The Last Laps: Warnings Amid the Possibilities

After a pretty good night of writing the second scene is finished.

But of course it is.

But of course it is.

It’s an interesting one, because it once more shows the kids stepping up and taking charge of situations that are normally handled by adults.  When the school is attacked kids join up with the adults in charge and help defend the place:  it’s not all instructors calling for Foundation aid from outside the walls.  When you got a beef you can meet with another student and, in a controlled environment, whack the shit out of each other.

And when it comes to telling racers your age how you expect them to act on the race course for the final big race, it’s the kids who seem to make the moves.  And sometimes they give the other kids a real ear-full . . .

 

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

The Cernunnos team captain nodded in older girl’s direction. “Thank you, Rivânia.” He faced the rest of the room. “We three began discussing today’s race last night before the Madness. After Blodeuwedd and Ceridwen race we do the last heat of the year. For those who raced last year I don’t need to tell you about the race, but for you new people, our race is one of the toughest of in-school events: The Fifteen and Finished. Green Line to Blue to Red and back to Blue then Green, performed three times each.

“A lot can go wrong out there today without people screwing around, and given how close so many races are today, the urge to settle old grudges is gonna be high. And none of the people in the back of the room—” He did a quick point towards Vicky and the coven leaders. “—or us up here want to see anything other than good racing happen as soon as the courses go green.” He looked past Rivânia to the girl on her left. “Nadine.”

A wicked grin began forming upon the Mórrígan team captain’s face. “Since I’m already considered the mean girl of this bunch, I don’t mind laying a little truth on you. And it’s this: anyone caught screwing around out there trying to hold people up or flat-out wreck them is gonna get their asses parked. Anyone pulls any shit out there today gets ordered off the course. No throttle back penalties, no time added on at the end: you get fucking parked.

 

I wonder if Nadine wears pink on Wednesdays to Wednesday’s?

We’ve seen Nadine throw around the language before, so this is not surprising that a D Level is gonna get coarse with fellow students.  We’ve know kids her age swear:  we know kids Annie’s and Kerry’s age swear, because we’ve heard them.  In my kid’s cases, they usually pop one off in their own or different language, but English has suited them both well at times.  And just wait until next year:  both are gonna find reason to drop an f-bomb or two.

With Nadine, however, you get the feeling that if you weren’t taking her advice, she’d just haul you out of the room and beat your ass just to make a point.  Maybe even right now–

 

“And if anyone sitting here right now suddenly thinks, ‘Oh, well, fuck it, I’ll just take someone out and be done with that shit’—” Nadine shook her head. “We’ve already discussed this with Race Control. The race goes red, we get your replacement from the B Team, and if the person you crashed can’t continue we pulled their replacement and continue with the race. You may screw up someone’s Individual standing, but you are not screwing up the Coven Team standings.

“If you should do something that stupid, you are out of racing at Salem for the rest of the calendar year.  And if you are allowed back into racing after the first of the year, you’ll start back on the B Team for at least the rest of the next season—assuming you’ll keep your shit together long enough to keep from melting the hell down there.”

Nadine pointed at her eyes before pointing to the rest of the assembled crowd. “We’re gonna have eyes on everyone today. You gotta a grudge you wanna settle with someone, then call them out to the Manor tomorrow and toss spells around until one of you goes down. But no one is burning down this race today.” She shook her head. “Uh, huh. That shit ain’t happening.”

Rivânia cleared her throat. “Thank you, Nadine; thank you, Manco.” She regarded the people seated before her. “In case you’re wondering we were thinking along the same lines as Professors Salomon, Arrakis, Semplen, and Sladen, and we went to them with this idea before them came to us. And they agreed that it was better if we tell you this, because hearing it from us means your captains care, and we the standings to reflect the best in Salem racing—and not the fact that people began losing their minds and started acting like a bunch of pendejos.” She turned her gaze to the back of the room. “That’s all we want to say, Vicky.”

 

The point made here is that the instructors were going to give this little speech, but they thought that having the other students hear these words from kids their age would help get the message down faster.

 

“Then you can rejoin your teams.” As the captains took their seats Vicky made her way to the rostrum. “I want to reiterate that we all want clean racing out there today, and there are a few people in this room which whom we’re going to give special scrutiny.” Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t need to mention names, but if you do hear me saying your name at some point during today’s race, it’s because I’m ordering you off the goddamn course.” She shook her head slowly with a grave look upon her face. “Let’s not make that happen, shall we?”

