Falling Down to Get Up

What is going on?  Why am I falling?  Well, there’s a reason…

The Inevitable Answers: Back In the Residence

This has been a strange morning.  I’ve been up since just after five; I went to get groceries at six-thirty, and I started writing at about nine after I’d act breakfast and did a few things around the apartment.  This is how my weekends go:  most of yesterday I did the same, with a bit of napping here and there.

A couple of other things have happened as well.  First, I’ve made a few additions to my time lines, because, well, it was necessary.  In doing this it got me thinking about a trip Annie and Kerry would one day take together, as well as something else that could happen in their lives soon, because as I’ve pointed out from time to time, while I have a lot of metadata for my novels, that doesn’t mean things don’t change now and then, or become developed further.

And in thinking about that second got me to thinking about the third, and that is what sort of fighting style will Annie and Kerry develop?  Sure, they can use magic to drop your ass, but they’re also taking Advanced Self Defense, and that means Professor Chai is probably teaching them styles of fighting that will allow them to become very dangerous without having to resort to bleeding out every jackhole who gives them shit.

What fighting styles will they develop?  Here you go:  Arnis/Kali mixed with Pencak Silat/Kuntao.  What the hell is this?  Arnis and Kali are the same thing:  they’re the national sport and martial art of the Philippines, and it also goes by the name of Eskrima.  You can use it empty handed or with weapons, the most famous of the later being the baston, a fighting stick about two-thirds of a meter, or two foot, long, and used in pairs with one in each hand, and the balisong, or what we in the U.S. would call a butterfly knife.  Pencak Silat is a form of silat found in Indonesia, and Kuntao is an martial art used by Chinese in the Malay Archipelago, Indonesia, and the Philippines, that is so close to silat in its forms that a lot of people can’t tell the difference and usually don’t bother calling it anything but silat.  Pencak Silat also uses weapons, one of which is the kris, a wavy blade knife that is considered magical in some circles, and was traditionally made by infusing poison into the blade while it was being created, and take years to finish as the blade’s metal is folded hundreds of times.

What does this mean?  It means that once they get good at this they won’t need magic to kick someone’s ass, they just will.  And when they start making their own bastons on the fly out of ball lightning sorcery spells, sit back and pity the poor bastards who decide to try and do something stupid to them–like, say, mug Annie and take her purse.  (One day I’ll need to write up the time someone tried mugging Coraline and she kicked him about ten meters/thirty-three feet into a dumpster.  Good times, yo.)

It's also even money she'll beat someone up if they call her "Anniemae".

It’s also even money she’ll take someone to The Manor if they call her “Anniemae”.

But before we get to the point where we need a Rocky-like montage of Annie and Kerry going through their martial arts struggles to learn their forms, we gotta get out of Kerry’s dream and back into the real world.  And wouldn’t you know, that’s happening right now–

 

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

GET OUT, GET OUT—”

Annie was barely aware she was back in the library when she was jerked off the sofa by Deanna and fell into her arms. She spun around and found Kerry on the sofa, his eyes closed and his body twitching and jerking while screaming the same phrase over and over in a fighting, high pitched voice. She knew immediately what was wrong: He’s still in the trance; still in the dream

Deanna held on to Annie tightly as she yelled at Coraline. “Wake him up.”

Coraline was hovering over Kerry right away, speaking quickly and clearly in a loud voice. “Kerry, I’m gonna count back from three—”

Kerry continued screaming. “GET OUT.”

“—and when I clap my hands you’ll wake up.”

GET OUT.”

“Three, two—”

“GET—”

ONE. Clap, clap.”

“OUT. GEtttt Oooouu . . . AhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHH.”

Kerry threw back his head and thrust his palms against his eyes as he cried out in as loud a voice possible. After nearly going the whole school year without having a crying jag he let out everything, weeping out whatever pent-up emotions he held. After a few seconds he rolled to his left and collapsed on the sofa, continuing to sob loudly.

