The Kali Test: The End

Yesterday was a good writing day.  I wrote almost twelve hundred words in the morning, came home and wrote eleven hundred word TV recap, then ended up writing another two hundred and sixty words later in the evening to include something I meant to include in the morning, but didn’t.  Add all that up, and I wrote close to twenty-four hundred words, something I haven’t done in quite some time.

That doesn’t mean I’m back in the groove: it simply means yesterday was a good rating day.  The trick to all this is doing something like that nearly every day, and not just on a Sunday in April.  Most times I’ll be lucky to get five hundred words a day.  But I have to say, yesterday felt good.

Since I’m on the way to ending Chapter Eleven, here’s the end of the test scene.  And you knew this was coming; why wouldn’t you?  But based upon what you’ve seen so far, this ending is a little unusual–

 

(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)

 

Covered in blood and winded, they were both catching their breath when fifteen seconds later music stopped and silence fell upon the test surface.

Ramona waited until she was absolutely certain that Annie and Kerry were the only creatures moving on the other side of the safety enchantment before casting it away.

She waited a few seconds for her students to gather their bearings before speaking. “The test is concluded. Based upon the final results—”

Kerry turned toward Ramona and Helena and screamed at them, raising his arms and hands in the air. “What was that bullshit?”

Annie stepped around the bodies on the floor as she wiped blood from her face and eyes. She, too, was not happy, and the moment she was alongside Kerry she also yelled out her frustration. “Koĭ postavi tozi shiban test zaedno?”

Ramona quickly raised the safety enchantment, putting a barrier of silence between her angry students and the rest of the people in the hall. She turned to Helena and shrugged. “Apparently they have some questions.”

“They’re not the only ones.” Helena turned to her left as she sensed Isis walking away. “Where are you going?”

 

The kids usually stick by their mantra of “A good sorceress keeps their head about them while everything is going to hell around them.”  But nothing is going to hell around them anymore: that’s already happened, things to them.  And these kids get just as frustrated and confused as adults, who often vent her frustration once a momentous task has completed.  Plus, when you add in the fact that both these kids are raging hormone factories, it’s easy to understand why they lost their cool and started screaming.  At their instructor.  In front of a room full of people, including the Head Sorceress.

Fortunately, Ramona is fairly even-tempered and she understands that emotions run high at times, particularly when you’ve been in a difficult match.  Also, it’s likely fair to say that the kids aren’t known to start screaming and swearing at the same time while in the Advanced Self Defense class–and you know Annie swore, because Kerry is already mentioned that usually when she’s upset and says something in Bulgarian, it’s likely she’s cursing.  You’ll find out in the following scene what she said.

So it’s probably a good idea to let the kids simmer down, or at least get rid of witnesses–

 

She held her tablet at her side as she addressed the Head Sorceress. “I’m finished with my side of this test, so there’s no need for me to stick around.” She tapped something on her tablet screen then looked up at Ramona. “My people will be by in the afternoon to collect the Spy Eyes. Shouldn’t take too long to get them out of here.”

Ramona nodded in acknowledgment. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Cool. See you ladies later.” Isis juanted off.

With the Chief of Security gone Ramona now turned to the students who’d observed the test, with a few appearing to have not handled the bloody spectacle well. “This test is concluded. For those while visitors, you are free to leave. For those of you remaining for class, I will need about twenty minutes to clear the testing surface so that we may start. Feel free to mill about outside: I will call you when ready.”

Students filed out of the Manor and it was empty save for the two instructors and the two testes standing on the other side of the safety enchantment. Ramona took a deep breath. “I think we can continue our dialogue.”

Helena nodded toward the two students. “By all means, let’s.”

 

Testing is done, so Isis isn’t needed anymore.  Or at least she seems to think so.  This will get brought up in the next scene as well.  Hell, a lot of things get brought up in the next scene…

Since Ramona and Helena are pretty easy-going in most situations, they’ve given Annie and Kerry time to cool off.  That time is over: now it’s time to talk.

 

The Self Defense instructor removed the safety enchantment and addressed her students. “Have you had time to calm yourselves?”

They answered simultaneously. “Yes, Professor.”

Ramona approached and stopped two meters from them. “According to the rules of this engagement, you have successfully completed this test. Will see to it that the results are passed along to the appropriate authorities.” She gave them both a quick smile. “Go clean up and change, and once you have you’re both free to leave.”

Annie looked the most surprised of the two. “We don’t need to return for class?”

A soft chuckle escaped Ramona’s lips. “I think you’ve both proven that there isn’t any need for you to work on forms or spar today.”

“That’s for sure.” Helena moved up closer to Ramona, though she knew better than to stand next to her at this point. “Erywin, I, and a few others are heading into Boston about eleven to have lunch and do a little shopping. Why don’t you come out to the Instructors Residence when you done cleaning up? You can relax a bit before we leave.”

Both seemed happy to hear this news. Kerry reached out and gave Annie’s hand a squeeze before responding. “Thank you, Professor.”

Annie smiled as she returned to squeeze. “Yes, thank you, Helena.”

“All right, then.” Ramona straightened slightly. “Face me.” Annie and Kerry turned to face their instructor and bowed as she did. When they straighten Ramona wave them away. “Go on: go clean up.”

The instructors watched Annie and Kerry make their way through the carnage they left behind only to stop just past the last of the bodies so that they could share a short kiss. When they finished they both cast a glance back before heading off to the locker rooms and vanishing.

Helena rubbed her eyes as she chuckled. “Love among the zombies.”

Ramona only partially turned to head to look at the sorceress. “Didn’t you ever do that after test?”

“We didn’t have homunculus as nice as the ones you make.” She turned towards Ramona. “When I get back from Boston this afternoon, you and I are going to have a little discussion about what just happened here.”

Ramona crossed arms and gave her friend an unconcerned look. “Believe me, Helena; I want to talk about this.”

 

There you have it: the kids get to kill a bunch of zombies in front of the third of the student body, they then got this work their instructor, and then they were released from class for the rest of the day so they can go hang out in Boston with other instructors.  All in all, not a bad day–or, I should say, a bad four minutes, as that’s all it really took for them to establish themselves as the Bad Ass Zombie Killers of Salem.  And given what was seen, and the rumors that will come out of what was seen, one has to assume that anyone who calls these two out now is simply looking for a beating.

That doesn’t mean that neither of them won’t get called out–

And now that the fighting is done, it’s time for the instructors to ask a few questions…

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The Final Solo: Head East

In what was one of my better writing days yesterday, I finished off the scene I started Sunday morning with another thousand word run that early evening, and then sat down to do about nineteen hundred words of snarking backup work for recaping the season finale of The Walking Dead, which Rachel will get out later today and to which I’ll add my thoughts after that.

But there was writing.  A lot of writing, though trying to imagine all the stuff happening in the my novel isn’t an easy thing as I’m pulling all the stuff out of thin air and getting it down on the page for you.  In finishing this, however, I realize that I’m now more than mid-way through Chapter Thirty and closer to the end of Annie’s solo flight than I am to the beginning.

I'm certain there's some kind of synergy here, but the coffee hasn't kicked in so I'm blankin' my butt off.

I’m certain there’s some kind of synergy here, but the coffee hasn’t kicked in so I’m blankin’ my butt off.

I left my kids hovering off a bunch of rocks off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine staring out into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and now Annie is gonna want to find out what Kerry meant by his last statement . . .

 

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

Annie squinted out towards the east and widening ocean. On a clear day, at their altitude, Annie figured they could see close to fifty kilometers, but in this weather she estimated she could see perhaps a third of that distance. “Why do you believe that?”

He sat back in the saddle and crossed his ankles. “When it comes to your flights, everything with Vicky and Isis has been push, push, push. They said the night solo was supposed to be your third solo, but—” Kerry shook his head. “It always felt like BS to me. Vicky always tried to make it sound like that flight wasn’t that hard—”

“It was more difficult that it appeared, I know.” Annie rolled part-way on to her side, a floating position she found comfortably when resting. “The few times we flew at night during Basic Flight taught me that seeing things at night are not as easy as seeing them during the day. It’s easy to get lost in the dark.”