Another fifteen minutes was spent going over the specifics of the race—particularly the issues that might and likely would come from tackling the Red Line on Class One PAVs, the only time during the race season Class Three were not used there—before Vicky released everyone so they could head to their individual ready rooms to change and prepare for today’s even.

 

Next novel, for sure, we’ll see a run on the Red Line, and everyone will get a chance to see the Class 3 “jet ski” PAVs that are normally used.  Here, they end the season the same way it’s started, on the basic Class 1 “brooms,” and this is the only time these are used on the Red Line.

Now there’s time for a little team comradery–

 

Kerry was surrounded by Penny and Alex the moment all three were standing. Penny bounced slightly on the balls of her feet before addressing Kerry. “Nervous?”

He nodded. “Just a little.”

Alex patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’ve done well on the Red Line before—and it’s not like you’ve not had a Class 1 up a klick in the air before.”

Before Kerry could reply Manco leaned in on the group. “Let’s get down our ready room and get changed so we can go over race strategy.” For a moment he looked a bit sheepish before recovering quickly. “You guys are the Top 5, and making sure you finish there will keep the coven in second.”

Penny nodded. “We’ll meet you there.” After Manco walked away, followed by Darius, Penny sighed aloud. “I can’t believe the coven has a shot at second.”

Alex nodded. “I can’t, either.”

“Yeah.” Kerry nodded towards the stairs. “Let’s get to The Diamond.” All three teammates headed for the Hangar and the outside, where they’d mount their brooms and take a quick hop to the racing stadium.

 

–Before I get into some history stuff, which you may or may not have known was coming.  Because I like doing this stuff, and you find out that someone close to Kerry is a bit tied in to racing history at Salem:

 

There wasn’t any reason to go over their coven’s racing history: Kerry knew it well. The last time their coven had seen a Team podium finish was 1993, which was, coincidentally, when Annie’s father raced for the coven. Annie told him that the coven finished third three times when her father was a member of the team, but try as they might they never had a team come together enough to make a good run at second.

Kerry knew that the last time Cernunnos finished second in Team standings was 1986, and they’d not seen a first place finish since 1972. The last time someone finished third in the Individual standings happened in 1997, and it was Holoč Semplen who did that as well as finishing second two years before, in 1995. Annie’s father was the last person to finish first for Cernunnos in the Individual standings, something he did in 1992.

Penny was in position to become the first Cernunnos girl to stand on the podium in third place since 1989—though it was possible if Penny had a horrible race Alex could take that spot—and she, Alex, and he had an excellent shot at putting three Cernunnos racers in the Top 5 since 1984. Kerry possessed enough of a lead over Rezi Lahood from Åsgårdsreia that he’d have to crash and not finish in order to lose fifth to her—and the same could be said about moving ahead of Alex and Penny: both girls would have to DNF for him to have a shot at third. Rivânia and Nadine were the only ones with a realistic chance at first, though a horrible performance, or a DNF, from either could rocket the other to the top of the standings. And if both—

Kerry cleared his head as he stepped outside into Selena’s Meadow. Don’t think about what could happen— He pulled his broom from Hammerspace and prepared to mount. Do as Annie said: race your own race.

It’ll all shake out in the end.

 

There’s been mention here and there that Annie’s father did some racing when he was at Salem, and here’s the proof:  Victor Kiralov was the last person from Cernunnos to finish first as an individual.  I also show that Holoč was the last people from this coven to finish on the podium as well, so we know he’s got the chops to watch over his racers.

If it seems like the boys have hogged the Horned God’s glory, remember it was stated back about two hundred thousand words ago, that the race team here tended to favor the boys, where as the others favored the girls.  That seems to be changing, and we’ve seen what happens when you let the ladies do their thing.

And in case you’re wondering how I knew when certain students were in school?

You didn't need to ask.

You didn’t need to ask.

Right there in the middle you see Palvlina Ganchev and Victor Kirilov (misspelled on the time line, I’ll fix that tonight) and the times when they were students.  You even get to see here when the headmistress went to school, back in the mid-80s and early-90s.  One of the reasons Jessica recommended Mathilde for the headmistress’ job is because she remembered her as a fellow student, even if she was below her a couple of levels.  Hummm . . . she must have done something to make an impression.

