Into Thin Air: Are We There Yet?

Well, after cranking out eleven hundred words at Panera last night, this scene–which I never thought was going to be that long in the first place–was finished, just a few words over forty-seven hundred words.  I said the same thing about that last scene, and look how that turned out.  Also I had to make some changes from yesterday–

See, in the excerpt yesterday, Kerry asked about air at three thousand meters, and he was told by Vicky not to worry.  Then, while I was at work, I starting thinking about how Kerry’s been through the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is above three thousand meters in a lot of places–and then I remembered this:

I made it there in under less than half an hour--

I made it there in under less than half an hour–

I’ve not only stood near that sign, but above it as well, so I’ve stood at twelve thousand feet, or three thousand, six hundred, and fifty-seven meters–a bit more than to when my kids are flying.  Kerry wouldn’t ask about the air:  he’d know.

Loorea would probably know as well, since there are twelve hundred meter high peaks just to the south of her.  Sure, she’s only three hundred meters above sea level, but she knows about the mountains around Book Book, which only has tennis courts and a post office–

Book Book Tennis Courts:  the height of civilization.

Book Book Tennis Courts: the height of civilization.

I ended up giving the line to Kalindi, who stated she lives only about eighty meters above sea level.  And it reads like this:

 

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

Kalindi called out to Vicky. “Nightwitch, we gonna be okay on air?”

She looked back over her shoulder, grinning. “Like I told you, we’re good: there’s more than enough at three thousand meters to keep you from passing out—just ask Emma. She’s probably been to a few peaks and passes back home where she’s been above that height. Not to mention, once the pressure starts dropping too much, an enchantment keeps a bubble of air around the saddle so you don’t pass out.” She turned her attention back to the gray ahead. “We’re going to be on-station for less than ten minutes. It’ll be fine.”

 

And in the end, in the next edit, I may just pull that line out–though I’m sure some reader will ask, “But what about air?”  Someone will ask, just as the other day people wanted to know who this McCartney guy was who sang with Kanye West.  Wasn’t he in a band called Wings a long time ago?

We saw yesterday that the kids were hitting some mircobursts on their way to their point in the sky.  It didn’t allow Kerry to get off at least one line from Aliens–which I’m probably gonna have to fix–and it wasn’t setting anyone at ease.  For example–

 

But another microburst hit a moment later, and this one threw the entire formation up and to the right before forcing to drop almost fifty meters in about a second. Kerry held on as his heart clutched slightly, but a couple of fliers let loose with grunts or gasps as they fought to stay in position as they continued climbing. Just as they were pushed hard to the right Loorea called out the altitude. “Twenty-four hundred.”

“Seven hundred to go.” Annie rolled her shoulders and reset herself. “It’s like walking from The Pentagram to the Witch House.”

“You would know about that.” Emma’s words came out soft and tight.

Annie looked over to Kerry, but addressed the girl behind her. “I would know that, Selene; I’ve walked it enough.”

Kerry almost laughed out loud. “Passing twenty-five fifty. Six hundred to go—we’ve all done that.”

 

Great save there, kid:  don’t want Annie and Emma throwing shade at each other at twenty-five hundred meters, do ya?  But then what does he do?  Well . . .

 

A vicious updraft hit them: Kerry watch his altimeter spin up almost one hundred and fifty meters before another burst struck them from the left and above, knocking them back almost a hundred meters. This time a few incoherent sounds passed Kerry’s lips as he brought the PAV back to his control. He did a quick glance to his left: Annie was right where she should be, but Daudi had slipped back about four meters. He didn’t seem like he was in a hurt to reform the line.

Kerry turned back to look at him, even though he knew he shouldn’t. “You okay, Luangwa?”

“Yes, I’m . . .” He shook his head. “How much more is this going to happen?”

“Yeah—” Emma coughed twice as she tried to clear her throat. “It’s starting to get a little scary.”

Kerry turned back and checked his HUD and saw he was once more climbing smoothly to their final station. “Hey, guys . . .” He shifted his eyes towards Annie without letting the HUD completely out of his sight. “This is just wind. I’ve fought and been chased by a monster that wanted to kill and eat me—” He chuckled. “I’ll let you know if we run into something scary.”

