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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 34: Kondor 160
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 33: Beam 49
Lauren had been teaching them psionics for several days before they had left the capital for the amirate. The first thing she had taught Kondor was how to project a skill pattern, that is to put in someone else’s mind an example of how a skill was accomplished. She then had him use that to show Zeke how to read minds, but she also used the same skill to show Zeke how to do that, and said from this point forward they would teach that way, Lauren teaching Kondor a skill one day and then both of them teaching the same skill to Zeke the next day. In this way Kondor had learned how to observe a psionic skill pattern when someone else was using a skill, and tap the speech center of someone so you could speak and understand their language, and she was just showing him how to contact someone telepathically when Derek had interrupted them. He had not yet attempted it. Zeke was one skill behind him. Shella also came to the psionics classes and learned what Joe learned, but was one skill ahead because she had already learned telepathy, and they had been discussing whether she really needed to learn a psionic skill that enabled her to pass unnoticed when she already had a magic skill that did so. He was not sure whether she had learned the skill or not.
Lauren had also started teaching magic to Zeke and Shella, in sessions separate from the psionics classes. Kondor had sat in on the first few, and had asked Zeke about them the first couple days, but all Zeke was getting initially was classes in religion and the nature of magic, which Lauren said were essential foundations to what she was going to teach him. Once she got past that, she apparently taught him some sort of quick ritual that was supposed to increase his weapon accuracy, and another that would increase his weapon damage. This sounded like luck charms to Kondor, making him even less interested in what it was Zeke was supposedly learning.
Now that they were stationed at the castle of the Amir, Lauren had resumed her lessons, psionics with the two of them and magic only with Zeke. He had asked Zeke why he wasted his time on these superstition classes, and got the response, “Scoff if you like, but I think I’m learning something.” It didn’t help improve Kondor’s opinion when the next several “magic spells” Zeke learned were about increasing faith and improving what Kondor could only define as “luck”.
The psionics lessons were getting more interesting. After teaching him how to hide his thoughts from prying minds, a counter to mind reading skills, she taught him the full range of extended sensory skills—how to hear, see, taste, smell, and feel remotely. He continued passing these skills to Zeke, one day behind himself, and realized that he was improving a bit concerning his connection to Zeke. They also began practicing telepathy to each other.
Kondor attempted to read the skill pattern in Zeke’s mind when he was practicing his so-called magic skills, but couldn’t find anything. He guessed that what they called magic must use a different part of the brain, or use it in a different way, which was why practitioners were confused into thinking that the power came from somewhere outside themselves. He saw that Zeke’s fighting was better when he used the magic, but thought it was probably a boost to his confidence to believe that something was helping him.
The next week was almost entirely telekinetic. It was quite a shock to him when he managed to use his mind to push an object, just slightly. After that, he learned to move small objects, then very large ones, then several at once. The next trick was lifting himself vertically, and after that he learned to fly, to move through the air in whatever direction he chose. He kept his flights low, though, not entirely confident that he wouldn’t drop himself, even though Lauren had said that he could probably catch himself using the levitation.
At the end of the week, she showed him how she shifted her sensory processing powers from one sense to another, enhancing her vision or hearing or whichever sense she felt she needed.
She said that the remaining skills were all very dangerous, and suggested they take a couple days just to practice the ones they already knew. She did not know that that would make learning the new ones safer or easier, but at least they would have a bit more familiarity with psionic abilities.
The next skill she brought them was what she called pyrogenesis, the ability to create heat. She was so good at this she could in seconds heat a sword to the temperature of a brand, but she told them she had been doing it for decades and using it for everything from cooking food to igniting fuel tanks. Take it slowly, she warned, and look for innocuous ways to use it.
A few days later she showed them how she created the force wall he had seen her use innumerable times, which had saved him before. She explained that this was the force bubble that protected them from the dragons on the spaceship, but it was not the one that saved them when the ship exploded and they were floating in space. That one was magic, she claimed. She had already taught that to Zeke, who confirmed that it was not at all like this skill once he learned it as well.
The next day she demonstrated how to take the principle of the force wall and turn it into a force blade, a chopping force akin to an invisible axe. It was again a skill at which she excelled from years of practice; Kondor wasn’t certain he would find that much use for it.
She also taught them a skill she had not used very much, the most difficult skill in her arsenal, she said, which she claimed was a precognitive combat bonus. She supposed, musing aloud, that one could create a read minds skill that told you what your enemy was going to do; this one enabled you to respond to what was going to happen, and so was useful against multiple opponents. Unfortunately, she usually forgot she had it when it would be useful. Combat was like that, she said.
Zeke was still learning magic skills, and continued to attend Lauren’s magic classes for a couple weeks after the psionics were finished. Lauren said she probably knew a lot more magic, but so much of it was tied to fighting vampires that it wasn’t worth trying to teach it all. Kondor still dismissed it as something no one understood, which did not make it magic.
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 #333: Uncertain Worlds. 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: