71: Rogan

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Rogan continued to see something beyond reason in the Earther. Mere high potential as a flux artist could not explain the things he had done. Although it was true that Jack would have made ideal material for training in any of the Elder Arts, even as a Seryahdin. But without any trainer or prior knowledge of flux, Jack’s case made no sense.

It had been an inconceivable event, the welding of that tool to the guardsman’s hitochin without any assistance or external force. The idea that it would identify a target and propel itself like that… it wasn’t unreasonable that a tool would be automated enough to make the connection on its own; that was exactly how Ijinstones worked. But it was unreasonable for a soul-less tool to do so entirely on its own.

But Althem had probed as deeply as she could and never found a soul within. His first hypothesis, that this was actually what it resembled, an Ijinstone, was killed by that simple truth.

The tool should have at least required some external trigger, if not external direction, yet neither he nor Nam had witnessed any such thing. They had simply seen Jack walk up and put his hand against the breastbone of the slain monster. Perhaps he had somehow triggered it via latent flux control skills. He himself could not remember the event clearly and could not tell them what had happened or if he had done anything.

Most of Jack’s unusual nature could be put down to subconscious flux skills. It was well known that strong artists occasionally developed abilities on their own, prior to formal training, even if they were not ‘naturals’… but untrained intuition could not have carried Jack to this extent.

Althem believed that Jack was not hiding a secret knowledge of flux and the Multiworld, but Rogan wondered if he was not from one of the Ilidi-Osri hybrid families of Earth. After the Ilidi went through so much trouble to drive out or wipe out the native high flux potentials on that world, they had shown their typical shortsightedness by letting their own blood mingle in to replace it, creating the ‘Alwarzi’ race. They had fought along side their Ilidi forebears in the Great War. Perhaps Jack was one of these Alwarzi, and received preliminary training at a very young age, prior to some event separating him from them. Given his potential, they would have begun his initial training while he still wore diapers.

But his ghostly companion was adamant. She had fought the Ilidi during her natural lifetime, before dying and becoming an Ijin, and she insisted that the few things Jack could do bore no resemblance to Ilidi arts.

Jack finally spoke, sounding uncertain. “I keep thinking I’m still picking up Nam, but she would have to be moving way too fast.”

“Truth? Does she channel a lot of flux as she goes?”

“Well… yeah. I think so, yes.”

“Well then, it may indeed be Nam you’re seeing. It’s hard for her to do for long, but she can move even faster than what you’ve seen so far under the right conditions.”

Jack shook his head. “Rogan, this is faster than what I’ve seen before from her. I’m talking maybe fifty miles per hour. Maybe more.”

He had to think for a moment, to convert it to Parhan equivalents. Around thirty neith, he guessed. “I reckon that’s just about right.”

Although it’s odd that she’s doing her best speed. Has she found something?

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Jack blinked in surprise at him. Then his head jerked back around to where he had been staring. He was showing some concern. “There she is again. She’s an awful long ways out, you know. She’s heading our way now.”

Rogan was quiet for a bit, as he tried a Paeth relay. As he expected, he received only a broken system response. His message didn’t get through. This location, also, had too much interference from ancient weapons still laying about.

Jack was looking at him oddly. “What did you do, just now?”

Rogan jerked around in surprise. “Ah… Why do you ask?”

“I felt you using some sort of power, just now. It was nothing like anything I’ve seen you do before. It wasn’t channeling through you, it was like it was connecting to you. Like something else was out there and you were tapping into it.”

He had no idea how Jack could have picked up on the Paeth or see the process so accurately. It bothered him. To Althem’s disapproval, he decided to stretch a bit, see if Jack slipped any secrets. “Well, I’m a Seryahdin. That’s one of my privileges. I bid, and Althem does it. Unless she disagrees, mind you.”

Jack looked at him with a level gaze that said, in frank terms, that he had not bought a word of it. “I meant that something other than Althem was involved, and you know that’s what I meant. I can tell the difference between you and Althem now, and this was some third entity. I’ll drop it, if it’s something you can’t talk about.”

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