Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Page 1685

((Triple Wednesday -- Page 2 of 3))
“Perhaps you should improve your self-discipline,” said Zeff. From the wording alone, it might have seemed like a suggestion, but the man’s tone did not imply that at all. “Our opponent is a very old materializer. You would be wise not to underestimate him.”

Diego’s shoulders slumped a little, and he frowned.

Hector thought about patting the poor guy on the shoulder, and he even reached his hand up part of the way, but then he thought it might be too weird or awkward or maybe patronizing, so the hand froze in midair for a second before stiltedly finding its way back down to Hector’s side.

Agh. He hoped nobody saw that.

“This technique,” Zeff was saying, “is extremely advanced. Even I am incapable of it in my current form.”

Hector was surprised to hear that. “How does the technique work, exactly?”

The Lord Elroy regarded him silently for a moment. Then he said, “I will explain, but make another of those hovering platforms for us first. Do not let us touch the ground.”

“Ah--right.” Hector put his hands together as he summoned his concentration. A hovering platform of iron. Motionless in the middle but with a coating that counteracted gravity. Just as before.

The iron materialized beneath everyone and carried them up and over the brown minefield or whatever it was. Hector moved them slowly closer to the warehouse.

Zeff was rubbing his own hands together now, perhaps in preparation. “Hector,” he said, “do you think you can break through whatever this material is?”

Hector blinked as he thought about it. “Ah--maybe I could, but probably not without killing everyone inside...”

“Hmph. That is the correct answer.”

For a second, Hector thought he saw Zeff smile.

What do you mean, correct answer?’ said Garovel. ‘Are you saying that was a test, just now?

“Yes,” said Zeff bluntly. And as he was finally near enough to one of the buildings to touch it, a water jet appeared above his hand, and he pressed it against the dark coating.

The jet did not go in. The coating resisted.

Zeff’s face twisted, then he dematerialized his work and tried again, this time with a larger jet. When he pressed it against the coating, it resisted again, but Zeff was able to force it in with apparent arm strength.

What was the point of that test?’ said Garovel, apparently not prepared to let it go.

Axiolis answered in Zeff’s stead, however. ‘What is the point of any test? To measure one’s aptitude.

Hector got the feeling that Garovel didn’t appreciate that response very much, but the reaper said nothing more on the matter.

Hector just maintained the hovering platform while he observed the man’s work. It was slow going, but that was no surprise. Diego and Manuel looked rather bored, until they noticed Axiolis staring at them, at which point they both sat down cross-legged and began meditating.

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