Gather the Fliers: There is Only the Flight

Though I said  I’d get in some writing yesterday it didn’t happen.  I was far too busy before leaving for D.C. and I didn’t return home until 1 AM.  The only good thing is that I did not encounter a lot of traffic coming home, which is a first as I-495 to I-95 to I-695 is  usually a madhouse even late a night.  Instead, once I was off the Capital Beltway the trip home was pretty nice and I could drive long distances on cruse control without having to change lanes because drivers were unsure if they should go slow or fast.

So I’m out for coffee this morning and I’m down one cup and ready for my hot cocoa.  I’m also ready for this afternoon’s protest march–

All pinned up and ready to go.

All pinned up and set to go.

Today is also Big Excerpt Day, where I finish off the scene I’ve been in for a few days.  As I am now only 6,100 words ahead of you I need to get some writing in today least you overtake me this week.  But since it would be ridiculous to split up the rest of the scene, it’s all coming at you so we can move on to the next.

And  this is gonna be fun because it’s All Vicky, All the Time…

 

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

 

“Good morning, pilots.” Vicky Solomon stepped out of her office and walked slowly toward the middle front of the Ready Room. Like the students she was dressed in her flight gear, though given her years writing a broom her jacket, pants, and boots all possessed a well-worn appearance. “Look at you, all so ready and eager to start the year. Is everyone here?” She waited a beat and received no responses. “Okay, then. I guess that means I’m going.

“Just so we get it in the record books this is Advanced Flight Two. Everyone who is in last year’s class is here this year—although it would appear we have one or two people who are still changing.” As if on cue the door to the girl’s locker room opened and two students came hurrying out. “This is the last year we will have flight instruction. After this class the next time any of us will meet will be in Introduction to Jaunting, which you will all take in your E Levels. But that’s two years from now: today, we deal with what’s going to happen in the level to come.

Vicky stepped behind the podium. “The main emphasis of this class is to teach you more about maintenance of the PAVs, and not just your Class 1, but also the Class 2 and 3. We are also going to learn about long-distance flying and navigating, as well as some of The Foundation’s guidelines and rules concerning flying in the Normal world. This will come in handy for you in the future, as I’m certain some of you will want to begin taking the knowledge you’ve developed in these classes and use it to begin going out and enjoying the recreational benefits of being able to fly long distances without spending any money.” This last remark brought out laughter from several flight teams.

She gripped the sides of the podium as she leaned slightly forward. “But there’s one thing that’s going to happen in this class that will overshadow everything else and you know what it is without me even having to mention. The most important goal you have this year is to prepare yourself for the Polar Express. You’re going to spend at least two days and two nights in the Canadian wilderness in the second weekend in January, and it will not be a picnic.

 

Now we  know when kids start learning to jaunt:  during their E Levels.  Of course some students don’t wait that long because they are Pushy McPushface when it comes to learning new stuff, and Annie has already stated she intends to start on jaunting soon, no matter what.  Which means it won’t be long before Kerry starts learning to jaunt.  It’s gonna be interesting to see who learns it the fastest.

But Vicky hits on the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind:  the Polar Express.  It’s been spoken of through the last two novels and we’ve seen Penny and Alex head off into The Great White North to partake in the event.  Though we’re about to discover it’s more than a normal event…

 

“Everyone approaches the Polar Express the same way. When they first hear about it they think it’s going to be fun, just them and their wingmate spending a couple of days doing winter flying and camping. How hard can it be? Well, you got a little taste of how hard it could be in Advanced Flight One, when we went out on overnight flights and you had set up tents in winter conditions at night and then spend the next day flying a thousand kilometers with minimal navigation equipment. Some of you bitched; some of you didn’t do so well. And at least one team came damn close to not even making this class because of their performance on the overnight flights.” Vicky stared off slightly to her left so she wouldn’t have to see the glares Franky and Jiro were sending her way.

