In the second installment of this great story, Sslasl progresses with his training and learns of some real urgency for his mixer.
Sslasl focused once more and again formed a perfect weave. As soon as Master Nev indicated it was satisfactory. He placed it on himself and moved cautiously through the testing phase. This time he saw the puddle appear in front of him and avoided it as he moved toward the security door. Again an obstacle appeared and he avoided it. The weave passed the proximity and temperature sensors, and he even noticed the telltale indentation that signaled a pressure sensor in front of the door. But he did not relax or release his tense concentration until he was once again standing in his place in front of Master Nev. Seconds later, he heard the alarm go off as the young lady conscious of the tripping mechanisms missed the pressure sensor and tripped that alarm.
He felt her frustration like a wave slamming into him. His heart immediately responded and he silently wished her well as he envisioned her successfully navigating through all the traps.
“Good Sslasl, now work on the additional weaves we showed you this morning. The rest of you keep working on this one. You must all perfect this weave and its use before you leave here today.”
A few minutes later the young lady came over to stand next to him and began working on the other new weaves. Sslasl did not look up but he could feel her happiness and sense of accomplishment. He smiled to himself; it was good that she had been next to master the weave. She had been here longer than he had been and had helped him a couple of different times with weaves he had difficulty with.
What was her name? Oh yes, it was Daas, that’s right Daas. He could see her close cropped brown hair and deep tan out of the side of his eye as she stood next to him.
Damn! Lost my concentration. Better refocus before Master Nev comes over and encourages me.
Sslasl refocused and drew the power colors again, neatly weaving them together to form the next weave. This one would allow him to breathe where there was no atmosphere. Apparently it was needed to move rapidly across great distances using teleportation.
Hours passed and Sslasl felt his body responding to the constant effort before Master Nev called an end to the session.
Now they would be given a short break and then go right into martial arts training. Master Nev had been pushing him to use his precog skills to assist with sparing, and Sslasl was finally beginning to get the hang of that, but it still felt like cheating when he anticipated someone’s moves and countered them easily. There were only a very few of the apprentices that had that particular skill. And when he faced those who did, it really became a challenge because the outcomes changed constantly. For the most part they just wore each other out and otherwise it was as if they didn’t have the talent.
“Hey Sslasl. Thanks for that nudge earlier. I was really getting into my own head, but your confidence in me helped me get back in control.”
Daas stepped in and gave him a kiss before he could react. And he felt the blood flowing into his face again.
He saw the mirth in her pretty brown eyes and that didn’t help.
“What do you mean, nudge?”
“You sent me well wishes and confidence. It was very nice. I didn’t know you were an empath.”
“Empath? I’m not. Or at least I don’t think I am?”
“Well, I know what I felt, and I have no doubt it was you, I could practically see your face.”
She bent in to kiss him again, and in spite of himself, Sslasl felt himself responding.
When she pulled back finally, Sslasl had to force himself not to pull her back in. Daas giggled.
“Later Sslasl. We only have a few minutes to grab a bite and get dressed for martial arts. Come on.”
…”Concentrate Sslasl! You are way better than that, what’s gotten into you today?”
Sslasl felt the crack of his head on the mat as Master Nev swept him again.
Get ahold of yourself or you will end up a cripple. Damn Sslasl, you act like she is the first girl ever to flash you a smile.
Master Nev followed through and slammed a fist into Sslasl’s face and the world went dim for a few seconds.
“Are you back?”
“Good, now focus on what you are doing and show me the Sslasl I know is in there.”
Sslasl concentrated and felt the focus slip into place. Master Nev moved in and attacked with a vengeance. Sslasl moved and countered, blocked and dodged. He reached out for his gift and focused to keep the current and future separate. Okay, now he will do this, and leave an opening here.
Sslasl felt his fist make contact with the master’s shoulder.
Damn he’s fast, even knowing what he is going to do, it is nearly impossible to get a full strike on the man.
“Excellent! That’s the Sslasl I wanted to see. Now switch the momentum and test my guard.”
Sslasl focused, there, he would be able to switch the momentum there. He blocked a kick, slipped a series of punches and executed a scissor take down.
He successfully got Master Nev to the floor, but the man bounced right back to his feet and Sslasl had to scramble to regain his own footing. There another opening was coming. Block here, slip here, slide right. Now! He attacked with a foot and hand barrage that even surprised Sslasl, but of course nothing got through.
Sslasl pulled back and bowed as he had been taught.
“That was very good Sslasl, you pressed me pretty hard that time.”
Sslasl saw the sweat glistening from Master Nev’s face and was shocked. He had never seen the man look like he had to work at all to defend against the apprentices.
“Your speed is improving and you are really getting the hang of using that exceptional talent to your advantage. Master Masl will want to work with you tomorrow. Excellent work, that’s what you should have been doing through this whole session.
Everyone take 15 laps on Sslasl for slacking through the first half of the training session. Then you are dismissed for the day. Get some rest tonight, we will do pairings tomorrow and you will go at each other until only one remains standing.”
Sslasl felt the emotional response as Master Nev announced that they would be running because he slacked off, and he had to really focus to keep from reacting immediately.
“It’s okay Sslasl, he would have made us run anyway, this just gave him an excuse. Come on run with me.”
Sslasl almost smiled and looked around for Daas. As soon as she saw him look at her she smiled and took off running. He had to push himself to catch up with her, but then he settled into her rhythm and forgot all about the others in the room.
“Master Masl wants to work with you tomorrow. Guess you will forget all about me when you are working with her.”
