In the third installment of this great story, Dem explores the weaves recorded in the crystals seeking solace in their comfort as he waits to hear about his job application with the plant.
He opened his drawer and pulled out the black crystal, caressing it, seeking comfort in its feel. Once again he felt that absolute focus settle onto him, deeper than the focus he used for cutting and far more intense. Then he was in touch with the crystal as he had been with the key crystal days earlier.
He saw centuries melt into one another and felt thousands of people dream and wish and draw on the crystal. And he knew why the crystal was unusable. Like the key crystal, it was too charged from too many people with the talent drawing on it.
As with the key crystal, some of those who had drawn on this crystal, had known how to use the power colors and were surprised at how freely they came on this hill. Dem could see the weaves they formed with the colors drawn through the crystal. Yes, this one was to form a shield, and this to calm a storm. This one was to create a storm, and this one to block access to the power colors. There were hundreds of combinations, some were similar to those he had seen with the key crystal, but most were different. Many of these weaves were focused on attack and defense, or bending nature to one’s will.
I will free you of these memories, so that you can be free to do what god intended. Give them to me, let them go.
Dem felt the visions flow into him, and he automatically began to filter and discard those that were of no use to him. He focused on the weaves, storing one of each and then letting all the rest of the memories flow through him and out into the ether. This was right, he was certain of it.
He moved through the memories as they flowed at him faster and faster. Keep this one, discard that one, move on to the next. And they continued to flow until he could not remember anything else, just the need to sort and discard. Then suddenly they stopped flowing and he was left sitting there at his desk exhausted and drained beyond anything he had ever experienced before. It took a great deal of focus, but he eventually put the crystal back in the drawer and closed it. Then he slumped over onto the desk and slipped into blissful sleep.
“Son! Wake up. How long have you been here? Are you okay?”
Dem struggled to open his eyes in response to his mother’s concerned tone.
“What? Yes, I’m okay mom. Sorry, I must have fallen asleep. I will go to my sleep station. Sorry.”
“You are still in the same clothes you were wearing when I left for that drilling symposium two days ago. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Two days ago? I just sat down a few hours ago and checked my messages. What is she talking about?
“I’m fine mom. Just a little worried about why it is taking so long for the plant to get back to me.”
“They still haven’t gotten back to you? Good grief, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Check again.”
Dem touched the ident panel and it opened the messages screen. It showed 1 message pending, since yesterday afternoon.
“There it is. What did they say?”
Dem touched the message indicator and it opened.
Candidate Dem. We apologize for the delay in getting back to you. There were some anomalies in the readings during your interview. We would like to invite you to come in for a second interview with the head of our tuning department and the senior master assigned to the plant.
Please let us know your availability for such an interview if you are still interested in a position with us.
Thank you for your patience.
“I’ve never heard of that before either Dem. The department heads do not waste their time on interviews of individuals with no previous experience. And I’ve never heard of the senior master getting involved in an interview for anyone.
What did you do?”
“I don’t know mom. I really don’t know. But this could be good, right? I mean they didn’t tell me they were not interested. They want to interview me again.”
“It could be good, I suppose. But when one of us gets called in to see the department head it nearly always means we are being let go. Still, you are not yet an employee, so that does not make sense in this case.
Maybe your dad will know. He should be back tomorrow and you can ask him then. Try to set up the interview for after he gets back so he can advise you if there is some precedent that he has heard of.”
“Okay, that makes sense. I will ask for day after tomorrow.”
He keyed his response to the message and hit send. Hopefully, that was not too far in the future, he had already let nearly a full day pass since they responded to him.
“Now dial up some food, you look positively pale. Did you forget to eat while your dad and I were gone?”
Dem felt his stomach rumble and suddenly realized how hungry he really was.
It happened again, I focused on one of those crystals and a great deal of time passed without my noticing it. This can’t be good for me.
But I learned so much. And I’m as certain as I am sitting here that the black crystal is now clear and ready to be used.
As he thought about it, he felt the black crystal respond and suddenly he was filled with energy. The key crystal was probably more powerful because it could pull on other crystals, but this black one was very large and extremely powerful.
Dem got to his feet and walked over to the food regenerator, taking a seat next to his mom. She had already keyed up a large meal for them and was stirring an antiviral into his caf.
“Here drink this. You need the extra protection if you are going to insist on letting yourself go without food like this. I checked and you have not called up a meal for two days.”
“Sorry mom. I’ll try to do better.”
He settled in and ate the meal she pushed on him, forcing the last few bites down to satisfy her.
“Okay, go get cleaned up and change into some fresh clothes. I want to show you the new cave we opened. We have already found five key crystals. It is going to be a very profitable dig. Management thinks it might be big enough to generate some bonuses this year. That would sure be nice after the losses we took over the last couple of years.”