“This year the minimal navigation equipment will be slowly rescinded. You’re going to do one overnight flight in November with maps stored on tablets and accessed via a holographic interface, but your HUD compass will still work. There will be another overnight flight December using tablet maps and hand-held compasses because that is the gear you’re going to use on the Polar Express. In the weekend before the Polar Express the teams will be sent out on individual overnight excursions—call it a test run. You’ll be jaunted down somewhere within a thousand kilometers of the school and you’ll have to set up camp, prepare for and sleep through the night, then break camp, load up the sleeping bags and tents, and find your way home with the same navigational equipment are going to be using the following weekend.

“The test run will be your make or break: if you can’t complete it successfully, if you get lost and have to use your panic button—which each of you will have when you go out on both the test flight and the Polar Express—to get home, you will not be jaunting off into wintertime Canada the following weekend.” Vicky’s eyes swept around the room. “This last item is nonnegotiable: if you can’t make it back to the school on your own during the test flight, there’s no point in shipping you off to the middle of nowhere hoping you’ll make it back then. In all the time I’ve been at Salem I’ve never seen anyone go out to retrieve a body, nor have I had to do it myself. I’m not about to set a precedent this year.”

Vicky stepped out from behind the podium and slowly made her way around the room.  “Besides having just a map and compass and visual flight rules by which to navigate, you won’t know from where you’re starting, you will have limited supplies, and all of your brooms will be throttled so that they have a top speed of two hundred and fifty kilometers an hour. That way I can pretty much be sure you’ll spend at least two days flying home and you won’t be giving yourself a case of severe frostbite and hypothermia by trying to set speed records getting back to Salem.

“One of the unpleasant things you’re going to have to learn is how to hunt small game in the wild.” As she expected, this statement brought out a few grumbles. “You all know the deal here: the Polar Express is first and foremost a survival test and you will not have enough supplies to last you two days in the Canadian wild. You will need to supplement those supplies with food found in the wild.”

 

And by “food found in the wild” we don’t mean nuts and berries, ’cause there’s no way in hell that shit is growing on the frozen tundra.  It means a snow fox or bunny is gonna have to give up their life in order for our intrepid fliers to not get that hunger going in their bellies.  Either that or the teams will need to get home before they run out of food.  Or ration their shit.  Either works.

But really: who doesn't want to get their Hanna on?

But really: who doesn’t want to get their Hanna on?

No matter how great the flight has sounded in the past, there doesn’t appear to be anything “cool” about the Polar Express except for the weather.  It sounds like a stone bitch and the test leading up to the actual event don’t seem like a cakewalk, either.  And if you wash out on the “test” flight, no Polar Express for you, kids!  This is also the first time they’ve heard about their brooms being throttled back so someone figures out they can make it home in three hours if they just fly five hundred kilometers an hour the whole way.  Sure, they’ll have frostbite and likely be deep into Stage 2 hypothermia with their sights set on Stage 3, at which point they fall unconscious, slide off their brooms, and die.

That is something Vicky doesn’t want…

 

Vicky held up her her hands to hold back the now increased grumbling. “You knew this when you entered this class, so end this bullshit now. Either you accept the terms of the test—and this is a test upon which your proficiencies will be marked should you decide to go—or you can just say right now, or at any time within forty-eight hours before departure, that you’re not up to the trip. That way you don’t put yourself and me through a lot of unwanted torture.”

The room went quiet as Vicky stood in the middle and looked around. After a few moments of silence she did something that no one expected: she laughed. “Man, you guys should see your faces. Most of are sitting there looking confused as hell, but you have absolutely no idea what it is him talking about.” She walked back toward the front of the room and stepped behind the podium. “And the truth is, you don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ve heard the stories, but you don’t know.

“That’s all going to end starting with the next class. This class—” Vicky raised her right hand and shook it back and forth. “Eh, today were going to have a little bit of fun. You may as well get some in today, cause I think you’re gonna find from here on out, the fun is probably going to be limited—and it’s going to be spaced out…”

 

Now you know:  Emma and Kerry are out “having fun”.  You can imagine they’re not off at another person’s house playing GTA on an xBox, but probably flying in a big-ass hurry to some location many hundreds of kilometers away.  Because that’s how this class roles:  getting the kids out off the school grounds is great fun and also gives them an opportunity to see parts of New England they didn’t know existed.

But while The Ginger Hair Boy is off on his broom, the Chestnut Girl has some fun of her own coming  up…

A Certain Day in May: The Moment of Giving

Kerry’s Birthday Adventure is nearly over, and that’s because I managed my way through another night of nearly eight hundred word writing to bring this second scene to an end.  I didn’t think that was going to happen, but it did.

I even have proof, which is all that matters.

I even have proof, which is all that matters.

 

Now, there isn’t much to say at this point about the writing:  it was just writing, you know?  You wanna know the payoff, which is something I’ve promised for a while.  Well, here it comes, just like the blog title says.

 

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

 

They entered Salem Green, one of the numerous walkways found around downtown Salem, and they quickly found themselves in a small lot behind the restaurant where they would dine this evening. The moment she was certain they were alone Annie pulled Kerry to a stop before drawing him off to the side next to some trees. After a short kiss she reached inside her purse and pulled out a small, gift wrapped box. “Happy birthday, my love.”

“I wondered when you were going to spring this on me.” After removing his backpack and setting it down he turned the box over slowly in his hands. “Quite a difference from last year.”

“Yes, but just as important.” Annie leaned against Kerry resting her chin on the hand she’s clamped over his left shoulder. “Last year when I gave you the Espinoza, it was to allow you to become a better flier and, in time, an excellent racer. I wanted you to feel the sky and become comfortable being there. This, however—” She nodded towards the box. “It’s going to help you next year.”

“Really? Well—” He began to carefully unwrap the package. “Let’s see then.” In about thirty seconds he had the paper off and handed it to Annie to fold and place in his backpack. The uncovered box was slightly smaller than his mobile and completely unadorned. Upon sliding off the top he discovered a small silver clam shell case inside. He popped it open—

Inside was a compass.

Kerry lifted the small device from the case, snapped the case closed, and began examining his present closely. The compass itself sat at one end of a Plexiglas baseplate that curved around half the ring dial, and extended a few centimeters to where he noticed the rulers, an orienting arrow, and a small magnifying lens. He moved it about, watching the arrow slowly align on magnetic north no matter which way he turned.

“I’ve spoken with Penny and Alex about what they did on The Polar Express.” Annie moved around so she was facing Kerry. “I know how you navigate: maps and a compass and visual flight rules, nothing more. And as the navigator of your team you need know that the course you’re setting is correct.” She nodded towards his hands. “I was told by Alex that’s one of the best you can get: it’s what she used during their flight. It will adjust for magnetic variances, it glows in the dark so you can navigate at night, and best of all, that one is global: you can use it in both the northern and southern hemispheres.” She chuckled. “I don’t know if we’ll ever need that function, but I figured it was good to have because you never know where we might travel.”

 

I’m certain there are a few people reading this going, “Are you kidding?  That’s Kerry’s present?”  No, really:  that’s what she bought him.  I’ll even show it too you, because I do know what it looks like.

The gift that any witch with a couple of million Euros in a trust fund can afford.

The gift that any witch with a couple of million Euros in a trust fund can afford.

While that is the current 2016 version, the 2013 version is nearly identical–I know, I’ve looked.  But there’s a little more that goes with this gift . . .

 

“That’s really nice.” He was rather impressed with his new toy, and he not only flashed upon an image of him using it to plot a course on a map, but he also considered the notion that one day in the future he may be somewhere in the southern hemisphere using this navigation aid. “Thank you.” He pulled Annie close and kissed her with great tenderness. “This is a beautiful present, Darling.  I’m going to start working with this over the summer.”

“I as much figured.” She tapped the hand that held the case. “There’s more.”

He pushed away slightly in surprise. “There is?”

“Yes.” Annie chuckled slightly upon the utterance of his question. “Open the case and look inside the lid.”

