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…

The Final Definition of Darkness

Well, here I am, nice and warm at home.  Right now Harrisburg is buried under more than a few inches of snow, and while I don’t have an actual figure, just looking outside tells me it’s enough to keep people in.

 

What I saw this morning.

 

Here, too.

Yes, the pictures are correct: I was up at 5 o’clock this morning, my normal time, and I’ve been taking care of business ever since.  I didn’t take care of much business last night as I was at a Planned Parenthood rally and a press conference, both of which kept me out until 8 PM.  Once again, I’m being a bad activist girl getting out and doing things besides writing. I should be able to do some of that today, though around noon I’m actually going to go out and go to a blizzard party at our local microbrewery. Which means I’m a completely different kind of bad girl there…

Don’t worry, I will get some writing in tonight–or this afternoon–or whenever.  But it will get done.

In the meantime, were going to end the scene with Annie and Isis going over Blend With Shadows, were any answers the last question put to her by the Chief of Security–

 

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

 

For a moment Annie thought she was being given a trick question, but quickly brushed that notion aside when she realized Isis would never do something like that. This is another test. I suppose Helena meant she wasn’t going to give me any more tests, but she said nothing about Isis… A few moments later the answer came and Annie was surprised she hadn’t seen it initially. “You can walk through the wall.”

Isis’ smile was bright in the darkness of the room. “Correct. You could walk on either side of the shadow at its base, which is essentially the same thing as walking outside or inside the shadow. Or you could walk along the top of the shadow, which is essentially the same thing as creating a large Shadow Ribbon and moving along the shadow as if it were a floor.

“Or, you could walk inside the shadow. Just like you can create a pocket space within a few millimeters of the surface of the shadow, you can learn to walk within those few millimeters and be completely undetectable to the people around you. And unlike Shadow Cage, you’re completely cognizant of the world around you, because the shadow is translucent from your point of view.” The security chief appeared pleased with herself. “It’s really a marvelous feeling. It’s even more marvelous when you realize that because you exist within the insubstantialness of a shadow, you yourself are also insubstantial. That means someone can walk right through you and never know they’ve done so.”

Annie grimaced at the idea that someone could pass straight through her while she was inside a shadow even though she was a physical being. It was then she was struck by another thought— “It’s almost like being an astral being existing within the Physical Realm.”

Isis grinned as she pointed a finger at Annie. “Yep. Now you’re catching on. The reality is you treat the shadow almost as if it is a version of the Astral Realm existing within the Physical Realm. When you think of it in that manner, the concept of being able to move through the shadow unseen becomes even easier.”

Treating a shadow as if it were part of the Astral Realm—with Deanna preparing to teach Kerry and I how to walk about in that same realm. It can’t be a coincidence. But Annie didn’t have time to wonder about possible coincidences: Isis was explaining how this difficult spell could be visualized, and Annie could see herself using it within her mind’s eye.

She forced herself to keep her hands at her side as she felt the excitement of mastering this new magic swell inside. “When do we begin?”

The mischievous sparkle they had entered Isis’ eye when she first began to discuss the spell with Annie returned. “We can begin anytime you’re ready.”

This time Annie did bounce on the balls of her feet. “I’m ready now.”

Isis motioned to the shadows she had previously stepped from. “Then get ready to step into my other office…”

 

There you have it: Annie is starting to visualize how Isis performs this magic, and as we know by now visualization is one-third the process of crafting a spell.  And if there’s one thing we know Annie excels at, it’s crafting spells.  Just what we need: a little Bulgarian sorceress who can fly into a shadow and vanish.  It’s a good thing she’s not a snoopy ass girl, or her enemies would be living in fear.

“No, you have nothing to fear from me. It’s not like I’ll hear it when you call me a stuck-up bitch like you did last night…”

Yeah, safe to say that once others in the school find out Annie can do this should become an even scarier girl–of course, this is assuming she’ll learn how to master the spell, but who are we kidding?  Annie’s like a little bulldog when it comes to magic.

Now that we know what Annie is doing on this September Tuesday night, why don’t we pop over to Advanced Transformations and see what Kerry’s doing.  Something big, I’m sure…

The Definition of Shadows

Thousand word day–yes, I had it.  I had a lot to do yesterday but writing over a thousand words was one of the things on my get it done list.  I also thought about the physics of time spells in the Normal world, which made my head hurt, but someone’s gotta think about that.

Speaking of spells Isis is about to start her talk about Those Shadows, and it’s time to bend your brain just a little…

 

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

 

Annie stepped back from Isis and spoke with confidence. “I’ve not read much on the spell, though from what I have read, it seems there’s a bit of confusion as to whether or not it’s a variation of the Light Bending spell.”

Isis’ eyebrows shot upward for just a second. “Why did it seems like there’s confusion?”

“Some of the people writing on the matter believe that Blend with Shadows couldn’t be the same as Light Bending because the lack of light made that task impossible.”

“So you agree with the concept that darkness is nothing more than the absence of light, and that shadow is nothing more than those areas where light is unable to penetrate fully.”

Annie took a moment to scratch at the corner of her mouth with her right index finger nail. “I know what Normal science says, but you and I both know that Normal science is often at odds with Aware magic and superscience.” She nodded her head slightly to the right. “Knowing what I know of The Art and spell crafting, and having a working knowledge of Shadow Ribbons, I’m certain there’s more to shadows than a simple lack of light.”

A smile appeared on Isis’ face. “Right you are. As you know from your understanding of Shadow Ribbons, a shadow is insubstantial and has substance simultaneously: it’s simply a matter of being able to craft the spell so that one can make the best of both.” Isis slipped into a moment of thought. “You haven’t gotten to the spell yet, but do you understand the concept behind Shadow Cage?”

Annie gave a quick nod. “Yes. The concept seems similar to Hammerspace in that you create a hidden pocket within the shadow.”

“That’s correct. You’re actually creating a bubble of space within an area that may be only a few centimeters deep. Like you say: the concept is very similar to that of Hammerspace and that you’re creating a pocket storage area pretty much out of nothing.

“Blend with Shadows is a little different in that you’re not creating a pocket within the shadows, but rather—” Isis searched her memory for a few seconds. “Imagine a sheer wall thirty meters high yet only about five centimeters thick. Now imagine you had not learned Levitation or Adhesion, yet you’ve decided you want to walk the length of the wall, which is a couple of hundred meters long.” Isis eyed Annie hard. “How could you walk from one end of the wall to the other?”

There were only two possible solutions that Annie saw to this problem. “You can either walk along the base of the wall, or you could carefully walk along the top of the wall.

Isis nodded. “Those are the two most obvious solutions. But you missed the third: what is it?”

 

This is one of those scenes where I really had to figure out what is actually happening in magic and how it’s being visualized.  It’s what I did in the Transformation class and I’m now doing with Advanced Spells–and this is one of the reasons writing goes slow at times.  ‘Cause making this stuff isn’t always easy.

This should finish up tomorrow, which means I’ll still be five or six thousand words ahead of you, and then–

Oh, wait:  I’m gonna be under snow tomorrow.  Should have plenty of time to write.

Ground Rules For the Darkness

Here I am, once again, doing the blogging thing after a Saturday of political fun and going to the movies.  The political stuff was interesting, though there was one dude who decided that all our talk of women’s abortion rights was leaving him feeling a bit “excluded”, which I took to mean he didn’t want to hear about it.  In the movie going stuff involved to meeting a friend for a quick dinner at a Japanese noodle restaurant and then watching Hidden Features at an old theater next door.

A shot from where we sat in the balcony. Be Jelly.

Once again there wasn’t any writing last night, but I’ve made up for that by doing almost six hundred words this morning and will likely do more tonight, bringing the day to thousand word total.  Oh, and if started on the new scene which deals with the time spells Wednesday is going to teach in her Advanced Spells class.

See? Not lying.

In the meantime were back in the Witch House with Isis and Annie having a quaint conversation while Helena looks on.  And the discussion has to do with the spell Blend With Shadows, which Annie wants to learn…

 

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

Isis tipped her right index finger toward the girl. “Right you are on both accounts. Helena approached me last week and asked if I’d help out: she figured in three weeks time I can give you enough of the fundamentals that you’d likely be able to perform the spell on your own without difficulty.” She took a moment to adjust her stylish red glasses and brushed a strand of hair from her face. “The only condition I gave Helena  is I’d like to be out here by twenty forty-five at the latest so I can get back to the residence and spend some time with Wednesday.”

“I don’t have an issue there.” She cast a satisfied glance in Helena’s direction. “I feel three weeks of instruction should be enough time. Is that what you feel as well?”

Helena nodded. “Given how quickly you picked up Shadow Ribbons I don’t see you having an issue with this.” She scratched her forehead just above her left eyebrow. “Of course, it’s entirely up to you as to how comfortable you are with the pace of Isis’ instruction.”

“It shouldn’t be an issue.” Isis shook her head. “Since we’ve worked together before Annie is familiar with how I teach.”

“And since I didn’t have a problem last year, I don’t imagine I’ll have another this year.” Annie smiled broadly as she turned to Helena. “Are you going to observe, or are you going to try to learn the spell as well?”

“Observe only.” Helena hooked her thumbs in the belt loops of her black jeans. “Though I’m adapt with the other spells in the Shadow Disciplines, this Blend with Shadows shit is, quite frankly, spooky as fuck, and that makes it something with which I’d rather not deal.”

Annie was somewhat shocked to hear Helena say she found a certain spell somewhat “spooky”. She was aware the head sorceress knew nearly every Morte spell as well as a dozen other spells that one could use to kill another person, so it was a bit disconcerting to hear her admit there was a spell that made her uncomfortable. “But it doesn’t bother you to be here while we’re practicing, does it?”

“Oh, hell no.” Helena gave her head a quick shake. “I don’t mind watching; I just don’t want to walk in the shadows like you two.” She gave Isis a wave of her hand as she headed toward the table. “She’s all yours. Have fun.”

“Oh, we will.” Isis turned Annie with a mischievous sparkle in her eye. “First off: tell me what you know about Blend with Shadows.”

 

You have to find it interesting that there is a spell that Helena finds “spooky as fuck”.  This is a woman who can kill without a moment’s hesitation, but she’s slightly creeped out by the fact that someone at the school can actually become one with the shadows and move among them without being detected.  Which makes you wonder: if and when Annie learns the spell–and the odds are more “when” than “if”–how Helena’s going to act around her since Annie will be able to do the same shadow blending.  Does this mean there will be times when Annie hides in a shadow at the Witch House so she can sneak up on Helena and yell “Boo!”  Won’t that be a lot of fun?

Then again, I know it Annie’s going to wear as her costume for the Samhain dance, so maybe being able to walk in the shadows will fit perfectly with her character.

Which means right now you’re probably wondering what she’s going wear…

Catching Up on the Magical Small Talk

So last night I was a snowflake–

That’s right:  when I went to my Planned Parenthood dinner I went as a Snowflake Supporter, so I can say that besides being a card carrying member of the ACLU, I’m also a snowflake.  Boom.  Suck it, haters.

The funny thing last night was running into people who are doing some of the same political stuff I’m doing, and even one person who worked with me on the Clinton campaign.  We’re all over the place.  Obviously I’m in good company.

Now, something interesting before getting into the story.  An article was posted on Avclub about rules that writers follow, and after reading the article I realize I violated Elmore Leonard’s rule about never starting a novel where you talk about the weather–I did that twice.  But in the article someone suggested that all novels could be improved if the second line of the book was, “And then the murders began.”

So, just to show you how improved my work is by following this rule, here are the first and second lines of my last three novels:

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015, by Cassidy Frazee)

 

The mountains were bright under the morning sun, though the light had yet reached many of the surrounding valley floors. Within the hour every valley in and around Pamporovo, Bulgaria, would bathe in sunshine, but for now most were enveloped in quiet shadows.

And then the murders began.

 

 

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

 

“ . . . Half the summer gone, and another half to go, and I miss you more every day. I can’t wait until the travel packages come, cause that means I’ll only have to wait another two week before I see you again. And then I can be happy once more.

“And then the murders began…

 

 

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

 

What bothered Annie Kirilova the most this morning was the weather. She had hoped for a bright sunshine, but what she received instead was light rain and low cloud cover. The rain also left the temperatures hovering in the low teens Celsius, which kept her out of shorts and forced her into leggings to wear with her long, flowing top and black ballet flats.

And then the murders began.

 

As you can see, all three books are drastically improved!  So much so I may leave them that way.  Though…  probably not.  I don’t think Annie wants to read about murders in the Malibey household.  Also, any of your writers out there reading this:  do the same in the comments with your books and I’ll post them.

What she does want, however, is some quality time in the Witch House with the Head Sorceress and the Chief of Security–

 

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

 

Annie opened her hand and the baston vanished. “With the testing I’ve encountered this evening I had to wonder if you were going to attack me after I left myself defenseless.”

Isis chuckled. “You, defenseless? Please.” She shook her head. “No way in hell is that true. I know better than that.”

Annie’s right eyebrow arched upward. “The why did you just say you didn’t know I could create a weapon so quickly?”

Isis and Helena exchanged looks for about three seconds before Isis sighed and nodded her head slowly. “I should know better than open my mouth.”

Helena finally stepped away from the table and slowly approached. “I thought you were supposed to be good at keeping secrets?” Helena moved alongside Isis and looked at Annie. “How are you feeling tonight?”

“Are you asking to make conversation?” The right corner of Annie’s mouth curled upward into a grin. “Or is this another test?”

“I’m asking as a friend.” Helena turned toward Isis. “God, what a suspicious little bitch.”

Isis crossed her arms. “Can’t imagine where she would have learned that from.”

“You can piss right off, too.” Helena’s expression softened as a slight smile came to her face when she turned back towards Annie. “No more tests like what you’ve already went through. From this point we get on to serious business. But I would like to know if you’re feeling well.”

 

You can probably imagine that Isis was going to do something to Annie and then tried to blow it off when she was caught before she had a chance.  You know Isis knows just how good Annie is when it cones to sorcery, ’cause it’s her job to know.  Not only is Annie good, but after all the shit she went through to make it up to that room, she figures that anything about to come her way is a test.  Yes, she is a suspicious little bitch. ’cause that’s how her instructor made her.