“And it’s easier to get turned around when you’re overflying a city and everything looks the same at night.”

“I don’t believe there was ever going to be a ‘second’ solo flight—” Kerry rocked a little back and forth. “The night solo was always going to be the second flight ‘cause Vicky wanted to give you something that wouldn’t be easy, and that was the best way to make the situation difficult.”

Almost as if she were waiting for the right moment to speak, Vicky cut into the conversation. “Salem Final Solo, this is Flight Deck. Ready for your next objective? Over.”

Annie flipped around so she was upright once more. “I’m ready, Flight Deck. Over.”

 

We return to a feeling that Kerry has had a couple of times, and that is everything is a test, but in their case, those tests are usually a hell of a lot harder.  Annie and his walking tour of London was a test; sending them to Kansas City was a test; and now, the second solo flight was never one that was “moved up”, it was always meant to be that way.  Add to this all the stuff with them being asked into advanced class, being able to tutor each other in a couple of magical disciplines, Emma’s and Kerry’s finally flight back from Canada during the first overnight, and the puppeteer work over at The Manor, and it does seem as if these kids are being given a hell of a lot more to do that the other little witches.

But that’s something to be told later.  Right now Vicky’s on the air and talking:

 

“All right, then.” The air went silent for a moment; when Vicky returned she once more sounded as if she were reading information verbatim. “You are to remain on IFR from now until you return to the school. Your next objective will require you to be in position within a specific time period. I will give you the heading, your altitude, the distance to the object, and the time needed to reach your objective, requiring you to calculate your speed. As your Band’s in-flight calculator was disabled for his test, you need to do this calculation manually.

“Here are the specifics: you will set off on a heading of eighty—that’s zero-eight-zero—degrees and maintain an altitude of three hundred fifty meters for the duration. Distance to objective is ninety-five kilometers; your time-on-target is twenty minutes. Your objective is an orange marker hovering at an attitude of two hundred meters above sea level. It has an active tracking system your Band will detect when you are within three kilometers of the marker. Are there any questions? Over.”

Annie exchanged glances with Kerry, whose expression indicated he had at least one question. “Flight Deck, this is Starbuck actual. Is this marker outside the school’s one hundred kilometer local detection range? Over.”

They both could imagine Vicky nodding as she answered. “That’s correct, Starbuck. You’ll be outside our local detection range. We’ll still be able to communicate via the radios—we just won’t know where you are once you’ve reached this marker. Over.”

“Roger. Please stand by.” The look of concern was still in his eyes as he spoke with Annie. “They’re not going to know where we are once we’re out that.”

She tried to alleviate his concern with a smile. “I know. And I imagine most of this part of the test is outside that range.”

“That’s my guess, too.” He chuckled as he shrugged. “Not like it’s gonna make a difference.”

“No.” Her smile brightened. “Going to have to go there if I want to complete the test.” Annie turned back to the comm. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Solo Flight. Questions asked and understood. How much time do I have to calculate my speed? Over.”

“You have five minutes, Athena, starting now. Over.”

 

They are headed out to sea, just as they thought, and they’re even gonna end up flying off the school’s radar, so to speak, as they near their first objective.  What does this leg look like?

In case you're wondering, this is their route.

In case you’re wondering, this is Annie’s route.

There you go.  Between Isles of Shoals and this marker in the middle of the ocean, there’s a whole lot of open and empty water to cross.  And just so you have another reference, down in the left hand corner, where you see the word “Rockport,” the school is sitting on the “R”.

They are a long way from home and going out even further.  Not only that–

 

“Roger. Please stand by.” She turned to Kerry. “She’s giving me way too much time to figure this out.”

He laughed. “Oh?”

“Vicky probably wants me to rest a little more because this calculation is easy.” Annie straightened her body as she gripped her hands before her. “Twenty minutes is a third of an hour. Distance is ninety-five kilometers, so twice that is one ninety, and adding ninety-five to that is two hundred and eighty-five kilometers an hour.” She curled her legs slightly while relaxing. “Going three hundred kilometers an hour will get us there with time to spare.”

