Good morning, everyone, and Happy Cosmonauts Day! Yes, today’s the day that humans–particularly Yuri Gagarin–and space shuttle Columbia first went into space. But in a certain history that I’ve created, this is also the day–a chilly, wet day–in 2013 that Annie Kiralova took her final solo flight. And right about now she was waking up and getting ready to head down to the Flight School for breakfast of steak and eggs.
What a lucky girl.
Yesterday you may have noticed that I re-blog post. That post was to commemorate that two years earlier I had started Book Three of my series, B For Bewitching. Which means it seems like it was a good time to finish the current seen I’m excerpting now and move on to the next.
And right here it is.
It turned out to be almost five thousand words long, which makes it one of the longest scenes of written a bit. But that’s because there’s all sorts of stuff going on inside and that takes time to get out. And it also puts me five hundred words closer to the end of Part Three. Which is good because the next part of the novel gets really interesting…
So, we’ve seen some of the pretest shenanigans, but they’re done–so let’s move on to the next part: the rules. You know there have to be rules.
And there are:
(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017 by Cassidy Frazee)
Walking past the half-dozen cabinets at the far end of the Manor’s floor, Annie and Kerry made their way towards Ramona. Both were dressed in the loose top and pants worn by all students in the Self Defense classes, Annie’s hair was tied back in a pony tail, and as usual both were barefoot. The biggest difference in the outfits these two wore was the color: most of the time the uniforms were white, but Annie’s and Kerry’s were black. Helena was aware that Ramona only ordered this change if she was certain and upcoming test was going to get bloody.
Both students came to a halt facing Ramona and bowed. Ramona returned the bow, then turned and faced the rest of the students, addressing all in English. “If I may have your attention, please?” The talking subsided and vanished as every student did as instructed. “I thank you all for coming out to the Manor on this early Sunday morning. As such, I would like to remind you all that you are invited guest, and as such I expect you to show a modicum of decorum for the event we are about to witness.
“What will happen in the next few minutes is an officially sanction Foundation test. It has not been requested by the school, but rather by an outside agency associated with The Foundation—”
Helena instantly noticed the glances exchanged between a few of the students and took this to mean that the rumor she had heard through the last school year about Annie and Kerry being somehow affiliated with the Guardians was considered by some students to be a bit more than a rumor. Now was not the time to give the matter any concern, so she returned her attention to Ramona’s introduction—
“—and as such they have stipulated guidelines under which they wish this test conducted.” Ramona pointed to the six cabinets at the opposite end of the Manor’s large training area. “Each of those cabinets contains a homunculus. Annie and Kerry are required to combat six homunculi in each phase of the test.”
Helena shouldn’t seem that surprised that kids are passing knowing looks when they hear of a “Foundation outside agency”, because most of the kids have put two and two together and figured out that Annie and Kerry are likely doing some sneaking and peeking–and who the hell knows what else?–with Helena and her merry gang of Guardians. Maybe she isn’t surprised. Maybe she knows that these kids know more than they’re letting on, but she doesn’t care. As she’s said before, a bad ass rep is a good thing to have, and having a bunch of people come out to watch you kill fake zombies improves that rep even more.
Now for the actual rules:
She turned to her two students who were now eyeing her hard. “There are eighteen homunculi which you are required to defend against in three separate phases. In the first phase you may only take Mano Mano actions along with any spells you are capable of crafting. In the second phase—” She pointed to the small weapons racks against the walls on her left and right. “You are permitted to use these weapons along with the live hand and magic. In the third and last phase you maybe continue to use Mano Mano and magic, though the only weapons you may use are those which you craft out of mystical or dark energy.
“The first phase begins when the homunculi at the far end step across the white line.” She clapped her hands twice and the cabinets opened, revealing the homunculi inside. As everyone had seen before they shambled out slowly before stopping at the edge of the far white line. “As soon as they cross the line six more will appear and wait their turn to engage. Each phase will only begin when all of the homunculi of the prior phase have been dispatched.
“This is also a timed test. It will last for minutes, though the test itself should take up approximately three and a half minutes of that time. All three phases of the test must be completed before the music ends—”
For the first time since greeting their professor Kerry spoke. “Music? We’re getting music?”
Ramona nodded. “Yes. Our instructions were to play a particular song during the test that lasts just short of four minutes.” She gave him a stern look as a way of warning him not to speak out of turn again. “Do you require further elaboration?”
Kerry shook his head. “No, Professor.”
First off, some clarification. The term Mano Mano is an expression used in Kali that means “hand-to-hand”. And that is exactly what they do in the first phase: they fight only with their hands and with magic. The second expression, used in phase two, is “live hand”. This indicates that in some instances you have a weapon in one hand and your other hand is empty. It is the empty hand which is your live hand, and that means you can use that against her opponent along with your weapon. Kali was actually developed as a weapon-based martial arts and the hand movements used reflect the same movements used for weapons. This means it is heavily based upon muscle memory in terms of how one faces their opponent and disables them.
Now we see some additional shenanigans as well. Helena put in a cook order for twelve homunculi: instead, there are eighteen, which means Ramona received a different order when she sent off her acknowledgment to the Guardians. And while Annie and Kerry are out fighting, they get to listen to music! Some of you may remember that a few months back I said I was focusing on a scene where a particular song was played as the scene played out. Guess what? Here’s that scene.
And now for the last of the rules:
Ramona nodded once to show she understood, then continued. “As defined in the instructions, this is considered a ‘Do or Die’ test.” Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Helena’s head whip about at the mention of the test condition, but Ramona paid no attention. “A safety enchantment will go up at the red line, making it impossible to step out of the testing area as a way of ending the test.
“Therefore, the conditions for the completion of the test are simple. If one of both of you are subdued by the homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If you have not dispatched all homunculi before time has expired, you fail. If, however, you destroy all eighteen homunculi before time has expired, you pass. There are no other situations that will allow a pass.” Ramona scrutinized both her students. “You understand the conditions as explained?”
Annie responded with a curt nod. “Yes, Professor.”
Kerry looked down for a moment before meeting Ramona’s gaze. “Yes, Professor.”
“Excellent.” Ramona pointed to the rectangular outlines on the floor a few meters from where they stood. “Please take your positions.” She turned to face the now over fifty students who were waiting for the next few minutes unfold. “The test will begin momentarily.”
Do or Die. No, doesn’t sound a bit overly dramatic at all. Nor does it sound all that grave–
Yeah, who are we kidding? Someone in the Guardians decided they were going to make this test fairly difficult, and the only way my kids are going to beat this test is if they beat–or as Ramona says, destroy–their eighteen undead opponents. Yes, it sounds like the guardians are piling a ton of crap onto my kids, but believe me, there is a method to their madness.
And tomorrow you’re going to get see that madness played out. For tomorrow begins Phase One…