But there is a soft side to Helena as well…

 

Though Annie was aware that to the school’s general population considered Helena to be an unapproachable bitch with a hair-trigger temper, the two years she had spent in her presence taught her that the head sorceress could be a warm and affable person in the right situations. She has to come across as mean when were in class, for just like here, everything that happens in the classrooms below are part of the test. “I feel great. Though I have to admit I felt a bit of trepidation when I learned I was reporting to the first floor.”

“I wanted to make certain we weren’t bothered by any pain in the arse students.” Helena gazed off to her right for a moment as she spoke. “They don’t normally come out here this time of night, but it would be our luck that tonight was the night someone decided to come out here and look for book they suddenly want to read in the main library.”

“Why not meet in the lower levels then?”

“It was time for a change of venue.” Helena cocked a thumb at the woman to her left. “Besides, I didn’t want her to think we spend all our time under the ground like a bunch of moles.”

By now Annie at figured out why Isis was here, so rather than ask she address the security chief directly. “You’re going to teach me Blend with Shadows, aren’t you?”

Now it was Isis’ turn to grin. “You’re quick on that assumption.”

Annie shrugged. “Not so much, actually. It’s my understanding you’re one of the only people at school, or the only person, who knows the Blend with Shadow spell, and since I’ve expressed an interest in learning the spell, it makes sense that Helena has asked you to come and teach me.” She crossed her arms as she shifted her weight to her left leg. “After all, that’s exactly the same thing you did with me last year once it was discovered I possessed the Flight Gift.”

 

So there we are:  Isis is probably going to instruct Annie in the Blend with Shadow, which means if Annie learns this spell and masters it, she’ll become just a little more dangerous.  Good thing Isis is aware of that–

I wonder when she’ll get her Licence to Kill?

Here There Be Shadows

As I mentioned to one of my fans I’m a busy girl.  Oh, and now a member of the ACLU.  Yes, I went to a mixer presented by them last night and paid my dues when I got home.  So I’ll have my card by the end of April and head towards my birthday as a first-time member.  Yay me!  And tonight I’m hanging with people from Planned Parenthood, so the struggle continues.

The novel continues, albeit a bit slower, because The Resistance is important at the moment.  But I’m getting there five hundred or so words at a time, so keep watching this space ’cause my kids are coming.

And speaking of that, one of them has moved into a spooky place…

 

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

 

the ground floor was gloomy the first floor of the Witch House was bathed almost entirely in darkness. The light sources here were few and emitted only the dimmest light and Annie half expected to step into the T intersection a few meters ahead and find the hallway lined with lit torches. But she didn’t need torches, for down the hall, second door on the right, a faint light came from inside a room. It was possible this was another test, but in reality she believed Helena was waiting for her there.

As Annie suspected Helena stood in the middle of the semi dark room. There was a small light source in the far left-hand corner offering the only illumination. Helen stood alongside a circular table maybe two and a half meters across round which were placed three chairs. The head sorceress smiled as her pupil into the room. “I see you made it past the enchantment.”

“I required some direction from Sabrina.” Annie looked about the room as she allowed her eyes to adjust. “Your message didn’t indicate what we are going to cover tonight. Are we going to do something with Shadow Disciplines?” Since becoming proficient with Shadow Ribbons by the middle of her A Levels, Annie had been eager to learn the other two spells in this discipline, Shadow Net and Shadow Cage.

Helena picked up a bottle of water from the table and slowly unscrewed the top. “In a way, yes.”

Annie gave her a puzzled look. “What does that mean?”

The sorceress spent about five seconds taking a drink; when she was finished she screwed the top back on the bottle and set it down. “As a Guardian, shouldn’t you always be aware of your surroundings?”

“I checked the room when I entered.” Annie was instantly on her guard. “You are the only one here.”

Helena leaned against the table. “Are you certain?”

 

Annie’s eager to get on with those Shadow Disciplines, because maybe she wants to use them to keep Kerry from leaving the house when she wants him home?  Naw, Annie is a bad ass and wants all the skills that go with that title.  Which is why she’s with Helena.

However…  When you walk into a dark room where the only person is Helena and she asks if you are sure she’s the only one there, you better have your backup plan ready:

 

“I’m—” Almost immediately Annie knew she was being tested and that there was someone else in the room. With only seconds to figure out the threat she quickly analyzed her surroundings once more and tried to figure out where the threat lay. There’s only one light source and the room is full of shadows, that Helena says were not doing Shadow Disciplines—no, she said were doing the spells in a way. Which means it’s something that isn’t specifically a Shadow Discipline. And that means

She quickly crafted ball lightning in her right hand and molded into a magical baston as she wheeled to her right. Annie moved her left hand into a striking position as she pointed her baston at the shadow to her right rear—the one that now seemed to be moving towards her. “Stop, Isis. I know it’s you.”

The motion within the shadow stopped and a portion of it protruded, quickly becoming human sized. A moment later the darkness peeled back revealing Isis Mossman, the school’s Director of Security, standing two meters away, dressed in a tee shirt, jeans, sneakers. “You’re pretty quick with that weapon.” She brushed away some imaginary dust from her top as she looked over at a grinning Helena. “You didn’t tell me she could form one of those things that quickly.”

Helena shrugged. “You’re Director of Security; I figured you’d know.”

“I do now.” She turned to Annie, who still held the magical baston. “You can put that away. It’s not like I’m going to hurt you.”

 

There likely aren’t many people who can surprise Isis at the school, but one has to wonder what she would have done if she’d been able to sneak up on Annie?  Probably just put a magical knife to her neck and threaten to cut her throat–which may have provoked a response Isis might not have wanted.  Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Right now, though, it looks like Annie is about to learn how to walk into some shadows…

The New Tradition

Chapter Thirty is a go, and more of a go than I’d imagined.  That’s due, in part, to a lot of re-figuring of this section that I’ll actually discuss more once I get to the end of this excerpt.  For now, let’s get into the morning, which isn’t going to be as long as the last we just visited–

 

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

The overcast to the east was slightly lighter than the rest of the sky as Annie reached the Flight School only moments after the alarm on Kerry’s phone sounded, indicating the time as five-thirty. At a time when most students were sleeping in or just starting their Friday morning, Annie and her always-present chase pilot were getting ready for her biggest solo flight—

But first they needed to get through the pre-flight ritual.

Annie found it unusual to find an after-dinner email from Vicky indicating the time she needed to report to the Flight School, but more importantly how she wanted her breakfast prepared. She asked Kerry about this when they met a few minutes later before heading out for a relaxing evening in their tunnel hideout, but all he’d tell her was that he’d received an email as well, and that Vicky asked him not to say anything about what was going to happen in the morning. Try as she could short of quickly brewing a Draught of Submission, there wasn’t a thing Annie could do to make Kerry give up this secret.

Upon entering the Hanger Annie headed to the spiral staircase and proceeded to the second floor, as the email had instructed. She headed down the long corridor to the Flight Deck, but instead of entering that room she stopped before the last door on the right and knocked.

