Yanking the Strings

Well, now, things have become rather interesting.  I mean, I really took my time writing this last night, and thought that I wasn’t really getting anywhere, that this was going to be a short segment to the scene . . .

And eleven hundred words later I had not only finished the scene, but surprised myself.

This scene got huge fast:  just a word short of thirty-two hundred words, or about half the size of the last chapter.  And it could have been longer, much longer, because of something that gets stated in the scene, but that’s gonna get left for another chapter.

But that’s the future–what about the now?  Well, how’s this for starting 2013 out right?

 

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

Ramona waved the reflective air away. “As I said I didn’t cook these up as much as I might have others, therefore there isn’t a reason for genitalia and other physical accessories. The only reason Annie has a semblance of breasts and hips is so we can tell one of you from the other.”

“Meeks seens.” Since Annie didn’t understand much about the process of creating homunculi she didn’t want to get into a long discussion with Ramona on too many details, but thee was one thing that left her puzzled. “Wuh doan wu huv huir?”  (Makes sense.  Why don’t we have hair?)

Helena motioned with her hands. “Annie, come here.”

Annie shambled towards the sorceress. “Ur wu gunna du sumthin?” (Are we going to do something?)

“Yes, we are.” Helena gently took the girl by the shoulders and slowly half-turned her until she was looking more at Ramona than Kerry. “Though this is going to be a bit difficult—”

She nodded. “I undurstun.” Annie managed a weak smile. “Wuh du yu wunt meh ta du?” (I understand.  What do you want me to do?)

Ramona answered the question. “At the moment, nothing.” She turned towards Kerry. “I’m sorry.”

As much of a puzzled look as Kerry could possibly manage appeared upon his face. “Hue cun?”  (How come?)

 

Yeah, how come, Teach?  How come you’re sorry, Ramona?  Well . . .

 

“Because—” A jian, the straight double-edged sword from China that the professor preferred over a katana, appeared in her right hand. Using her Speed Gift she accelerated herself and brought the sword around so fast that it was almost impossible to follow. The sword caught Kerry’s homunculus just above the left ear and sliced the top of his skull off with little difficulty.

Annie sensed Helena moving around behind her as she watched the destroyed homunculus collapse. Her instincts kicked in and her limited training took over as she started to throw up a defense screen while turning to face the Head Sorceress. While they would have been simple matters in her normal body, her puppet didn’t allow her to perform the same way. Only a quarter of a way into the turn her legs buckled and pitched her toward the the floor, and her shield never appeared because she was unable to perform magic.

She watched as Helena stood over her, the sorceress’ face calm and emotionless. She flicked a finger downward and Annie felt pressure quickly building in the sides of her head only moments before there was a sharp taste of blood as it gushed into her mouth—

Annie’s eyes popped open as she shook and spasmed within her harness. The rig room was filled with moaning—most of it came from her right, but she recognized her own guttural cries joining his. Her body felt as if someone had smacked her across the chest and back hard, while her head throbbed with dull pulses of pain. It was a few seconds before she realized she was on the verge of hyperventilating, and she let herself go limp as she struggled to keep from passing out.

The door flew open and Helena and Ramona hurried into the room, each heading towards the person they’d worked with on the main floor. While Annie said nothing as Helena approached, Kerry screeched out a question in a high-pitched, emotional tone. “Why did you do that?” He struggled in his rig, shaking and breathing hard. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Despite her pain Annie chuckled as Kerry swore at the instructors. She glanced up at Helena as she gasped out her words. “You made him mad.”

“I don’t blame him.” Helena lightly touched the side of Annie’s head as both rigs pitched up slightly so the children could see the instructors without being lowered to the floor and removed from the contraptions. “You feeling okay?”

 

Ramona is Chinese, and she loves her jian, which if you’ve watched any good Chinese martial arts movie, you’ll know what they look like–

In Kerry's case, he got to see one up close and personal.

In Kerry’s case, he got to see one up close and personal.

Ramona’s Speed Gift means that for a short period of time she can move about five times faster than a Normal human–and given that at regular speeds she’s lightning fast, that means even the regular Kerry probably wouldn’t have stood a chance.  He’s learned a bit in a year and a half, but he’s no match for Ms. Hidden Dragon of Witches.

Annie knew what she was doing, and if she were back in her own body she might have stood a chance–instead she got her head blown off for her troubles.  A long time ago in a post far, far away, Helena spoke of how she used to practice a certain Morte spell on chickens, and because she wasn’t that good, she’d literally blow their heads right off their bodies.  Well, guess what, Annie?  You got to be a chicken–

 

“I’m fine, just—” Annie closed her eyes whiles she breathed deeply three times. “Just shaky.”

“Good.” She looked to her left. “How you feeling, oh significant other?”

Kerry let out a long, harsh sigh. “I don’t feel like I’m passing out, if that means anything.”

“It means you’re going to live to fight another day.” Helena stepped back towards the center of the room, with Ramona close by. “Standard practice for first-time puppeteers is to have them experience a snap-back, and the easiest way to do that is destroy their homunculus.” She nodded towards the woman on her left. “Ramona did what she does best, as did I?”

The martial arts instructor nodded. “Now you know the real reason why I didn’t cook up those puppets as much as normal.”

Annie was more interested in what Helena did to her rather than concentrate on her original statement. “What did you use on me?”

“Blood Hammer.”

“I thought so.” Annie closed her eyes and shuddered. “It goes fast.”

“Rushing all the blood into someone’s head does the job quickly.”

Kerry, however, remained fixed on the reply to his first question. “What’s a snap-back?”

“It’s what happens when you lose your connection to your puppet and your consciousness is tossed back into your own head.” Helena gripped one hand in the other and began to rock from side to side. “A small snap happens when you’re controlling your reentry into your head and you’re dumped back into your mind for one reason or another. They hurt, but it’s more like an annoyance than anything else. What you experienced was a big snap, when everything goes to hell and you get dropped back into your body feeling like someone dropped you off one of the coven towers.” She shrugged. “Like with a lot of stuff we do, if I told you this was coming you’d have been waiting for it to happen, and it’s better if you experience—”

“Like we would in the field?” Annie finally released her last sigh. “Yes?”

“Absolutely.” She chuckled. “Always better you learn it like this than elsewhere, yeah?”

The mood returned to normal, though Kerry semi-stared off towards the far wall. He finally spoke after a little more than five seconds of silence in a soft and dreamy voice. “Is that what dying’s like?”

Helena exchanged glances with Ramona as the two were about to discuss something. The sorceress turned slowly towards the boy. “No, it isn’t.” She looked down and away from both children as she completed her answer. “It’s a lot easier.”

Before either student could speak she looked up, smiling. “Okay, enough of that bullshit. Ramona and I are gonna get the next two puppets ready, and I promise these will be far more functional.” She looked about the room. “Let’s have some fun now, shall we?”

 

There you are:  teach the kids that suddenly losing the connection to your puppet hurts like hell–and dying is easy.  And now that you’ve seen what it’s like to almost die, let’s have fun!  That Helena:  she knows how to party.

Then again, if you’re training kids at the ages of, well, really, eleven and twelve the year before, to be Guardians, you ain’t gonna lie and try to gloss over stuff.  After all, Annie and Kerry have already seen that shit gets real on the streets, and Deconstructors don’t care about your age:  if you stand against them, you’re something to be eliminated and that’s that.

Chapter Twenty-One is half-way done:

Which could be a tag line for a movie if you think about it.

Which could be a tag line for a movie if you think about it.

And the next scene is Helena-heavy again.  Time for Death, you say?

You just wait.

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 . . .