Annie turned her head slightly in his direction. “You would know about fighting scary monsters, soul mate.” She flashed him a quick, huge smile, then turned back to flying.

 

Ouch.  Good thing the air is cold up there, it’ll help with that burn.  No more scary talk after that.  “I was almost eaten–deal with the turbulence, kids.”  Of course, it goes without saying that Emma was almost eaten, too, but someone put their ass on the line to keep that from happening . . .

And as far as that turbulence goes–

 

A few seconds of dead air followed, and Kerry wondered if anyone would speak for the remainder of the flight. That was when Kalindi laughed. “I trust your judgment, Starbuck: you would know if there were monsters around us.” She nodded towards the front of the formation. “Lead us onward.”

“No need to, Toba.” He motioned with his right hand towards the flier in the lead. “Follow Nightwitch: she’s got this.”

Vicky nodded. “You got that right. And if Harpreet was right about the weather today . . .”

The cloud canopy above them began to thin and specks of blue were seen peeking through. A few seconds later, as they cleared twenty-eight hundred meters, the clouds fell away, and the Mile High Flight formation was surrounded by a clean white cloud deck below and nothing but clear blue sky all the way to the horizon.

“She said this would break around twenty-eight hundred.” Vicky let out a whoop. “Did she call that one or not?”

 

It’s like that scene in The Matrix Revolutions where the Lagos breaks through the clouds, only there’s no Sad Keanu here.  And with this in mind, Vicky in a hurry to finish.

 

There was a steady wind from the west-southwest, but the microbursts they’d experienced inside the cloud cover were no more. Kerry kept his eyes locked on his HUD and watched the numbers ticking off as they continued climbing. He had trouble keeping his voice steady as he call out the altitude. “Three thousand.”

“We’re almost there, flight.” Feeling they were free of heavy turbulence, Vicky increased her angle of attack and turned on a little speed, knowing her pilots would do the same. As expected, they continued following her, and accelerated to keep up.

Twenty seconds later Vicky held up her left hand and slowed. She spun around and faced her pilots. He couldn’t help the sigh that escaped. They’re here, all of them. All seven . . . “Check your altimeters and give me a confirmation that it’s correct; I’ll call out your name . . .” Vicky didn’t bother with call signs, not now, not with the Spy Eyes that had followed them up, showing everything to the students back in the Dining Hall, watching everything. “Loorea?”

The dark Australian grinned while looking at her HUD. “Three thousand, one hundred, fifty-five meters.”

“Confirmed. Dariga?”

“Thirty-one hundred fifty-five meters.”

“Confirmed. Emma?”

Kerry listened as each flier called out their altimeter readings, and he did his last, right after Annie read hers. Vicky sat back on her saddle and placed one last call. “Fortress, would you confirm that we are on station?”

Nearly five seconds of silence surrounded the fliers before Isis’ voice came over their comms. “We confirm you are on station, three-one-five-five meters above sea level.” They could hear the joy in the Chief of Security’s voice. “Congratulations, you guys: you just made history.”

Vicky touched the left side of her helmet. “And we’ll make it again this weekend once Takara’s cleared for flight. Mile High Flight out.” She cocked her right fist and gave it a short pump. “You guys did it—just like I said you would.”

 

I never mentioned that they were being followed by Spy Eyes–which are magical camera-like devices–and that this was all being watched back in the Dining Hall by anyone who wanted to sit through this event.  And speaking of the event . . .

 

Kerry raised both arms over his hand and cheered, and even Annie released her broom and started clapping. Knowing he’d never have another chance to feel the same excitement for doing the same thing, he side-slipped his broom alongside Annie’s, slipped his arm around her shoulders, and at ten thousand, three hundred and fifty feet, with white clouds and blue skies as their backdrop, planted a slow, heartfelt kiss upon her lips.

They both ignored the oohs and ahs from the other students, and when they broke about fifteen seconds after they began, Vicky was laughing. “Well, we have another first: the Mile High Kiss. Though I don’t think you two were trying to get into the record books . . .”

Kerry shook his head. “That was the farthest thing from my mind.”

Annie rested her head against Kerry’s shoulder. “I certainly wasn’t thinking about that.”

“Well, Athena and Starbuck, now that you’ve had your moment—” Vicky adjusted her goggles. “—we have a little more flying ahead of us.” She placed her right hand on her broom frame. “Follow me while we go through these basic maneuvers; we shouldn’t be here more than five minutes.” She spun around and placed the fliers on her six. “Okay? Let’s begin . . .”

 

Kerry, dude, you totally kissed her.  In front of people and the instructor.  And on camera.  And, not to mention, right in front of your friend who wanted to set herself up as Soul Mate #2.  Definitely not happening now.

Now all that’s left of this chapter is hanging out somewhere alone, watching the bonfires burn at night, and comment on teachers and students dancing naked–

Oh, did I mention the naked dancing?

Into Thin Air: On Their Way

Here it is, almost eleven hundred words written last night, and nearly seven hundred and fifty this morning–yeah, some times I get up around five AM and start writing–and I’m still not finished with this scene.  Maybe because a lot is happening.  Maybe because I’m taking my time with interaction.  Or maybe I have no idea in hell what I’m doing.

Naw, I know what I’m doing.  Writing it out, though:  that’s another story.

But since I do have it written out, let’s have Vicky step in here and start explaining things.

 

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

The children looked around, trying to figure out where they were. They all knew the name: Mount Katahdin was where the school’s major cross country race, three hundred kilometers long, was held each year at the beginning of March. Kerry watched it in the Dining Hall with Annie and cheered on Nadine as she won the long race. But even though it was called the Mount Katahdin Cross Country Race, the course never touched the peak: the closest it came was kilometer and a half where it climbed out of the Great Basin between Mount Katahdin and Hamlin and passed within a hundred meters of Saddle Springs before turning northward back into Baxter State Park. No one ever raced to here—

Though it appeared they often flew from here.

“Okay, fliers, on me.” She waved them back from the railed edge of platform. “We’re perched on the northern flank of the mountain just below the Knife Edge, situated at an altitude of sixteen hundred and ten meters.” She looked at Emma and winked. “That’s five thousand feet for you, Selene.” Emma blushed, because she was still trying to figure out Metric to Standard conversions in her head. “All of you know this place; probably all of you watched the race two months ago. Not a one of you thought you’d stand here before we took off on the Mile High Flight.

“See, there’s a little catch in the rules for the flight: the objective is to fly a mile above the surrounding land. Nearly everyone believes we’re going to fly from the school, and all the pictures of the take off and landing take place in the Ready Room and Selena’s Meadow: we never show where we state—and we never start from the school.” Vicky grinned broadly. “Last year we started from Clingmans Dome in North Carolina; the year before we started from the base of Block Mountain in New Mexico. The only stipulation is we also start from the same elevation: one thousand, five hundred and twenty-four meters, or five thousand feet.

 

Now, since I’m crazy, let me show you where they are–

Looks real pretty when you see it like this.

Looks real pretty when you see it like this.

Their platform is where the little “A” marker is located.  And I know that’s at five thousand feet because . . .

I check the terrain here first.

I check the terrain here first.

The race course, by the way, is by the campground in the upper half of the picture, skirting above the road and trail until it hops to the right and follows that little northern notch to Saddle Springs before turning to the north–just like Kerry said.

Oh, and because I love doing this stuff, here were the last two flight locations.  First North Carolina:

Hello there, Smokies!

Hello there, Smokies!

But it looks less nice this way.

But it looks less nice this way.

And then we have . . .

Welcome to the Land of Hot Enchantment.

Welcome to the Land of Hot Enchantment.

No Sky Blue Meth was used in creating this picture.

No Sky Blue Meth was used in creating this picture.

And there you have it:  the last couple.  Do not ask for all of the sights, though I might actually put a list together someday.

Vicky tells her students what they’re doing here.

