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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 52: Hastings 110
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Over the next week or so Lauren built her practice field. She found a grassy flat below her camp, and cleared and leveled it as well as she could using her psionics. Then she began building equipment on which she could practice, mostly bars for strength and balance and bales of grass for target backing for arrows.
Even as she was building the equipment, she began practicing on it, building up her strength and her skill, remembering the balance training Raiden had taught her long before. Making the image of targets on the baled grass was challenging, but by focusing her pyrogenesis more precisely than she ever had considered before she was able to make charred marks in concentric circles--although she messed up quite a few before she had a good set. Her target arrows could be used almost endlessly (except when she shafted one from time to time), although she had to stand quite far from the target to prevent her powerful bow driving the fletching into the backstop. She also pulled out the homemade recurve bow she had originally made for herself before buying the powerful compound bow in Philadelphia, and practiced with that as well.
She took to exploring the island from the air. Her psionic flight worked quite well, and enabled her to travel a bit faster and a bit easier than walking, apart from giving her the sort of vantage that let her see the island as a whole rather than as parts. Still, she avoided going too close to the crater, not certain what was likely to come from it.
Using her clairvoyance, she traveled the seas in search of other islands. Finally she found them, by following the birds through the skies. They were similarly uninhabited, similarly forested. In fact, she found nothing on any other island that was not found on hers, and no island as yet which had so much variety as the one on which she found herself. The irony occurred to her that she now knew how to reach those other islands, but had no reason to go. There was nothing there that was not here; and here had become not only home but paradise and training camp, everything she needed in one place.
God had certainly provided a good place for her.
Practice with the psionic weapons reminded her of a chore to which she had not attended. Centuries ago, in another universe, she had dropped her disintegrator rod from the back of a flying reptile, the powerful weapon which had dealt the fatal blow to the vampire Jackson, and it had snapped cleanly in half. In trying to repair it, she had somehow made a mistake, and been knocked out of that world into another. But she still had the pieces, and she still believed she could repair it.
On the other hand, it had been in an idyllic world that she had made that mistake before. That was not so idyllic a paradise as this, perhaps (a difficult call; things were more difficult there, and winter was very harsh, but there were people of a sort, who loved her and learned from her and taught her, so it was not lonely). It was a world in which she would have liked to remain for longer, at least to see the return of her bird friends from their southern trek. She did not do so because in trying to repair her psionic rod she set off a shock wave that killed her. She did not wish to lose this world to such a mistake.
Of course, she took risks every day; she realized this. Just as it is possible to lose control of a knife while chopping vegetables and so cut yourself severely, so it was entirely possible that she might slip with her invisible cutter and end her tenure in this world. Even as small airplanes often crashed, killing all aboard, so too she might at any moment tumble to the ground from her flight. Doing the acrobatics practice entailed a certain level of risk, despite carefully thickened grass pads around the bars and lines. Nothing was without some danger, save perhaps sleeping (and, she realized, were this volcano to erupt, her camp might be destroyed before she could get out of bed). To refuse to do something because it entailed some risk was inconsistent.
Besides, she had grown so much in her abilities since she last tried. Her shields and cutters and other invisible forces were more difficult than the things she did then. She had spent a lifetime with Merlin, and a lifetime after that in his world, and perhaps another lifetime beyond that, improving her abilities. Things which were once marvels to her were now second nature--like absentmindedly floating a pencil across the room to make notes. She shouldn't shun this because it was difficult; she had advanced significantly since she last tried it.
Yet another point worried her. Was she trying to do the impossible? She had no idea how these psionic machines were made. The ancient and extinct creatures who had originally made them showed no signs of technological understanding--they had ramps in their homes, not stairs, no doors or closures on their windows, no hinges or levers or wheels or any of the basic tools on which technology was built. Somehow they had built things from glass; but no one had found a glass factory. These seemed to have been conjured out of their minds, not formed from tools. She had no idea whether they even could be repaired, let alone how to do that. She liked to believe that there was nothing that could not be done, ultimately nothing that she could not do, if she worked at it and examined it and found the way to do it. Some mornings she would mentally hold herself aloft as she lifted both legs into the air and inserted them into her pants, just to know for herself that she had not put them on one leg at a time. She could do anything; but was this a thing? Was this, to turn a word, doable? If she were attempting the impossible, she would certainly fail. With God all things were possible; but as this seclusion had reminded her, she was not God. There were things even God could not do, she remembered--things that could be described but ultimately were not real things, things which He could not do because His promises prevented Him, things which were against His nature and so abhorrent to Him. God could do anything; but there were things even He could not do. Lauren could do anything, too; but as it was with God, so it was with her, and more so: there were things that could not be done, even by her. The question was, was this one of them?
More than once she pulled the pieces of the rod from the cart in which she kept them; more than once she returned them to their place in the cart. She wanted to have her rod back. She wanted to know that this was something she could do, that she had not discovered her own limits yet. She feared the risk. She was afraid that she would fail, or worse; that she would discover something she could not do, and in the process lose this wonderful place in which she had been allowed, nay, ordered, to grow and rest.
The rod remained in the cart for many weeks, weeks that passed into months, into years perhaps, coming out less and less frequently to remind her that this obstacle remained before her, returning more and more slowly to the hidden confines of the cart. On one occasion she gave long consideration to carrying it to the top of the mountain and throwing it into the magma below; but she realized that this would only mean she would never be able to cross that line, to face that test. The test remained, unchallenged; she would challenge it eventually, but not yet.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #180: Versers Focus. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: