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.

Shoot Down the Firing Line

Right before midnight there was a hell of a storm here in The Burg, and one bit of lightning went off that must have been right above the apartment, because the flash and bang were almost simultaneous.  Great way to see the first half of the summer out, right?  Doesn’t make for good time trying to get to sleep, however.

So the last two days I’ve skirted with the thousand word limit.  The day before last I had nine hundred ninety-eight; last night it was nine hundred eighteen.  Close, but not quiet there.  However, those thousands add up after a while, and with three more scenes left in Chapter Nine, I have a good shot of ending Act One right at eighty thousand words, especially since I crossed seventy-five thousand, four hundred words last night.

This also means that, sticking with my two weeks per ten thousand schedule, I’ll finish Act One in the upcoming week–right before I have to leave The Burg and head back to Indiana for some personal business.  I could even start Act Two while on the road.

But what about the end of Act One?  Where is Kerry?

Ginger Hair Boy got snapped at by Chestnut Girl, and neither are pleased that it happened.  But that’s the breaks when you’re training hard, and all the training, and learning, are in your hands.  Best then to take a time out . . .

 

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

“Yeah, you did.” Kerry chuckled. “Because it’s true.” He reached across his body to pat her hand. “Can we take a break?”

She tugged on his arm. “Let’s go sit in the viewing gallery.”

There were a dozen chairs in the viewing gallery, each big enough for a single person. Kerry chose one against the wall opposite the entrance. He held tight to Annie’s hand. “Sit with me.”

She eyed Kerry, then the chair. “There isn’t enough room for us both.”

“Sure there is—” He sat and patted his thighs. “Join me.”

Annie held her hands tight against her belly. “You want me to sit on your lap?”

“Sure.” He glanced up through the top of his glasses. “It’s not like you weigh a lot.”

She slid into his lap, chuckling as she wrapped an arm around his neck. “This all right?”

“You’re fine.”

“As long as you’re comfortable, my love.” Annie rested against his shoulder. “What’s bothering you?”

“I don’t know.” He slowly slipped his arm around Annie and held her close. “I just don’t get why it’s so hard—I know I’m seeing it correctly in my head.” He sighed. “How did you figure out the right visualization for blood coming out of the body?”

“Well . . .” She leaned in close and whispered. “I have some experience with blood coming out of the body.” She kissed the side of his head. “Like now.”

Kerry’s eyes rolled up for a second before turning just enough to see Annie’s face. “Oh, yeah: I forgot.” He snuggled his head against hers. “I did check this morning, Sweetie—”

“I know you did; you always do.” A soft sigh slipped out from between pressed lips. “You always make me feel good.”

“Except I got you upset.” Kerry began to smile as he felt his frustration slowly drain away. “I didn’t want to do that; I don’t like doing that.”

 

Once upon a time Kerry mentioned to Nurse Coraline during “The Talk” that he was aware of Annie’s cycle–and isn’t it a good thing he didn’t mention that to his mother?  I’d also mentioned that, knowing Kerry, he probably went and set it up on a calendar somewhere, so he’d know when Annie Dim Red Tides were upon high.  But noticed:  he didn’t blame her snapping at him on that; he says he knows he made her upset, and he’s chilling on anything else.

But there’s something else afoot here . . .

 

Annie shifted her body so she didn’t cause Kerry too much discomfort. “You didn’t, love: not really. I was—” She set back several centimeter so she could better see his face. “It was as if I could feel your frustration. And as you grew more frustrated—”

“—It affected you.” He chuckled. “I could feel it coming off you.”

Annie didn’t want to discuss what she felt from Kerry, or what he felt from her: she wanted to discuss the reason why they were here, and what she thought might be the source of Kerry’s frustration. “May I make an observation?”

He chuckled. “You can make as many as you like.”

She sat up, no longer leaning against her soul mate. “Whenever you’ve had this—problem—in the past, it’s not because you don’t know how to craft the spell: it’s because you’re over-thinking the spell.”

Kerry pushed himself back deeper into the chair, his expression changing as he eyed Annie. “Like the first time you spoke with me in Spell Class a year ago.”

“Yes—” She nodded slowly. “Just like that time.”

“Yes.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling for several seconds as he remembered the time a couple of weeks after the start of Beginning Spells, when Annie took him aside and explained the difference between being a technical and a natural witch. How being a natural witch meant not seeing magic as a series of steps one needed to craft in order to perform a spell, but more of a feeling that magic should just happen a certain way . . .

Kerry slowly pressed the palm of his right hand into his forever. “Ohhhh . . .” He closed his eyes and exhaled. “I’ve been so stupid.”

 

You are stupid, Kerry–stuuuupiiiidddd!  Yep, with a little help he thinks he’s got it.  And what is “it”?  Pretty much what you think it is–

 

She slipped off his lap and stood. “Let us go then—” She helped Kerry to his feet. “My love.”

They reentered the test area and Kerry proceeded directly towards the table with the practice torsos. He examined the torso on the right as if he were looking for flaws and imperfections. “I think I got this.”

“Do you?” Annie stood slightly behind him and to his left. “Do you really believe you know this?”

He glanced over his shoulder. “Yes—” He turned and stared at the torso for about fifteen seconds before slowly drawing back his left arm, keeping his hand close to his side. He held it there for a few seconds, then pushed it forward, twisting his hand around palm-upward once his arm was fully extended.

The moment Kerry’s arm became fully extended, blood began running from the torso’s nose, then started to pour from its ears and eyes as the chest and arms turned red with blood oozing from the pores. The pulsing heart began slowing as the light grew lighter. Ten seconds after the Exsanguination spell hit the torso, the light faded away as the heart ceased beating.

He turned to Annie, a huge smile stretched from cheek-to-cheek. “I do.”

She returned his smile as she began bouncing on the balls of her feet. “What changed?”

“Over-thinking.” He turned back towards the torso. “Way too much.”

Annie stepped next to him and took his hand. “How so?”

“By doing what I did back at the start of spells class, Sweetie. Here I’ve been thinking about Exsanguination the same way oxygen moves from the cells through the walls and into the tissue . . . I was trying to work the spell the scientific way, and it was all wrong.” He gave her hand a squeeze before throwing his arm around Annie’s shoulders. “This time I just thought about blood pushing through everything and pouring out into and through the body—” He shot an excited glance Annie’s way. “You put enough blood into the body, and even if it doesn’t ooze out of every pore, it’s gonna come out somewhere eventually. Right?”

 

One might say there’s no science in magic, and for the most part they’re right.  And even as good as Kerry can be at times, he still slips back into old habits–which is what happened here.  He’s trying to come up with some strange ideas of how the blood permeates the arterial membranes, when what he needed to see is blood being drawn out of someone’s body.  He figured it out, and he wants to move on–

 

“Yes, it will.” Annie turned and gave him a hug. “I knew there was something like that holding you back.” She leaned back, her face beaming. “It’ll take about ten minutes for the torso to soak up the blood, so you can use the other one—”

He shook his head. “No.” He looked over Annie’s shouldn’t. “I want to try the homunculus.”

“You do?”

“Yes.”

Annie backed away slowly, her eyes fixed on Kerry while she teased him with her words. “You do the spell right one time—”

“And I know I can do it again.”

She straightened her back and shot a stern look his way. “Farm Boy, I had better see his homunculus dead.”

He did a quick half-bow. “As you wish.”

 

Sure thing, Princess Buttercup:  you get that blue cabinet open . . .

 

Annie skipped over and planted a quick kiss on his cheek before turning towards the cabinets. “Let me unlock the door—”

“Not the blue.” His eyes shifted to his right. “The red.”

A moment of uncertainty passed over Annie’s face. “You really want a Tracker?”

“Why not? It’ll give me an incentive to get the spell right.” He rolled his shoulders, getting loose. “I mean, the worse that can happen is it’ll touch me and the enchantment will knock me out, right?”

“Right as rain.” She unlocked two of the red cabinet doors and began walking back towards Kerry. “I’ll get hidden so it doesn’t track me, then open the door.” Annie glanced to her right and examined Kerry’s mood. He’s not the least bit nervous—just like when we were in Kansas City. “Are you ready?”

He sighed out his eagerness. “Yes.”

Annie vanished from sight; five seconds later one of the unlocked doors opened and the homunculus stepped out.

Kerry was well aware of how these things worked. An enchantment keep the homunculus from noticing anything until they were about two meters from their cabinet, at which point they locked onto anything breathing. They’d continue following people around until they were either put down, or they came into contact with a person—at which point an enchantment carried by the homunculus rendered them unconscious, often with a variety of special effects.

As had happened many times during A Level Self Defense class, the homunculus detected Kerry after taking a few stepped away from the cabinet. The teenage-sized humanoid, attired in a light-blue paper coverall, headed towards him in a slow walk. He wasn’t fooled by their slow, steady movement: thought he was only four meters away, if he didn’t move the homunculus would be upon him in about ten seconds.

Having a Tracker coming his way put him under pressure to act—and to make everything work right.

He took a single step backwards as he visualized the effect the spell would have. He drew on the dark energy needed to power the spell. His crafting nearly complete, all that remained was to exert his will upon his crafting, and . . .

Kerry kept his hand close to his side this time, pressing his palm in the direction of the homunculus. Blood began flowing from the ears and nose, but it didn’t gush as it had with the practice torso. Now three meters away, the homunculus staggered slightly, but the lose of blood was only enough to slow the creature in its forward advance.

He took another step backwards and quickly re-crafted. He wasn’t rattled: his mind was clear and worked through his VEW steps rapidly. He drew in a breath, held it as he prepared himself, and pointed at the homunculus as if he were ordering it to sit.

Blood squirted from the nose, ears, and eyes. Red spots began appearing across the coverall as blood flowed from the pores, and small streams of blood flowed down the legs and dripped over the ankles. The homunculus took three staggering steps and slipped to the right, crashing to the floor. It twitched twice then lay still, leaving Kerry to stand over the homunculus and stare down at it in much in the same way he’d once done to a student during A Level Sorcery class.

 

Standing over a student in Sorcery Class?  Maybe one who is writhing in pain on the floor?  Yeah, that’s the Dark Kerry we’ve seen before, and he’s finally back.  He’s not only got this, but he knows something else:

 

Annie appeared at his left, having dropped her light bending spell. She hooked her right arm around his left. “I would say that was a successful use of Exsanguination.”

Kerry humphed. “It wasn’t perfect.”

“No, it wasn’t. Took you about twenty, twenty-five seconds to drop the target.”

“Yeah.” As much as he wanted to celebrate his accomplishment, he knew what was necessary. “I want to do it again.”

“I thought you might.” She turned him until he was facing her, then kissed him on the lips. “You’re becoming like me.”

“I’ll never be as good as you.” He kissed her back. “But I do want to get it right; I don’t want a repeat of the Link Bridge.”

Annie nodded. “Neither do I.” She pulled him closer. “Like it or not you are like me.”

“And I know what you would do—”

“Do you?” She nodded and released his arm, then hung both arms around his shoulders. Where the other kisses were quick and playful, this time she kissed him slowly and with enormous passion. My dark witch has learned his lesson

She broke the kiss but kept her eyes close as she breathed in his exhilaration. “Were you thinking of something like that?”

Kerry kissed her on the nose before glancing towards the red cabinet. “That was great, but . . . you need to set up another Tracker for me.”

Annie lightly pushed away from Kerry and performed her own little bow. “As you wish.”

 

Nothing like using a metaphor for “I love you” while learning spells designed to kill people, right?  One could say they are entirely too happy about this success, and a few people would be right:  they are happy.  There could be a myriad of reasons why, but sealing off the Firing Line for these two to wreck havoc was probably done not so much to keep them from being distracted, but to keep other students from seeing that they might just be having a little too much fun.  There’s also the kissing parts, too–at least this time they’re not covered in blood.  (I would still love for someone to draw that picture of them embracing after the zombie fight.)

So here we are:

Closer to the end, for sure.

Closer to the end, for sure.

And I’m really shooting for finishing this act up next week.

But first:  minion duty.  Maybe.

Regretting the Firing Line

It wasn’t all the busy yesterday, and I was in one of those afternoon funks where I didn’t feel like doing a lot.  It does seem like afternoons are not good for me; most of my writing is done in the morning and evening these days, and the rest of the day is spent for running around and relaxing–or taking deep naps, if you want to look at it that way.

Though, once more, between what I wrote in the morning an what I wrote in the evening, I still managed to add about a thousand and fifty words to the story.  If you consider that I also managed close to a thousand words on my first review–yeah, I know:  shut up.  Just shuttity up, up, up.

Go about your jobs, Cassie.

Back to the Firing Line, where things are not going well . . .

 

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

There were times early on during his A Levels when Kerry felt worried that he wasn’t getting spells right, or fearful that he was going to screw up something and had a spell go sideways on him. There were even times he considered the possibility that he simply wouldn’t get the spell, and never figure it out.

Today, just over a year after he began understanding how to craft spells, and do magic, he encountered an emotion that he’d yet to experience:

Frustration.

 

We saw Kerry, early on in the last book, get frustrated with magic–not a lot of times, but it was there.  We saw Annie get flustered once when she couldn’t get a spell.  Both times the other was there to help out, and they got through their moments.

When you’ve been around someone long enough, however, sometimes you forget they have those moments.  Kerry is sort of like, “I don’t remember the last time this happened to me.”  Unfortunately, Annie’s feeling the same way, and she’s also getting a bit flustered by his inability to bleed out his practice torso.  Maybe Annie should try another approach:  “My love, why don’t you just bleed that torso out.  Do it for me?”

But that’s not what happens:

 

His last attempt produced the same results, causing him to flip his hands into the air. “Ah, screw this.”

Annie wasn’t about to accept his comment as the last word. “It’s all right. Let’s try again—”

He shook his head. “I’ll get the same result.”

“You will if you think that way.” She crossed her arms as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Please, try again.”

He stared blankly at the torso. “I’m just gonna do the same thing—”

“I know you know you can do this.”

He half turned and scowled. “I’ve been trying—”

You aren’t trying hard enough.”

Kerry almost recoiled as Annie snapped. She didn’t shout or yell: she didn’t even raise her voice. But her tone let him know that she wasn’t pleased, and that he needed to work harder. Instead he lowered his head and stared at the floor, wondering what he was doing wrong, why he couldn’t get the spell to bend to his will—

Annie was there, along side, with a light touch on his arm and a soft and comforting look upon her face. “I’m sorry, my darling. I shouldn’t have spoke that way.”

He leaned his head towards her and shrugged. “It’s okay, Sweetie.”

“It’s not. I didn’t mean that.”

“Yeah, you did.” Kerry chuckled. “Because it’s true.” He reached across his body to pat her hand. “Can we take a break?”

She tugged on his arm. “Let’s go sit in the viewing gallery.”

 

You’re always hardest on the one you love, right?  We’ve not seen that with these two, but of the two it seemed likely that Annie might be the one to get a little . . . stern with Kerry.

Perhaps they can talk about it when they walk back to the Pentagram for dinner . . .

"It's okay.  You were right:  I should have been able to bleed out that dummy and kill it--"

“It’s okay. You were right: I should have been able to bleed out that dummy and kill it–“

Ah, young love:  doing spells and killing homunculus together.

It doesn’t get any better.

Enter the Firing Line

This has been a crazy week, and yesterday was probably as cray-cray as any day I’ve seen–but I mean that in the best of ways.  It started out with a crying jag at seven-thirty, and ended with a swollen face that needed considerable icing–

I believe, "Stingin' like a mofo" is the technical term for how I felt.

I believe, “Stingin’ like a mofo” is the technical term for how I felt at the time.

But I got my brows shaped as well, and because of holidays and travel in the upcoming weeks, I don’t go back for more electrolysis until near the end of July, so I can give my face a rest from the last nine session of having a small probe pushed into your face followed by having a hair pulled out–something I actually watched for about three minutes last night.

On the way to and from my session I thought about the scene I’m working on now.  It goes to a place that was only mentioned in passing in the first book, but now we’re finally getting a look at the Firing Line.

Right there in the upper left-hand corner.  There's no reason why it's placed away from everything else--why do you ask?