Dem felt a quick surge of excitement at the idea of seeing a new cave still filled with crystals. There was something special about being in a room filled with Xum crystals. You could feel the air humming with energy. It was truly amazing.
“That sounds wonderful. I’ll be right back.”
Two hours later, they were entering the mine security scanning building. Dem had forgotten how popular his mom was among the miners it had taken them almost twenty minutes to get from the transport center to the security scanning building. His mother had to tell several people about the training she had just come back from.
Each time she would tell the story, Dem would focus on the amazing beauty of the mountain range to distract himself. The grand blue peaks capped with the white of the snow that never melted at those elevations was beyond beautiful. And he could lose himself in their grandeur.
At long last, though they reached the Security scanning building. As they entered one of the mine transports took off down the main shaft with a full load of miners and support crews.
Five scanning stations going in and five more coming out and they still had to wait in line for several minutes to get to the scanning stations. Of course his mother spent that time talking to the other miners in line and telling them how wonderful the new laser drills were and how they could detect and avoid crystal refraction much more effectively than the current models.
Dem though was impatient to get into the mine and feel the thrill of the crystals that were so concentrated in this mountain. Just being this close he could already feel the soothing comfort so many crystals in such a concentrated area. Finally, his mom reached the scanning station and pressed her palm to the plate declaring that she had one guest and was destined for cave 197634 on level 72.
“Proceed to the waiting area, have your guest press the ident plate.”
His mom nodded to him as she stepped through the scanner and stopped in the small waiting area just past the exit from the scanning area.
“Dem applicant for crystal tuner. Access denied. Foreman Rem guests with the talent are not permitted in the mine for safety reasons. Please show your guest to the exit before reentering the mine.”
Dem stood there in shock for a moment until the security guards started moving toward him with intent. Then he shook himself and stepped back out of the line and toward the entrance.
His mother intercepted him before he got to the door.
“Oh my god. I’m so sorry son. It completely slipped my mind that to be a tuner you have to have the talent. People with the talent can be overcome by the concentrated power of so many crystals in such a confined place. That’s why tuners work in isolation rooms with no more than five crystals at any one time.
I’m so sorry. I should have thought.”
Dem automatically reached out for the key crystal to feel its calm and it responded instantly. But so did several other crystals that were much closer to him and he felt their strength and clear clean feel.
“Dem! Look at me. Concentrate son. We have got to get you off the mountain. Come with me.”
Dem felt the pain as his mother slapped his face, but it was a distant thing and he ignored it glorying in the feel of the crystals that were responding to his touch. He felt the strength as they filled him with energy.
I am so strong, what could I not do with such power. I could cure all illness, or end poverty. Damn with the power stored in this mountain, I could bring the witch hunters themselves to their knees.
Then suddenly the touch of the crystals was gone and all the power and strength with it. He wanted to scream at the sense of loss, and tried desperately to reach out for the key crystal, then the black. But neither one responded. It was as if he were buried in cotton.
Then he felt the pain again as his mother slapped his face once more.
“Dem! Come out of it. I got you on the transport, but I might not be able to get you back off if you don’t wake up.”
Dem opened his eyes and saw the concern in his mother’s face. With several other faces peering around her trying to see him as well.
“Where are we mom?”
“Oh thank god. I thought the crystals had claimed you. Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Where are we?”
“We’re on the transport almost back to the city. You have been unresponsive since we left the security scanning center. You just about scared me to death.”
“Sorry mom. I was… Never mind. So we are almost back to the city? That must be it. I must be too far away.”
But he knew that didn’t make sense, he had been able to feel the key stone from the security scanning building. He was much closer to it now and it was not responding. Clearly something was blocking him.
“Dem, I’m Kre Master A’Ah. I apologize, but I found it necessary to put a power separation weave on you to prevent you from activating any more of the crystals at the mine.
You must learn how to control your talent and resist the draw, or stay completely away from the Xum Mountains. Come see me when you get back to town and I will remove the weave after we talk about how you can protect yourself from repeating today’s near disaster.”
Dem looked around but he could not see the man who was speaking to him.
This must be telepathy. I have read about this. How do I respond to this? Oh yeah, you think your response and focus on the person you wish that response to go to.
“Thank you, sir. Where will I find you? My mom says we are almost back to town, but I have no idea where to look for a master.”
“Well, my offices are on the northwest side of the city, but I can meet you at the south entrance to the plant if that is easier. I need to make my daily visit to the plant anyway.”
“South entrance to the plant, sir. Okay, I will see you there shortly. How will I recognize you?”
“I will recognize you. Just come to the gate.”