far different, more stressful, conditions. She focused her energy and pulled in the dark energy she needed finish crafting her Exsanguination spell. All that remained was for her to activate the spell with her will . . .

She raised her left hand close to her face and pointed her finger at the snarling face of the zombie.

 

So the kids wanted to see stuff, but they weren’t likely expecting Annie to go all Natural Born Killer on this simple homunculus.  Sure, it’s enchanted to make you go unconscious the moment it bites you, because you should always know that if this were real–and who’s to say this isn’t in this world?–you’d be Zombie Chow.

But Annie’s taking this shit to another level.  First, she shows she can truss up her zombie and that she has no fear it’s going to free itself from her shadow ribbons.  Then she works in her little bit of transformation magic she’s learned from Kerry and gives her homunculus the same shade of hair as Lisa.

And then she gets serious . . .

 

Blood immediately began gushing from the homunculus’ nose, ears, and mouth. The snarling increased as the creature’s head began whipping about, spraying Annie’s face and the upper half of her uniform jacket and blouse with flecks of blood. Annie gripped the creature’s hand and held it steady as the homunculus’ clothing began soaking up the blood seeping from its body. In a few seconds the creature’s eyes filled with blood and sprayed away from its face as a huge burst of fluids doused the floor under its feet. The homunculus jerked three times and went limp a few seconds before falling completely.

Annie took two steps back from the zombie before turning and presenting a bloody visage to her fellow students—some who were gasping, some who were retching. She swiped blood from her eyes and flicked it to the floor before waving her hand back over her shoulder to kill the shadow ribbons. “I hope—” She walked towards Helena as the lifeless zombie homunculus collapsed with a loud thud. “—that was what you expected, Professor.”

Helena nodded and did her damnedest to keep the smile on her face from being seen by anyone but Annie and Kerry. “That was was far more than expected, Annie.” She waited until Annie, bloody and smiling, stood at her left before nodding towards Kerry. “Give me a minute to jaunt this mess away, then it’s your turn.”

 

That Annie, she knows how to show off when she wasn’t intending to show off.  The thing is Annie doesn’t show off, and everything she did had a point–

"And I do hope you bitches saw that point . . ."

“And I do hope you bitches saw that point . . .”

Everyone in the room got to see Annie’s signature move, and managed to see it in a way that didn’t involve them screaming and running for their lives, as they likely would have done the first time Annie kicked this sucker off when it was meant to mean something.  Sure, the shade throwing wasn’t necessary, but as Helena once said, one of the best things you can get for yourself is a bad ass rep, and Annie certainly added to that one.

Up next, Kerry–

Just as soon as they bloody zombie is out of the room.

Pulling the Strings

With things getting back into a normal routine and the transphobic jerks tossed into a nearby star–if only–it was time to write.  And while it was only about only eight hundred words, that’s good enough for me to get back into things.  Because sometimes you need to walk slow back into things.

Also, I’m making up stuff as I go along more or less.  See, some of this process is coming to me as I write, because I have an outline, but I don’t have it all well-developed.  I don’t get everything figured out in my head ahead of time, regardless of what some people think, and I gotta work this out with words as I go along.  And that was what I did last night:  workin’ it out and writin’ it down.

And what I came up is a couple of kids ready to rock–

 

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

“At least we’ll have a good connection.” Helena approached the rigs. “How are you feeling?”

Kerry leaned forward into his harness. “I’m good.” He rested his head against the cushion and pushed his face through. “I’ve been looking forward to this since last night.”

“I can see.” Helena turned to Annie, who was rolling her shoulders before completing getting into her rig. “And you? Not too nervous, are you?”

“Not at all; I can’t wait to start.” Annie was aware what they were about to do was something that wasn’t normally taught at school, but rather was something explored during Salem’s Continuing Education Program. For the Guardians to have us train like this only a year after we came to their notice is incredible—I wonder if this means there’s more to come? “This isn’t something anyone else at school is doing—”

“This isn’t something anyone at school is doing—” Ramona punched something on her tablet. “Period. Marionette training usually takes place at a Guardian facility.”

“Which one?”

Helena chuckled. “One of them.” She touched Annie’s rig. “Come on, Sunshine: your better half is waiting on you.”

 

Annie is wondering what is going on, and it could be something, it might be nothing.  The Guardians work in strange ways, though the interesting thing here is Ramona not questioning a thing.  One has to figure that Helena gave her an overview of what’s happening and then told her not to say a word, which is likely:  after all, just about all the instructors in the heavy magic classes–as well as martial arts and probably some of the science stuff–have to come in contact with both the Protectors and Guardians at some point.  Or, as in Helena’s and Isis’ positions, a lot of points.

 

Kerry’s blush was bright against the dull cream color of the face padding. “Sorry, I’m just—”

“Excited. I know.” Annie finished getting into rig and pressed her face into the padding before giving the overhead straps a tug. “I’m ready.”

