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LtJG Iniko Mpeba - New Horizons


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((Personal Quarters, USS Darwin-A))

::Iniko paced restlessly back and forth across the limited free space in jheas quarters. That free space would hopefully shrink even further soon, if jhe could convince Captain Renos to allow jhea to bring Ukwu aboard. For the moment, though, that bit of floor was still empty, and jhe was working on wearing a hole through it.::

::The last meeting with Sawat Chalor had gone amazingly well. Iniko still had trouble believing it had really happened. But now Iniko was expecting Sawat to call again at any moment, this time for their first real fielding lesson, and jheas nerves were back full force.::

oO What if jhe changes jheas mind? I'll probably turn out to be absolutely useless and jhe will disown me again in disgust. What if I misunderstood and the whole thing was just a joke? Maybe jhe has come to jheas senses and jhe won't even call. Or the Fielding League found out and they'll prevent jhea from calling, and I've probably gotten jhea into so much trouble just by talking to them, and . . . Oo

::Thankfully the message tone sounded from jheas console and interrupted the impending panic attack. Jhe spun around and accepted the call before jhe could talk jheaself out of it.::

::Sawat appeared on the screen, looking as calm and composed as ever. Jhe was sitting on a cushion in an otherwise empty room, with a tiny animal curled up in jheas lap. The window behind jhea showed the night sky. Iniko couldn't even remember what time it would be in Rania, and jhe didn't actually have any idea where Sawat lived, so jhe had no idea what time it was there. Iniko hoped jhe wasn't keeping Sawat up too late.::

Chalor: Iniko, it is good to see you again. I admit I was not entirely certain you would still be amenable to this arrangement.

::Iniko twisted jheas mouth wryly. It seemed highly unlikely to jhea that Iniko would be the one to give up on this relationship, but it didn't seem polite to say so.::

Mpeba: I’m not that easy to shake off.

Chalor: No, I'm beginning to see that. I'm glad.

::Sawat smiled hesitantly, but warmly. Then jhe turned serious again, and lifted the protesting creature out of jheas lap. Now Iniko could see it was a small meeka, a rodent that was native to the norca fields of Southern Tanal. Growing up in Rania, Iniko’s main exposure to them had been as lab animals, and jhe tensed up momentarily. It quickly became obvious that this meeka was a pet, though, not something to perform experiments on, and jhe relaxed. Sawat pet its head and the little creature stopped protesting and starting chittering contentedly.::

Chalor: I'm not sure how much you already know, so I will most likely repeat some lessons you are already familiar with. There are many approaches to the discipline, however, so I will ask you to bear with me so that we do not leave any holes in your training.

::Iniko nodded acceptance of these terms, and leaned forward curiously.::

Chalor: Since there are many different types of energy fields, and everyone has different strengths, it is possible you may need to seek out different methods of training than the ones I will be most familiar with. Then again -

::Sawat’s face twisted and jhe looked away. It was a moment before jhe could meet Iniko’s eyes again.::

Chalor: Pardon me, I am not accustomed to this. It occurred to me that as my, well, offspring? ::jhe shuddered just a little as jhe said the word, but jhe looked more surprised than disgusted:: Yes, well, you might have a higher likelihood of sharing the same strengths I do.

::Iniko sat back and wrapped jheas arms around jheaself, feeling the prickling sensation of tears in jheas eyes. Jhe tried to smile.::

Mpeba: I think I'd like that.

::Sawat coughed and sat up more stiffly, but an involuntary smile was tugging at the corner of jheas mouth.::

Chalor: I suppose I would also find it somewhat gratifying. But let us move on. My specialty is with living creatures and plants. The energies within them are far more chaotic than those found in machinery or most other natural phenomenon. This can make them very difficult to understand, but it also makes them the most beautiful, in my own opinion. A fielder well practiced in biological energy fields can spot problems occurring at a cellular level, but even at the beginning you may be able to see illnesses or changes that are occurring at a macroscopic scale. Because of that, there are certain codes of ethics that you will need to study if you are going to pursue this course of study. For the moment, though, I would like to see what level you are at to begin with.

::Iniko’s head was already starting to spin, and they hadn't even begun the lesson yet. Jheas previous teachers had largely focused on electrical fields, having despaired of teaching jhea anything more complicated than that. Jhe had never had much skill, and was really only pursuing it now so that jhe could control jheas own reactions to it. The idea that Sawat might start jhea off with one of the most complex applications of fielding seemed a bit ludicrous. Then again, it also sounded fascinating, and if there was a chance jhe might be able to grasp it, jhe would like to try.::

Mpeba: Alright. How should we start?

Chalor: I don't suppose you have an animal at hand, do you?

::Sawat gestured towards the meeka. Iniko shook jheas head sadly.::

Mpeba: Not at the moment, no.

oO Soon, though, I hope. Oo

Chalor: Ah, well, plant life is likely a better starting point anyway. I see you have a potted plant in the corner there. Would you bring that over, please?

::Iniko stood and dragged over one of jheas plants. It was meant as a climbing tree for Ukwu, if jhe got to bring her aboard. For the moment, though, it served as a reminder of some of the more pleasant aspects of Til’ahn, for when jhe became homesick. Jhe took jheas seat again and looked at Sawat expectantly.::

Chalor: That will be ideal. Since we are communicating electronically, you will not be able to sense the same things I can, so you will have to have your own tools for practicing. Now, you will need to focus your mind and apply your fielding sense to the plant. Then tell me what you can sense.