Deanna nearly pushed Annie away before she jerked out of her hands. “Go to him.” She was on the sofa in seconds, sliding his head up into her lap. Kerry buried his face against her thighs as he continued sobbing while Annie gently stroked his hair. “Shush, shush. It’s all right.”

He could barely get out his words between tortured breaths. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“I know. It’s all right. Shush. You’re with me now.”

 

Point of Order, Your Honor:  if Kerry is setting his palms against eyes, what about his glasses?  Well, back when Coraline was hypnotizing him she was supposed to remove them, but, unfortunately I forgot to have her do that.  That made it necessary to go back today and fix a certain paragraph, with additions in bold:

 

Coraline moved closer to the love seat until she was about a meter away, then knelt down before the boy.  “Let me get these off—”  She removed his glasses and set them on the end table.  “Wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.  Okay, lights low.”  The room grew darker, leaving everyone seated in quiet gloom.  She rested her left hand above her head and made a small pinpoint of light appear.  “Kerry, I want you to look at this light and continue looking at it while I speak.  You understand?”

 

Now that I’ve fixed that, let’s get on to one soul mate calming down the other, and see what else falls out of this experience–’cause simply based upon things that have happened in the past, it’s likely there’s a few upset people in this room.

 

Nearly a minute and a half passed before Kerry settled down and stopped his sobbing and he returned to a sitting position. His face was a mess: hair was plastered to his forehead, his eyes were bloodshot, snot trickled from his nose, and his cheeks were wet and red from tears. He started down at the floor, not meeting anyone’s vision, as he constantly and loudly sniffed trying to clear his nose—

“Kerry.”

He finally looked up and turned to the person who’d spoken his name. He silently regarded Deanna with pain in his eyes.

The seer looked down for a moment and sighed before meeting his stare. “It wasn’t my intention to deceive you, but it was necessary. When this action was discussed earlier in the afternoon, I was the one who mentioned that if you knew I’d bring Annie with me to view your dream, you’d fight being hypnotized, and if you were put into a trance, your knowledge that Annie was dreamwalking with me could cause you to try and alter the dream.

“I know you’ll find it difficult to believe, but Annie needed to be there; she needed to see the struggle you’re having in your dreams. Right now I can’t tell you why, but I’m asking you to believe me when I say she knows as much as possible about what is happening with you.”

She looked down again. “I know this means nothing, but I hurt knowing I needed to talk this step.” She looked at Annie, then back to Kerry. “I only hope that in time you both come to forgive me for my actions.”

As she turned away a strangled voice called out softly. “Deanna.”

She slowly turned back and saw the boy staring at her through teary, bloodshot eyes. “Yes?”

He struggled to speak as he wiped his nose and face with tissue given him by Coraline. “You’re right: if I’d known you were bringing Annie, I’d have fought you. I wouldn’t have agreed to being hypnotized, and if I were, I would have struggled. And . . .” He sniffed back tears for a few seconds. “She needs to know. I haven’t been able to say what is going on with my dreams, but—” He glanced over to Annie before taking her hand. “She needs to know.”

He took a deep breath before clearing his throat. “I forgive you, Deanna.” He managed a weak smile. “There’s no sin.”

Annie turned to Deanna as well. “It hurt seeing those—” She closed her eyes trying to block out the memories of the last few minutes. “—thing, but I know you’re only trying to make him better.”

She nodded slowly. “I forgive you as well.”

Deanna put her hands together and gave him a slight shake. “Thank you, both of you. It means a lot knowing you don’t hate me.”

As Coraline and she returned to her seat Erywin was the first to speak up. “What it what we thought?”

“It was.” She crossed her legs. “He had the mirror dream.”

Kerry’s voice was almost back to normal. “Mirror dream? What are you talking about?”

 

Kerry’s a mess, but now that he’s had his fit and moment of pain and embarrassment, he can’t hate ’cause he knows Deanna is right about him.  Annie can’t hate either, because she knows Kerry well at this point, and she understands that sometimes you can’t tell him everything, least not right away.  Hey, she was tricked into his dream, and he was tricked into not knowing she’d be there, but why stay pissed off at one of the people who’s looking for an answer someone can’t seem to give?

