The Last Laps: Running Red

I expected to do more last night, but you know how it is:  real life in the way and all.  However, this time it was different–

I had a visit from the Real Annie.

I should put a trademark up there ’cause it is sort of like that when she shows up, which she hasn’t in a long time due to–well, life on her end.  She managed to catch up on a few things with me, and I let her read some of the sections of B For Bewitching that she hasn’t seen.  I also gave her a complete copy of the first draft of A For Advanced, pretty much the only one in existence, and it ran, with everything–copyright notice, table of contents, and cast of characters sheet–1,181 pages.  That’s a big book.

However, the penultimate scene was started, and it heads into an area I’ve never covered before, and that’s the school Red Line race course.  Not most of it, just a small part, but it’s probably the easiest part to set up:  the last couple of areas at the south end of the school grounds.

Just follow the kind of highlighted yellow line.

Just follow the kind of highlighted yellow line.

The big spike to the right that seems to end lower down like some king of bow tie is the section known at the start of the scene as Down and Around.  That’s because you drop about three hundred meters almost straight down at the ground, then turn, twist, rise, twist more while dropping, rise again, and then finally come out of the turn more of less flying level.  The last section mentioned, Up and Over, is the part of the course that headed directly over The Diamond, where it goes–get ready–up and over the building.  Pretty simple, yeah?

The Red Line is like this all over:  it’s high, it’s low, and it twists all over the place.  It’s like being on a gigantic roller coaster, only you’re a kilometers up in the air at times before rushing straight at the ground at three hundred kilometers an hour.  Try finding that ride at your local amusement park this summer.

The difficulty of the course isn’t what’s on Kerry’s mind, however–

 

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

Kerry came out of Down and Around with what felt like half of all the teams combined dogging him. It was like they were told in the ready room meetings: the racing was going to be intense, and it’d stay that way for a full fifteen laps. Coming to the end of Lap 13, and his last circuit of the Red Line, he’d found that assertion to be completely factual.

Things shook out pretty much as people expected. Rivânia, Nadine, and Penny took off in a hurry, got ahead, and stayed there while the other dozen fliers remained about ten meters back. Starting with the first circuit of the Red Line the enormous pack broke in two: positions ten through fifteen formed the back pack, and Kerry found himself in the front pack of positions four through nine that, besides him, consisted of Alex, Rezi and Getasew from Åsgårdsreia, and Nattat from Mórrígan.

And one other: Lisa.

Somehow she’d found herself in the Top 10 heading into the Red Line and remained with the front pack through their return to the Blue Line. The larger packs closed up again once they returned to the Green Line for two laps, but upon reaching the Blue Line both packs began spreading out and becoming one, with position changes happening constantly throughout the race.
Kerry did as Annie said when they last spoke: he ran his own race. He didn’t worry about the others: he knew they were going to run their own races as well—

Still, Kerry couldn’t shake the feeling he was being stalked.

A couple of times throughout the race he’d catch sight of Lisa maybe seven, eight meters back, holding position and not making a move towards him. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the other fliers around him, or if she was waiting for a moment to strike, but Kerry was certain that despite the warnings given in the Ready Room, she was going to try and prevent him from finishing in the Top 5.

He was positive she wasn’t going to try and hold him up, either.

He rolled up and to his left, then dip towards the ground and into Up and Over, the last major turn on the Red Line before they rejoined the Blue Line. Though he’d overflown The Diamond many times—including the first time he checked out on an Espinoza—it was always a huge thrill to approach the enormous building from near ground level before shooting up to the roof, speeding along the length of the structure while zooming back to the Start/Finish line. There wasn’t any difference this time, either, only it would be the last time this season he’d do it officially.

He shot through the last two elevations gates as he made his quick decent to ground level, then leveled out, flew through Start/Finish, and arced to his left as he entered the Blue Line for one last lap.

 

Four hundred ninety-five words, and I don’t imagine it’s going to take much more than this to finish the scene.  The resolution is almost here–

As is the end of this chapter.

Chapter, Lines, and Parts

Is it safe to say this scene went faster than the last?  Yes, yes it did.  Fast enough that I finished it up with almost eleven hundred words, and in doing so, I also finished the chapter and the part.  With that, Chapter Fifteen, Part Four, are both in the books, so to speak, and Part Four topped out at nearly fifty-three thousand, eight hundred words, making it a little novel in of itself.

So it was written, so it was done.

So it was written, so it was done.

So what actually happens here?  You know it’s Annie and Kerry, and they’re in a locker room, and you will find out it’s the same day as her meeting with Deanna in the last scene.  We know from that scene that it was gonna be Kerry’s first race on the Red Line, so . . . must be after the race, right?

You wouldn’t be wrong.  It’s also evident he’s not happy . . .

 

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

Kerry remained hunched over, staring at the floor. “I’m okay—” He shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know. I still feel like, you know—”

“Like you didn’t do as well as you wanted?” Annie knew the odds of Kerry have good races the entire season were high, and as she’d expected, his first race on the Red Line—a Battle Royale between Cernunnos, Åsgårdsreia, and Blodeuwedd—did not turn out as he’d hoped.

He shook his head. “I feel like I let the team down.”

“Are you kidding?” She almost laughed. “Not in any way; you flew a great race.”

“Great?” He slowly turned his head towards Annie; she saw his eyes were downcast but dry. “First lap going up into K1 I lost six positions—” He sighed as he reverted it gaze towards the floor.

“Yes that’s true: you went from third to ninth.” She began rubbing the area between his shoulder blades. “In no part due to four flier from two covens going after you in an attempt to shake you up.” Annie’s voice softened. “It was to be expected.”

He didn’t look up. “What do you mean?”

“My father would say that sort of action is one of desperation because the other teams saw you as a threat.” She patted him lightly on the left shoulder and leaned closer. “You scare them: I’d take that as a good sign.” She slid closer and slipped her arm around his waist. “It’s only when they ignore you that you should worry.”

 

Just for reference, here’s the spot on the course they’re talking about:

The Red Line in all its scary glory.

The Red Line in all its scary glory.

This is what the school would look like from some distance in the east, probably a couple of klicks out over the Atlantic.  That spike going up and then down over the tiny building in the middle that’s actually the Great Hall?  That K1 on the Red Line, so named because that spike terminates one kilometer over The Pentagram.  This “turn” happens not too long after leaving the start/finish line, so first time out you don’t have a lot of time to get psyched up over shooting straight up for six-tenths of a mile, then shooting right back down.  It’s sort of like a mini Mile High flight, only not as high, but a hell of a lot faster and scarier–and, oh yeah:  you might have maniacs from other teams trying to do the bump and grind on your PAV–in this case the Class 3s, which look like flying jet skis–as you ascend and descend.

In short, it’s not a second for the faint of heart.  Kerry found out the hard way some teams play rough here.  And as Annie pointed out, it’s probably because he worries them.

 

A long silence drew on for nearly twenty seconds before a soft chuckle came from Kerry. “They really didn’t want me up there with them.“

“No, they didn’t. They did the same to Penny, too, which tells me the girls and you are putting a scare into everyone else.” Annie rested her head against her soul mate. “And yet they still messed up. Alex got through and finished third, and you regained two positions on the second lap, and got sixth away from Penny on the last. Let the team down?” She kissed him on the cheek. “Alex finished third, you finished sixth, Penny seventh, and Manco eighth. No, my love: you did a great job helping the team.”

Kerry finally sat up and turned towards her. Annie examined his face for tears tracks and found none. He’s not cried at all this year. She didn’t take her eyes from his as he put his arms around her. He’s not less emotional; he’s become better at showing the good while holding back the bad. She closed her eyes a second before Kerry kissed her and melted into him. And he always saves the best for me . . .

No one has actually commented on this, but Kerry hasn’t cried, not at all, except while at home after that conversation with the parents.  He must be holding it in better.  Or maybe something else is doing on?

