He could see it clearly in his memory, the vision of his dream ‘mother’, upon encountering dangerous creatures or sometimes dangerous people, creating balls of flame just like what he was imaging now, then throwing them or firing them forth as if delivering a punch. He had once thought, in his waking hours, that his subconscious had a really amazing imagination, but the memory of the same woman taking his hand and placing it on the dead warbeast’s hide, combined with the similarity of those memories to the fiery attacks Simkit had just been simulating, had him wondering if that woman was not entirely imaginary.
Regardless of what she was, that image memory worked in his favor now. He could imagine such fireball surrounding the point of flux. Was this image valid for the exercise? He didn’t know what Simkit expected of him, but if this worked…
“Can you tell me the purpose of this exercise?” he asked.
“I am attuning your mind to the act of actively seizing and affecting a point in space not connected to your body. It is vital for flux control to have the sense that you are capable of doing so.”
“Not sure if I understood that.”
“It is not yet natural for you to imagine directly affecting a point of space that you are not physically touching. You have lived your entire life either using your body to directly move things, or using your body to move controls or tools which effected things.”
“But I’m still using my hand…”
“It is the first step. The gate within your dominant hand is the center of the first appendage you relied upon to affect your environment as a baby. Now, as a baby flux artist, you are returning to the beginning, only this time, you are affecting a point your hand is not touching.”
It sort of made sense?
“Eventually, you will develop the ability to divorce the position of your gate, your yashin, from this ability and directly control a thing at a distance from it. This is the first step on the path to that goal.”
But he was just imagining this? He wasn’t actually creating a ball of fire. He opened his eyes and confirmed that fact, momentarily disappointed that there was no surprise ball of fire waiting for him.
“Are you continuing to imagine that fire centering on that spot?”
“Now make yourself see it becoming smaller. Try to compress it down until it occupies the same point that the flux form occupies.”
Once he was doing so, she continued her exercises, until she stated, “It is time to begin our rounds. Return to my saddle.”
The sun had reached the horizon, he realized. He nodded, and clumsily remounted.
As she began walking, she told him, “You will continue to practice. Keep your weapon slung and concentrate on your practice. I will be responsible for scanning, for now.”
The night quickly grew deep black on this world without artificial lighting. Stars like he had seen only deep in the Afghan countryside were spreading out above him, displaying the ‘Milky Way’ that was virtually invisible in St. Louis, painted like the spray of milk across the sky that the ancients imagined when they gave it that name.
He continued to imagine squeezing the ball of fire down into the point of light. It was far easier to do with his eyes closed, but he found it difficult to remain upright in the saddle without looking, so he took to holding his hand to one side while keeping his eyes to the other.
They were back in the woods now, far from the trail. Simkit couldn’t move easily at more than a slow walk, but she had developed the habit of pausing regularly anyhow. He assumed there was something she sensed that was making her wary. He was beginning to consider stopping the exercise and getting his rifle ready.
But she relaxed after a while and went back to the easy slow walk as they made their way through the long orbit around the camp, so he returned his mind to the task.
He was experiencing an odd sensation each time he squeezed the ball down to a point. He could feel a different perception of the point. He continued to ‘see’ it in his mind, but he was somehow ‘feeling’ it each time his imaginary ball of fire reached its minimum size. Curious about the sensation, he held the ball at that minimum size to feel the point for longer.
It felt as if he were holding it, somehow. Curious, he imagined moving it closer to his hand. Surprisingly, it felt as if it were resisting. It wasn’t that he couldn’t imagine it moving, it was like he could imagine trying to move it, but felt it refusing. He tugged at it a little harder, and to his surprise, it gave and actually changed locations. It had been perhaps a half-foot away, and now it was more like four inches.
He was leery of moving it any closer to his hand, so he tried pressing it away. This was for some reason harder to do, and he seemed to lose the tenuous grip he had on it, at which point he was unable to regain it.
Lacking any better ideas, he went back to the exercise he was supposed to be doing.
He was about to mention what he had done when Simkit came to a halt, and he could see the tension in her stance. Her lilting alto came to him, barely audible, as she asked, “Ahead of us, Jack and a bit to the right. Perhaps four hundred yards. It’s too far for me to penetrate a stealth form for certain. Is there perhaps something headed our way?”
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