Vicky answered the knock, half-opening the door. “Ah, right on time.”

“Yes.” Annie put on her best smile. “Can we come in now?”

“Certainly.” Vicky stood aside allowing unobstructed access. “Nikh’nas.”

 

That last part is “Enter” in Hebrew, because Vicky being Jewish and all, and this is the first time we’ve actually heard her say anything in that language.  She’s proficient enough that she could hold a conversation with a native speaker, but that likely doesn’t happen much.

Also:  doesn’t Annie have feminine wiles she can use on Kerry to get him to tell her things?  After all, they did spend the evening in their “tunnel hideout”, as Annie calls it, and that means they were alone and Annie–well, she could have asked or cajoled or whatever, right?  She must be losing it.

So what is this ritual Annie must perform that is so important Kerry is willing to take the secret to his grave?

 

The moment she was inside Annie quickly scanned the room. There wasn’t much to see: a few chairs along the side walls, two projection screens on the far wall, a long table with two chairs facing them in front of the screens, a podium in the right-hand corner.

What drew her attention, however, was a second table in the middle of the room situated five meters from the other table, with two chairs set facing the far wall. Before each chair were two plates of food, a tall glass containing a beverage, silverware, and a napkin. While each of the smaller plates and the glasses were different, both of the larger plates contained the same thing: a steak and two eggs prepared sunny-side up, though the steak in the left-hand plate was much smaller than the one on the right.

Isis, wearing jeans and a sweater, stood on the other side of the middle table. The moment Vicky closed the door the security director motioned the couple forward. “Good morning.”

Annie stood behind the chair on the left, holding the back lightly in both hands. “Good morning.” She examined the plates of food. “I take it this is why we’re here so early?”

“It is indeed.” Isis spread here arms wide. “The traditional final solo breakfast of steak and eggs.” She chuckled. “Though you two are only the second to partake in this particular tradition.”

Kerry stood behind his chair examining the plate before him. “Oh?”

“Yes. I’ve only done this for one other student. It’s been a tradition elsewhere for fliers elsewhere, and I thought, what the hell? May as well do the same here.” She nodded towards the kids. “We know how you guys normally sit, so everything is laid out as expected.”

 

Steak and Eggs is the title of this scene, and I’d decided a long time ago–even before I began plotting this novel–that Annie was going to get this breakfast before heading out on her final solo flight.  There’s reasons for this, and they’re going to get brought up in the next scene, but for now–yeah, she’s getting steak for breakfast.

Now, about the changes:  I’ve said before that while I do a lot of plotting nothing is actually written in stone.  I mapped out all three of Annie’s solo flights, but after getting the first two out of the way, once I began re-examining the final one, I saw that it left me wanting.  So I set about changing it, and in doing so I had to change the time lines and a few other things–one of which was using a specialized web tool so I could figure out compass headings.

You can't see any of that stuff yet, but just wait.

You can’t see any of that stuff yet, but just wait.

Most of all, though, I changed the date.  Originally Annie’s solo flight was Saturday morning, 13 April, 2013, but as I wrote this scene, and as I remembered why this scene was developed in the first place, I realized that I was missing something incredibly important.  So the date was moved up to Friday, 12 April, and the reason for this is going to become painfully clear–

Though right now it’s probably clear only to me.

The Night Air: Out of the Cold

It wasn’t so much a long night as it’s been a long morning.  Though not too bad:  I slept until five-twenty and began writing about six, and churned out about five hundred words over the course of an hour on this extremely foggy morning here in The Burg.  I’m about to get on the road in another two hours because I have things to do some ninety minutes to the south in Maryland, so I thought it might be best to get a little noveling in before I do all the stuff I have to do in order to make myself presentable to the outside world.

It’s a slow and probably quaint little slice of life at the Home by the Sea, and after all that flying about in the cold the kids are happy to be back in the bosom of comfort.  It was discussed by Vicky and Isis in the previous scene, and here we see it coming to fruition:

 

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

The evening wound down into the expected as soon Annie and Kerry were back at the school and on the ground. Within a minute of landing Vicky and Isis them off to the hospital, where Nurse Gretchen greeted them in the waiting room and escorted then to Bay #1, where they were order to remove their heavy coats and flying gear, strip down to their thermal underwear, and to each lay on a bed so Gretchen could run her preliminary health scans.

Coraline showed up about a minute into the scan and told Gretchen she’d finish the scans and asked her to get them slippers and robes. A minute later the scans were finished and Gretchen was back. After Kerry and she were in their robes and slippers, Coraline said she didn’t see anything on the scans that indicated any problems, and told them to head down to the lounge area of the ward and wait for the snacks coming from the kitchen. They were also given a blanket and told the huddle under it while they waited if they felt cold, and by the time they reached the small lounge they agreed they needed more warming.

They didn’t need to wait long. The kitchen sent up hot chocolate, which wasn’t a surprise, and tikvenik, which was. Annie knew these well: they were a traditional Christmas Eve desert, a type of banitsa made with pumpkin and walnuts, but this was Kerry’s first time enjoying them, and while he admitted he didn’t enjoy pumpkin that much, he loved nuts, and thought serving them with powered sugar and a touch of whipped cream made them taste fantastic.

 

This is the first time we’ve had both Annie and Kerry down to their thermal underwear, something that doesn’t bother Kerry that much as he’s already seen another girl in her thermals *cough*emma*cough*.  At his point neither of them are uncomfortable being with each other like this in front of others, probably a consequence of their having spent time together at locations outside the school.  Anyway, they’re comfortable at least.

Now, another Bulgarian treat makes an appearance.  Tikvenik is a banitsa made by wrapping a pumpkin and walnut mix in Philo dough and setting it to bake.  The banitsa the kids have had up to this point are usually sweeter, making this a new experience for Kerry.

Did you ever imagine you'd learn so much about Bulgarian food?

Did you ever imagine you’d learn so much about Bulgarian food?

And there’s a reason for this, too:  Coraline’s using something tasty to build up their metabolism–

 

They both understood the reason for this snack selection: a good concentration of carbohydrate and protein combined with a touch of sweetness. Tikvenik filed and gave her energy on many cold evenings in Bulgaria, and they were doing the same thing here. Annie sat close to Kerry, eating her pumpkin sweets and drinking her hot chocolate, and keeping her mind not on the activities of the last few hours, but of the person to her right.

It took them about twenty minutes to finish their snacks, and as soon as they finished Coraline marched them back to Bay #1 for a second med check. This check took about two minutes, and when it was over Coraline turned away from the machine with a self-satisfied smile and not only addressed them, but Vicky and Isis as well. “There was a negligible reduction in their body temperatures during the first scan, but they’ve recovered from that nicely. I don’t seen anything here that would constitute a medical issue—however . . .” She glanced over her shoulder at the two women standing behind her. “I’ve been asked by Vicky to hold you overnight for observation. Just in case.”

Kerry sat up straight. “Are we spending the night here, then?”

“Yes. I’ve already sent Gretchen to get your night clothes and supplies for the morning.”

“Maybe we should keep a pair of pajamas here all the time—” Annie did her best to keep from smiling. “That way Nurse Gretchen isn’t running off to the tower to retrieve our things.”

Vicky nodded. “Probably would make things easier.”

Isis cleared her throat, something which Coraline didn’t let slide. “Something to say, Director?”

Isis shook her head. “Had something stuck in my throat, Doctor. Nothing you need to examine.”

Coraline nodded and turned her attention back to her patients. “As soon as Gretchen is here you can change and get to sleep. It’s past lights out and we should all be off to bed.”

Vicky positioned herself at the end of Annie’s bed as Coraline stepped back. “Since we don’t have lessons tomorrow, we’ll debrief at nine. Come out to the Flight School after breakfast.”

“We’ll be there.” Annie leaned over her crossed legs and bid everyone a good night.

A few seconds after everyone departed Nurse Gretchen appeared with their night clothes. Annie wasn’t under any illusions about why they were here: there wasn’t anything wrong with them, and the way all three women looked when Coraline mentioned they were being held for “observation” told her they were all intent on allowing Kerry and her the night together, and felt they were being rewarded for a job well done.

 

Nice move there, Annie, suggesting Coraline keep some of their pajamas there because, well, why not?  Annie’s already figured out what Isis was accusing Vicky of doing:  being an enabler and treating the kids to some time quality night time together.  And it seems that’s happening, because even Coraline knows there’s nothing wrong with the kids.  She could send them back to their tower, but she’s not, and Isis has decided to keep her mouth shut about the matter, because as she said, until the headmistress says something, she’s chill about it, too.

I’ll be gone most of the day, but I may finish this tonight after arriving back home.  Only because there is something big about to happen in the novel, and that’s gonna really eat up some time to make it come to life . . .

The Night Air: A Proper Finish

Before getting to the good, writty stuff, let’s get the personal stuff out of the way first, because that’s how I usually do it here at Casa Burg.  Yesterday marked eighteen months that I’ve done hormone replacement therapy, and there was some time–not much, but some–to reflect on what’s happened.  Needless to say, there’s more craziness than I care to admit that has followed me around since that time.  But I’ve made it so far, and I’ll hope to ilk out another six months now so I can make it to two years.

I even thought to snap a picture before heading out into the cold to work.

I even thought to snap a picture before heading out into the cold to work.

Now the writty stuff.  The scene is over, because I sat down last night and in two and a half hours time wrote just a smidgen over twelve hundred words.  And it was something of a strange situation because because the fifteen hundred words of the scene focuses on my kids through the eyes of Vicky and Isis.  But before we get into how they see my kidlettes, we get a reminder that there is always a bit of multiculturalism going on at the school:

 

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

Isis entered the Flight Deck carrying a small cup of steaming coffee. She held it up for Vicky to examine. “You sure you don’t want me to get you one, too?”

Vicky shook her head. “Thank you, but I enjoy coffee that I don’t have to cut with a knife.”

Isis chucked before taking her seat. “Can’t help it if I prefer Egyptian coffee over that Americano crap you drink. It’s part of my heritage, you know?”

“Did you get your love of that strange ass sausage from the other side of your family?” Everyone at the school was aware that Isis was not only half-Egyptian from her mother, but that her father was half Puerto Rican, and due to this family connection she’d developed a love of the cuisine of both her father’s and father’s mother’s countries.

“You mean botifarra?” Isis set her coffee aside. “That stuff’s the shit, I’m tellin’ you, girl.” She stretched out her legs. “I made carne bif and oxtail soup for Wends over Yule holiday and she loved them both. She even likes my coffee.”

“That’s cause she’s crazy in love with you. Did she make you borscht while you were hangin’ in the desert?” Vicky wasn’t the only instructor who enjoyed kidding the school’s spell mistress about her long-hidden Russian heritage.

“She said she’ll make it next year when we go to Innsbruck for Yule.” Isis adjusted her glasses before nodding towards the display. “Where’s Annie?”

 

We knew from past readings that Isis is half Egyptian, but now we learn she’s also a quarter Puerto Rican from her father’s side.  And that she has a girlfriend who was secretly half-Russian for quite some time before her dad was outed as a spy.  And Vicky’s Jewish, so a lot of bases covered.

That little part above required some real quick research as I looked up how Egyptians make coffee–like Turkish coffee is made, only thicker–and I found botifarra quickly along with carne bif.  One interesting thing about making Egyptian coffee is you’re told not to pour the sludge at the bottom of the pot into your cup, except in the cases where you want to stay up all night.  Apparently Isis doesn’t need to bother with that Americano crap–aka, what most of us in the U.S. drink that passes for coffee–and it’s probably why she’s drinking out of small cups.

In case you’re like Isis and wondering about Annie’s location, she’s somewhere on this map of the last leg of her flight.

More towards the upper right than the lower left.

More towards the upper right than the lower left.

Actually Kerry and she are approaching the next to last dot, with the last one being the Flight School.  This map is the final leg from the Wonderland station to home, so you can see where she’s been and going.  And as expected, Kerry and she took the route across the sound to Manchester-by-the-Sea before turning towards the school.

With them just outside the walls, more or less, Vicky needs to get something ordered–

 

Vicky examined the tank without getting up. “Looks like they’re about to stop at the last check point and head home.” She slowly stood and pointed at one of the computer displays, bringing it awake. “Better let the hospital know we’ll bring them in and see if they wanna keep them overnight—”

“For observation?”

Vicky nodded. “Sure.”

Isis turned a playful smirk towards her friend. “You’re an enabler, you know that?”

“Why? Because I want to make sure they don’t have hypothermia?”

“Because you know if you get Coraline to put them up for observation, they’re gonna spend the night together in the same bed.”

Vicky tapped the computer display before. “Text mode, direct to hospital. Start: Gretchen, we’re bringing Annie and Kerry by for their after-flight checkup right after they land. Let Coraline know we’ll be there in about ten minutes. End: Send.” She turned back to Isis, folding her arms across her chest. “Enabler, huh? Did anyone enable you into bed with another girl when you were a student?”

Isis took a long sip of her coffee before answering. “None of the instructors we’re making it easy for me, I know that.”

“Um, hum.” A slight smile appeared on Vicky’s face. “You’re Chief of Security, so when Coraline’s finished with them, you can pull them aside and tell them to knock that shit off—” She winked.  “Yeah?”

 

Yeah, Isis:  you’re the Head Cop about town, why not sit those kids down and tell them to stay in their own beds?  I mean, if it came right down to it, the Chief of Security could tell the kids to chill their jets.  However . . .

 

Isis stared back at Vicky for nearly five seconds before she snorted. “You know I’m not going to do that. It hasn’t become a problem, and if it were—” She shrugged. “The headmistress knows about it, and if she hasn’t comment by now, I’m not going to say anything.” She stared down at her nearly empty coffee cup. “Though if someone ever walks in on them in the hospital doing something—”

“It won’t happen; they’re not like that.” Vicky sat back against the instrument console. “They’ve been out tonight, fifty kicks out and back, and we both know they’re hitting negative wind chills the whole time, and not once have either of them complained about this flight. Sure, they’ve privately said it’s cold, and that they’re cold, but they haven’t publicly bitched about how cold their are, and could they please come in early.” She recrossed her arms as she lowered her gaze towards the floor. “They’re like that with everything: give them an assignment or a job to do, and they get it done. No whining, no bitching, no pissing and moaning. I wish more of our students were like that.”

