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 . . .

A Blasting From the Past

Here it was yesterday, when I was putting up the excerpt, that I mentioned, “I should tell you some day about how Isis helped save the school.”  I even mentioned that I might do that today.  Well . . . today is here, and for once I’ve kept my word.

Back during July Camp Nano, 2013, I decided to write the actual first novel of The Foundation Chronicles.  Reason for that was I needed to get a feel for the location and the characters, but mostly I wanted to set down a certain event in the school’s history that affected a hell of a lot of people:  The Scouring.  As I’ve mentioned to others, The Scouring really went on for about a year.  It started with an internal attack on Salem, performed by a group of deep-cover Deconstructors and some student followers, and came to a head on 11 September, 2001, with the attack on the World Trade Center.  At that The Foundation said, “Screw this,” and spent the next year going scorched earth on the Deconstructors, and when it was over they were no longer a problem–or so we thought until ten years later and the Day of the Dead attacks around the world.

The events at Salem were traumatic, and with good reason:  there was a lot of death going down.  You’ll see why in a moment, but let me get things set up first with the staff roster, so you know who the players are:

It's always easier to know the players when you have the cards.

It’s always easier to know the players when you have the cards.

Staff is on the left and instructors are on the right.  Immediately you’ll notice there are a lot more men teaching.  On the staff side, three of the four positions are held by name, the inverse of what it is in my current novels.  You’ll also see that someone in charge of spirits and apparitions is running Jessica’s coven, Ceridwen, which is almost unheard of as well, as they are known for their transformation experts.  You’ll recognize four people as well:  Ramona Chai–this was her first year teaching–Matthias, Jessica, Erywin–who is the longest teaching instructor in the current books, followed by Jessica–and Madeline.  You’ll also see Maddie’s husband David, and if you’ve been keeping up on current events, you’ll know you don’t see him all the way to the end of this book . . .

That was the set-up there.  Where are Isis and Wednesday?  They were students.  So was Deanna, who also played an important part in the defense of the school.  But right now we will see what those first two did to keep the school safe.  Here is the scene that tells it all, from start to finish, with a few interjections from me at times.  Enjoy.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles:  The Scouring, copyright 2013 by Cassidy Frazee)

The Great Flight

As she’d planed Isis headed for the Great Hall less than a minute after Professor Greenfield had dropped her off at Cernunnos Tower. She didn’t want to hold up and wait to see what was going to happen: she wanted to see what was happening. Yes, it was dangerous, but she thought she could help in some fashion—

She could also see what Cleo and Wednesday were doing. Knowing them, they were probably checking each tower making certain everything was good—or at least safe.

The door to the West Transept eased open with but a whisper. Isis tip-toed inside, listening. She thought she heard running, but since everything here was stone unless someone was in some hard-soled street shoes, one wouldn’t hear anything.

Except Isis did hear running. Followed by the sharp cracks of energy spells striking something: could be walls, could be floors or railing . . .

Could be something else.

Standing in the West Transept she heard doors slam, heard more energy spells launched. There was yelling and cursing; Isis recognized one of the voices as that of Chief of Security Heidenberg, and while she wasn’t one hundred percent certain, she though the other voice might be—

“Will you get off my ass?” she heard Heidenberg scream. Though she’d stepped out from the transept hallway, the jutting overhang of the second floor walkway hid her. “You’re the headmaster! You should have your own bypass!”

“You were the one shooting at her,” Headmaster Hearst replied, his voice becoming more of a low growl than a shout. “I thought you were suppose to be a dead shot.”

“You don’t need to worry—” His grunt carried throughout the Rotunda. “She’ll be dead soon. Give me a second—” He grunted once more. “I’ll have this shied down in no time.

There was more conversation, but Isis wasn’t listening. She pressed herself into the shadows as she heard the East Transept entrance open and someone enter the building. Isis was good at hiding: there weren’t many things she’d learned in the Sorcery and Black Magic class, but the Blend With Darkness spell was one that she could do in her sleep.

 

Blend With Darkness is a spell that hasn’t been touched on yet, but it’s only a matter of time.  It’s another of those shadow spells that allows you to become one with the shadow, or the night if you’re Batman, and remain unseen.  Think of it as taking a shadow and wrapping it around you, and then just creeping along against the walls so you remain unseen–that’s Blend With Darkness.  Fun stuff, right.

The reason the Headmaster and the Chief of Security are trying to get into the library–which has been locked down by the librarian–is because they were going to destroy everything inside.  Given there are like forty thousand books on so many different subjects, most of them related to magic, and some of them one of a kind books, consuming the library at Salem would have been a tremendous loss.

 

The person walking into the Rotunda was a girl, probably a student. Isis thought she recognized the attire, but it wasn’t until the person was almost in whatever passed for light in the Rotunda that she saw it was Wednesday. Isis saw something else, too: blood. All over Wednesday’s face and chest and shoulder—

What the hell? Isis watched Wednesday walking out from the shelter of the East Transept, and the overhang walkway of the second floor. In a matter of seconds she was going to be in the Rotunda, and from where Wends would be standing, Hearst and Heidenberg—who sounded like they were still working hard on getting into the library—would likely see her, even in the darkness.

If they were throwing spells at someone, then they were trying to stop someone, she thought. And if they see Wends . . .

There was a loud explosion from outside: Isis felt the vibration through the soles of her feet. What ever had just blow had been close, and there were only a few things close by that weren’t inside the Great Hall. Isis didn’t think the eruption came from behind her, so it wasn’t something in the west garden—or her coven tower. It felt like—

“Sounds like Ram took care of Åsgårdsreia,” Hearst said. Isis’ stomach clutched as she heard the headmaster ask the chief of security, “Are you about done?”

 

Ram is Nawaazish Ram, who was the Coven Leader of Åsgårdsreia.  That explosion Isis felt–Ram taking “care of Åsgårdsreia”?  He blew it up the tower, with the sleeping students, or those going to sleep, inside.  Deanna is in Åsgårdsreia Tower at the time, doing her best to get everyone out.  But that’s another story . . .

 

That was her cue to move. Keeping the Blend With Darkness spell about her, she flew across the Rotunda, staying low to the ground so the shadows there would keep her hidden. Flying was the fastest way across the tremendous expanse, getting her to Wednesday before the girl could wander out where she could be seen.

She flew in behind Wednesday and grabbed her around the shoulders. She landed and pulled the girl back into the transept wall closest to the Northeast Stairs. Isis dropped her spell and whispered in her friend’s ear, “Wends, it’s me.”

The light shock that had enfolded Wednesday since the incident at Blodeuwedd Tower vaporized as soon as she heard Isis’ voice. “Ice,” she whispered back. “God, I’m glad it’s you!”

Now that she was close to her friend, Isis could better see the bloody condition of her face and night clothing. “Damn! What happened?”

Wednesday saw no need to dance around the truth. “Cleo’s dead.”

Isis found it difficult to speak. “She’s dead?”

“So’s Professor Warnstedt. Dessauer killed them both.”

So Wends was right. Isis was now worried about Professor Greenfield, wondering if she’d found one of the other two . . . “Wait: where’s Dessauer?”

“I killed him.” Wednesday stood, keeping her back pressed against the wall. “I locked down Blodeuwedd, then went and locked down Mórrígan.” She turned her head so she could see Isis. “Then I came here, ‘cause . . .” Her voice caught in her throat. “It was the fastest way to go to find you.”

 

Wednesday is covered in blood because she was standing next to Cleo–who was a close friend of Isis’–and Professor Warnstedt–the Coven Leader of Blodeuwedd–when both pretty much exploded.  At least their head and chest did, respectively.  Wednesday then killed Dessauer by wrapping him in a mini-tornado of dirt and stone, and flaying him alive.  Let me point out here:  Professor Dessauer was not only the Coven Leader of Mórrígan, but the Head Sorceress.  And Wednesday killed him.  This is why it’s said if you really know your magic, you can do anything, and even a witch with a mastery of most common spells is not a person with whom to trifle.

She kept telling people to wait to see who would die.  She got tired of waiting.

She kept telling people to wait to see who would die. She got tired of waiting.

 

Though now wasn’t the time to say she was touched, Isis was. She’d just discovered she’d lost one of her close friends, and it was a blow that was hammering at her heart. For Wednesday to say she’d come looking for Isis, after everything that had happened to her the last few minutes, meant far too much for her to vocalize.

There wasn’t time for that, though. On the second floor the Hearst was getting tired of the lack of process by his Chief of Security. “I thought you said you were going to break through this,” he said in a loud, pissed off voice.

Heidenberg wasn’t in the mood to fight with the headmaster. “I am almost there!”

“You better break through it now, goddammit—”

Cause if you don’t, Isis thought, you’re going to move on to something elseand I think I know what that is . . . “Wends—” She crowded next to her and looked past her, past the expanse of the Rotunda, to the opening on the second floor directly across from where they stood. “We gotta get up to the security station.”

Wednesday knew about the security center, and she knew of the time Isis had spent there this year as an intern: this newest part was confusing, however. “Why?”

“I have . . .” Oh, god, don’t say that: it’s such a cliché. “I think something really bad is going to happen. At night the outer defense screens are left on to keep people from coming in over the wall, either flying or teleporting.” She stepped in front of Wednesday. “The headmaster and Heidenburg is up there; I think they went after the librarian—”

And they did.  Along with the doctor as well–the same one who trained Coraline.

Now, why does Isis want to get up to the Security Station?  Because she interned at the Security Center this year of schooling.  However, a few weeks before the events here, the Chief of Security told her she wasn’t needed any longer, and revoked all her access.  But this is one of the reasons Isis knows about school security:  she was trained here.  And she’s a smart girl . . .

 

“River?” Wednesday like the Head Librarian a great deal, and couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her—like they wouldn’t hurt Cleo . . . “She’s up there?”

“I don’t know. I came in, it sounded like someone was shooting off spells.” She leaned in close to her friend. “I’m afraid they’re going to pulled down the outer screens.”

Wednesday didn’t need to ask more questions. “You think others are coming.”

“Maybe.” She looked down, sighing. “Something blew up—”

“I heard it.”

“They’ve killed students.” Isis took one step back. “I think they’re going to kill everyone.”

The fear hit as soon as Isis was through speaking. Wednesday, covered with the blood of her friends, and a little from their killer, didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to be here, but she didn’t expect she could just walk out the main gate right this moment, either. “What do we have to do?” she asked, her voice grave.

Isis thought it best not to say too much. “Turn around and take a step away from the wall.”

Wednesday did as she was told. “Okay, now—whuuuu!”

Isis started hovering as soon as Wednesday turned around. She wrapped her legs firmly around Wednesday’s waist before grabbing her under the arms. Once she had her, Isis lifted them both off the ground, turned, and sailed into the Rotunda.

 

And here we go:  Isis flying through the Great Hall holding on to Wednesday for dear life.

 

She hadn’t put her shadow spell up, but she didn’t need to, because they were across the Rotunda in a matter of seconds, then a turn to the left and down the West Corridor towards the Atrium—

Attack spells went off around them, and Isis heard a yell from somewhere behind them. She wasn’t sure who was yelling, but it didn’t matter. She moved up and down as they headed away from the Rotunda.

Wednesday was too shocked to be scared; the shots landing near them hadn’t even registered. “What are you going to do?”

They slowed as they entered the Atrium by the Main Entrance. “You need to do that portal thing you do.”

“What?” A few months before Wednesday had mastered the Mater Transition spell, which would allow a person to move through a physical barrier. Professor Ram had been extremely surprised that she, a C Level, could do something that E and F Levels couldn’t master; she now wondered if there was more than surprise behind some of the things he’d said at the time . . . “Yeah, I can do it, but—”

Isis crossed the Atrium and entered the East Corridor, turning north and accelerating. “But my ass. We’re going to have about three seconds for you to phase us through, ‘cause I got a feeling that we’re racing to get to the center now.”

Close to the ground floor, the Bell Tower entrance flashed by. “I can’t do it that fast!”

“Then we’re gonna crash into the wall.” Isis hugged her friend. “Nice to know you, Wends.”

“You can’t do this!” Wednesday didn’t realize she was shouting, didn’t know how her voice was carrying. “There’s no time!”

“Then you better find it—”

Both girls shot out into the Rotunda. Isis saw the Headmaster Hearst and Heidenberg standing near the Northwest Staircase, both looking as if they were going to blast them. Hope you’re ready, she thought as she altered her course and headed for a wall spot at the third floor level. “Now!” she yelled, then half-closed her eyes.

Isis felt the wall approaching more than saw it. She half expected to slam into stone and brick, feel her skull cave in as her body crumpled, and maybe remain conscious long enough to feel their impact upon the floor below.

Instead there was the momentary feeling of being pushed through something cold, then they were hitting a floor and skidding to a stop in the middle of some heavy darkness.

They’d made it; they were in the upper storage room directly over the Security Center. Isis had been here once to put file some old equipment away, but she was aware there was a staircase here, somewhere, going to the second floor, and then they only had to go down the corridor.

She heard Wednesday ask, “Were are we?”

Isis was still holding on to her after their passage thought the wall. “We’re over the Security Center—second floor.”

“We’re over the center?”

“Yeah, we—”

They fell out of the darkness and into the light, hitting the floor below hard. Isis hadn’t expected to drop like that, so she didn’t have time to soften their fall— She landed on top of Wednesday, who started screaming. “Wends—”

Here eyes were filled with tears. “Do what you have to do!” She shot Isis a worried look. “Go!”

All the computer monitors were on, the screen savers going. Isis jiggled the mouse and brought one to life, then pulled up a log-in screen. She’d been told her information wasn’t in the system any longer, but . . . She typed in the system admin ID, then the password. She’d used this more than a few times to monitor things, and Isis figured Heidenberg hadn’t changed those after revoking her personal access.

In two seconds she was on the system admin screen. “I’m in!” she squealed.

Gasping for air, Wednesday said, “Get-get everything up.”

Isis brought up a schematic for the school and the grounds. She checked the defense shields; they were low but still in place. She scaled them to one hundred percent and locked down all outside access gates. She activated the anti-teleportation spells; those might hurt the instructors, but it would hurt the bad guys just as much. Lastly, she locked down most of the Great Hall: the Dining Hall, the Hospital, the Admin Wing, the Library, the Security Section—all locked down, all inaccessible without the proper ID.

She took a few seconds to deactivate Heidenberg’s profile, so even if he did know an override he couldn’t used them from any terminal. Lastly she changed the system admin password, then logged in on another terminal before shutting down the one she had used to perform all this chicanery.

Only then did she activate the alarms, which—not surprisingly—had been deactivated.

 

I’ve done a bit of security on computers, and most places where I worked never changed the System Admin signon, so the password was always the same, and it was set never to expire:  who wants to mess up and forget that password?  Since the Chief of Security never figured on Isis getting into the security center again, why change anything?  It’s really how people are.

And why did Isis know that login anyway?  Because she was probably asked to do some work on the servers that required System Admin access, and it was given to her.  And the password wasn’t changed after that because people are lazy.  And, no:  it wasn’t 123456.  They’re not that lazy.  But I have been at jobs where the Sys Admin password was the one that came with the computer, and that meant it was the same as the profile.  Like I said:  lazy.

 

Isis spun around, a big smile on her face. “We did it! God, Wend—oh, shit!” She fell to her knees next to her friend, who was laid out on her back. She examined Wednesday’s right leg: it was broken two-thirds of the way down her thigh and bent at a strange angle. “Oh, hell, man—”

“I’m okay,” she said weakly. “I broke it when we fell.” Wednesday sucked in a huge lung-full of air. “I put up a shield around us—”

“I’ve got the shields up.”

“Well, we have another.” She smiled up at Isis, her face ashen from shock. “We did good, huh?”

Isis retrieved a first aid kit from the wall. He had it open before she was kneeling next to the bloody, broken girl. She pulled a vial of greenish liquid from inside and gave it to Wednesday to sip; Isis knew it would help cure her shock. After that she could numb her leg and straighten it—

And then we just wait to see who comes to our aid.

She smiled at Wednesday. “Yeah, Wends.” She laid her hand upon the girl’s shoulder. “We did good.”

 

If they hadn’t dialed up the outer defense screens, other Deconstructors would have come in and torched the place to the bedrock–just like they wanted to do a decade later.  And the bad guys didn’t want to let them in early, because they were worried their chicanery would get discovered and the wrong people would get alerted–like a certain Guardian who shows up a few chapters later.

And there you have it:  how Isis and Wednesday saved the school.

Feeling the Flight

I should say that while yesterday’s writing seemed to take forever, it got done.  Mostly because I got back into basics:  put in the earbuds, slipped on some tunes, and held the world at bay.  And it worked:  I wrote just over twelve hundred and fifty words, which brought yesterday’s work to fifteen hundred and seventy total, once you kicked in the stuff I did in the morning.  Not a bad day, even if it felt like I was struggling throughout a lot of the work.

Here we are, getting ready to get into the air, and Annie is feeling . . .

 

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

Annie sat quietly in the Flight School’s Ready Room with Kerry on her right, but her normally composed exterior hid the turmoil going on inside her body. She ate a light breakfast as she was certain a larger one would give her an upset stomach, and given what lay ahead, the last thing she wanted was being sick while hanging in mid-air without a broom . . .

Today was the day she’d been promised: today Isis, Kerry, and herself would venture outside the school walls for the first time. Up until this point she’d flown only in the Aerodrome, but last week, on the day after her birthday, for about five minutes Isis and she exited the Aerodrome through a roof opening designed for PAVs, quickly few to the Diamond, lightly touched down on the room there, then returned to the Aerodrome after a five minutes discussion about the best way to keep one’s self orientated when they were free flying.

Those few minutes dashing from one building to the other and back left Annie wanting so much more. She enjoyed flying on a broom—something she had admitted to Kerry but would be hard pressed to admit to anyone else—but sailing over the treetops with nothing between her and the ground save her Gift and her willpower left her with an impression of being completely unrestrained by gravity—

Save for those moments when she could lose consciousness and control of her Gift, at which point she’d plummet to the ground and die. She shrugged that thought off as soon as she returned to the floor of the Aerodrome and found Kerry waiting for their return, as she reasoned that were either of them to lose consciousness while on a broom, the end result would be the same.

If that were the case, there wasn’t any need to fly with fear.

 

If she’s ever mentioned any fear about falling to Kerry, he’s probably given her some advice about what it feels like to do that, and without any notion of whether or not he was gonna be able to stop before hitting the ground.

And here we find out that Annie has had one quick flight out of the Aerodrome, just to give her a feel for what it’s like to soar like the birds.  There is one thing, however:  is there a way for her to know where she’s going, how fast, how high, all that stuff?  Just like on a PAV?  Glad you asked–

 

It was while the three of them were together that Isis told Annie they were flying outside the school for the next class, and she presented Annie with her Band. Though it looked like a thin silver bracelet that fit sung around her right wrist, as Isis explained it was something Annie didn’t want to be without when she flying. Her Band was the same as the instruments on a PAV, giving her every she’d need to find her way displayed on an HUD, the same as on a broom. A simple double-flick away from the body would turn the Band on, and a double-flick towards the body would turn it off, but once on, she’d only have to request the HUD up verbally or by thought, and unlike a broom HUD, an enchantment would keep her HUD in front of her face so she could see it no matter what direction she was facing.

Before coming out of the locker room she’d nervously practiced using it; within the next twenty minutes she use it in a real-life situation—

 

Annie’s all filled up with jewelry, but her Band isn’t just any pretty piece, though it is designed to fit in with anything else she’s wearing so not to look out of place.  It’s a smart idea, and of course the school would have something to fit the bill.  It’s probably a piece that’s also made on demand, because Flight Gifts are rare, and it’s not like The Foundation is gonna have a bunch of these just laying about.

Vicky and Isis enter, and it’s pretty obvious it’s Isis’ show to run, so she does.  There’s isn’t a lot for her to say . . .

 

The security director set her helmet, gloves, and goggles aside, before activating the wall map. “You know why you’re here: we’re flying for real, and we’re heading outside the walls. Annie, you and I will fly in a side-by-side formation, with you following my lead to go where I indicate. The primary purpose of this flight is to get you used to being in the air, at altitude and speed, for an extended period, and to learn to use your Band.” Isis gave Annie an inquisitive glance. “Questions?”

Annie shook her head once. “No.”

“Good. Kerry—” Isis turned slightly to her left and pointed. “You’re job is to observe and get the feel of being a chase. You’ll be on the same comm line with us, but for the most part there won’t be any communication. You’re not suppose to help out in any way unless instructed by Carrier, who will be monitoring us from the Flight Deck—”

Vicky spoke up. “Today I’ll run the Deck alone; same goes for whenever Isis takes you out on a training flight. But when you start flying solo, Annie, Isis will help out.” She turned back to the Chief of Security. “Continue.”

“Thank you. Our flight is going to be pretty simple.” She turned to the board and pulled up a map of the local area. “We’ll fly out from here, skirt Anniquan and overfly Farm Point on the way to Choate Island. From there we’ll continue until we reach this garden and nursery center just south of Ipswich, where we’ll start turning towards the south.” Her finger traced a long, wide arc until it reached a point over one of the small communities north of the city of Salem. “When we reach the Hamilton/Wenhan train station, we’ll head east, meet up with State Highway 128 and follow that to Gloucester. Once we’re over the Addison Gilbert Hospital, we’ll turn towards the school, head for the Flight School, and touch down.”

She turned back to the children, bushing her hands as if to remove dust. “Total distance covered will be between forty-five and fifty kilometers; as for time, we’ll take our time and stop to go over a few points along the way, so I don’t expect us to be out more than a couple of hours. Any questions?”

“No.” Annie smiled. “Not now.”

“That’s what I thought.” Isis zipped up her jacket and grabbed the rest of her gear. “Let’s get airborne.”

 

All of those points are real–

Because I have a map.  You knew I had a map.

