Observing the Strings

Crazy things this morning as today may be the day I get my new state ID badge, and I’m running all over the place trying to get my paper work in order–which, by the way, is a lot more than I had to put into place to change my name and my Social Security card.  But I think I have everything in place, so I should be good.

Now, about the writing . . . last night I really stumbled through this section because, as you likely noticed yesterday, Annie was having trouble speaking correctly.  Damn these homunculi mouths, they just don’t work like the real things right out of the box.  I mean, I’ve got to talk this stuff out either aloud or in my head, and it’s tough.  What I did today is give you a translation of what’s being said, just in case you don’t know what’s being said.  Because when I was writing it down this morning I needed to think about what was being said, and I wrote this stuff last night.

So how’s that puppeteering going, Annie?

 

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

Taking careful, tiny steps, Annie moved away from the recliner where her homunculus was seated and towards the middle of the large training room that made up much of the ground floor of Gwydion Manor. Her steps felt strange and halting, and she imagined it was because she wasn’t the one walking, but rather she was making something else walk. She couldn’t remember how it had been when her mother taught her to walk as a toddler, but Annie imagined it was a bit like this, with Helena standing alongside as her proxy mother.

Management of the puppet came slowly, but after a couple of minutes of making her way across the main floor she felt more in control. While Annie believed it would be a while before she could master picking up anything with her hands, she wasn’t shuffling as much as she had when starting to walk. “Iumm . . .” Annie cleared her throat, and put the difficulty to speak out of her mind.  “Isst gittin essier.”  (I’m . . . It’s getting easier)

Helena turned a smile towards her student. “Walking?”

Annie nodded twice. “Yuss.” She chuckled deep in her throat. “Uh cun aulmos suy—”  (Yes.  I can almost say–)

“Auuni?”  (Annie?)

Annie whipped her head around to the right and almost stumbled were it not for Helena catching her. Halfway across the room she saw the source of the voice being helped by Ramona. “Keerry?”  (Kerry?)

He was half turned towards her and began smiling seconds after hearing her voice. “Yoos sonne leek mue.”  (You look like me.)

“I duuo.” She giggled at how different her soul mate sounded working through another body. “Uurr soo strenge luken.”  (I do.  You’re so strange looking.)

He laughed as well. “Yoos louk luk uh Burbie Dull.”  (You look like a Barbie Doll.)

“Wuu?”  (What?)

Helena leaned in and spoke in a gentle tone. “You want to walk over and say hi?”

She looked at Helena out of the corner of her eye. “Cun uh?”  (Can I?)

“Sure.” Helena escorted her towards the form approaching them. She addressed her fellow instructor, who was approaching them. “How’s he doing?”

“About as well as your charge.” Ramona stopped at the same time as Helena, when both their students were about three meters apart. “You think we should let them try to walk to each other?”

“I don’t see why not.” She released Annie at the same time Ramona released Kerry. “Take it easy, you two, and remember that falling won’t hurt that much.”

 

Yeah, don’t worry:  falling isn’t that bad.  It’s not like you’re hurting yourself.

Now, with them close up, we finally get a good idea of what they look like–or rather, what their puppets look like:

 

The two puppeteers took their time moving towards each other, their arms held out slightly before them. Annie saw that Kerry’s skin was exactly like hers: smooth and wrinkle-free, without marks or blemishes. When they were close enough to touch they spread their fingers wide and allowed them to intertwine as they pulled themselves close.

Face-to-face now, Annie gazed into Kerry’s eyes. “Tey aurnt geen.”  (They aren’t green.)

Kerry tiled his head slightly to the right. “Urrs arunt heesil.”  (Yours aren’t hazel.)

She pulled her right hand free and ran her fingers over Kerry’s cheek. “Ess nutten luk urr rill fas.” Annie glanced at Ramona. “Ess luk tuusin plestuc.”  (It’s nothing like your real face.  It’s like touching plastic.)

“It would; I didn’t process these homunculi as much as I have others.” Ramona glanced between the two students. “Would you like to see?” They both nodded, and the martial arts instructor waved her hands and turned the air before the puppeteers solid and reflective.

Both of them were naked, but it wasn’t a concerned because, at the same time, Annie saw why Kerry said she looked like a Barbie Doll. Her body, like Kerry’s, was smooth and fairly featureless. She was completely hairless: nothing on her head, no eyebrows, nothing visible on her legs, and no growth in her public area. Her face wasn’t even a close approximation of her own: there were eyes, a nose, a mouth, but free of lines and wrinkles that would allow her expression. He jaw and chin were little more than a soft oval, and without facial definition her cheeks were almost impossible to see.

She possessed breasts, but only in the sense that there were small, rounded mounds of flesh affixed to her torso. Her groin was the same: featherless and flat, without a single hint of genitalia. Annie had already noticed the same things about Kerry: his torso was devoid of any of the muscle tone he’d developed over the last year and a half, and he also lacked genitalia. “Wue du louk luk dools.”  (We do look like dolls.)

“Uh, huh.” Kerry started to lean forward, looking almost as if he were going to tumble to the ground before he caught himself. “Wuh ur we luk dis?”  (Why are we like this?)