Though Isis had no contact with either student in a classroom environment—other than her flight lessons with Annie—she knew of their exploits through numerous dinners conversations in the Instructor’s Residence and late-night talks with Wednesday. There were, however, things of which she was aware that only two other instructors at Salem knew, and while she didn’t have all the facts from their weekend away from Salem, she knew why their student files were yellow flagged as well as knowing that they should have a red flag . . .

“You’re right: they’re good kids. I suppose that if everyone else can look the other ways concerning their—” She raised an eyebrow. “—occasional nocturnal actives, I can as well. Besides, if their parents ever find out what they’re doing, I won’t be one of the people who’ll have to face them.”

“True there.” Vicky pushed away from the console and moved closer to the holo tank. “They’re coming in.”

 

. . . Even Isis knows it’s a fool’s journey to get between two kids in love.  The only solution she could ask for while they’re in the hospital is put them in separate bays, and Coraline is probably hip to the fact that one or both kids would need monitoring through the night to keep them from sneaking into the other’s bay.  They seem to have the light bending invisibility down pretty well, so trying to keep them out of a single bed in the middle of the night in the hospital is kinda like Lori keeping Carl in the house and away from zombies.

They could also lock them into a bad.  Which isn’t good, either, because what if they need to get out.  Or just drug them up and make them sleep.  Eh, they aren’t getting sexy with each other, so let it bed.  After all, if the headmistress hasn’t said anything, then no biggie.  And it seems that Isis doesn’t mind cutting them slack because she knows things about them.

So they’re almost home–right?

 

“So they are.” Isis stood and joined her friend watching the two small blips coming closer to the middle of the display centered on the Flight School. Only . . . “It looks like they’re going to fly past us.”

Vicky shrunk the display to show only the school grounds, now that they were inside the outer walls. “Looks that way.” She tapped her left ear. “Salem Night Solo, this is Flight Deck. Where are you going? Over.”

Annie’s answer was prefaced by a laugh. “Flight Deck, we’re taking a short detour—” The comm exploded with the sound of a loud, screeching guitar before breaking into a driving song.
Isis watched the dots closely. “Looks like they’re going to buzz The Pentagram.”

Vicky started laughing as she dots heading straight for the Great Hall. “Shit. Kerry and I did that the first day he checked out on an Espinoza, and he told me Annie and he did the same thing later that day.” She watched them fly between Ceridwen and Cernunnos Towers before slipping between the hall and Åsgårdsreia Tower before buzzing Mórrígan and Blodeuwedd Towers on their way back to the Flight School. “Let’s get outside.”

“Right with you.” Rather than head for the stairs and walk outside, Isis and Vicky jaunted down to Selena’s Meadow. Isis immediately looked to the north and the music. “Jesus, he’s really blasting that computer.”

“You should know it can do that; you modified it for him.” Vicky watched both fliers come in fast, slowing only at the last moment before dropping eight meters straight down to land slightly harder than normal a few meters from their observers. Vicky waited for Kerry to kill the music before speaking. “Rock in America, Kerry? I didn’t think you had that in you.”

He threw his leg over his broom and dismounted. “I can be full of surprises—” He lifted his goggled before slipping back his hood. “When it’s needed.”

“I see.” Vicky turned to the smiling girl in front of her. “And what the hell was that last maneuver? I don’t recall that being authorized.”

Annie pushed back her hood before removing her goggles. “Well . . .” The moment Kerry reached her side she threw her right arm around him. “It seemed like a good way of letting everyone know we were home.”

 

Tunes, baby, and Annie is having fun with them.  Also, blasting around The Pentagram, Great Hall, and coven towers with music blaring as loud as possible is a great way to let everyone know you’re back on the reservation.  I guess after a few hours in the cold Annie wasn’t about to sneak in like a teen trying to cover up that she was out late with her girlfriends.  Annie’s pretty much saying, “I’m home, bitches!” and Kerry’s right there helping her the whole way.

And what is he playing?  (You Can Still) Rock in America, by Night Ranger.  Given that Kerry’s already played Sing Me Away by the same band, either Vicky wasn’t paying attention to the comms at that point, or she was having a bad reaction to Isis’ coffee.

One scene left in the chapter, and as you can probably guess, there’s some warming involved . . .

The Night Air: Weather Rules

It’s the morning of the last day of 2015, and I have such strange feelings for this year.  That’s because a lot of good happened, and a lot of bad hurt it as well.  I finally came out completely as myself and spent nearly the whole year that way, while at the same time I was ripped up by emotions that nearly tore me apart.  In other words, a lot of highs and a lot of lows.

The short and long of it:  I’m glad 2015 is finally getting out of the way, and that 2016 is a much better year for me.  There are a lot of things I’d like to do, and crawling out of depression whole is one of them.

One interesting things I read last night:  two years ago yesterday saw the beginning of the scene where Erywin was introduced as the instructor of Formulistic Magic, and a certain Franky Smith outta Canada asked the Stupid Question of the Day that she was expecting:  “Can you cook meth?”  Of course she can, and she began giving him a rather varied history of all the way it can be done, telling him at one point that she needed great methods because she wasn’t about to “shake and bake” like one might do “where you live in the arse-end of Deer Bollocks, Canada”.  I remember I had to do a lot of research on that scene, because there are so many different way of cooking meth, and I needed to make it look like Erywin knew how to cook.  At least we know she isn’t afraid to call someone “bitch”.

But what about the end of this year’s writing, Cassie?  Well, the current novel stands just short of two hundred sixteen thousand words.  I was actually about one hundred thousand words further along in the other book after this much time, or so I believe:  I’d have to go back and do some figuring to see if that’s true.  I know I had one NaNo under my belt, and I wrote seventy thousand words in that sprint, so that puts me ahead about fifty thousand right there.

As it is on the downward slide with the book, and if things go well I could finish this up right around the time I started.  Which would be good.

It would also mean I'd be past this part in the novel.

It would also mean I’d be past this part in the novel.

Let’s see how the meeting goes–or should I say, finishes up?

 

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

The Chief of Security stood facing the students with her hands behind her back. “As you’ll both be within one hundred kilometers of the school, there’s no need to give either of you active tracking: we’ll know you’re the only ones in the air tonight. We’ll have the comms open the whole way save for when you’re resting—” She nodded in Kerry’s direction. “As usual, you’ll have access to the private channel, but you won’t be able to open it directly: you can only respond once we open the line.

“Tonight’s weather won’t be the worst you could experience, but it’s not going to be fun. Screen temps will be around minus three, but there’s a steady wind out of the northwest at sixteen kilometers an hour, and that’s gonna send the wind chill down to minus ten. Since flying anywhere near one hundred kph is gonna keep the wind chill around minus fifteen, keep in mind it’s gonna be steady all night.