Next up:  part of the final race.  Wonder what’s going to happen?  I mean that:  I have no idea yet.

Really.

Back On the Blue: The Plan

The next few days are gonna be busy for me.  Today I start working on the forms for my name change, and I’ll have dinner with a friend.  Tomorrow I visit my therapist for probably the last time, just to show her how I’m doing.  And Friday I start preparing for the trip back to The Burg, and maybe drop off my papers with the Clerk of the Court to get my name change process rolling.

Oh, and probably wash panties, ’cause clean panties are a must.

And writing, too.  Since putting up a post a while back saying I was a bit burned out on writing, I’ve been hitting it hard, and yesterday was another twelve hundred fifty word day, with four hundred thirty-four written in the morning and eight hundred and ten written before going to bed.  I’ve inched up over eighty-nine thousand words, and it’s highly possible that I’ll hit ninety thousand tonight or tomorrow.  No matter what, I’ll be there before heading back to the other casa on Saturday.

The lights turned green and the race is underway, but not all is rainbows and unicorns with Team Cernunnos–

 

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

Almost fifteen minutes into the race, half way through the fifth lap—the third on the Green Line—and Kerry wasn’t in a good mood. It wasn’t due to running a bad race: it was due to having a couple of teammates who, in his opinion, were acting like enormous douche rockets.

The first lap went without incidence. When they crossed over to the Blue line it was with a Ceridwen flier in first, Manco in second, and Darius in third, while Penny, Alex, and Kerry held and and traded off sixth, seventh, and eighth with the remaining four positions firming in Ceridwen’s possession. Through this lap and the next on the Green Line, Penny, Alex, and Kerry began pushing their way forward, so by the time they began the fourth lap—the second on the Blue Line—they’d moved into forth, fifth, and six positions, and were rapidly gaining on Manco and Darius, who’d managed to pull far ahead while the girls and Kerry fought through Ceridwen fliers surrounding them.

That’s when the trouble began.

By the time they’d rounded Observatory Bend and turned onto Skyway, the trio had second and third place in their sights. Being the quickest of the trio, Penny made her move on Darius as they flew through Back Path and began her pass, but he threw a block which nearly put in into the safety barrier. She attempted two more passes, and each time Darius—who didn’t appear nearly as fast as Penny—threw a vicious block, forcing her to fall back and regroup.

As they entered the Green Line for the last time it became obvious that Darius and Manco were doing everything they could to protect their podium positions, and they weren’t about to let their teammates by, even if one, two, or all were faster. Penny grew frustrated with the attitude, and in The Esses she tried her best to make her way around Manco, who then nearly wrecked her in Polar Jump, which made Alex and Kerry scramble to keep from running into Penny.

The problem wasn’t just in the front, either. Once Penny, Alex, and Kerry had made their way around the other Ceridwen fliers, they’d put them several seconds behind. That was no longer the case: those fliers were closing fast, and with a lap and a half remaining, Kerry figured that the guy’s efforts to keep their lower lever teammates away from what they saw as their podium wins could result in Cernunnos losing the podium and most other points positions.

 

In technical racing terms, what the boys are doing is known as “acting like dicks”.  They’re so hell-bent on getting a top three–here known as “getting a podium” because at the end of the race those in the top three stand on a podium and get recognized–they’ll blow everything, including the race itself.  Rather than looking at the big picture, they’re looking at fame and glory, both of which are fleeting.  I’ve seen this happen in races before, and it’s truly an embarrassment when someone not only crashes and burns their own race, but they bring their team down in the process.

In case you were wondering, in the Salem school system there are individual points, and those points accumulate into overall Coven points.  So a flier from, say, Ceridwen, can win a lot of races, but if two other fliers from, say, Cernunnos, keep getting the second and third place finishes, it’s likely you could have an Individual Champion from Ceridwen, while the Team Coven Champion would be Cernunnos.  Are you racing for the team, or for yourself?  Manco and Darius are definitely racing for themselves.

This is not sitting well with the new Cernunnos Troika:

 

Heading towards Northwest Passage Penny flipped up her visor and began yelling to Kerry and Alex. “These idjits are pissing me off. I’ve had enough of this shite.”

Kerry checked his review as they began the turn leading to West End and saw the full pack of Ceridwen fliers round Polar Turn and advance towards them. “We gotta do something, or we’re gonna get a real fight on the last lap.”