 

“This means that when we fly, we’ll end go up a mile—sixteen hundred and ten meters—above this point; that will put us at a final altitude of three thousand, one hundred and fifty-five, or ten thousand, three hundred and fifty feet. But don’t let that last number fool you: you’re still going to be sixteen hundred meters above this point. No matter what, you’re still a mile above the take-off point.

“This is something that you can all do. All of you have cleared five hundred meters; a few of you have cleared seven hundred and fifty meters; three of you have cleared eight fifty, and two of you—” She looked at Annie and Kerry. “—have cleared one thousand meters. For everyone here, you’ve flown at least half the distance to the top: today you can do the rest. And we will.”

Vicky set her broom to hover and indicated a spot on the underside of the frame right in front of the saddle. “All of your brooms have been fitted with a panic button, though these are different from the ones normally used: they operated by touch and nearly all of you are unable to activate an enchantment on your own. Each button is designed to places you over a different spot one hundred and fifty meters above Selena’s Meadow, after which you can glide in for a landing.” She smiled, the right corner of her mouth curling upward. “But none of your are gonna need that, ‘cause we’re going all the way.” She patted the saddle of her broom. “You ready to do this?” Everyone in her group returned a “Yes” or a smile and nod, but she could tell from they expressions and body language that the nervousness they’d had before coming here was either gone or suppressed enough that it wasn’t bothering them. “Let’s mount up, fliers.”

 

“Let’s mount up, fliers.”  She’s just as excited as the others–probably more so because she’s done this many times, though according to her, she’s not completed the flight in a while.  She’s hoping for better results this time.

They get ready, and Annie sets up the layout, more or less–

 

Kerry’s broom was on the hover in a second and he was on it moments later. Annie mounted hers on his left while he waved over Daudi. “Set up on Annie’s left; we’ll go two-three-two to the top.”

The boy looked to the space to the left of Annie. “You sure?”

“Of course he is.” Annie fastened the snaps on her helmet. “Loorea and Dariga are gonna follow Vicky, and Kalindi and Emma will bring up the rear.” She nodded to her left. “Two-three-two, just like Kerry said. We’ll be the solid center that will hold the flight together.”

Thanks.” Daudi moved into place and started getting ready.

“You’re welcome.”

Kerry zipped his jacket the rest of the way up and gave his gloves a final tug as he brought up his HUD. He was ready to go when he heard the quiet voice of his girlfriend in his helmet. “Kerry?”

He looked towards Annie. “Yeah?”

“I want you to promise me something.” The HUD on her broom came up.

“Anything.”

“Whatever happens, I want you to keep going all the way.”

Kerry turned a piercing stare upon his soul mate. “Nothing’s going to happen.”

“But if it does—”

He nodded. “I’ll keep going—all the way.” He lightly touched his heart. “I promise.”

Annie smiled. “I’ll hold you to that.”

 

What is Annie talking about?  Is she not going to make it?  Is she just trying to rattle Kerry?  Or is she trying to get him to keep a promise this time, since the last one of not letting Emma talk him into anything failed?  Hard to say, though I know what she’s up to right now.  You will too, eventually.

 

Vicky rose about three meters off the platform and floated out over the drop-off that was the north flank of Knife Edge. “All right, girls and boys, give me a go/no-go as I call your sign.” She said the call sign of each flier, and ever response was a “Go”. She was pleased: she half-expected at least one person to say “No-go” and press their panic button. Not this time: it’s gonna be seven-of-seven. Her biggest regret was that Coraline wouldn’t release Takara for the flight, but rules were rules, and she was the first one to stand behind Coraline in these matters. I’ll take her this weekend; maybe I can get the others to fly with us, too.

She pointed at the group. “On my mark—” She raised her hand and pointed towards the sky. “Lift off and hover; hold position at fifteen-thirty meters.” The students lifted off as one and hovered at their new altitude. Vicky didn’t see any hesitation among her kids: in the clouds, the wind, and the light rain, they hovered, waiting for her command.

Vicky brought here broom around and waved them forward. “Follow me.” She brought up the nose and ascended into the gray, cloudy sky.