Also, these kids aren’t–excuse the pun–normal, and they have a maturity not found in most twelve year old boys and thirteen year old girls, the majority of whom would have likely stormed out of the library after calling everyone bitches.  The really scary part is that two members of the school administration–the headmistress and school doctor–and three coven leaders are sitting in a room with a couple of kids who have yellow flagged student files, and they deliberately set in motion a process that was pretty much designed to upset both the scary little sorceresses.  Now, we know Coraline can magically kick ass and Erywin probably has a big weapon stashed away in Hammerspace, but what if both kids lost it and fireballed the whole room?  Notice that Coraline didn’t sit down until Deanna did?  Yeah, she was probably going to give both kids a magical slapping if they got too bent out of shape.

Now that all the crying and recriminations are out of the way–what is the mirror dream?

Notice how I raise these questions without answering them right away?

Witches Over Salem: the Delayed Discussion

For a while I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day:  I’d lost all my internet and cable at the apartment, and it was a dull time with nothing but my writing and napping to keep me occupied.  Fortunately I took a long nap in the afternoon–almost ninety minutes–and not long after waking the television started working, and about two minutes after that the internet came back.  Huzza!

Then I managed to get back into my writing–because without music, Cassie is a dull girl when she writes–and I finished the scene while drinking a Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout:

You know nothing about drinking, Jon Snow

You know nothing about drinking, Jon Snow

And then, between moments of trying to work out what to say next, I decided to figure out how to take pictures without using a flash and manged a few off my balcony:

What you see without me--

What you see without me–

 

And what you see with me.

And what you see with me.

And between all this BS I managed to finish out the scene with another five hundred words, making my total for yesterday around seven hundred and twenty-five words.  Now all that remains is one scene, and I should knock that off today, which means by tomorrow Chapter Twenty-One will be a done deal.  And the next chapter should see me finally pushing the novel over two hundred thousand words, and means I’ll finish up this novel in another twenty-five thousand words.  Right?  Right . . .

Now, what happens with my kids while they’re sitting way up over the city of Salem talking.  If you sit tight, I’m gonna let them tell ya . . .

 

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

Kerry chuckled while shaking his head. “You get used to it, but you don’t like it. You seem to be doing okay, though.”

“I’m a mountain girl; ten below isn’t that unusual for me.”

“What about the thirty below?” He leaned towards her as much as he could without off-balancing the broom. “I noticed you slowly down a little here and there.”

Annie said nothing for a few seconds. “You were right about the cold building up around you: it gets a bit oppressive after a while.” She slowly spun to her right, looking out towards the ocean. “The view is magnificent up here.”

Kerry couldn’t disagree with his soul mate’s statement. The clear sky allowed them to see dozens of kilometers in every direction, and not only was the whole of Salem laid out below them, but Beverly and most of the small towns were visible to the north, Marblehead and the north Boston neighborhoods were clear off to the south, and Manchester, Gloucester, and most of Cape Ann were clear in the east. Kerry even saw planes taking off from Logan, launching north-northwest into the wind before turning on to their proper headings. “It is beautiful today.” He rubbed his nose with his right mitten. “We couldn’t have asked for a better day to fly.”

 

I’ve already shown one image of what their scene looks like to the north, and I also have similar images for the east–

Though we're looking more out to sea and not towards the school.

If you look hard enough you can almost see the school–if you were a witch, that is.

And another off to the south:

And right there in the middle of the picture is there favorite Starbucks.

And right there in the middle of the picture is their favorite Starbucks.

If there is any question about how far they can see, I did consult the Distance to the Horizon Calculator, which allows one to plug in an altitude and tells a person just how far they can see on a clear, clear day.  The kids are sitting eight hundred meters over the train station, and according to the calculator they can see one hundred and one kilometers.  The school is twenty-five kilometers away, so their sharp little eyes would see it pretty well.

Now that the travelogue is out of the way, let’s get to what’s on someone’s mind–

 

“I hope they’re all like this . . .” Annie finished her slow spin and faced Kerry. “May I ask something?”

“Sure. You can always ask me anything.”

“What happened during our Morte demonstration last week?”

Since the moment when Helena asked him pretty much the same thing in the aftermath of his demonstration last Thursday, Kerry expected Annie to ask the same. He knew she wouldn’t ask right away—that wasn’t her style—but he knew the question was coming because Annie had to ask. I know she tells Helena stuff about me, because it concerns my training; it’s the same thing I do with Jessica when I have to tell her how Annie’s doing our transformations lessons. “You mean when I froze for a few seconds?”

 

This is the first time we get any conformation that Kerry is having discussions with Jessica about Annie and her transformation instruction.  So Annie confers with Helena, and Kerry confers with Jessica, and both the little witches have to be completely honest about the abilities of the other to instructors who are considered the toughest and most intimidating at the school.  Though it’s never been shown, one would have to know by now that Annie told Kerry not to hold anything back, and to be honest about her instruction, because Jessica was going to know if Kerry were fibbing about Annie’s lessons.

No, not a lot of pressure at all.

Now that Kerry has been asked, and has known the question is coming, he readies his answer . . .

 

She nodded. “Yes.”

He slid his broom forward so he was not only as close as he could get to Annie without having her rest against him, but he managed to block the wind that was blowing into her face. “I froze for a second because the girl zombie reminded me of someone.”

Annie immediately knew of the person to whom Kerry was referring. “The girl from your dreams, right?”

“Yeah. The moment I saw the ginger hair I just—” He drew in a breath as he looked off to his left. “It was like there was something in the back of my head that was telling me something—” He shrugged and turned back to Annie. “I have no idea what it was.” He sighed. “It was a one-time thing: it won’t happen again, because I know not to let it happen.”

Though she didn’t show anything, Annie found his comments interesting. This girl was in his rune dream trying to tell him about me; what is she trying to tell him now? “Have you had anymore dreams about her?”

 

Yeah, what is that girl trying to tell Kerry?  But does Annie look bovvered?  Well . . . maybe?  And since she wants to know if that ginger-haired dream creature has appeared again . . .

 

“No, not a one.” He elaborated when he saw Annie was about to ask another question. “I promised I would tell you if I saw her again, and I’m keeping that promise. If I saw her, I’d tell you the next morning.”

This was all the explanation Annie need. “I believe you.” She floated a little closer and touched his hand. “There’s no need to discuss this any further.”

There was something Kerry needed to know, however. “What are you going to tell Helena?”

Annie wasn’t going to lie to the most important person in her life. “I’m going to tell her—when she asks, mind you—that what happened resulted due to a specific trigger; that you recognized that trigger; and that you won’t let it happen again.” She bowed her head slightly as she kept her eyes locked on Kerry’s. “It’s nothing any of us should consider a problem.”

He nodded slowly. “Does that mean I’m still Guardian material?”

“Oh, my love—” She floated the rest of the way and hugged her soul mate high above the City of Witches. “You’re always been Guardian material. The only one you’ve needed to convince of that fact is you.”

 

Annie’s happy with Kerry’s explanation, and she’s not worried that this is a one of those freakouts that’s going cause a problem if they’re out in the field–say, tomorrow–and the shit once again hits the magical fan.  He’ll do his duty, and that’s that.  No more to discuss, and they can finish out the rest of Annie’s first solo flight in peace.

There you have it, the full finished scene–

See, only one more scene--

And see, only one more scene–

–In this chapter, I should say.  Chapter Twenty-Two awaits, and after that comes Part Seven, Elements of Joy and Terror, and that, my friends, is where things really start to get serious . . .

Talking Around the Shadows

Maybe it was something in the water; maybe it was something the air.  Maybe I could feel it coming in the night.  Maybe I’m stuck in a Phil Collins song that got heavy rotation after Miami Vice.  Whatever it was, it was like being back in NaNo Land, because I was on last night.  Extremely on.  Like I wrote two thousand, four hundred, and seventy-nine words in two different location over the course of about three hours on.

It may be a rambling mess, but it’s my mess, and I did it all on my own.

