87: Jack

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From Rogan’s expression as he stared down at Meadhbh, Jack guessed that he must be mulling the situation over, not scanning the wounded girl.

Standing next to them, Simkit softened her words slightly. “I cannot be as confident of the tactical situation as I would like, My Lord. Earlier, I did not spot that Incharyahdin which the Earther fought until we were almost on top of the battle.”

It was yet another new word, but Jack guessed it referred to the flux artist leading the other soldiers in the woods. The claim surprised him, though. He had been able to see through the woman’s attempted stealth easily.

“Jack…” came Nam’s voice. He looked over and saw her head turned toward him, but her eyes weren’t open.

Concerned, he went over to her and knelt. “You’re supposed to rest.”

“Later. Take a seat here and close your eyes. We need your help.”

He looked at the others. Most looked as puzzled as he felt, but Rogan nodded. “Althem agrees. Give it a shot, Jack.”

Rogan turned toward Simkit and explained, “He has scant training, but tremendous strength.”

“Take a deep breath and relax,” Nam told him. “Then as slowly as you can, expand your awareness of flux.”

As he tried it, her instructions reminded him of that long-ago girlfriend who dragged him into her yoga classes, and he realized now that the discomfort he had felt at that time might have been his flux-sense trying to activate. He adjusted his posture to resemble her lessons and it did seem to help.

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Nam kept instructing. Her weary voice sounded like she would drop back to sleep at any moment, but she didn’t. “Don’t try to observe detail. Just look for the things you’ve already been seeing. Look for the feel of stealth. Cloaks are more effective the farther away you get, but I’m certain someone as strong as you can tell when someone is trying to hide from you. You can sense that impression from farther away than you can penetrate the stealth itself, so look for the sensation of a blank spot instead of trying to see what it hides.”

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He kept at it but shook his head after a while. “There’s one of those little flying things watching us. But the big ones must be out of range.”

“Are you still trying to sense all directions?”

With a frown, he answered, “It’s not a matter of trying. I don’t know how not to do that.”

“You are doing what we call passive sense. You need to do an active scan. You’re a marksman of some kind, I think. Imagine taking aim at the flying thing. You don’t stop seeing the rest of your vision, do you? Your eyes cannot do that. You simply put your mind on the small part of your sight that matters at that moment. This is the same. Focus in one direction at a time, then sweep it around like a radar.”

The knowledge came to him, but it wasn’t through doing what she said. Instead, it was something like a vision coming to him in response to his effort. This time it didn’t show him using something from the ethen though. It was immediate, instruction in how to use his own ability, like when one of his foster fathers had guided his hands to teach him the motion of casting a fishing line.

But however he had accomplished it, he found the trick she had described and centered his sense on the creature.

It took off, apparently startled. He took his focus off it and pushed outward through the landscape. It opened up to him at unbelievable speed, as if he had been looking through half-closed eyelids until this, and fully opened his eyes for the first time.

He moved his focus to the left, and a map built in his mind. For a moment, it was overwhelming, until he touched on the flying creature again as his focus passed through it. That seemed spark a part of his mind to sort the mass of information out, take notice only of the parts that didn’t fit the background. Soon, he began to sweep the scan in a circle around the bluff where he sat.

After a minute he reported. “The big ones are more than double the distance they were keeping before, but it’s two of them. Those soldiers have cleared the area where we fought them.”

“You’re seeing that far?” she wondered.

“Farther than that, but I’m only finding trees and hills farther out. I think there are two more of those flying things in the distance, but they don’t seem to be looking at us. Just passing by.”

Nam chuckled. “I thought you might, but… Merciful Heaven, Jack. Simkit needs to use forms to observe such distances. That’s why she can’t get the same detail.”

The aforementioned centauress was staring at him with an unreadable expression. Rogan was simply shaking his head. It took those reactions for reality to set in, and him to recognize the improbability of what he had just done.

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