 

And they are off, making their way slowly into the clouds and sky.  And as they climb, they talk to each other.  Because it’s better than keeping it all locked up inside . . .

 

They were no more than a hundred meters over the peak when Kerry felt the first gust of wind buffet him. He’d flow in wind before, but this was wind that was cold—maybe just above freezing—and rain. Having all the clouds around them added to the feeling of utter disorientation . . .

“This is bad.” He saw Loorea look to down and to her left into nothingness. Already the summit of Mount Katahdin was fading.

Vicky said nothing, but Loorea’s wingmate Dariga spoke. “We have a lot of weather like this in the mountains near my town.”

“Are they this high?”

She nodded. “Higher. Maybe three thousand meters at the border with China.”

Loorea chuckled. “A lot higher than where I live.”

“It’s flat around me.” Kalindi laughed as they flew higher. “We’re only about eighty meters above sea level. All the mountains in Sumatra are to the west.”

Kerry looked front and back. “Yeah, I’m at sea level, too.” He stared at his HUD and watched the altimeter as they passed sixteen hundred twenty-five meters. “If anyone’s watching, we just passed our first mile.”

Annie looked away from her HUD and at Kerry. “Half-way there.”

“Just about.” He called Vicky. “Nightwitch, we gonna be okay on air?”

“Sure thing.” She looked back over her shoulder. “There’s enough at three thousand meters to keep you from passing out. Plus, there’s enchantments on the broom that will keep a bubble of air around you so you won’t pass out.” She turned her attention back to the gray ahead. “We’re going to be on-station for less than ten minutes. It’ll be fine.”

 

Of course they’ll be fine:  they wouldn’t do this trip every year if they couldn’t breath.  And handing out oxygen masks would probably scare the hell out of everyone.

 

They continued climbing, with few people saying anything. Every few seconds Kerry was glance to his left to check on Annie and Daudi. Annie was watching her HUD as he was, focusing not on the emptiness around her, but on her progress. Daudi was doing the same, but he’d glance down every few seconds as if he expected to find something. “You doing okay, Luangwa?” Daudi’s call sign was that of one of the longest rivers in Zambia, and the name of the rift valley that ran through his country.

“I’m doing okay.” He glanced down once more, then back straight ahead.

“Don’t look down, man: there’s nothing to see.” Kerry popped up over Annie and pulled into position to the left of Daudi. “Stick to IFR; watch your HUD.” He reached over and tapped him on the arm. “It’s gonna work.”

“Is that what you’re doing?”

“You know it.” He winked. “Otherwise I might lose my nerve.” He popped back up over both and returned to his normal position in the formation.

Emma’s voice rang out. “Just passed two thousand.” Almost everyone let out a cheer, with a few pumping their fists in the air.  Just then a huge, steady gust hit them almost head on. Loorea jerked on the frame and almost fell out of formation. “What’s that?”

“You’re gonna get all kinds of wind shear up here.” Vicky’s voice was smooth and calm. “We’ve talked about this, pilots: don’t let it rattle you.” She looked up over head. “Just keep in mind we’re flying upward in a big circle, so in a few it’s gonna be on your left, and then you’re gonna pick it up as a tail wind—”

“I can feel it now.” Daudi turned his face into to gust. “I love the feel.”

Dariga chuckled. “That’s because you’re balmy.”

“That’s because you don’t live where it’s hot all the time, my Khan.” He chuckled at his covenmate. “Come stay with me for a few months and you’ll see.”

Vicky laughed. She kept her mind on the flight, but listened closely to the banter between the pilots. As long as they’re joking, they happy and keeping their minds off how high they are. The moment they get quiet, then I gotta worry.  She checked her own altimeter as the steady gust from behind faded away only to get slammed by another from above. “Don’t worry about that one—” Her anxiety kicked up a couple of notches as a few students exclaimed when pushed downward. “It’s a microburst; we’re going to hit a few of those here and there. Don’t let it shake you up.”

 

Yeah, don’t let it shake you up–I certainly won’t.  For right now I’ve got them in the air . . .

Now let’s see if they get to the top.

Into Thin Air: the Moment Approaches

I will admit, I didn’t get as much done last night as I should have.  “As much done” for me means I only wrote about eight hundred words, because I wasn’t feeling the creativity coming on.  You get those moments now and then, and I hit that last right about seven PM last night.  I knew I had to go on with the scene–I just didn’t know where to go with it.

It finally came to me what I needed to do, because even though I know what’s going to happen in a scene, I don’t always know how that scene is going to turn out.  Which leads to a strange kind of writer’s block from time to time because you’re simply not sure how to set things up.

What did I write, then?  An introduction:

 

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

“I’m sure you can, Annie.” Professor Salomon strolled towards the flight line with the other four students following—three girls and one boy. Kerry watched the boy, Daudi Gueye from Zambia and a member of Coven Åsgårdsreia, approach the line with his broom over his shoulder, appearing more serious than nervous. Daudi was the last person Kerry thought would attempt the Mile High Flight, but he was one of those kids who while kept to himself and remained quite most of the time, proved to be a great pilot—though Kerry saw him as more technical than natural. Daudi once confided in Kerry that he wished he’d learned the light bending spell that Annie and he had mastered, because he wanted to see if he could take a broom home for the summer and fly it over the plains to the west and north of his home. Kerry didn’t want to tell him that was exactly what he planed on doing if he found the time, though he’d probably fly over the rolling hills to the north of Cardiff.

The other fliers were also great. Loorea Barling was a north Australian girl and one of the best flier out of Ceridwen; Kerry had her pegged to try out for racing next year. Dariga Dulatuli out of Åsgårdsreia was the girl from Kazakhstan who was knocked out of the zombie homunculi test after taking a shot in the face from Lisa’s jō. And the last girl, Kalindi Kartodirdjo from Indonesia, was a perpetually smiling girl from Mórrígan who was as quiet as Daudi and so good a pilot that Emma once admitted to Kerry that she hoped her covenmate didn’t go out for racing because it seems as if she wasn’t afraid to take chances if it meant getting ahead—which Kerry took to mean Emma didn’t want to race against someone who did the same thing she was accused of doing while on the course.

 

As pointed out, at least one of these kids have been seen before, and Loorea has been mentioned in the story once.  It’s interesting that Emma is worried about racing with someone from her own coven who she thinks does the same things she does on the track–probably because they’ll both take a chance at something, and both crash and burn.  An interesting setup has occurred here as well:  two from Coven Cernunnos, two from Åsgårdsreia, two from Mórrígan, and one lone flier from Ceridwen.  None from the Founder’s Coven, I’m afraid, cause the girl with the concussion is from Ceridwen as well, so it looks as if the Night Owls had their wings clipped.

Naturally Vicky has a few words of wisdom to lay on the students . . .

 

“Okay, gather around.” Vicky waved everyone into a circle around her. “Well, I guess this is it.” She looked up into the sky. “We’ve flown in better weather—” She turned back to the students, ginning. “But if you remember, we’ve flown in worse.

“This is what we’re going to do. This will be a case of follow the leader, all the way to the top. We don’t have to keep in line; in fact, this is a group effort, and we lend support where necessary. In the last three runs we only had half this number fly, and one of the reasons they didn’t make it to the top is because they we too caught up in their own flying, and succumbed to their own fear. We’re not gonna let that happen here . . .” She nodded along with half the students. “I know that today some, or all, of us are gonna make it to the top—an I’ll tell you this: if we all make it, that’s gonna be some history, ‘cause seven people haven’t flown to the top since 1963. We’re talkin’ almost fifty years here, pilots . . .”

Vicky looked around the meadow and stopped long enough to face the bonfires. “The past and the future are right there, and we’ve dealt with both those in this field. You all came in as novice or beginning fliers, and now you’re about to fly out and make history.” She looked about, her gaze setting upon each students. “However, like a lot of things around Salem, just when you think you know what’s going to happen, it changes on you . . .” She motioned for everyone to move in closer around her; once she was certain everyone was in position she put her finger to her left ear. “Okay, Isis: we’re a go here.”