It also could have been because of something else that happened, but I’m keeping that a surprise until the end . . .

 

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

Annie and Kerry exchanged a quick glance. The knew the name well: Tanith Granstrom had been the object of a field operation everyone in the room had conducted for the Guardians in April of this year. It had been Annie’s and Kerry’s job to keep and eye on Tanith and, when the time was right, explain that she was no Normal person but was instead a witch on cusp of becoming Aware.

It was while Annie and Kerry were showing Tanith that they really were witches that they and Erywin, who was monitoring them from a distance, received an abort call from Helena, and soon found themselves engaged in a short but nasty fight with three Deconstructors who did their best to kill them, and were killed instead. Annie and Kerry was taken away to the CDC in Atlanta for treatment, and ended back at Salem a few hours later, while Tanith and her father Kaden were taken into Guardian protection.

During the Guardian debriefing that came a few days after the operation, it was explained to the children that Tanith would likely be “made to forget” what happened to her and her father during the operation, and while it wasn’t known at the time if she would ever come to Salem to receive schooling, but if she did, they’d never be allowed to discuss what happened to them that day in Kansas City—

There was no more wondering now: she would soon become a member of the student body.

 

Believe it or not, those four paragraphs took me about half an hour to write.  And the first one took about fifteen minutes and five tries to get it right.  Seriously, sometimes just finding the right words to start a transition is the hardest thing in the world.  And I know a little something about transitions, right?

Now let’s get the lowdown on the arrival.

 

Annie folded her hands and began rubbing the tips of her index fingers together. “When will she arrive?”

Helena tapped the display on her tablet. “Everything is on schedule right now. The Oceanic, East and Central Asian kids will arrive between eleven and twelve-thirty; the kids from the Americas will get here between fourteen-thirty and sixteen hours; and, as you know from experience, the Euro, African, and Western Asia kids will arrive between nineteen-thirty and twenty-one hours.” She pushed the tablet aside. “She’s arriving with the kids from North and South America, which should tell you something about where she was relocated.”

Kerry leaned forward a little. “She’s not coming under her old name, is she?”

“No. Her new name—which I’m sure you’d discover on your own eventually—is Kristiane Schoyer. From what I was told she didn’t change her appearance, but as part of her new identity the Guardians changed her birth certificate so she’ll fit in with the other eleven year old A Levels.”

Kerry glanced at Annie and Erywin before turning back to Helena. “Okay.”

Annie didn’t find that surprising: if the Guardians wanted her to blend in with other new students, rather than come up with a convoluted story about how she became Aware late—which is what drew in the attention of both The Foundation and the Deconstructors in the first place—they’d fix her legal age. Which means they likely did something to ensure she didn’t remember her real age— She addressed Helena. “What would you like us to know? Besides her coming here.”

 

For one, we now know when various A Levels show up at school, and what Tanith’s new name is–I mean, Kristiane’s.  That one little line is gonna come back at the end with great importance.  Just wait . . .

Helena was asked, and Helena answers:

 

Helena stood and came around to the front of the desk. She didn’t like sitting behind one when she spoke: it made her feel like she was hiding. She sat back against the top and kept her focus on the children before her. “I’ve already briefed Erywin on this, because she’ll have immediate contact with—Kristiane—once classes start—sooner if she is placed in her coven.” She folded her hands before her. “You’re not to attempt contact with her once she’s arrived. That shouldn’t be too hard with her being an A Level: she’s in the Fishbowl, and you’re both in the Pond for real now. The only time you should have contact with her is when it happens in the course of a normal day—like passing her in the Dining Hall, or on the grounds, or any number of venues here. If she approaches you for anything, the chances are she’s looking for information, or she’s asking a question, or she needs help with a lab. That’s stuff is normal, and in those instances you treat her like you would any other student.”

Helena glanced off to one side for a moment. “She doesn’t remember you or Erywin: the Guardians made certain of that. Otherwise they couldn’t risk letting her come here.”

Kerry quickly figured out the implications of the sorceress’ last statement. “Does she remember anything from her old life?”