“And if we haven’t found the marker in twenty minutes—”

“Then I did something wrong and went off course.” Annie placed her right hand next to her head. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. I’m ready to proceed to the next objective. Over.”

Annie was certain she heard Isis said something over a muted comm because Vicky laughed for a couple of seconds before responding. “Okay, then, Athena. You have one minute to get underway.

Notify when you are so we can start the clock. Over.”

“Roger. Over.” She slipped her balaclava back into place over her lower face and glanced at Kerry. “Up for some high speed flying?”

Kerry recovered his face as well. “Totally.”

“Then we shouldn’t waste time.” Annie checked her hood and gloves. “Flight Deck, this is Salem Final Solo. We’re preparing to depart in fifteen seconds. Over.”

“Roger, Salem Final Solo. Counting down now. See you in twenty. Over and out.”

Annie leaned slightly forward, preparing to depart. “You ready?”

Kerry nodded from under his hood. “Yep. Let’s do this.”

Annie nodded back. “Let’s.” After the fifteen seconds passed on her clock she waved her right arm forward and sped off on her proper heading as fast as she could will herself. In less than twenty seconds she reached three hundred kilometers an hour and settled in behind the windscreen her Band set up.

Kerry pulled into position close behind and to Annie’s right. Now that they were at speed he could only be heard over the comms. “How’s ‘bout some music?”

She rolled slightly on to her side for just a moment so she could see Kerry better. “I’d love music.” She slid back into position after only a second, seeing she lost neither her heading or altitude. One of Kerry’s songs began playing, something that began with a long, droning synthesizer and the singer lamenting that the city streets were empty—

Given where they were headed, the streets to her destination were certainly empty.

 

Not only are they heading sixty miles/ninety-five kilometers out to sea, but they’re doing it at three hundred kilometers an hour/one hundred and eighty-six miles an hour, which is sorta like race car speeds, right?  Annie has cranked it up before, but nothing this fast.  But she’s in a test, and when you test you get tested.  And this is how she’s getting tested, by heading out into the unknown at high speed.

And what song is Kerry playing as they leave?  Why, Electric Light Orchestra’s Turned to Stone, which begins with a lyric about how the city streets are empty.  Just like the ocean, am I right?

They’re on their way.

Feeling the Flight

I should say that while yesterday’s writing seemed to take forever, it got done.  Mostly because I got back into basics:  put in the earbuds, slipped on some tunes, and held the world at bay.  And it worked:  I wrote just over twelve hundred and fifty words, which brought yesterday’s work to fifteen hundred and seventy total, once you kicked in the stuff I did in the morning.  Not a bad day, even if it felt like I was struggling throughout a lot of the work.

Here we are, getting ready to get into the air, and Annie is feeling . . .

 

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

Annie sat quietly in the Flight School’s Ready Room with Kerry on her right, but her normally composed exterior hid the turmoil going on inside her body. She ate a light breakfast as she was certain a larger one would give her an upset stomach, and given what lay ahead, the last thing she wanted was being sick while hanging in mid-air without a broom . . .

Today was the day she’d been promised: today Isis, Kerry, and herself would venture outside the school walls for the first time. Up until this point she’d flown only in the Aerodrome, but last week, on the day after her birthday, for about five minutes Isis and she exited the Aerodrome through a roof opening designed for PAVs, quickly few to the Diamond, lightly touched down on the room there, then returned to the Aerodrome after a five minutes discussion about the best way to keep one’s self orientated when they were free flying.

Those few minutes dashing from one building to the other and back left Annie wanting so much more. She enjoyed flying on a broom—something she had admitted to Kerry but would be hard pressed to admit to anyone else—but sailing over the treetops with nothing between her and the ground save her Gift and her willpower left her with an impression of being completely unrestrained by gravity—

Save for those moments when she could lose consciousness and control of her Gift, at which point she’d plummet to the ground and die. She shrugged that thought off as soon as she returned to the floor of the Aerodrome and found Kerry waiting for their return, as she reasoned that were either of them to lose consciousness while on a broom, the end result would be the same.

If that were the case, there wasn’t any need to fly with fear.