Right there in the upper left-hand corner. There’s no reason why it’s placed away from everything else–why do you ask?

As mentioned in the scene Annie and Kerry where their to show Wednesday they could toss fireballs with the best of the D & D wizards, and if you don’t think a majority of students didn’t feel a bit of a chill watching those two light up those Beltane bonfires, you’re not thinking this out.  Mom and Dad Malibey should watch those personal questions in the future . . .

It plays out in the scene that Annie has requested Kerry’s presence here on a Thursday afternoon, which, you’ll eventually discover, is free time for them.  If you have free time, might as well fill it up, right?

 

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

The interior was as sparse and unadorned as the exterior. The entryway was a large viewing gallery situated behind physical glass enhanced with enchantments. Beyond that was nothing but open space sixty-five meters long and sixteen wide, insulated against every destructive magic known. They passed through the viewing gallery and headed into the main structure. They weren’t alone: Professor Chai was there standing next to the covered work table and two large, color coded cabinets. Annie wasn’t surprised: she expected to find the self defense and weapons instructor waiting for them. “Hello, Professor.”

“Hello, Annie.” Professor Chai tilted her head slightly to the right. “Hello, Kerry.”

“Hello, Professor.” His attention shifted to the cabinets next to the small instructor. “What are those for?”

 

Glad you asked, Kerry–

 

“Training.” She looked at Annie as she spoke. “Here you go, just as Helena requested: training torsos and homunculi.”

Annie gave the professor a quick nod. “May I see the torsos?”

“Certainly.” Professor Chai pulled back the covers revealing the two training torsos, which weren’t actual torsos as they were human-looking bodies minus limbs. They looked a great deal like the one she’s practiced on at home—though that one never had the slight discoloration in the center of the chest see saw now. “Beating Heart option?”

“Yes, just like on some of the homunculi you practiced on last year.” The Beating Heart option allowed students to see how close they were to “killing” their homunculus: a strong pulsing red meant they were in full health, but as their health deteriorated the pulse would grow weaker. “These, like the ones in the cabinets, are modified so the color becomes lighter as they lose blood. That will give you an idea of how well you’re doing with your spells.”

“Good.” Annie moved towards the nearest cabinet, which was dark blue. “Why the different colors?”

“Different homunculi. The ones in the blue cabinet are Roamers; they’ll wander about aimlessly and won’t take action against you. The ones in the red are Trackers, and you know all about those—”

Kerry moved closer to the red cabinets. “These are the Walkers, aren’t they?”

“Yes: the zombies Annie and you dispatched so readily last year.”

 

Boy, do Annie and Kerry remember those zombies:  the test that set them apart from the rest of their levelmates, put them on a different path than everyone else, and left more than a few students retching in the aftermath of the bloody mess they left behind.

But what’s happening here?

You’ll have to wait and see what else I have to say . . .

Light As a Feather, Changed and Now Bored

It’s almost forty-two thousand words into my new novel, and still not one day of class.  So much set up, so much to do even though I feel like I’ve done it already.  It’s one of those things playing at my mind, that I want to get into this story . . . and then I realize, I am in the story.  This is needed.  And I’m writing it, slowly but surely.

So let’s get going.  In the story is 1 September, and a year before Annie and Kerry were walking into this joint.  Today . . . they’re doing something different:

 

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

After the jaunt Annie slowly stumbled in through the south entrance of the Sloan Powers Center, escorted by one of the students who studied there. One of the girls who helped Vicky during Annie’s testing walked alongside: she wasn’t actively helping, but was rather there in case Annie needed any assistance.

Annie wasn’t completely worn out, but she felt the strain of the last two hours.

Doing magic required expending personal energy to extract magical energy: it was the trade-off that witches incurred in order to craft their art. Usually the person energy expended wasn’t close to the energy retrieved, but as with any physical activity, after a while the witch in question will grow tired—even more so if there is continual crafting.