“No. Her father and mother, yes, but everything else—living in Albuquerque; Kansas City; the event with the Deconstructors and being taken away to Atlanta—none of that remains. She’s been given not only a new identity, but a whole set of memories to go with that identity. The Guardian people who work on these things are good at their jobs, and they would make certain nothing remains of her old memories.”

Though she didn’t let the feeling show, Annie felt somewhat sad about this turn of events. She’d read about some of the things that these memory specialist could do, but she’d never realized, until now, how details these operations could become. “So even if we tried to tell her that we saved her life—”

“She’d think you were talking shite at her.” Helena gave Annie a piercing stare. “Not that you’d do anything that foolish—right?

“No—” She shook her head. “That would be a stupid thing to do.” Annie kept her breathing slow and controlled. “I’d expose myself if I did that.”

A slight smile played along Helena’s lips. “I like that thinking.”

 

Of course she likes your thinking, Annie:  that’s why you her favorite.  Annie is thinking like a Guardian:  don’t do stupid things that would give you away.  Walking up to Kristiane and saying, “Hey, remember me?  I saved your ass back in Kansas City,” would get you instantly branded as a crazy loser and someone who is way too dangerous to place back out in the field once again.  And that’s not Annie–or Kerry, as we’ll see.  And leave it to him to notice something . . .

 

Kerry agreed with Annie—he would never do anything as foolish as go up to Tani—no, Kristiane now—and try to get her to remember him, but there was something Helena said that caught his interest. “What do you mean by she could ask for help with a lab?”

Helena cleared her throat as she turned towards Erywin. “You want this one?”

The coven leader moved around in her chair so she could face her younger friends. “I have it on good authority that since you both have a bit of ‘free time’ during the day, you may get pulled in by a few instructors for minion duty.” She chuckled. “I know Wednesday is interested in having you help out in her regular B Level class, and I might ask you pop in for my A or B Level class—”

“Except on those days I might want you for A Level Sorcery.” Helena glanced from Annie to Kerry. “Once we start getting further into the year I wouldn’t mind having either of you help out. Annie, while you are the—” The right corner of Helena’s mouth curled upward. “—Dark Witch of this group, Kerry’s not far behind. And with you teaching him a little extra on the side—”

“He’ll become much better.” She looked to him, nodding. “I agree. And I’d be happy to help out.”

Kerry grinned. “So would I.”

“And just between us in the room—” Erywin automatically glanced towards the door as if she expected someone to enter. “Wednesday and Jessica are both asking about getting you out of normal classes so you could come and help out in a few of their classes.”

“That’s really . . .” Kerry found it hard to arrange his thought so he could explain what he was feeling. “I didn’t realize we were that much in demand.”

“This goes back to when you were invited into the advanced classes.” Erywin took a second to stretch her arm. “Even then the instructors were thinking about using you for minion work.”

Helena wiggled the finger of her right hand in time to an unheard beat. “Which means the instructors who’d like your assistance are doing so because they know you’re able to do the work. And Jessica’s one of those instructors—” She shook her head. “She never asks for minions. That should tell you all you need to know.”

 

You gotta wonder when these kids are gonna find time to snog.  Well, don’t wonder too long, because they’ll find time.  Still, it looks as if they’re being given a lot to do.  Regular classes, advanced classes, and now they’ve being asked to become lab minions from time to time.  And they have to teach each other what they’re learning in their advanced studies:  Kerry for Advanced Transformation, Annie for what she’s picking up on sorcery in the Black Vault.  Is there such a thing as burn-out at thirteen?  Maybe the school is conducting an experiment.  Or . . . maybe it’s a certain Guardian?  We’ll see, won’t we?

 

Helena stood and stepped away from her desk. “That’s all I have to say. I’ll let the proper authorities know we’ve had this discussion, and there shouldn’t be any need to bring this up again.” She cocked her head slightly to the right as the tone of her voice turned a touch darker. “At least I hope it doesn’t become necessary to bring this up again.”

Both children shook their heads, with Annie speaking for them both. “That won’t happen, Helena.”

“No, I don’t believe it will.”