Penny nodded. “Then we gotta do something.”

They reached West End and began to accelerate. “There’s only one thing to do—”

“Yeah?”

“We gotta bum rush these guys.”

This brought a gleam into Penny’s eyes. “Out of Reservoir?”

He nodded. “That would be a good place.”

Alex—who’d pulled closer to Kerry so she could hear the conversation, yelled out her thoughts. “I don’t know this bum rush, but it sounds like we take action.”

Kerry glanced at her as the trio accelerated down West End. “We do.”

“Then I’ll work with you.”

“We work as a team.” Penny set back in her saddle. “When we come out of Reservoir, we move on those tossers. Alex, you take the outside; Kerry, you go up the middle. I’ll take the inside.”

He was already visualizing what would happen. “Got it.”

Alex nodded. “As do I.”

“Good.” Penny slapped down her visor. “We do it on my mark.” She leaned towards her handlebars. “Let’s make this happen.”

They flew together in formation the rest of the way down West End and into Sunset Boulevard, only breaking up as they zipped through Double Dip, reforming as they negotiated Double Back and Cove Lane. Kerry readied himself for Reservoir, a tricky turn that beginners found difficult to time, but which he found to be one of the more fun, semi-technical turns on the Green Line. It swept right out of Cove Lane, rising and dropping over the Cove Reservoir path before turning back to the left, once more flying up over the path before dropping down into the long, fast curve known as Gloucester Bend.

They completed the first flyover as Penny spoke. “We ready?”

Kerry nodded once. “Ready.”

They started up into the last flyover when Alex spoke. “Ready.”

“Okay, then . . .” They began their drop through the elevation gate towards the ground. “Let’s get ‘em. Go, GO.”

 

That’s where I left it, with Penny, Alex, and Kerry about to put the moves on the older boys and take this race to them.  Because sometimes you just gotta give someone the bumper and push them out of the way–or into a wall if there’s one nearby.

And so you can see where this stuff is happening, I even made pictures!  First, Observatory Bend and Skyway:

Squiggly line, remember?

Squiggly line, remember?

Then Back Path, where Penny was getting blocked.

Right there by the Aerodrome.

Right there by the Aerodrome.

Polar Jump, Northwest Passage, and the start of the West End, where everything started coming to a head.

Also known as the place where Emma Blocked Kerry.

Also known as the place where Emma Blocked Kerry.

And finally Reservoir, when they make their move.

Complete with little people standing under the course.

Complete with little people standing under the course.

Reservoir is also where, during the Day of the Dead, Emma and Kerry rejoined the Green Line on their way to The Diamond.  And we remember how well that turned out.

Let’s hope this time things are better for Kerry.

The Meeting of the Geese

I know the title of today’s post probably makes no sense whatsoever, but in time it should make sense.  I hope.  One never knows because I’m looking at things a certain way an I have a strange sense of humor.

One of the things I did yesterday was flesh out the current chapter by adding more scenes.  That’s right:  more.  Because I wanted to separate thing and get them in their own little boxes.  I actually split out one and added another, so technically I added only one–

Giving me this layout.

Giving me this layout.

It’s how I work, and that work is making it easier for me to work.  Sorta.  I try not to think about it too much, otherwise I’ll probably go nuts.

So lets get to the setup:

 

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

After his last B Team race Kerry came to the Cernunnos ready room, got comfortable in a recliner, and took a nap. Right about eleven ten Annie came by and they had lunch; at eleven thirty-five Penny came by, and the three of them headed down to the hanger area below The Diamond track and looked over the Class 2 PAVs. Though Penny was there to help Kerry find a good racing broom, Annie knew a great deal about Class 2s through her family, and she made the final decision on while broom Kerry would pilot. Because this was the third broom Annie had chosen for him, he named it “Third Party”.

They returned to the ready room where Alex was already waiting and in her racing gear. Kerry didn’t need to change as the racing gear was the same between the two team levels: a soft black leather body suit with gloves and short lace-up boots, and a full face helmet with a visor enchanted to darken and lighten on command. The outfit was enchanted to protect the flier a much as possible in the event of an accident, but as he was told in orientation, enchantments were designed to keep a pilot from being killed; they could still end up injured, much like Hasan was during practice.