“Not likely, she is cute, but a bit old for me don’t you think?”
Daas giggled and Sslasl smiled. The giggle of pure pleasure she used was such a sweet sound.
“Don’t let her hear you say that. Women don’t like to hear about how old they are.”
“I’m guessing you will not be working out with us any longer. The last one of her students that Master Nev prepped went to work with her and never came back. I don’t know if she is even still on planet.”
“She still needs me to help with the mixing and we have not yet gotten the newest automatic mixer working, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about there. I will be on planet for a while.”
“Good. Now shut up and run.”
She sped up suddenly and started closing on the apprentice that was leading the group. Sslasl had to hustle again to catch up. When he did, he felt the new rhythm and settled in beside her as they moved past the front apprentice and set the new pace for the group.
As they finished the last lap, Sslasl saw that Master Masl was waiting on them. She would want to know about the new mixer he suspected, and she might not be happy with the delay caused by the faulty boards they had received yesterday.
“Looks like I will be explaining the slow down on our new mixer. See you later.”
Daas did not like hanging around when Master Masl was present and she altered her path toward the dressing room while he headed straight for the Master.
“Is that the young apprentice that has you all distracted? What’s her name? Daas, right?”
“Oh don’t play dumb with me Sslasl. You don’t imagine that I would not know if you had a new friend do you? You are working on pretty sensitive stuff.”
“Yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am, I did not think you would not know about Daas. Is that a problem?”
“No, she would not be here if we thought she was a security risk. Just the same it would be better if you didn’t discuss your work with her.”
“Yes ma’am, I understand.”
“Good. Well, I think it is good you found someone your age to relax with. But we do need to talk about other things. Get cleaned up and meet me in my office. The High Councilor’s daughter is here and wants to meet you.”
“The High Councilor’s daughter? Lady Seala wants to meet me?”
“Yes, she does, so don’t dawdle.”
“Yes ma’am, I mean no ma’am I won’t dawdle.”
Master Masl had already turned away by the time he finished stumbling over his words. She probably didn’t even hear his response, on to the next item on her agenda most likely. That was her way and he had gotten used to it over the last several months, but it still caught him off guard occasionally.
Sslasl hustled back to the locker room and rushed through his cleaning and dressing routines, but paused at the mirror long enough to make sure he looked presentable for the High Councilor’s daughter.
Lady Seala was almost as famous as her father, and he did not want to leave a bad impression or embarrass Master Masl.
Sslasl arrived at Master Masl’s office less than 30 minutes after meeting with her in the gym, and was not at all surprised to see that she was back with a stream of people leaving her office and several others waiting to see her.
Not only was she the senior master here, she was also coordinating a large effort in support of the high councilor’s plans for moving on the witch hunters.
Master Nev was also in his office and it appeared that many of those waiting to see Master Masl were being redirected to see him instead. Several of them were clearly irritated that they were being sent to him instead of being seen by Master Masl. Sslasl could feel their irritation as they walked past him toward Master Nev’s office.
“Okay Sslasl, they are ready for you. Please go in, Lady Seala is the shorter lady with Auburn hair. Be sure to pay her the utmost respect.”
Sslasl walked to the office door and knocked twice as he had been taught to do before entering the master’s office.
“Come in Sslasl.”
He entered and walked straight forward to two steps before Master Masl’s desk and stopped, then bowed formally. That gave him a moment to adjust to the fact that Master Masl was not behind her desk, she was sitting in a side chair and a somewhat shorter woman with auburn hair was sitting in her chair, flanked by a tall, well-muscled woman with long blond hair and blue eyes that seemed to drill right through him. The tall woman was wearing a military uniform, possibly security for Lady Seala.
“Rise Sslasl, let me get a look at you.”
Sslasl stood up straight and looked at the desk in front of the woman that had to be Lady Seala. He felt very awkward not facing Master Masl, but knew this was the right thing from the sense of approval he felt coming from her.
“Sslasl, I appreciate the respect you are showing, but have no time for formalities. Please look me in the eye so I can gauge your mettle.”
Sslasl was startled, but knew better than to disobey so he looked up into her beautiful turquoise eyes. In spite of the twinkle he saw there, he was certain she could see every flaw in his character, every doubt and fear he had. But he could see and feel her pain as well. She had deep scars that she managed expertly, but he could feel the pain and his level of respect for the woman increased exponentially.
“I’m Seala, and this is General Carmel who will lead the first fleet we are sending into the witch hunter territory.
I’m betting you want to know why you are here today, aren’t you?”
“I’m at your service ma’am, your reasons for asking for me do not need to be explained to me.”
Lady Seala broke out in laughter startling him and leaving him wondering if he had said something incorrectly.
“Masl, you have the most amazing apprentices. He will make an excellent politician one day.”
“Yes ma’am we are very proud of Apprentice Sslasl, for a lot of reasons, his political skills not least among them.”
“Well, I hope he can get over them, I won’t have time for political answers when we are in the heat of battle.”
The iron in that voice sounded strange given the almost musical timber. But Sslasl did not miss the intimation that he would be with the General in the heat of the battle.
“Oh, and quick too. I can see from the look in your eyes that Carmel spilled the beans.
That’s right, we are here to ask you to join General Carmel’s team. You know more about these fuel mixers than anyone. Since the general here will be traveling very long distances without a service station anywhere near, we need you there to make sure they work perfectly. Can I count on you?”
In the second installment of this great story, Sslasl progresses with his training and learns of some real urgency for his mixer.