Erywin stood at the same time as the children. “Just so you know—”

Kerry spoke first. “Yes?”

“The A Levels tend to stay inside either the Great Hall or the Pentagram Gardens after their E and As. It’s never been confirmed, but we believe The Phoenix does something to the student so they’re not wandering about the grounds for most of the day.” Erywin took a step towards them. “Holoč would have told you, but since we’re together now—”

He smiled softly. “Yeah.”

“You’ll see more than a few of them lounging in the Dining Hall when you’re eating; we’ll have a few sofas and chairs laid out for them.”

Helena chuckled. “We wouldn’t want them to go without resting all day.”

Erywin stood next to her partner. “While you’re inside the Pentagram grounds, don’t use any magic; we have to keep up the charade, remember?”

“We remember.” That made Annie wonder. “So that happened to us as well?”

“Yeah, it did.” Helena crossed her arms. “It’s a little unusual that you didn’t go off to eat with the other students, though.”

Annie didn’t see why that was strange. “I wasn’t feeling well, so we went to the hospital.”

“Yeah, but you did it on your own. Whenever Isis sends someone to the hospital, it’s usually for something along the lines of severe shock, or disorientation brought on by a concussion—”

Erywin joined in listing issues. “Maybe bleeding from the ears.”

Helena nodded. “Or a broken arm.”

“Or leg.”

“Or a fractured skull—”

“I see.” Annie frowned. “What you’re saying is not many go to the hospital because of an upset stomach and spinning head.”

The two instructors looked knowingly at each other before Helena replied. “Something like that, yeah.” She nodded towards the door, making it unlock. “Okay, you two: go out and do some wandering. We’ll see you later.”

 

So what you are saying, Helena, is that Annie and Kerry shouldn’t have ventured to the hospital, not with the maladies they had?  Interesting.  Is this some doing of The Phoenix?  Don’t know.  We may never know.  She’s a strange bird, you know.  It also sounds–from the injuries rattled off–that she likes to do a bit of the ol’ ultra-violence now and then.  It sounds like all she did to these two was scare the shit out of them.

It’s time to go and have fun, but you know Kerry the Killjoy:  he’s gotta wanna analyse everything.  This is no exception . . .

 

Once outside the office Annie began walking towards the stairs, but Kerry stopped her before she could go upstairs. “Would it be okay if we took the tunnels?” He glanced over his shoulder. “Maybe head up to Perquat’s Grove?”

Based upon Kerry’s body language, Annie suspected there was something he wanted—and it didn’t necessarily lay at the location where they spoke to Erywin, and Kerry learned of Annie’s long desire to marry him. “I would love that.” She joined him, taking his arm. “It should be beautiful today.”

They found the main tunnel leading north to the Polar Portal, the classrooms under the Observatory, and the cross-tunnel leading from the Firing Line and the portal leading up to Perquat’s Grove. The only time they’d taken this route was during the winter when there was too much snow on the main path to the Observatory; during this time of year, when the weather was beautiful and warm, the only people taking this route were those looking for privacy—usually with the intention of finding some intimacy, but sometimes all they needed was an opportunity to talk . . .

They’d walked about a hundred meters before Annie decided to give him a chance to open up and speak. She understood his moods, and when he had something on his mind, he often needed to know it was okay to speak. “What are you thinking about, my love?”

That was all the opening he needed. “What we did in Helena’s office—”

“Yes?”

“Do the Guardians really think we’d, you know—” He looked around in case there was someone close by. “Screw up and talk to her?”

 

Annie is the rock in this relationship:  she is almost never rattled, and when she is, it’s only because of her Ginger Hair Boy.  Deconstructors hell-bent on killing her?  Screw that shit, she’s throwing down.  Kerry, on the other hand, is the sometimes quivering emotional center of the relationship, and he not only lets those feelings get to him, but he also overthinks a lot of things that don’t require overthinking.  And he’s doing that right now:  he’s smart enough to understand they needed to know this stuff, but still . . . it feels as if the Guardians were keeping them after class for a talking.