 

If she’s ever mentioned any fear about falling to Kerry, he’s probably given her some advice about what it feels like to do that, and without any notion of whether or not he was gonna be able to stop before hitting the ground.

And here we find out that Annie has had one quick flight out of the Aerodrome, just to give her a feel for what it’s like to soar like the birds.  There is one thing, however:  is there a way for her to know where she’s going, how fast, how high, all that stuff?  Just like on a PAV?  Glad you asked–

 

It was while the three of them were together that Isis told Annie they were flying outside the school for the next class, and she presented Annie with her Band. Though it looked like a thin silver bracelet that fit sung around her right wrist, as Isis explained it was something Annie didn’t want to be without when she flying. Her Band was the same as the instruments on a PAV, giving her every she’d need to find her way displayed on an HUD, the same as on a broom. A simple double-flick away from the body would turn the Band on, and a double-flick towards the body would turn it off, but once on, she’d only have to request the HUD up verbally or by thought, and unlike a broom HUD, an enchantment would keep her HUD in front of her face so she could see it no matter what direction she was facing.

Before coming out of the locker room she’d nervously practiced using it; within the next twenty minutes she use it in a real-life situation—

 

Annie’s all filled up with jewelry, but her Band isn’t just any pretty piece, though it is designed to fit in with anything else she’s wearing so not to look out of place.  It’s a smart idea, and of course the school would have something to fit the bill.  It’s probably a piece that’s also made on demand, because Flight Gifts are rare, and it’s not like The Foundation is gonna have a bunch of these just laying about.

Vicky and Isis enter, and it’s pretty obvious it’s Isis’ show to run, so she does.  There’s isn’t a lot for her to say . . .

 

The security director set her helmet, gloves, and goggles aside, before activating the wall map. “You know why you’re here: we’re flying for real, and we’re heading outside the walls. Annie, you and I will fly in a side-by-side formation, with you following my lead to go where I indicate. The primary purpose of this flight is to get you used to being in the air, at altitude and speed, for an extended period, and to learn to use your Band.” Isis gave Annie an inquisitive glance. “Questions?”

Annie shook her head once. “No.”

“Good. Kerry—” Isis turned slightly to her left and pointed. “You’re job is to observe and get the feel of being a chase. You’ll be on the same comm line with us, but for the most part there won’t be any communication. You’re not suppose to help out in any way unless instructed by Carrier, who will be monitoring us from the Flight Deck—”

Vicky spoke up. “Today I’ll run the Deck alone; same goes for whenever Isis takes you out on a training flight. But when you start flying solo, Annie, Isis will help out.” She turned back to the Chief of Security. “Continue.”

“Thank you. Our flight is going to be pretty simple.” She turned to the board and pulled up a map of the local area. “We’ll fly out from here, skirt Anniquan and overfly Farm Point on the way to Choate Island. From there we’ll continue until we reach this garden and nursery center just south of Ipswich, where we’ll start turning towards the south.” Her finger traced a long, wide arc until it reached a point over one of the small communities north of the city of Salem. “When we reach the Hamilton/Wenhan train station, we’ll head east, meet up with State Highway 128 and follow that to Gloucester. Once we’re over the Addison Gilbert Hospital, we’ll turn towards the school, head for the Flight School, and touch down.”

She turned back to the children, bushing her hands as if to remove dust. “Total distance covered will be between forty-five and fifty kilometers; as for time, we’ll take our time and stop to go over a few points along the way, so I don’t expect us to be out more than a couple of hours. Any questions?”

“No.” Annie smiled. “Not now.”

“That’s what I thought.” Isis zipped up her jacket and grabbed the rest of her gear. “Let’s get airborne.”

 

All of those points are real–

Because I have a map.  You knew I had a map.

Because I have a map. You knew I had a map.

–and if you check out the course above you’ll find all the points of reference Isis pointed out.  It’s a simple thing for them, a learning experience for both kids.  And that lesson is about to start . . .

