He tried to meditate for a while, but intermittent bouts of turbulence kept shaking him out of it until he decided to just give up.
‘Fun fact for you,’ said Garovel, still privately. ‘Under normal atmospheric conditions, turbulence is usually exclusive to higher altitudes, but since we’re near a mountain range, the air currents are all wonky even at this height.’
‘It IS interesting, you sarcastic fuck.’
Hector breathed a small laugh and looked down to avoid drawing attention to himself. The shield was right there in his lap. It seemed too valuable to not keep a solid grip on at all times, especially with that hole in the plane sitting right there. He really didn’t want his luck with shields to be the same as his luck with motorcycles.
After a while, Hector remembered a question he’d been meaning to ask. ‘By the way, uh... why did you lie to Sazandara about my age? Wouldn’t it be better if people think I’m weaker than I actually am?’
‘She DOES think you’re weaker than you actually are.’
‘I told her three years. Truthfully, factoring in all the times you’ve achieved emergence and your constant practice and meditation, your iron ability is more like six or seven years old.’
Hector squinted with one eye. ‘Wha? No way. That can’t be right...’
‘In terms of sheer volume and power, yes. It is. Trust me.’
‘But... that means I’m, like, uh... er... e-eight times stronger than normal...?’
He thought back, trying to count. ‘But I’ve, um... I mean, I’ve only achieved emergence, like... four times, I think.’
Garovel snorted. ‘“Only four,” he says. That’s kind of a fuckload, y’know.’
‘Hmm... but still, I mean... EIGHT times as strong?’
‘I know it sounds ridiculous. That’s exactly why I had to lie about it to Sazandara. If I tell people you’re less than eight months old, and then they later see what you’re capable of, that could bite us in the ass. If you’re a bit stronger than average, no big deal. If you’re eight times stronger, BIG DEAL. Big smelly, hairy deal. That kind of information is not to be shared lightly, Hector. Understand? That’s how we end up with people like Gohvis knocking on our door, people who’ll see us as a problem that should be nipped in the bud.’
‘I understood that much. I just, uh... hmm.’
‘You just, what?’