Like the uniforms of the other teams, their Cernunnos colors were represented by green stripes running the length of the arms and legs, padding on the shoulders, and a band encircling the top of the helmet. His last name was printed on the front and back of his helmet as well, so fans and racers alike knew who was whom among the faceless people on the course.

 

In the next scene you’ll get a better look at the Class 2 PAVs/brooms, but they’re somewhat easy to visualize:  if the Class 1s look a lot like a classic witch’s broom, the Class 2s look a bit like the speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi–in other words, a Class 1 with small handlebars and a set of canards at the front to allow greater maneuverability.  Those aren’t the only changes, but visually, that’s as close as it gets.

Kerry also meets the other two members of the A Team:

 

It wasn’t long after Penny went to change that Manco Mamani, the captain of the team, and Darius Roy emerged from the adjoining locker room. Both boys, like the injured Hasan Fofana, were D Levels. Manco was from Chiclayo, Peru, while Darius hailed from Durham Bridge, New Brunswick, Canada; both were similar in appearance—tall, brown hair, dark eyes, dusky complexion—and in personality, which while it wasn’t surly, wasn’t overly friendly. They offered perfunctory greetings to the team before walking away, completely ignoring Alex. A few minutes later Penny came out of the girl’s locker room and they took their place in the front row.

So . . . not so nice, hun?  They’re dusting Kerry and Alex, and when everyone gets set for the discussions on the day’s racing–which, by the way, is a combination of running the Green Line and then the Blue Line and going back, doing three laps on each–the girls and Kerry sit in the front row, and the other two boys sit in the back.  Some witches be too cool for the room, it seems.

That becomes evident when they head out to get their speeders–I mean, brooms.

 

The turned right outside the door and made their way to the lift that would take them to the lower levels. Right away Kerry noticed the distance between the two older boys in front, and the girls in the back, with Manco and Darius not only ignoring the three newest fliers, but trying to distance themselves from them. He didn’t like what he felt was a huge snubbing, and thought to make his feelings known. “Hey, ain’t we supposed to be on the same team?” Manco and Darius stopped and turned to face their teammates. “I mean, is this how you guys do thing here?”

Manco shrugged. “This is how we did things last year.”

“No, it isn’t, Manco.” Penny stepped up next to Kerry, with Alex next to her. “Not when Jeong was Captain, and Hatim and Risto were on the team.”

Darius smirked as he spoke. “Yeah, and none of them are on the team this year.” He turned to Kerry. “This is how we do things up here; we ain’t down on the ground now.” He used the slang that Kerry was told referred to the fact that the B Level ready rooms were on the ground floor under the grandstands. “And I don’t care how well you did racin’ in the ghetto today, kid, when we’re out there, you stay out of my way.” He slapped Manco on the arm and the two of them turned and walked away.

Alex clutched her helmet against her hip. “Shcho velychezna mudak.”

Kerry continued staring straight ahead. “What’s that mean?”

“It means he is large ass.”

Penny snorted. “He’s a right daft twat, that’s for sure.” She patted Kerry on the back. “Gonna keep an eye on you, boy: don’t want you turnin’ out like them.”

“Not a chance.” He watched the boys enter the lift and vanish without waiting for them. “I thought all Canadians were supposed to be nice?”

“They are—just not in our coven, it seems.” Penny shook her head. “Come on; let’s get our brooms and make the best of this shit show.”

 

He called Kerry “kid”.  Annie would have lit Darius up if she’d heard that one.  And racing down in the ghetto?  Some serious attitude there.

What Alex actually said in Ukranian is, “What an enormous asshole,” and it goes back to the title of today’s post.  We’ve now seen how surly Darius is, and we know Franky–another Canadian–is a butthead, which goes completely against the grain of how we’ve come to think about Canadians.  Now, while I was speaking to one of my various Canadian friends who do live North of The Wall–as I like to say–we got on the subject of Canadian Geese.  And if you’ve ever had an encounter with these creatures, you know they’re more like winged minions of death.  My friend, who has had numerous encountered with these Northern Death Birds, put it as matter of factly as possible:  “Canadian Geese are assholes.”

"What did you call me?"

“What did you call me?”

So, the meeting with the geese, aka, the dudes on your race team are assholes, Kerry, and it looks like they’re tossing you in the back of the bus with the girls.  True, when you were leaving Berlin you guys were in the back of the bus, and you were having a hell of a lot of fun, but this is something completely different–

I’m sure the race is gonna be . . . interesting.