::Nodding, Iniko closed jheas eyes and tried to settle into a more relaxed position. Jhe started chanting the first verse of one of jheas favorite meditative poems, an ancient story about the origins of the two moons of Til’ahn. Jhe was interrupted almost immediately as Sawat began coughing. Iniko opened jheas eyes, concerned, only to realize that Sawat was actually laughing at jhea.::

Mpeba: Did I do something wrong already?

::Sawat sputtered a few more times before jhe managed to respond.::

Chalor: I’m sorry, that was unforgivably rude of me, but what exactly was that?

Mpeba: A chant? To meditate? You told me to focus my mind.

Chalor: I see. Well. I knew Chioma had been meeting with some strange people, but where exactly did she find someone to teach you that archaic rite? And in Rania of all places?

::Iniko flushed, embarrassed for both jheaself and jheas mother. Jhe disagreed with jheas mother plenty, but it was different when someone else did it. On the other hand, if that really was a ridiculously outdated method, jhe was horrified that jhe hadn’t known better, and that jhe had given Sawat such an awful first impression. Jhe crossed jheas arms defensively.::

Mpeba: What exactly is wrong with it?

::Sawat seemed to realize that jhe had caused offense, and held jheas hands up placatingly.::

Chalor: I didn’t mean to offend. It was just . . . a surprise. These sorts of focusing chants are now understood to be unnecessary by the majority of fielders, but certain more traditional sects prefer to retain them. If you find them useful, then by all means continue.

::Iniko narrowed jheas eyes, but jhe relaxed a little.::

Mpeba: If you were to teach someone how to focus, how would you do it?

::Sawat rubbed jheas chin thoughtfully for a moment before responding.::

Chalor: Try this. Close your eyes and take deep, steady breaths.

::Iniko was tempted to roll jheas eyes at the obviousness of the suggestion, but jhe really didn’t want to offend Sawat when their relationship was still so fragile. Instead, jhe simply followed directions and closed jheas eyes. Jhe slowed down jheas breathing, and focused on the feeling of the air going in and out of jheas lungs.::

Chalor: Now, stop thinking about your breathing, and instead focus on the rhythm of your pulse. Feel the blood flowing through your veins, and then see if you can feel your heart.

::That seemed like nonsense. Iniko was pretty sure you couldn’t feel your own heart beating. But jhe did jheas best anyway, and bent all jheas attention to it. Jhe couldn’t feel it, just like jhe had expected, and yet there was something . . . Somehow jhe could sense it beating, but not through jheas nerves, as jhe had expected. Not like hearing or seeing it either. It was a different sense entirely. Jhe could feel the spark of electrical impulses driving the muscles to contract and relax, and the pressure of the kinetic energy as blood was forced between chambers. Jheas eyes flew open, and jhe stared at Sawat in shock.::

Mpeba: That was- I’ve never- How?!

Chalor: It worked, then? I was wondering. It’s a technique I’ve used before with students who don’t respond well to the usual methods of instruction. I wouldn’t normally present it as a first choice method. Most students find the other methods simpler. But, well, that was how I first mastered the skill, and I thought maybe you . . . and it seems to have worked. So that’s good, then.

::Iniko felt like jheas grin was stretching all the way to jheas ears. Not from seeing how discomfited Sawat became whenever jhe confronted the idea of their familial ties, but because there was a tiny, proud smile flickering at the corners of jheas stern mouth. However uncomfortable this made Sawat, jhe also seemed to find it pleasing. To find Iniko pleasing. It made Iniko’s chest feel almost painfully full. Not to mention the fact that jhe had finally actually sensed the energy fields, not some barely-there flicker of them but actually tangibly felt them. Jhe had never managed so much with any of jheas other teachers, despite months of work.::

Mpeba: I want to try again!

Chalor: Please do. This time, once you are in the proper state of mind, I want you to turn your attention to the plant. See if you can sense it.

::Iniko nodded and closed jheas eyes again. It took longer to focus this time. Jhe was too excited and jheas thoughts swirled fiercely. But jhe managed to get them under control eventually, and feel the beat of jheas heart again. It was a heady feeling, and jhe nearly lost it almost immediately because of jheas excitement, but jhe pushed through and managed to hold onto it. Once jhe was settled again, and felt jheas heartbeat return to its normal rhythm, jhe broadened jheas focus, trying to look for the plant without opening jheas eyes. It was a weird feeling, and it took jhea a minute to work out how to direct jheas new sense. It was less like groping blindly through a dark room, and more like walking through a fog of static. There were fields going every which way, in patterns jhe didn’t understand, intersecting and interfering with one another until everything was just noise. Finally jhe found something, though, and latched on to this new sensation.::

::The plant was much less active than jheas heart. The gentle, steady pull of water, up through its roots and trunk towards the branches and leaves. The quiet crackle of photosynthesis. Jhe could sense photosynthesis? That was utterly bizarre. Jhe couldn’t sense it on a cellular level. It was more like a constantly changing foam that covered all the surface of the leaves. That was a terrible way to describe it, but jhe didn’t actually have anything to compare it to.::

::Jhe tried to speak without losing jheas concentration, but the very action of opening jheas mouth caused the sensations to disintegrate.::

Mpeba: I can . . . ack, it’s gone. ::jhe opened jheas eyes:: I could see it, though! Or feel it. Or something. It was amazing!

::Sawat smiled and nodded.::

Chalor: You will be able to maintain your concentration while doing other things when you have practiced more. Don’t be discouraged that it doesn’t happen right away. Now, tell me what you observed.

::Iniko leaned forward and began to describe the experience. Jheas nervousness had been fully replaced with enthusiasm now. Jhe was finally succeeding at a skill jhe had always been told jhe could never do well, and developing a relationship with jheas estranged parent. Right now, jhe felt like jhe could do anything.::

Lieutenant JG Mpeba - Engineering Officer, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A

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