 

That last is never a good thing to hear, and when Isis gets involved, it means things are about to go somewhere you didn’t want them to go:

Kerry felt the transition as they jaunted from the meadow to somewhere else enshrouded in heavy mist and a constant breeze. He had no idea where they were, but it was far more quiet and cooler than back at the school. The misting they’d left behind was now a light rain leaving tiny droplets upon his face. And there was also the fog that surrounded them—it seemed wrong. It was moving and swirling around them, so unlike the mist that had ringed Selena’s Meadow only a few seconds before.

Both the mountain girls—Annie and Emma—instantly knew what was around them, though it was Annie who spoke first. “These are clouds.”

Vicky nodded. “Yes they are, Annie.” She stepped back away from the students and held out her hands as if she were greeting them. “Welcome to Mount Katahdin, kids.”

 

Wait, what?  Mount Katahdin?  Where’s that?

It's right here.  Look over there to the left:  I think I see everyone.  Well, I would if it wasn't for the clouds . . .

It’s right here. Look over there to the left: I think I see everyone. Well, I would if it wasn’t for the clouds . . .

And you’ve heard of this place before–let me refresh your memory . . .

Maybe you remember this place?

Maybe you remember this place?

If not, don’t worry–

I’ll refresh your memories tomorrow.

Into Thin Air: the Fliers Gather

As we’ve seen, sorta, it’s 1 May at the school, which means it’s Beltane, which means it’s time to celebrate summer coming.  It also means the coming of a normal event that’s been going on for, as of this school year, eighty years.

Time for the Mile High Flight.

Kerry gets into a little detail on that in the scene, but pretty much it’s get on your broom and fly a mile into the air.  And before you say, “Well, that doesn’t seem that difficult,” keep in mind you’re riding upon a piece of carbon-carbon fiber that’s little more than a bike frame without the wheels, and the only thing keeping you in the air is your willpower to want to fly.  So when you get up to a mile in the air, you look down and there’s nothing but a mile of emptiness below your dangling feet, just waiting to suck you down to that ground oh, so far away . . .

No, there’s almost no pressure there at all.

It’s another of those school traditions, and one of those designed to push the students to the edge and beyond.  And we’ve seen just how much they do that here–to the point where they throw you into combat with bad guys and monsters.  So getting a bunch of kids on brooms and taking them a mile into the sky isn’t that big of a deal.

I needed to do a little research on this first, however, before writing, because I knew Vicky would do metric conversions–and have a few witting comments about that–and I wanted to know who was flying and what the weather was like.  I mean, you know, it’s necessary to have these things down . . .

Writing here

But I have my list as you can see.  I’m hardly ever unprepared.

So what is running through young Kerry’s might right this morning.  Fortunately, we can look in.

 

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

Kerry stood in Selena’s Meadow, about twenty meters from the Flight School. To his left the bonfires he’d help ignite were burning; to his right the forest was frosted with haze; directly before him the meadow was damp from the light rain that had started about one and didn’t stop until about an hour ago. Even now, there was a light mist in the air that limited visibility to about three or four hundred meters.

He zipped his flight jacket up half way at he looked up into the slate-gray overcast sky and wondered why the weather couldn’t be better for flying today.

One of the events of Beltane was the Mile High Flight, where A Levels who decided they wanted to try their skill and nerve assembled outside the Flight School, mounted their brooms, and flew upwards into the sky until they were five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet above base-line ground level, and then performed five minutes of maneuvers at altitude: this was the Mile High Flight. And anyone who completed the flight successfully was enshrined in the Mile High Club, and would join a very small group of A Levels that had been performing this flight off and on since 1932.

 

Stuff that was already stated.  One thing that does get mentioned a few times is that this is a volunteer flight:  no one can make you do it.  Which is why there are only seven fliers.  Why so few?  Because–

 

There were only seven of the thirty-two A Levels who’d started the year participating in the Mile High Flight—though the pool was much smaller than that. Two students had washed out before Yule and six hadn’t yet moved off the Covington Trainers. Another nine had been unable to complete the test where the class had three successive classes to clear a five hundred meter ceiling, and made themselves ineligible to even ask to join the fight.

