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09 November 2018 @ 09:20 am

:: Can you hear me? ::

Surprise. “Yes.”

:: Say it mentally. ::

:: But I haven’t blossomed yet. ::

:: I think you have. You’re just being quiet and controlled about it. :: Xen looked at the scrawny boy . . . a slow grower, like me. He swallowed a lump in his throat. I think I could love all of these kids. But I must not push! They don’t know me.

:: I don’t feel the kinds of things other kids feel. I thought I hadn’t . . . is it because I don’t have the One gene? ::

:: Yes. And no one else noticed because you are quiet. ::

:: Well, my voice was getting loud. One Izmo gave me a few pointers about shields. It seems to work, or at least other people’s thought aren’t getting in. ::

:: Yours aren’t getting out. Good job. ::

Orny was leaking both ways, and a lot of disorganized strength. :: Hideous name. I prefer Or What. And you aren’t my father! :: Embarrassment as he realized he’d sent that, and stubborn refusal to back off of it.

:: Those codes can be infuriating. And yes. For most of you, I’ll never be more than a teacher you are somewhat related to. And a resource when all else fails, but hopefully never needed. I regret that, but I have to accept it. :: Xen set him to shield practice and moved on to the next boy . . .

Two others were collecting dangerous levels of power and needed grounding exercises. Then three medium strong and moderately trained. One last boy who hadn’t blossomed.

And finally he was at the end of the line.

“All right! Up and at them! While I write down my notes, you may all run amok on the beach, and yes, get wet. Please don’t go any further out than you can get back from. There are drinks and sandwiches here, whenever you want them.” He pulled the two boxes out of a bubble, then retreated to the sand dune.

He flopped down between Rael and the Priests. “That’s an impressive bunch of kids. A couple are downright scary. Can you arrange training for the more advanced ones before they do something dangerous because of power overload?”

Duic nodded. “Indeed, I had no idea Yrno could pull power like that.”

Xen shrugged. “At this stage they acquire abilities in a series of steps. I didn’t notice it yesterday. Maybe getting almost-lost in the Maze was good for him. Although I doubt he was scared enough to jump a threshold.”

Rael looked over as he pulled a comp out of a bubble and started typing notes. “So, how’d my pair do, Teacher?”

“Is your Arno the very quiet one? Or the out of control loud one?”

“Quiet. Hasn’t quite blossomed yet.”

“He’s going to be interesting to train. Very controlled. And he has blossomed, so quietly he hadn’t realized anything had changed. Ryol’s got impressive shields, total frequency coverage. Can’t imagine who taught her that.” He grinned at Rael’s nervous relief.

And back to the Priests. “The kids with Fallen power genes probably ought to come back soon, for specific pointers. The kids with the One gene will probably do fine with standard Oner training and occasional trips here for dimensional training. I’ll work some more with all of them over the next few days.”

Rael giggled. “That’ll keep you hopping.”

“No kidding.” He leaned out and looked at Q. “All I have to do is rope in some people to work with some of them tomorrow while I take a few at a time.” He stood up . . . someone . . . He reached out mentally with a bit of levitation and hauled Ogri out of the surf and dropped him on the sand. :: Good wipeout. Next time, bring your board. ::

Ogri stood up, and glared at the waves. :: I’ve body surfed before! :: And headed back out.

“My, my. I wonder where my nephew got that stubbornness from?” Q snickered. “Yes, Xen. I will help. Rael? Why don’t we team up and take all the girls? I’d love to try some witch training, and you could do the Oner stuff and then we’d both feel like we were researching, instead of babysitting.”

“Deal!” Rael leaned and eyed the Priests. “And perhaps you six, between you, could work with whichever boys Xen isn’t working with.”

Duic looked offended. “I’m supposed to be tracking the children’s abilities and progress with occasional tests.”

Ytry cackled. “Hands on. It’ll be good for you. I’ll bet training has changed since I was a sprout. But I’ll see if I can remember that far back into the Paleozoic.”

Then Gior found a big conch shell, and started a sea shell hunt up and down the shore. Xen tried to demonstrate detecting the density differences between the calcium carbonate shells and the silicon dioxide sand. The priests came down to try that trick . . .

Xen and Rael exchanged grins.

Rael giggled. “I can’t believe you got ­all the Priests down here beachcombing. I mean, Ytry, sure. But Duic? Totally not expected.”

“I guess you know them all, what with Dancer training?”

“Just Ytry. Well, I’ve met Izmo, Teal, and Jaum. But Ytry was my main teacher. He’s good with shields.”

“Hmm. I’ll have to be careful, then.” He looked down at her. “Am I allowed to kiss you in front of your kids? Our kids?”

She leaned on him. “I need to focus on them for a little bit. Not look like I’m here to be with you.”

Xen looked out to sea and pulled Ogri back to the surface and dumped him on the sand. “Tell you what. You collect the right volume of drift wood and I’ll demonstrate how the Fallen work with wood as I form it all into a surfboard.”

“Oh yeah?” The boy eyed him dubiously, but got to work fetching driftwood.

Once he had a pile Xen started straightening the pieces, pressing the water out of them and melding them together.

Ogri’s eyes widened. “Two meters long, eighty centimeters wide. Five cems thick, and it’ll need a bottom fin . . .” He ran off for more wood.

Eight surfboards later . . .

Rael was out giving pointers to the beginners, while Xen stayed ashore and tried to keep track of everyone.

Ogri was more determined than good, Ryol quite good, and Arno quietly expert.

“We live across the street from the beach. We surf all the time.” Arno handed his board off to another suicidal wannabe surfer.

No one drowned, most of the food got eaten.

Xen finally herded the exhausted kids back to the school.

“Shower, change clothes, and then we’ll act like a real school, with a lecture.”

/// Lecture 2kw///

/// meet other kids, dinner 750w///

Arno drew out a map of the maze . . . then consulted with Ryol and Jay about what was on the far side of each corridor. “Master Xen picked us up here, so we never explored any of the other corridors of the first three gates.”

They looked at each other. “We ought to do some careful, controlled, exploring.” Arno grinned. “I’m going to go grab a few things.”

Tougher shoes, and a loose jacket that would hang over the clip on holster in middle of his back.

The dog appeared and tagged along with them.

They mapped back three gates on every corridor off the first two “main” gates.

And got home with no problem at all.