“Starting elevation.” Ramona moved her fingers over something on her tablet surface and a second later the marionette rigs began to rise off the floor as they slowly pitched forward.

As soon as the kid’s feet were off the ground Helena unfastened the rigs from their ceiling straps. “How they looking?”

“I’m getting good feedback on their auras.” Ramona looked up from the tablet. “I’ve got a connection: we’re ready to move to the next step.”

“Sounds good.” Helena stepped between the two floating children. “Okay, guys, just relax and let your arms hang down.”

Kerry almost nodded. “Do we need to close our eyes or anything?”

“No—that will happened as soon as we enact the enchantment.” Helena ran her fingers over the contours of Annie’s rig. “When your eyes close, you’ll feel like you’re floating under water and there’s a line nearby stretching away from you. Grab that line and imagine pulling yourself towards the surface.” She nodded at Ramona. “Let’s kick it.”

 

Yo, Ramona, let’s kick this bitch!  Once more, something you’ll never hear anyone at other magical schools say.  Before you know it, Helena and Ramona will be kicked back with a couple of Sam Adams reflecting on all the magical fun they had with the kids.  Probably with a Pandora stream in the background.

So what is puppeteering like?  Well . . .

 

Annie’s eyes closed and after what felt like perhaps ten seconds she sensed the line she was supposed to take only a meter from where her consciousness resided. She reached out with what felt like a hand, took the line, and began to pull herself towards a lightened area above. The light grew brighter, and in a matter of seconds she felt herself breaking the surface of some unknown pool—

—She opened her eyes and let out a gasp as she drew in a breath. Everything felt different: she was on her back in a reclining position, the light was different, the room felt larger—and Helena was sanding next to her, looking down.

The sorceress held out her hand and placed it close to the semi-confused girl. “Okay, just relax.” Helena’s voice was soft and filed with calm. “Don’t try to talk, just nodded when I ask if things are good or if you understand, and don’t do anything if they’re not good or your unsure.” She smiled. “We’ll get to talking once you start getting the feel of your puppet, but first we gotta get you used to the body. You got all that?”

Annie nodded and followed Helena’s instructions as she learned how to control the homunculus. She worked on opening and closing her eyes and slowly turning her head before starting to flex her legs and arms. The first real look she had of her puppet was when she raised her right hand. Immediately she saw the forearm was completely hairless and there wasn’t a single line anywhere: not at the wrist, not on the fingers or the palm of the hand. And the honunculus didn’t have fingernails: when she turned her hand over to look at the back, her thumb and fingers were smooth flesh all the way to the tips.

In time Helena put her hand behind Annie’s head as she felt whatever she was lying upon move her upright. “Okay, Annie: it’s time. We’re going to walk, and I don’t want you to try anything fancy: just one foot in front of the other, nice and slow.” She gave her a smile. “You can try talking; you’ve wanted to for the last ten minutes.”

Annie took a breath and formed the words in her mind before releasing them from the homunculus mouth. “Uoka.” She chuckled softly. “Iii fells su strigue.”

Helena nodded. “Like your mouth is numb?”

“Yuus.” Annie gave slow nod. “Mue toong wunt mooov ruit.”

“That will get better.” Helen had the almost completely upright Puppet Annie by the left arm. “You got your weight on your legs okay?”

Annie looked down for a second. “Yuus.”

“Okay then—” Helena took a short step back. “Follow me.”

 

There you have it:  at least Annie is a puppeteer:

No, not this kind of puppeteers.

No, not this kind of puppeteer.

She’s in the homunculus and she’s moving, she’s up, she’s even sort of talking.  That means I can take it forward from here–

Tonight.  For sure I’ll get to it tonight, because even though I know what’s going to happen, I want you to see it as well.

I think it’s gonna be fun.

Activities of a Guardianship Kind

Of late when I say I’m going to finish something I’m usually talkin’ out of my butt, because between distractions and being tired, I never get down the sort of wordage I used to sport.  But since I know I’m going to have a busy afternoon and evening today, I’d better get the rest of this three-way discussion between The Three Sorceresses and clue everyone in on what’s going down at Salem.

And, you know, I didn’t disappoint–

One third down, two thirds to go.

One third down, two thirds to go.

Not only did I finish, but the second scene came out to nearly the same word length as the first.  Now, I think the next scene is going to run a little longer, and the one after that may be longer, and the penultimate one . . . that could run long, could run short.  I really don’t know at this point.  I’d say, right now, that this chapter will go over ten thousand words, maybe fifteen thousand, and could be the one that pushes the story over two hundred words–which means the story’s almost over, right?  Yeah, right.

All that stuff out of the way, what exactly are we talking about here?  Well . . . this:

 

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

This was something that Annie had obviously studied. “It’s the term use where someone who is Aware uses magic and technology to project themselves into a homunculus or clone and control it as if it were their body.”