 

Yeah, why are they like that?  Because you don’t want to leave Kerry alone with Annie in a doll-like state for too long, as his mind goes off in strange directions . . .

"Just one time say 'Math is Hard'."  "You really want me to bleed you out, don't you?"

“Just one time say ‘Math is Hard’.” “You really want me to bleed you out, don’t you?”

 

But this isn’t the end of the road for out puppet kids–oh, no.  I’m still writing the scene, and the chapter is now nearly as large as the last one.  Which means it’ll get larger.  Which means I’m getting closer to two hundred thousand words.  What that means I haven’t a clue.

Slowly but surely wins something, right?

Slowly but surely wins something, right?

Rigging the Strings

Here we go, getting into the next scene, and this is where I start mixing magic with technology.  And see, this is one of the reasons that The Foundation totally wanted to get down on that magic thing, because everything’s better with magic–like, you know, making clones.  Which The Foundation doesn’t do a lot of, by the way, because someone who’s been a witch all their life doesn’t want to spend their next life as a meat puppet.  Right?  You know it.

Now it’s S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Morning, and here we have these kids flying off around the school when they are in a hurry to get somewhere . . .

 

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

Upon landing outside Gwydion Manor after Saturday breakfast Annie and Kerry found Professor Chai was waiting in the main entrance, ready to start the day. After calibrating the rigs the afternoon before, Annie knew what would soon follow: they’d head into the back to change out of their normal clothes and into a uniform, then head down to the lower levels and get into the marionette rigs.

It was going to come after step two that things would change considerably.

The uniforms were a bit like Kerry’s racing outfit, but with a few changes. For one, it was light blue instead of black. Gloves and socks weren’t separate items; rather, they were part of the suit. The suit didn’t zip up, but magically sealed up the back once an enchantment was activated. And instead of a helmet, a hood went over the head. While it wasn’t skintight, Kerry remarked suit it wasn’t nearly as loose as his racing uniform, and that it reminded me a bit of what he’d seen of motion capture suits.

 

The suits described above are really a lot more like a zenti suit–you can look that one up on your own, because most of the images are pervy–but think of it this way:  if there’s a skin-tight suit worn by a superhero in a comic, it’s a lot like what the kids have on.  Kerry is right in a way:  the suit is capturing something from them, which is mentioned below, and that information gets transmitted to the puppet.

And then you can pretend you're a dragon, but only on your own time.

And then you can pretend you’re a dragon, but only on your own time.

Now that we have them suited up, time for the rigs.

 

The marionette rigs were kept in a room in the north end of the lower level, just off the staircase. They were little more than a harness that pulled up around their torso, leaving arms and legs protruding from the sides while the user rested their head against a padded cushion that encircled their face. Once secure in the rig it levitated the user about a half-meter above the floor and tilted slightly forward to help spread the weight to a large part of the torso, the hips, and the thighs.

Heading down the stairs behind Ramona and Helena, Annie focused on what they did yesterday to get the rigs sized properly around their bodies, and to key the rig’s enchantment to their auras. When Kerry asked why the magic didn’t key on their brain waves, Professor Chai remarked that their auras were not only attuned to their brains, but to everything in their body, which is what was needed if they hoped to puppet a homunculus.

Like they’d done the day before as soon as they entered the room Kerry moved to the rig on his left as Annie took the one to her right. As they were getting the rigs—which were hanging from straps attached to the ceiling—into place around their bodies, Ramona pulled up data each of the rigs on a tablet. Helena, who hadn’t been present during yesterday’s calibration, stood to one side and watched the activity.

 

The rigs are pretty simple, though they levitate and do other cool things:

Though around Salem you don't need one to pretend your Peter Pan.

Though around Salem you don’t need one to pretend your Peter Pan.

As we see, however, the suits and the rigs together help pull information from your aura and that’s what gets transmitted to the homunculus.  Which means your aura is a pretty important part of your body, when you think about it.  But my kids don’t seem to worry about this because they’re getting ready to go big time on this marionette thing–

 

Annie slipped her legs into the rig and pulled it up around her hips. “Everything look good, Professor?”

“Ramona.” She glanced up as she examined data on the screen. “When we’re alone like this, you can call me by my given name.”

“Okay, Ramona.” Annie activated the suit’s enchantment. The moment it was firm against her body she slipped the hood over her head and tucked in her hair as she was shown the day before. “Question still stands.”

“The rigs look good, both your signals are strong.” Ramona nodded to Helena. “Both signals are over the red line.”

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

 

Because there was so much happening yesterday I didn’t get any further than Helena asking her question, because that’s going to lead to the kids getting ready to do their think, and that requires my full attention, not just Sunday night stuff.  So keep your fingers crossed, ’cause I know I can get to part of that tonight.

We’re almost ready to start pulling those strings . . .

Activities of a Guardianship Kind

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

And, you know, I didn’t disappoint–

One third down, two thirds to go.

One third down, two thirds to go.

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

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

 

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

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

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

He nodded. “Sure. Like a drone.”

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

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

 

So now the secret is out:

"You said the C Word!"

“You said the C Word!”

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

 

She nodded. “Yes.”

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

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

“How long has that been possible?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

“What about when using a clone?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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