Not so, Bro.  Listen to your better half . . .

 

She said nothing for about fifteen seconds, letting Kerry’s curiosity build. “I’ve read a little on the history of the Guardians—”

Kerry chuckled. “I’m not surprised.”

“My parents had a book on it, but there were a couple in the Black Vault that went into far more details.” She slowed her pace until they were almost shuffling along the large, empty tunnel. “They’ve always collected intelligence, but it wasn’t until the Deconstructors started becoming a problem in, I think, the late 1950s, that they started becoming an offensive force. From what I read, they were almost like a specialized military force during that time.”

“Like the SAS?”

“Exactly like that—only they also continued to gather intelligence. It was a dangerous life, given that they also spent a great deal of time going into the areas that the Soviet Union and the Chinese controlled. Anyone who stayed alive for more than five years was usually moved to an office.

“Deconstructors were almost impossible to find back then. The Foundation used to say that they lived in the shadows, and that only the bravest women would venture in to find them. That’s how the Guardians earned the nickname, ‘The Shadow Walkers’: they’re still known as that today.”

She pulled Kerry to a slow stop. It was safe here; if there were any students close by, they were likely on the surface, unaware there was anyone below. “Helena told me before we went home that, as far as she knew, we were the youngest team the Guardians sent out on a field operation. She was a C Level, a few months past her fourteenth birthday, when she went out on hers, and she only knew of someone going out who was a few month younger than her when they went out. She said that as leery as she’d been about us going out, the Guardians wouldn’t have sent us out if they didn’t believe we could complete a mission.

“There was a reason Helena called us in today: she was under orders. She told us, without actually telling us, that the orders had come from high up the line of command. She told us—her new name, something we could have found out on our own, like she said—but she told us instead.”

She held Kerry’s left hand tightly within hers. “She wasn’t giving us a warning, my love: she was giving us a briefing. She told us about her arrival today, and as she said, she’d report back to the proper people that we’d received the briefing, and that we understood to proper actions to take should we encounter here.”

A slight grin formed. “We were given that briefing because we earned the right. Because we walked into the shadows—” Annie pulled Kerry close and hugged him tight. “—and we were good enough to return to the light.”

 

“We were good enough to return to the light.”  They were, and they did.  Both played their parts, and played them well, and if Kerry hadn’t been–ah, hem–overthinking his part, there’s wouldn’t have been a need for Annie of the Broken Arm to go all murder time on the second Deconstrutor.

But she gets it.  They were given a briefing not because they’re a couple of kids and then need a bit of schooling–it was because they earned the right to a follow-up.  Not a warning, but a head-up that they’re gonna see this girl, and here’s what you wanna know.

I guess you could say they’re part of the club now.

So here is the book . . .

Coming along nicely, I see.

Coming along nicely, I see.

And I rolled through thirty-one thousand last night, which means I’m less than nine thousand words from–yes, let’s say it–this being a true novel.  And that’s going to happen sometime in Chapter Five.  Maybe about the time the kids are Remembering Memory . . .

Now, for the surprise I promised.  It’s not writing related, and it’s probably not something one would look at and go, “Meh, so?”  But I have a friend who knows a little of my past, knows I’m trans, and doesn’t care about any of that because I have cool friends.  She’s been going on for a few days about how she’s going to tie the knot, so to speak, and she’s looking at venues and the like for a ceremony next fall.  She’s telling people it’ll be a small, intimate affair, and she’s not looking to have many people show up, and I let her know I will be there, don’t worry.  And that’s when she dropped the bomb on me in private chat–

She wants me to be her Maid of Honor.

I have been in weddings before.  I was even a Best Man once.  If you told me back in 1976 that in 2016 I’d be someone’s Maid of Honor, I’d have probably thought, “What do they know that I don’t?”  Now I’ve got to start planing, and looking at dresses and shoes, and I’ll likely need a new wig by that time.  And if it’s held in one spot I suggested, then we’ll have a spa there to get our mani/pedis before the ceremony, and our make overs, and all that stuff before we get into the dresses–

Yeah.  I’m just a little excited . . .