“Because of the weather I want you—” Isis pointed at Kerry. “—to keep a close eye on her. You may be used to flying around in this sort of cold, but she isn’t, and things can start going sideways when you least expect. Something else to keep in mind: you’re going to be flying with overcast skies most of the night, so you’re going to get a lot of light reflection from the ground, and that will make observation from the distances you’ve normally flew problematic.”

Vicky stepped in and took over. “I want you to stay within three meters of Annie all night tonight. Keep yourself slight back, but we won’t say much if you get up along side. Just don’t get forward of her position, or look as if you’re trying to lead.”

Kerry nodded. “Sure. I know the rules.”

“I know you do. And I know you won’t do anything to compromise Annie’s flight.” Vicky addressed her other students. “You know the drill: we, along with Kerry, will monitor your vitals. If any of us see you starting to falter, you get on the back of Kerry’s broom and you both come home. And if you should feel that something isn’t right, you tell us, get on the back of Kerry’s broom—”

“And we come home.” Annie smiled as she nodded twice. “I understand, I do.”

“No need to drive that point home, then.” Vicky smiled at co-presenter, then back at her students. “Okay, Isis and I are going up to the Flight Desk. You can finish dressed and head outside. Once you’re both ready, Annie, you give us a head’s up and we’ll get stated.” She waved the holographic map away. “Our call sign is the same: your’s is Salem Night Solo.”

Annie nodded as she stood. “Understood.” She began gathering up her winter gear. “We should be ready in five minutes.”

“Sounds good. See you on the flight line.” Vicky tapped Isis on the arm.

“Have a good flight tonight.” Isis followed Vicky out of the room, leaving the door open.

Kerry slipped on his leather comm helmet and fastened it in place. “Nervous?”

“Not any more than usual.” Annie put on her comm helmet and rolled her balaclava over the top. “Are you’re going to be nervous flying close to me?”

He shook his head as he shrugged on his coat. “We’ve done it before—and I’ve done it with others at night.” Kerry half-zipped the heavy coat. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Good.” Annie moved up to Kerry and kissed him on the lips for a few seconds. “Then let’s do well tonight, my love, so you can get more of those when we return.”

He returned the kiss and slipped into a hug. “You certainly know how to give someone the incentive to do their job right.”

 

That Annie:  finding time to kiss when she should be getting ready.  Then again, she may as well get those lips warmed up now, because it’s likely they won’t be warm for some time after this moment.

The kids handle this like it’s no big thing–just gear up and get going.  And that’s exactly what they’re going to do, because they both do like to fly, and Annie loves her flying the most when she’s with her soul mate.

And in a few minutes they’re going to be alone under the night skies of Gloucester, Salem, and Boston.  If there were ever a time to feel as if you are the only ones in the universe, it’s coming up.

The Night Air: The Briefing

First off before getting to the good stuff–I have a new coffee grinder.  It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, and now I have one that you hand crank, and after about fifteen minutes of cranking while waiting to eat, I have enough ground coffee to give me something to look forward to on New Years Day.  This is going to work well with my Chemex coffeemaker, which I picked up the other night after wanting for a long time as well.  After I use it I’ll let you know how it comes out, as the coffee made in a Chemex is supposed to be among the best you can drink.

Maybe Annie will need some of that after what’s awaiting her in just few thousand or so words . . .

Seven hundred words right on the nose, and it’s all talk-talk, but as with all briefings it’s all about letting her know where she’s going and what she’s doing.  Vicky’s running this show with Isis at her side, and since they have a map out for Annie to see–one that you’ve already seen–it’s time to tell her what she’s doing.

 

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

“Tonight is all about navigation using visual and interment flight rules, and being able to do so in less than optimal conditions. Flying at night is a good time for this, because as much as you think you know the landscape from all the times you’ve been out during the day, when it’s dark everything looks different.

“This is better than flying in bad weather, though. Given our location next to the Atlantic Ocean, it’s easy to find the line where the land ends and the sea begins, and that prevents you from possibly flying out over water, getting tired, and crashing into the ocean. In bad weather—fog, mist, rain with a low cloud ceiling—it’s possible to get disoriented and become lost. While the sky will be overcast tonight, you’ll have a clear view of the ground. If you get completely disoriented, you’ll know where you can land and where you can’t.” A faint smile grew across Vicky’s face. “Just make sure you land inside the lights, or close to them. Stay away from the dark.”

Vicky turned to the map between Isis and her. “You’re going to do a lot of flying tonight. You’re going to cover over one hundred kilometers—perhaps close to one hundred twenty-five depending on the route you take. You’ll fly out of her directly to Grant Circle in Gloucester. From their you’ll head west—” She began pointing out locations on the holographic display. “—to Gregory Island—which you know by now isn’t really an island—then to Wenham Town Hall and, beyond that, the intersection of Valley Road and Wenham Road. At each of these points you will stop long enough to take a picture of your location, just as you did during your first solo flight.

 

That part about flying at night and the lights making it easy not to get disoriented–that’s happened a lot to pilots, particularly the ones in small, private aircraft.  Throw in fog or mist and an inability not to know how to read your instruments, and before you know it you’re a statistic.  At least in Annie’s case she can stop, look around, and figure out if there’s ground or water below before something bad happens.

The first part of her trip happens right outside the school walls, sort of.  The two circles–or roundabouts, as we call them here in the States–are close to each other.  The first one, Grant Circle, is on the left, and that’s the one she’ll fly over on the way out.  The other, Blackburn Circle, is on the right, and that’s what she’ll pass over on her way back to the school.  It’s also the one they passed on their first night at school, as the train from Gloucester to Rockport travels right past–though it’s hard to see through all the trees.

Circles, roads, trains--now we get some flying up in this as well.

Circles, roads, trains–now we get some flying up in this as well.

And after these places?

 

“From the intersection you’ll head to the Halstead Danvers apartment complex—” She saw Kerry’s smile even though he was doing his best to keep it hidden. “—though there are some in this room who like to call that location Arkham Asylum. After you reach Danvers you’ll proceed southward toward Boston. Your next landmark is here—” She indicated a point far to the southwest of Salem.

“The Northern Expressway/Salem Street Interchange in Medford. From here you’re going to run into a lot of points of interest, but it’s all city over flight after this point. You’ll overfly the Porter Square Shopping Center before heading to University Strip.” Vicky lightly tapped the display. “Harvard Law School, Cambridge Public Library, and the Barker Engineering Library at MIT.” She turned to Annie. “Any questions?”

Annie beamed. “None, Vicky.”

 

This is probably Kerry’s favorite spot near the school, as evident by the smile on his face.  Halstead Danvers sits on the site of what was Danvers State Mental Hospital, aka Danvers Asylum, and as I’ve pointed out before, that complex was the inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Asylum, and later into modern times, Arkham Asylum from the Batman Universe.  Here’s what it looked like back in the day:

If you squint you can almost hear the screaming.

If you squint you can almost hear the screaming.

And now it’s almost all gone saved for some of the central building.  Now you can live on the grounds and raise your kids and never mind the fact that people died in screaming agony right where you’re cooking up some quick chicken fettuccine.

One could say you'd have to be crazy to live here . . .

One could say you’d have to be crazy to live here . . .