None of the crafting she’d done over the last year required using a lot of physical effort; her most strenuous class from her A Level was Advanced Spells, and two hours of crafting there ended up being no more difficult than taking a long walk from The Pentagram to the Observatory. This time, however, she’d found herself crafting almost non-stop for two hours, and while she wasn’t exhausted, the experience had certainly tired her. Instead of the experienced feeling like a walk to the Observatory, Annie felt more as if she’d jogged there.

And she knew if she felt tired . . .

 

I’ve not talked much about the thing in the south part of the school, and for good reason:  there isn’t much there.  See below:

The Pentagram and all points south.

The Pentagram and all points south.

You can see The Pentagram and Great Hall, the Spell Center on the left, and the Transformation Hall, the Chemistry Building, and the Instructor’s Residence on the right.  In this image “above” those are the Tesla Science Center and the Sloan Powers Center, and slightly above them in a short, long building known as the Hanger.  Above the Hanger is the Aerodrome, and almost due left of that is the Flight School, sitting on the edge of the light green area that is Selena’s Meadow.

In the upper left we have The Diamond, the racing stadium that can also be used for training.  All the way at top center is the South Wall and Gloucester Bend of the Green Line, and beyond that the town of Gloucester.  Beyond that is a lot of forest, and the remains of what was once known as Dogtown.  Over in the lower right, where that portion of wall and a tower sit, is the area where Emma and Kerry crashed down during the Day of the Dead attack.

I should point out that the Hanger is on its third incarnation.  The first one was built in the 1930s; that was later taken down in 1971 and replaced with a structure that looks quite like the one standing today.  The second incarnation was blown up by Maddie’s husband in 2000, during the Scouring.

It’s in the Hanger that Annie was doing her Gifts testing–which is what is happening in this scene–and Kerry is doing his in the Sloan Center.  The Tesla building looks like a T, and the Sloan Center is to the right, shaped like a U.  That’s where the action is taking place, and this is a part of the school–a small part–that has not been seen yet, because this area is for the Gifted and the Mad Scientists who are also witches, but are more technowitches and “mutants” than anything else.  They need the love, too.

Speaking of love . . .

 

The girl stopped next to a door and opened it about half-way. “You can wait in here. The professors will be with you as soon as they’ve finished examining your results.”

“Thank you.” Annie nodded at the girl as she pushed the door open the rest of the way and walked into the room beyond. Its wasn’t large: there was a table and a few chairs to her right, and a few large chairs—much like the ones in their Pilot’s Briefing Room in the Flight School—only these reclined.

One close to the table was fully reclined: the person in the chair, who wore loose light blue lounging pants and a gray tee shirt just like hers, looked up and slowly waved. “Hey—” Kerry pointed to the chair to his left. “Come sit.”

“I will.” She sat in the chair and marveled at its comfort, recognizing it was likely enchanted to feel this way. She reclined so she could seen Kerry without having to twist around. “This is nice.”

“It is.” He slid his hand behind his head. “Where did they take you?”

“Over to the Hanger.” The Hanger was one of three structures on school grounds where air craft could be stored and tested, though its main purpose was so students from the Tesla Science Center had a place to work on their projects. “Vicky and three students did the testing.”

“What did they have you doing?” Kerry stretched as he tried to stifle a yawn.

“A lot of levitating.” Annie stared at the ceiling as she recounted her experience. “I’d levitate something, then I’d levitate myself; then a few other things, then myself; then more things, on and on.” She rolled over so she was facing Kerry. “Then they had me stay in the air for about an hour while I levitated dozens of objects.” Annie stretched her right arm out towards the top of the chair and lay her head down. “What did you do?”

“Minor transformations—” Kerry rolled towards Annie. “Trying to change things like hair, eyes, lips, complexion, then trying to copy the same things from two other students.” He rolled his eyes upwards. “One of them was a girl, and Jessica had me trying to mimic her hands and feet.”

Annie perked up. “Did you?”

“Twice.” Kerry shrugged. “Though I did her fingers first . . .” He flexed his right hand. “It sort of hurt ‘cause her hands were smaller.”

Annie held her left hand towards Kerry. “That tends to happen.”

He reached out with his right and touched her extended fingers. “I’ve noticed.”

 

Poor babies hanging out in nice easy chairs while wearing yoga gear.  It’s hard out there for a witch, I tell ya.  But I’ll get into the writing tonight, perhaps finish this scene and move to the next.

I really want to get into the classes.  I think.

Walking Through the Long Stay

Yesterday was one of those good and not so good days.  It was good because I went to a makeup party and hung out with some great women and had a lot of fun.  It was not so good ’cause I had to drive to Silver Springs, MD, which is just north of DC, which meant I needed to drive I-83 to 695 to 95 to 495, which can otherwise be known as Vehicular Hell.  The traffic is always moving, but it’s heavy all the way through Baltimore and Washington, and you can’t let up concentration for most of the route.  I was fine going in, but by the time I made the trek home I was already tired, and keeping my mind on the road proved to be a lot of work, so by the time I stumbled back into The Burg I was fairly exhausted.

Also, the moment I turned on the main light in my apartment–which is like my only light in my apartment–the bulb blew and I had nary a spare, so I had to run out and pick up a new one.  That meant it was at least another half hour before I could relax and watch the last episode of Mad Men, where it appears Don Draper’a navel gazing may have led to the creation of the most memorable TV ad that didn’t involve Barry Manilow.

Still, I had a great time and got to wear my orange skirt for the first time:

As one can see, I don't take great pictures in my apartment.

As one can see, I don’t take great pictures in my apartment.

I was at least comfortable as I drove.  As well as cool and comfortable.

Needless to say, I didn’t write a word yesterday.  I couldn’t even give much thought to scenes because the mind was on the road, and when it wasn’t it’d turned to stone.  I usually pride myself in being able to through some story ideas together, or even work out dialog and scenes, while I’m out on the road, but not yesterday.  Nope, a whole lot of nope.

It’s not that it’s needed.  I have a great idea of where this novel is going, and I know what needs to be said.  The next scene is gift testing . . .

Happens right here, in the building on the left.  we haven't been down here much.

Happens right here, in the building on the left. we haven’t been down here much.

And I’ll recount a little about what the kids went through for that.  It’s not much of a relaxing “Before school starts” weekend, but that’s how things go down.  As the scene that comes after this next will explain, Annie and Kerry are starting to realize that their B Levels are probably going to be a bit ass busting, between the advanced classes, getting called up for minion duty, and whatever else might come their way.  Oh, and that vision will get a little bit of discussion:  after all, why wouldn’t it?

Ah, my kids are growing up so quickly.  Which may not be a good thing.

Back to writing tonight.  Because I can only be so lazy for so long.

Invisible Moments

The long weekend is winding down, and today I’ll have several things ongoing before packing up and returning to The Burg tomorrow.  It’s the penultimate day of NaNoWriMo, and there are either a lot of people doing a happy dance for making their fifty thousand, or a whole bunch of folks are thinking about hurtling their laptops against the nearest wall.

"No, it's all your fault I couldn't finish this crap!

“No, it’s your fault I couldn’t finish this crap on time!  Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”

Either way, you have to give people credit for doing NaNo, because it isn’t easy.  But the really hard part comes after, once you’ve finished the work and it’s time to edit and publish said piece.  There’s where the real work comes in.

But enough of that–what about last night’s writing.  Well, I didn’t hit my NaNo goal, but then I don’t have to.  And I managed just over a thousand words last night as well as getting in just a little over seven hundred this morning.  I finished the scene–it’s like the last, just short of fifteen hundred words–and shows Annie and Kerry working out the new equipment they’re going to use, albeit under controlled conditions . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry hovered one hundred fifty meters above the Tesla Science Hall trying to get a lock on their target. He’d been given the information from the ground: C Level girl, dark hair, slightly tan complexion, wearing a bright orange pullover, jeans, and a long, open sweater. And silver bangles on each wrist. He was trying to get the tablet to key in on the bangles, as they would be easy to identify—

The tablet’s enchantment picked up quantities of silver, and Kerry zoomed in of the person wearing the jewelry. He pulled out the display to form a hologram of the girl’s head and rotated it to get a good view of the face so her could run her against the school data base. He thought off a message to the person on the other end as soon as he got a hit. She’s Kamala Juraspurna, from the Blodeuwedd Coven. I’m surprised she’s heading to the science center.

Send me the downlink, my love. Annie’s reply came back so clear Kerry would have bet she was sitting next to him. I’ll check her schedule. He did just that and a few seconds later Annie had the answer. She has classes in the hall, but not until after lunch.

Think she’s meeting someone? He was about to lose the person as they entered the building and let Annie know.

I’ll find out. There was a subtle mental chuckle. Let me go inside and find out; I shouldn’t be there long.

I’ll be here. Kerry sat back on the saddle and enjoyed the view of The Pentagram. Not like I’m going anywhere else.

 

So they’re watching people in the school–but why all the italic speechifying?  Well, there’s a reason for that–

 

Once down in the lower level office Erywin began going over things they’d work with while out in the field. First were tablets that carried major enchantments that would allow them to scan people much like the equipment in the hospital, which then could use a special holographic display to look at parts of them you couldn’t see. They could also tie into the local computer systems where one was “observing” and gather additional information on a subject—though the only reason they were now accessing the Salem servers was due to a link supplied by Isis, who as Chief of Security for the school was aware the training was ongoing. They also had a limited ability to see through walls, but most importantly, it could scan for auras and determine if a person was Normal or Aware.

There were also the enchanted phones. They could mask your aura so you looked Normal, or even hide it if you bent light around you, which was something Helena and Erywin were testing on them now. The most important part of the enchantment was the ability to speak to the other person using just your thoughts: you could send off your messages and receive them back the same way. Annie and he had to work on that, because when they first started trying that out they were picking up every thought the other had, and there was a moment or two when they were both blushing over things they heard. After about twenty minutes they were able to use them without embarrassment.

 

Enchanted tablets and phones–why didn’t Harry Potter have this stuff?  Maybe an enchanted sniper rifle would have put an end to Voldie’s shit real fast, you know?  Remember, this was one of the reasons The Foundation wanted to get their hands on that magic stuff, so they could do things like this with technology–just like what they’ve done with Kerry’s broom.

What I remember what to know is, what were Annie and Kerry thinking that made them each blush?  Those kids . . .

But they’re using their magic, too, in particular one spell they’ve both mastered . . .

 

Two meters off the ground Kerry angled in towards the grove and concentrated on pushing the light bending field around him forward and to the sides. They’d discovered months ago that two or more people who were invisible through light bending could merge their fields and see each other. There was a risk extending the field because someone could walk through it and see the person inside, but here in this grove they’d be alone, and they would only keep their fields extended long enough for Annie to climb aboard his broom.

A couple of seconds after entering the grove Kerry found Annie standing to the side of one of the trees. Like him, she was wearing a heavy sweater and jeans, though her jeans tucked inside her boots while Kerry wore warm socks and tennis shoes. She adjusted her messenger bag as she positioned herself on the saddle behind Kerry then wrapped her arms around his waist. Let’s fly, darling.

You got it, Sweetie. Helena had told them to restrict themselves to thought speech while out, so they’d get used to working with the devices before heading out into public. Kerry lifted straight up into the air, carefully picking his way through the space between the trees. You find her?

Yes. She was meeting someone—a boy.

Oh?

I did a quick scan on him from outside the room. He’s in our coven, a D Level. She rested her head against Kerry’s shoulders. I love flying like this with you.

Kerry laughed. Is that part of the report, or just an errant thought?

Annie chuckled. I am allowed a non-operational thought now and then. She looked over his shoulder. To the Witch House?

Of course. He turned to the northeast and slowly gained altitude. Gotta see if Helena and Erywin think we did okay, and find out what they want next.

 

The scary thing here is that now Annie and Kerry are good enough that they can stay hidden from others pretty well–it’s a given that Annie was in one of the school buildings and no one noticed her–so now they can sort of go wherever they like and unless you know what to look for, no one will see them.  I’m sure, however, that Isis has a number of things up her technowitch sleeve that might keep them from wandering into the Headmistress’ office and listening in on her private conversations–you know she has, because invisibility here is a thing, and Annie got busted trying to slip into the hospital with the same trick.

I wonder what sort of stuff Annie’s been showing Kerry on the sly though?  Time will tell.