Anyway, Annie has a couple of other bits of news to share as well . . .

 

The moment he broke the long kiss Kerry pulled Annie against him. “Thank you, Darling. You make me feel so good.”

“Thank Professor Semplen for allowing me in here.” She gently set her hands against the sides of his face. “There’s another reason I’m here, too—”

His eyebrows shot upward. “Oh?”

“You made a bit of history.”

The surprise he first showed turned to slight shock. “What?”

“It seems you’re the first B Level to point in their first race on the Red Line in thirty years.” She leaned back and pretended to straighten his racing uniform. “According to our race director—” She didn’t need to mention this was Vicky. “—a Victoria Salomon pointed in her first Red Line race as a B Level in 1982—”

“What did she get?”

Annie cut off Kerry before he could make comparisons between her race and his. “That’s besides the point: you raced against fourteen other fliers and finished sixth—” She almost didn’t mentioned the matter, but decided he needed the positive reinforcement. “Emma placed eighth against nine other fliers.” She tapped him lightly on the chest. “Never belittle your accomplishments, my love.”

 

Yes, Annie, get that little dig in.  Niener, niener.

 

“I won’t.” He returned to his last question. “So what did Vicky place in her race?”

“Forth.”

“That’s good.”

“Doesn’t matter if it’s good: from now on when a B Level races the Red Line for the first time, they’ll wonder what you placed.” Annie took his hands. “Vicky thought Holoč should be the one to tell this to you, but he thought—” She gave him a quick, loving kiss before whispering in his ear. “I should be the one to give you the news.”

A smile burst upon Kerry’s face as he rested his forehead against his soul mate’s. “I’m glad he did. It made it more special.”

“It did.” She slapped Kerry on the thigh and stood. “Get out of your gear, clean up, and change. We have a date.”

“You’re full of surprises. He stood slowly. “What do you mean, a date?”

“A certain sorceress and her coven leader partner are going to that restaurant we visited when we stayed at the Sea Sprite. I’m told we’ll be back in time for the Midnight Madness.” Annie swung her arms in a moment of levity and happiness. “Helena thought it might be a nice way for us to have a little time together away from school—”

“Before we gotta go home for Yule.” Kerry stood and grabbed his helmet from the bench. “I should be ready in twenty minutes.”

“I’ll be waiting outside.”

 

Hey, they’re going out on a date!  And really, if you’re keeping score, it really is their first dinner date of the school year.  The last?  Just as Annie mentioned:  during their stay at the Sea Sprite at the end of the A Levels.

 

Annie left the locker room and thanked Professor Semplen for her moment with Kerry.  After he left she took a seat in the team ready room and relaxed. She crossed her legs and imagined Kerry removing the uniform and heading for the shower and— No. Don’t think of this.  The last think she wanted was to get flustered while out in public.

She stretched her legs and folded her hands across her stomach as she stared at a spot on the ceiling. Am I really imagining him doing those things, or is there something else at work here? Recalling her thoughts about his lack of crying this year, she wondered if that was all Kerry, or if he was somehow influenced by her and—

And whatever Deanna showed me today. What was that? What caused our auras to join that way?

Annie closed her eyes and pushed all those questions from her mind. She wanted to relax in the company of friends and to enjoy her time with her Ginger Hair Boy tonight—to feel his love and to be loved.

Finally all the questions that had formed in the time between her meeting at Memory’s End and her watching Kerry’s race—all but one:

Why did Deanna show that video? Why did she want me to see that?

 

Annie, what are you thinking?  Something naughty?  Well, she is probably the only thirteen year old girl at school who can say, “I’ve seen my boyfriend naked more than once,” and she wouldn’t be lying.  She’s leaving out all the broken bones and future visions stuff, but still–truth.

The question does remain:  why did Deanna want here to see that?  There could be an answer to that question, or their may not.  Right now I can’t worry about it–

I’ve got a camping trip to plan.