“You know what a remote piloted vehicles is, right?” Helena knew that sometimes it was necessary to drop back into Normal terminology to help Kerry understand some Aware processes.

He nodded. “Sure. Like a drone.”

“Yes, except a puppeteer doesn’t use a monitor and joystick to control their drones: they move their mind into another form and use it like it was their own body.”

“Wow.” Something Annie said suddenly resonated. “Did you say—” He turned to her. “Clone?”

 

So now the secret is out:

"You said the C Word!"

“You said the C Word!”

Yes, it would appear that there are clones about in The Foundation world.  I mean, we know there are Artificial People, which are nothing more than self-aware androids, so why not clones?  That Foundation:  they so sci fi.  But so is Kerry, and he has questions:

 

She nodded. “Yes.”

He turned back to Helena. “I didn’t know we could make clones.”

“We can’t here, but The Foundation can.” Helena shrugged as she sat back in her high back chair. “It’s really nothing more than a variation of the magic used to create homunculi, only it uses a person’s genetic material as the template for development instead of magna mater.”

“How long has that been possible?”

“Since the mid Eighteenth Century.” Annie folder her hands into her lap. “That’s when the first experiments happened in Europe—mostly England and Germany.”

“I’m not surprised. So we like . . . go into a homunculus and walk around in them?”

Helena nodded. “More or less. You control the homunculus like it was your body. You see, hear, and feel everything, only if anything happens to your puppet, you’re not injured: your real body and mind are somewhere else, safe and secure in the marionette rig.”

“How far away can you, um, run this puppet?”

“Technically, if you’re good enough, from anywhere in the world. Realistic;y?” Helena cocked her head to one side. “Usually from about five hundred to a thousand klicks, and no further than a couple of thousand.”

Hearing this had Kerry coming up with dozens of questions, but there was only one that seemed important. “Can we do magic while we’re puppetting around?”

 

If you think about Annie’s comment–“Since the mid Eighteenth Century”–you may have caught a glimmer of where that conversation could have traveled.  Annie seems to know a bit about this stuff, and she probably kept it from Kerry just to keep him from getting all geeked out.  And now, you know, he may just start thinking stuff like, “I wonder what an Annie clone would be like?”  Watch some episodes of Orphan Black, kids, and see just how messed up that could turn out.

But what of his last question?  After all, if you look at humuncli and clones as nothing more than the RPVs of The Foundation World, why train anyone to learn all this bad ass magic so they can head out into the field?  Nice of you to ask, ’cause there are answers . . .

 

Annie jumped in with the answer before Helena could. “You can use the homunculus as something of a foci for Far Casting, but it’s impossible to do magic with the puppet.”

“What about when using a clone?”

“No.” Helena stretched, raising both hands above her head for a moment. “Even though a clone is made of your own genetic material, no one really knows how to make it channel energy to Craft the

Art, so really—” She shrugged after lowering her arms. “Even if you get your conciseness permanently downloaded into a clone, only about two percent of those bodies allow you to do magic, so you’re pretty much stuck as a Normal.

“And before you ask, that’s one of the reasons why we—” There wasn’t any need for Annie or Kerry to ask for the identity of the we in Helena’s statement. “—don’t run around in clone bodies while out on field ops. And while we could do magic in a clone body through a Far Casting spell, you’d also find a good part of your memories—actually, nearly all of them—in the clone’s brain—”

“And that’s not good if your connection to the clone is broken.” Annie slid around in her chair so she was facing Kerry. “Then there’s a version of you facing down Deconstructors who cannot craft magic, but knows everything you know.”

He nodded, a grave look on his face. “I can see how that would be bad.” Having faced Deconstructors as a witch, he didn’t want to think what they might do to get information from a non-Aware version of himself.

“You can’t even begin to imagine.” Helena set her tablet to one side as she turned back to the original subject. “Anyway, the Guardians have decided they want to see if you can adapt to a marionette rig—and if so, if you can then puppet a homunculus. Ramona has a couple of rigs in storage in the lower levels of Gwydion Manor and she’ll cook up a couple of puppets tonight.”

 

Sure, you can send in a clone to do a witch’s job, but unless you’re one hell of a Far Caster your clone will never be as good as you–in fact, it’s gonna be pretty shit compared to what the original can do in the same situation.  There are things you can use a clone for–say, you need some warm bodies to act as cannon fodder–but using them to conduct field ops like the The Gang of Four did in Kansas City the year before isn’t one of those things.

And don’t tell Emma about the clones, or she’ll doing he damnedest to get some blood from Kerry . . .

I’ve already stated that Helena is going to be in the next scene and the one after that, so we get to see a lot of the Mistress of All Things Dark dealing with school stuff.  And given that the name of the next scene is The Puppeteers, we’re going to see up close and personal how well Annie and Kerry work their puppets–

Um, no.  This is a different kind of puppetter--  *sigh*

Um, no. This is a different kind of puppeteer– *sigh*