The other half of that is for when Annie head down into the Boston–or do you say “Baas-TAN”?–and meanders over by the colleges there.  Before researching this flight over a year ago I had no idea that Harvard, Cambridge, and MIT were pretty much right next to each other.  Now I know, and by extension, you do as well.  But, no kidding:  here is University Strip:

You can almost smell the money on this picture.

You can almost smell the money on this picture.

Of course MIT is kept away from the blue bloods at Harvard and Cambridge, only because science probably makes the law and business grad light headed.

Now, let’s move on:

 

“All right, then. After MIT you’ll head to Fenway Park: at this point you’ll be the farthest from the school, and your farthest south. There you’ll rest up for a bit before reaching the rest of your objective on your way back to the school. Once you leave the park you’ll head for Boston North Station and Tobin Memorial Bridge before heading on to the Wonderland MBTA Station. The reason we’re having you fly by Tobin Bridge is so you stay clear of Logan International. Tonight the wind is out of the northwest, and that means flights will depart on runway 33 Left, so by keeping you over by US 1 you’ll avoid the jets.

“From Wonderland you’ll fly northward to Marblehead and the Naugus Head and Cloutman Point. After that you will head for the Manchester MBTA Station, and you have the option of either following the shoreline to Manchester, or you can head directly across Salem Sound. The distance isn’t that great—it’s less than ten kilometers—but again, it’s up to you. This is really the only option portion of the flight.

“After that it’s a short hop back: Manchester to Blackburn Circle in Gloucester and then turn to the north and head for the Flight School.” Vicky raised her hands. “And that’s it: you’re home and the flight is over. We’ll have warming blankets and hot drinks for you at the hospital, and after you’re feeling better you can head back to your tower for the night; we’ll do the debriefing tomorrow morning.” Vicky rocked back on her heels. “That’s all I have for now. Isis?”

 

Fenway is pretty much right across the river from MIT.  The other points Vicky mentions are well to the northeast of the park, with the Wonderland station being north of Logan International.  And, yes:  the runway in question is 33 Left, because you can use Google Maps to go right down on the airport and look at the runway markings, which they are required to have by law.

No runway markings here, just the route out of the city.

No runway markings here, just the route out of the city.

And then from Wonderland it just a forty kilometer/twenty-five mile run up the coast and over the sound back to the school.  Like Vicky said, just over a hundred kilometers, or sixty-two miles, though it’s likely going to be longer, right?

Since it looks as if Isis has something to say, assuming I don’t get wasted at dinner tonight, you’ll find out what it is on the penultimate day of the year.  Just think:  last year at this time my kids were kicking ass and . . . well, getting beat up, too.

Funny how that works out.

The Special Allowances

I have this strange, sinking suspicion that I’m going to need to run out and buy a new lamp tonight, because this morning my bulb blew out and now my three-way lamp is acting like a one-way, which is never a good thing.  Sure, why not finish out the new year having to stumble around trying to find stuff in the dark?  It’s not like this place is that big that I can’t find what I’m looking for in the pitch blackness of night.

But night is where we are at right now, and speaking of that, you saw a few hundred words of lead-in of something, and I think we all have some knowledge of the approaching event . . .

 

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

Annie had known about the upcoming flight for two weeks, and her discussions the Friday before with Isis was to go over the specifics for this flight. Normally Annie would have made another, longer solo flight in broad daylight before doing a night solo flight, but both Vicky and Isis felt that given how well she did on her first flight, and how well she did when she flew with Isis, that Annie should skip the second day flight and move directly to the night flight.

In the end Isis left the decision to move ahead to the night solo flight to Annie. She immediately chose to proceed directly to the night flight as she felt she there wasn’t much of a challenge in another day flight. Annie felt that if she were as good as Isis indicated, then it was time to ignore the current learning scale and move up one more level . . .

Vicky and Isis finally entered the Ready Room, closing and locking the main door behind them, as well as making certain the locker room doors were sealed as well. She’d already made Kerry aware that this meeting was considered immensely private, and she had warned him the weekend before that they were not to discuss the matter with other students at all. As Isis told Annie, if anyone asked about her next solo flight, all either of them were to say was upcoming.

The women made their way to the front of the room, and while Isis took her place next to the center podium, Vicky turned the lighting down by half and activated the holographic map. Only once everything to was to her liking did she take the podium and address the other girl in the room. “How you feeling, Annie?”

“I feel good, Vicky.” She ran her the fingers of her left hand lightly over the fur collar of her coat’s hood. “I’m eager to start.”

 

Whenever you ask Annie if she wants to try something that she’s not perhaps ready to do, you may as well throw a whole lotta meat into the bear pit and ask them not to eat.  Annie’s natural state f learning is to push things right to the wall, and since she’s done nothing but that since coming into Salem, it only makes sense that if you want to move her on to a more difficult event, she’s gonna run at that with extreme passion.

It seems, however, like there’s something big going on, and Vicky gets to that part right away:

 

“I’ll bet you are.” Vicky was smiling as she turned to Isis. “We’ll see if your enthusiasm remains high after you hear what awaits you outside the walls tonight.

“First off, allow me to address the need for secrecy on this flight. Tonight it’s going going to be you two—” She pointed at both students. “—and that makes you the first B Levels to go outside the school walls unescorted at night since 1973. Annie, we trust you will do what’s expected of you tonight, and with Kerry now approved for solo night flights, we saw no reason to have either Isis or myself tag along. You guys will do fine on your own.

“However, while the headmistress is aware you’ll be out on your own, she was a bit apprehensive that if others knew about tonight’s flight, they might—” Vicky hesitated, as if she were unsure of her next words.

Kerry found them for her. “She’s afraid the other students are gonna say you’re playing favorites with us again.”

Vicky nodded. “Pretty much. I know you’ve had some issues doing minion duty in other classes, and I wanted to avoid more of that.”

“I’m not worried about the jealousy of other students—” Annie didn’t bother blocking the contempt from her tone. “—but I can see why you wouldn’t want us to talk about this. Some would think we were bragging about the test.”

“Exactly.” Vicky smiled as she relaxed. “I knew you’d understand.” She looked to Isis for a second, then turned back to Annie. “Ready to begin?”

Annie made herself comfortable. “I am.” She knew Kerry wouldn’t answer: as with the last solo preflight briefing sat quietly, prepared to speak only if he was spoken to directly.

“Let’s get started then.” Vicky half-turned and moved the holographic map between Isis and her. As she turned away from the display well over a dozen and a half points appeared over the area between the school and the city of Boston. “There’s a lot to cover this evening, both figuratively and literally.

 

Right away the kids learn they’re being treated . . . differently again.  No B Levels outside the walls at night, unescorted, since 1973?  That’s like, um, forty years!  And these two are being let outside the walls because they can be trusted–I mean, it’s not like they don’t have hiding places on school property, so why worry about them being alone beyond the walls?

So flying out of the school and down to Boston–

Just like this, only no plane wing and probably no bird, either.

Just like this, only no plane wing.

The list of points was published yesterday, along with the map.  Now all Vicky and Isis have to do is tie the two together and tell the kids . . .