That left fifteen students who were eligible to volunteer and eight did. Vicky mentioned during the pilot’s briefing after dinner last night that that having half the eligible members of an A Level group decided to sign up for the flight was slightly more than the one-third who usually applied. She also mentioned that it was a good sign and that maybe, after three years, Vicky could take one or more students to the top.

 

After a year there are a couple of students who couldn’t fly at all, and a few who never advanced to the bigger brooms–which means most people are probably flying Witchy Poos or better.  And there’s some who couldn’t handle going up five hundred meters–just a bit higher than Kerry did that first day following Vicky when he checked out on the broom he’s flying.  And he is flying that again . . .

 

He looked down at the broom at his side. It wasn’t the one Annie bought for his birthday: this was one from the cabinets. Vicky told him it was the original Espinoza he checked out on after the first week of school and the one he’d been flying since that day—which included his wreck with Emma and the Day of the Dead attack. He ran his hand over the nose and thought about everything that had happened to him on this broom, and what was going to come next. I hope the weather isn’t that bad; I hope you’re gonna help me get to the top

“Hey, Kerry.”

 

How would you feel about flying “The Death Broom” a mile into the air?  He killed someone with this broom and fought off a monster–and almost died a few times on it.  But, hey:  time to fly, right?  One could say after all that, he’s sure to get this into the air with little problem.  Or you might say, “It’s bad juju, you should stay home.”

Kerry’s going.  Along with someone else . . .

 

He smiled. How’d I know she’d be the first out of the locker room? He turned, keeping the smile on. “Hey, Emma.”

The girl did the same thing he did when he first came out: looked around before peering into the sky. “Pretty miserably day.”

“Yeah, well—” Kerry shrugged. “Could be a lot worse. Could be blowing real hard.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Emma looked as if she wanted to talk, but didn’t know what to say.

 

How’d he know?  Because he probably figured she’s get out on the flight line and

 

Kerry had felt the dynamic between them change since returning from Yule holiday. As Annie had pointed out when they were planing for the Kansas City operation, Emma seemed a lot more distant from him than she had before. He wasn’t sure if “distant” was the proper word: “cautious” seemed more true. She still teamed up with him during class—when Annie wasn’t his assigned wingmate, naturally—and she was pleasant when they chatted. But she was always careful speaking when she was around Annie, as if she were worried she might say something wrong.

He figured it all stemmed from the day they were leaving, and what she did—or more, what she tried to do. Kerry found himself changing around her as well: he, too, was cautious, in that he didn’t want to give her any impression that there was a possibility she could be a part of his life . . .

 

Nothing has been seen of Emma since that day, and for good reasons:  she’s touched the main character’s lives, but she’s not a major part of it at this point.  Not to say she ever will be, though . . . needless to say she’ll be around for a while, though probably not trying to make small talk with Kerry like this–

 

Emma leaned upon her broom. “You nervous?”

“Yeah, a little.” He’d tried not to think about being nervous, and had deliberately not eaten much when they had the traditional morning breakfast in the ready room. “Going a mile up in the air, that’s kind of daunting.”

“Well, in a way, I’m used to being a mile in the air—” Emma chuckled. “Living in Bolder.”

“Yeah, well . . .” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I’m more a near sea level boy myself—”

“Which means you’ll do fine.” Annie strolled out into the meadow, the Espinoza she’d been flying with all year in her left hand, and stood on Kerry’s left as was the norm. “After all, we were just up over nine hundred and fifty the other day—from there it’s just a little more to go to reach sixteen hundred.” She turned to Emma. “I’m more of a fourteen hundred meter girl myself, ‘cause just like you, I live in the mountains.” She gave the Mórrígan student a coy smile. “I can handle the altitude.”

 

And not being said is, And little soul mate stealing bitches, too.  Annie knows and she doesn’t forget, and she’s got her radar out to know when Emma is trying to set something up.  Not that Emma’s doing it here:  it really is small talk.

Because flying a mile into the sky is serious business, and you want to keep that light . . .