Because I have a map. You knew I had a map.

–and if you check out the course above you’ll find all the points of reference Isis pointed out.  It’s a simple thing for them, a learning experience for both kids.  And that lesson is about to start . . .

 

Annie was immediately on her feet, zipping her jacket, gathering up her flight accessories and following Isis from the room, with Kerry right behind her. The excitement that had hit her the second she’d gotten out of bed was now peaking, and with great effort she pushed it down, for the last thing she wanted was to find herself unable to free fly because she was unable to control her emotions—

They walked out of the hanger on to the edge of Selena’ Meadow. All three fliers finished dressing, snapping their helmets and goggles into place before slipping on their gloves. Isis turned to Kerry. “Saddle up, Starbuck.”

“Rodger.” Twenty seconds later he was on his broom hovering a meter off the ground, awaiting instructions.

Annie gave her gloves one final tug. “What’s your call sign, Isis?”

Isis broke into a wide grin. “Sekhmet.”

“I’d have thought you’d get tagged with Hathor.” Kerry set his goggles in place. “I mean, you’re named after the goddess of health and marriage, so it’s not a stretch.”

“That was actually my first call sign.” Isis rolled her arms to set her jacket upon her shoulders. “After The Scouring it was changed because of the part I played in helping remove the Deconstructors from the school.” She relaxed and took a couple of deep breaths of the cool air. “Hathor was known as the goddess who welcomed the dead into the next life, but Sekhmet was the one who sent them to her. The later name seemed more fitting.” She slipped her goggles down over her eyes. “You ready to roll, Athena?”

 

Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of just about all the bad shit you never wanted to encounter in your life, which is, in a way, what Isis is for the school, as we’ve already seen.  And since I’ve said on more than one occasion that Isis and Wednesday played a part in saving the school, I should maybe run that scene, just to show you what they did.  Maybe tomorrow.  But leave it to Kerry, Mr. Clueless Geek, to know about Sekhmet.  I wonder if he knows about how Ra really turned Hathor into Sekhmet, and had to get ‘Ol Sekky drunk on her ass in order to change her back.  Hum . . . probably not yet.

With all this said, Isis knows it’s time to get the party started–

 

“I’m ready, Sekhmet.” She twitched her right wrist twice to activate her Band, then brought up the HUD. It floated about a half meter in front of her eyes. “Everything’s working properly.”

“Just want I want to hear.” She looked around to see if there was anyone around: the field was clear. “Get your light bending in place and we’ll take off.” She tapped the side of her helmet as the kids began to vanish from sight. “Carrier, we’re ready to take off.”

Vicky’s voice came though clear. “Rodger, Sekhmet. I’ve got all three of you on active tracking.”

“Rodger.” She spoke softly over the comm, knowing Annie and Kerry, now invisible, would hear her. “Athena, Starbuck: lift off and go straight up to three hundred meters. As soon as we’re above the Flight School, rotate your spells so we can see each other, but we’re flying under UFP.”

Annie lifted her feet off the ground and felt herself hovering. “Rodger, Sekhmet.” She climbed straight up slowly, and as soon as she saw the edge of the the Flight School she flipped the spell so no one on the ground could see her. Now that everyone was flying using Unseen Flight Protocols, Isis and Kerry popped into view, rising into the sky with her.

She watched the altimeter on her HUD until she neared two hundred ninety meters; at that point she slowed her assent and stopped completely at three hundred. Annie’s heart was pounding as she looked around. She been this high before—and higher—on a broom, but right now there was nothing under her but air, trees, and ground. She took a deep breath before noticing Kerry sitting about three meters way, grinning and giving her a thumbs-up sign. She returned the smile and the gesture before spinning around and finding Isis. “I’m . . . here.”

Isis knew exactly what the girl was feeling, because she remembered the first time she’d climbed into the air with only her Gift and willpower to keep her in the sky. “You feel up to flying? You’re not dizzy or too giddy or any shit like that?”

Annie laughed. “I feel great.”

“Which is what I thought.” Isis pointed at both kids. “Annie, I want you three meters on my right; Kerry, I want you four meters behind Annie. I’m the flight pilot here, so follow my instructions and lead. Got it?” Both fliers acknowledged her command. “Okay, then: follow me.”

 

And gets them up in the air.

Annie be flyin'; haters be  . . . well, not knowing yet.

Annie be flyin’; haters be . . . well, not knowing yet.

She’s about as free as a girl can get.

I wonder if she knows Kerry looking at her butt the whole time?