95: Jack

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Thanks to working the night shift, his normal sleeping time for more than a year had been from late morning to late afternoon. Instead, he had woke that morning at the time he should have been getting off work and remained awake all day while running on insufficient sleep. His body was protesting it, and muscles he wasn’t aware he possessed were vigorously protesting the afternoon ride on Simkit’s back.

And yet, here he was, preparing to go out again.

That same individual was now staring down at him as the young female mercenary Rillte was fitting her with a saddle. She told him in that lightly accented, lilting speech, “I’ll continue to carry you here on Chald, Osrin, but don’t expect it if we ever meet again.”

He nodded. “I’m guessing it’s not a normal thing for one of your race to let other people ride them. I’m sorry about putting you in that position.”

She grew a slightly sour expression. “I’m telling you to learn to ride a horse, Guardsman.”

After considering telling her that the ability to ride a horse had no practical use in the world where he intended to return, he just nodded again. “Understood.”

She noted, “I understand that you can sense but you have almost no skill at using flux to fight.”

“That’s correct. I pulled something off once, by accident, but I don’t know how it worked. And I don’t know how to pack the bullets with flux like Nam and Rogan can, so I can’t even add anything with this,” he answered while hefting the rifle in his hands slightly to indicate it.

The more he looked at the thing, the more he was convinced it really was an M1 Garand, although he wasn’t certain. He had fired the WWII weapon only on one occasion, when a friend let him try his. But if this was one as well, it was a Parhan copy. It was clearly stamped into the receiver, “Type 3 172-Bore Self-Reloader, Sephis Iron Works, I.C. Parha.”

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Simkit nodded toward it and stated, “Lady Fionna has pre-charged the rounds she gave you to give them more effect,” she told him. “We are about to go out. Are you prepared?”

Over his shoulder already hung a pouch similar to a letter bag with marching tack, a canteen, stripper clips of spare rounds and a couple stick-like grenades that Hemme, the almost grandmotherly mercenary had pressed on him. He had nothing else to fetch, so he nodded. “Ready to roll.”

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She looked puzzled briefly, then dismissed whatever the issue was with a shrug and told him to mount up. He was slightly less clumsy than during his previous effort at getting into a saddle.

As they rode out, she asked, “I assume so, given your range, but do you have the sensitivity to sense the living flux in the trees and branches?”

Wincing as he remembered his difficulties in the morning, with the forest messing with his senses, he answered, “Yes. I can see them all clearly.”

“Be aware that dead wood and other non-living things will have a much fainter signature. At night, it is vital to keep this in mind.”

He blinked, then nodded. “Good to know.”

“Be alert,” she said, and broke into a trot. It was alarming, since his eyes had not yet adjusted to the lack of the yard light. The ground was almost black. He guessed that either her eyesight was superior in the darkness, or she was relying on flux.

He remembered Nam navigating the rises and falls and obstacles along the path while not looking where she was stepping, and guessed it was the later.

“It is true, you had no training in your home world?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“It seems odd, given your range, that you did not somehow come to learn at least a crude approach on your own.”

He pursed his lips and said, “I think it’s actually this ethen thing inside me doing it. I couldn’t do it before I got it.”

She was silent for several seconds, then said, “That isn’t possible. Ethen may certainly be used to sense and scan, but they must display the result in some form for your vision to read. No ethen can grant you the power of natural senses. Your flux sense is a product of your mind, not an artificial tool.”

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