 

Annie was immediately on her feet, zipping her jacket, gathering up her flight accessories and following Isis from the room, with Kerry right behind her. The excitement that had hit her the second she’d gotten out of bed was now peaking, and with great effort she pushed it down, for the last thing she wanted was to find herself unable to free fly because she was unable to control her emotions—

They walked out of the hanger on to the edge of Selena’ Meadow. All three fliers finished dressing, snapping their helmets and goggles into place before slipping on their gloves. Isis turned to Kerry. “Saddle up, Starbuck.”

“Rodger.” Twenty seconds later he was on his broom hovering a meter off the ground, awaiting instructions.

Annie gave her gloves one final tug. “What’s your call sign, Isis?”

Isis broke into a wide grin. “Sekhmet.”

“I’d have thought you’d get tagged with Hathor.” Kerry set his goggles in place. “I mean, you’re named after the goddess of health and marriage, so it’s not a stretch.”

“That was actually my first call sign.” Isis rolled her arms to set her jacket upon her shoulders. “After The Scouring it was changed because of the part I played in helping remove the Deconstructors from the school.” She relaxed and took a couple of deep breaths of the cool air. “Hathor was known as the goddess who welcomed the dead into the next life, but Sekhmet was the one who sent them to her. The later name seemed more fitting.” She slipped her goggles down over her eyes. “You ready to roll, Athena?”

 

Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of just about all the bad shit you never wanted to encounter in your life, which is, in a way, what Isis is for the school, as we’ve already seen.  And since I’ve said on more than one occasion that Isis and Wednesday played a part in saving the school, I should maybe run that scene, just to show you what they did.  Maybe tomorrow.  But leave it to Kerry, Mr. Clueless Geek, to know about Sekhmet.  I wonder if he knows about how Ra really turned Hathor into Sekhmet, and had to get ‘Ol Sekky drunk on her ass in order to change her back.  Hum . . . probably not yet.

With all this said, Isis knows it’s time to get the party started–

 

“I’m ready, Sekhmet.” She twitched her right wrist twice to activate her Band, then brought up the HUD. It floated about a half meter in front of her eyes. “Everything’s working properly.”

“Just want I want to hear.” She looked around to see if there was anyone around: the field was clear. “Get your light bending in place and we’ll take off.” She tapped the side of her helmet as the kids began to vanish from sight. “Carrier, we’re ready to take off.”

Vicky’s voice came though clear. “Rodger, Sekhmet. I’ve got all three of you on active tracking.”

“Rodger.” She spoke softly over the comm, knowing Annie and Kerry, now invisible, would hear her. “Athena, Starbuck: lift off and go straight up to three hundred meters. As soon as we’re above the Flight School, rotate your spells so we can see each other, but we’re flying under UFP.”

Annie lifted her feet off the ground and felt herself hovering. “Rodger, Sekhmet.” She climbed straight up slowly, and as soon as she saw the edge of the the Flight School she flipped the spell so no one on the ground could see her. Now that everyone was flying using Unseen Flight Protocols, Isis and Kerry popped into view, rising into the sky with her.

She watched the altimeter on her HUD until she neared two hundred ninety meters; at that point she slowed her assent and stopped completely at three hundred. Annie’s heart was pounding as she looked around. She been this high before—and higher—on a broom, but right now there was nothing under her but air, trees, and ground. She took a deep breath before noticing Kerry sitting about three meters way, grinning and giving her a thumbs-up sign. She returned the smile and the gesture before spinning around and finding Isis. “I’m . . . here.”

Isis knew exactly what the girl was feeling, because she remembered the first time she’d climbed into the air with only her Gift and willpower to keep her in the sky. “You feel up to flying? You’re not dizzy or too giddy or any shit like that?”

Annie laughed. “I feel great.”

“Which is what I thought.” Isis pointed at both kids. “Annie, I want you three meters on my right; Kerry, I want you four meters behind Annie. I’m the flight pilot here, so follow my instructions and lead. Got it?” Both fliers acknowledged her command. “Okay, then: follow me.”

 

And gets them up in the air.

Annie be flyin'; haters be  . . . well, not knowing yet.

Annie be flyin’; haters be . . . well, not knowing yet.

She’s about as free as a girl can get.

I wonder if she knows Kerry looking at her butt the whole time?