Kerry did as instructed and saw what he missed when he opened the case the first time: the inscription inside the lid—

 

Tova shte vi otvede obratno kŭm men. Lyubovta, Annie.

 

He read it three times, hoping his nascent Bulgarian would be sufficient, but the only words he recognized were the last two. “I know the last part says ‘Love, Annie’, but I don’t recognize the rest.”

She moved next to her soul mate and pointed at the inscription. “It says, ‘This will bring you back to me’.” Annie turned and kissed Kerry with as much tenderness as he’d done with her moments before. “And it will. No matter where you are, when you want to reach me, you will.”

Kerry closed his eyes and heard her words in his mind once more, then a second and third time. Only then did he slowly open his eyes, though he couldn’t see for they were filled with tears. “Oh, Darling—”

Annie touched his cheek. “What is it, my love?”

“The gift.” He sniffed back the tears. “It’s just a compass, but the feeling you placed within—” He hugged the love of his life tightly. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

She placed his face between her hands and, while gazing into his eyes, spoke to him in tones of hushed reverence. “You were born.”

 

I ran that last line of the except–“You were born”–over and over for the last week, and most of the time when I played out the last part of this scene I’d begin crying.  It’s touching because Kerry understands what Annie’s saying to him with such a simply gift:  no matter where you are, you’ll always find your way to me.  And since the inscription’s in Bulgarian, no one else–save someone who speaks Bulgarian–will know what Annie had inscribed.

It’s for them and them alone.

Now, something I want to touch upon, so bear with me . . .

The idea of a compass really came to me about a year and a half ago, though I have to admit I didn’t start doing my research on this until about a week back.  It seems like a cheap-ass gift–what did Annie spend?  About €50?  Yeah, about that.  Considerably less than what she spent on Kerry’s broom.

I’ve said several times in the past that they give gifts based upon feeling, not cost.  The most Kerry’s spent on Annie so far was a few hundred Pounds on the earrings, and mention will be made in the next scene about them.

As for this gift . . . I have a little something to show.

A few nights back–Monday the 25th around 10:30 to be accurate–I was chatting with my friend Tanya, who is the person who created the original Annie upon whom my Annie is closely modeled.  We were chatting about the story–which we tend to do–and I brought up the matter of Kerry’s gift.  And here’s what was said:

 

Cassidy Frazee
That will get mentioned, but he’s getting his present from Annie.

Tanya
Oh!!
Does she end up giving him the same thing or is it something else?

Cassidy Frazee
She gave him his broom for his twelfth birthday. This year, because he’s doing the Polar Express the next school year, she’s giving him an engraved compass.
They give gifts that mean something. 🙂

Tanya
Not just because??
lol
Maybe Kerry could use some chap stick
all that wind can’t be good on the lips

Cassidy Frazee
She’ll have written on the back, “This will bring you back to me. Love, Annie.”

Tanya
awe
that’s adorable

Cassidy Frazee
It’s what Annie would do.

 

Of course I hadn’t decided on the exact type of compass the other night, and once I picked the Plexiglas one engraving something on the back would have been out of the question, which is why it’s now inside the case lid.  But that’s beside the point:  what’s important is Tanya’s last statement:  “Awe.  That’s adorable.”  Only the Real Annie(tm) would understand the meaning behind the gift, and get that it’s not a matter of being cheap, it’s a matter of being on point.  This will allow him to navigate across hundreds of kilometers of wilderness in the middle of winter with the intention of returning to the school.  Which they consider home, because we know, home is where the love lay.

Home is where Annie waits.

So, the gift is Real Annie(tm) approved, and that’s all I need to hear.

And you can bet a certain kid is gonna spend a lot of time zipping around England and Wales over the summer making sure he can find his way home when it matters the most.

All Ready in the Ready

Let’s talk about another achievement that was reached last night.  As the novel continues forward, slowly at times, it seems, the word count continues to climb, and by the time I’d reached my almost eight hundred words for the evening, the final total for the novel reached sixty thousand words.  I made a note of this on my author’s page on Facebook before I closed Scrivener for the evening–

I got a pretty picture, too, just so I'd remember.

I got a pretty picture, too, just so I’d remember.

The count of days from forty to fifty was fourteen days:  this time it was fifteen.  Slacking, right?  I won’t complain:  five thousand words a week, give or take, when you’re in pain and/or spending most of your time away from home for one day, is a pretty good total to keep u, and I’m keeping that up.  At this rate I should hit seventy thousand right around the Forth of July, and hit one hundred thousand by the end of that month.  By then I should be inside Act Two, unless something bad were to happen . . .

After the bit of awkwardness that was Emma reconnecting with her wingmate, Vicky starts in on the “Why We’re Here,” opening statements.  Except . . . I had to go back and write something else I needed to add because, at the time I started this scene, I’d meant to put this part in, but I’d forgot.  This is the nice thing about computers and their programs:  you just go back and write.  And I did–

 

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

“Oh, right—sorcery.” Emma sat back and crossed her legs. “Gotta be the dark witch.” She caught herself, hoping she didn’t say something that would upset Kerry. “Right?”

He nodded slowly, a smile appearing upon his face. “Yep. We both do, as a matter of fact. It’s something we promised each other.” He didn’t bother to mention where that promise had taken place.

(starting here)

She wasn’t about to give up asking about Annie so easily. “Why were you guys in your flight gear at lunch?”

He had nothing to hide. “We were out flying.”

“Around the school?”

“No, we were doing some stuff over in the Aerodrome.”

“Oh.” She was instantly attentive. “Were you guys checking out the Class 2 PAVs?”

“Naw, we were looking at something else.” Kerry didn’t want to talk about Annie’s flying—they still weren’t supposed to talk about their gifts—so he deftly changed the subject. “I like your new patch.”

 

“I like your new patch,” was the last thing from the original writing after the “starting here” point.  Those few lines may not seem like much, but it’s designed to show that Emma is keeping an eye on Kerry, and she noticed that he and his “dark witch”–a term he publicly used many times during his A Levels–were in their flying gear.  That’s some stalkerific shit there, Single White Witch Girl.  Maybe Kerry should watch out?  Or maybe Emma should cool her jets before that Dark Witch she commented on follows her into the bathroom for a . . . chat.  Not that Annie would ever do something like that . . .

But what about Vicky?  Well, let’s see what she has to say:

 

Seeing that the last of the students were out of the locker room and in their seats, Vicky addressed her newest collection of advanced flier. “Good afternoon, students. Welcome to Advanced Flight One. Congratulations—” She looked from one student to the next, keeping a sure grin in place. “You’ve accepted another year of flying misery.

“I know that, by now, some of you have spoken with a few of the C Levels in Advanced Flight Two, or you’ve heard from people who’ve been through both classes—” She quickly glanced in Kerry’s direction, fully aware he shared a class with Nadine Woodley, one of her best minions. “—which means you’ve a pretty good idea of what’s coming your way.

“Primary among your studies will be learning how to function as a team. Most of the time you’ll fly on your own, but in those instances where you find yourself in a small formation, or even with your wingmate, you need to develop a separation of duties so one pilot isn’t overwhelmed having to plan out everything. Some of you—” She shifted her gaze to where Emma and Kerry sat. “—have already figured this part out, so the rest of you have a bit of catching up ahead of you.

 

Though it’s really unclear what part Emma played in the separation of duties for Team Myfanwy the last time they were together.  Listening to her wingmate so she doesn’t die?  Well, she’s only batting .500 on that one.  She did handle piloting while Kerry kept an eye on the Low and High Roads, so there’s that.  And since Kerry does seem to enjoy planing out trips . . .

 

“We’ll focus on flight planing, on navigating, and on instrument flight rules. By the time we’re finish with this class you should be able to fly in just about any weather—not just in a winter climate or in rain, but in storms and atmospheric conditions that obscure the ground and make visual flight navigation impossible.”

Vicky took a short sip from the water glass to her right, then continued with her opening statement. “We’re going out on a few night flights as well—” She held up her hands the second a few of the students began grumbling. “On Thursday nights, so none of you miss out on the Midnight Madness—I wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything important . . .” A few of the students chuckled at Vicky’s slight joke. “Night flying is something we’ll do at least once a month, and a few times we’ll go out on a Thursday night for a few hours, return, and have class the next afternoon. And we’ll practice both visual and instrument flying at night, which means a few trips up into the White and Green Mountains where there’s little light to guide you back to school, and it’s easy to get disoriented.

 

Branching out into the White and Green Mountains–found in northern New Hampshire and western Vermont, respectively–means they’re gonna do a lot of flying.  Sure, there’s a chance they’ll get jaunted out to somewhere and then have to fly back, but that’s probably gonna be the exception.

There’s one other thing, too–

 

“And, as I’m certain a lot of you have discovered—” Vicky paused to let the anticipation build. “We’ll take three overnight flights this year. Two of them will happen during the winter months—one in December before Yule Holiday, and the other either late January or early February—and the last in late March or mid-April: I’m still pinning those dates down.

“These flights will involve flying out as a group after dinner, setting up camp after dark, and then spending the following day taking what we’re learning to travel to . . .” She crossed her arms and scratched lightly at her chin. “—various points with teams taking turns leading the group.” Now that she had their attention, she gave them the last part of this particular equation. “This is all practice for those of you who move on to Advanced Flight Two, and decide to participate in The Polar Express.”

A murmur filled the Ready Room, and Vicky didn’t need to expand upon her comment: everyone here knew about The Polar Express, a three night and three day survival flight flown by wingmates using a minimum of supplies, a minimum of instrumentation, and a lot of flying through the Canadian wilderness during one weekend in January. Only C Levels in Advanced Flight Two were allowed to participate, though members who’d already completed the flight were allowed to fly with members whose wingmate didn’t wish to make the flight.

 

Overnight camping.  And flying.  In the winter.  And the first mention of The Polar Express, which is going to take up a chapter of its own come the next novel–which I guess means it’s no surprise Emma and Kerry go out on this trip.  And “flying through the Canadian wilderness during one weekend in January” is all you need to know about the difficulty, because who doesn’t want to fly through Canada in the middle of winter?

But before you ask:  yes, even on these overnights, wingmates share a tent.  That means, let’s see . . . boy/boy team, girl/girl, girl/girl, boy . . . girl.  Hey, Emma and Kerry are the only mixed gender team!  I don’t see any issues arising from that . . .

And lastly:

 

She went into her wrap up. “Lastly, we will learn about maintenance and modification of your brooms, and I do mean your broom. Because you have made your way into Advanced Flight One, and there are things we will do here that will necessitate each flying having their own broom, The Foundation will allow you to purchase a broom that is suitable to your needs. This means Class 1 Wilhelminas, Mering, and Espinozas, because none of you need the high end racing brooms that The Foundation also manufactures, at least not until you get into high end racing.

“If you’re wondering how you’ll pay for these, don’t worry: a deferment payment plan will be set up for anyone looking to buy a PAV. We’re not talking a student loan like a Normal school would offer, but a simple payment plan that lets you pay for just the cost of the broom—there’s no interest—and that’s stretched out for as long as thirty years if you like.” Vicky grinned. “Don’t worry: I’m certain many of you will still be working with us in 2040, so there’s no need to wonder if you’ll have the money.”

 

So, very soon, everyone in AF1 will have their own broom, bought for them by The Foundation on a long-term payback plan.  But it won’t be long before these kiddies have their own brooms–which means it’s a cinch that Nadine and a few other minions have their own brooms as well.  Oh, and you do find out how much a particular broom runs, which means, based upon that number, you can estimate how much Annie spent on Kerry’s broom.

Advanced Flight is over–and as Vicky said, we know what’s important–

The Midnight Madness is next.