He was getting better at the transparency weave. At first he had been only able to make an object or a surface see-through. This sufficed to peer through the walls or ceiling to see the hallway or the sky, and he practiced it every day. But he needed more. It was not enough to be able to see whether a guard was coming – he wanted to see them farther away, not merely in the same corridor as his cell.
And so his practice had entered into a new phase. While he had been at the Governor's building in Denver he had read of telescopes, things that used carefully shaped pieces of glass to bend light and make distant objects appear larger. If he had one of those, now, he would have been able to make his cell walls transparent from his side and see things and people miles away.
Well, what of it? If the telescopes did what they did by bending light, by affecting the pathspace the photons traversed before reaching the observer's eye...then why couldn't he do the same thing without glass lenses? When he thought about it, he decided that all he really needed to do was make the light rays diverge as they approached him.
His first attempt to do this did not succeed. After lunch, he made a transparent patch on the wall as before, warping the pathspace so that the light went around the wall. To give himself added incentive, it was an outside wall, so that when the transparency appeared he was looking outside the prison. Once he had the pathspace configuration stabilized, he had a window to watch people walking by. The light came from outside, warped around the wall in other unseen dimensions, and reentered his space inside the cell.
Now for the magnification. Concentrating upon the space between him and the wall, he visualized a patch coming toward him, growing as it approached. As he concentrated on this, the view of a building across the street wavered and then grew distorted, as if it were painted on clay that had been stretched unevenly in several directions.
Frowning, he tried again, imagining a circle of light that came toward him from the wall and did nothing other than grow to a larger circle. After several passes, as if he were mentally combing invisible threads of pathspace into a symmetrical cone-shaped region fanning out toward him, he finally managed to improve the clarity of the image, until he was looking at an individual brick on the wall of the building across the street.. Better.
But when he tried to steer his seeing, and move his gaze to another brick, the image distorted again. Sighing, he wiped sweat from his forehead and tried again. After what may have been an hour or so, he found he could magnify the seeing to telescopic vision as long as he held the sight-line absolutely still. No matter how he tried, the image still distorted and broke up when he tried to move the sight line left or right to see something else.
He took a break to growl and release his frustrated tension. How convenient it would have been to just use one of the ancient telescopes instead of this! All the warping of pathspace accomplished by the lenses in a telescope, he imagined, would be stable no matter what direction you turned it, because the lenses would turn automatically with the scope. But he had no such advantage with his weaving. Without a material abject to anchor the weave on, such as the pipe of a swizzle or the disk of an everflame, he had to re-form the pathspace shaping every time he moved his eyes to look in another direction. If I just had a length of pipe, he thought, I could anchor the weave on it and have a woven telescope.
Motion out of the corner of his eye alerted him in time. The guard was strolling down the hallway. Lester canceled the weave and the “window” to the outside disappeared just before the guard glanced in through the barred window in the door.
Seeing the guard reminded him that he had other things to practice. He picked up the silver dollar and tried to imagine how to make it into an everflame. Xander had said that was done using something called tonespace, but he hadn't explained what he meant.
The only context he could remember hearing the word 'tone' in before, other than referring to the way someone was speaking (as in, “don't use that tone with me”) was in reference to musical tones. He could still remember the feeling of wonder that had possessed him when he had realized, for the first time, that different sized bells produced different musical notes. Like other boys in the village, he had played with empty ale bottles, blowing across their tops to make them resonate, and partially filling them with water to make them sound different notes.
None of this helped with making an everflame, however. As far as he knew, it had nothing to do with music. The one his mother cooked over back at Gerrold's inn never made a sound. But he tried anyway, imagining music in the space around the coin. Nothing happened.
A wave of mingled sadness and despair swept over him as he remembered that Xander was gone. How can I hope to learn any of this without him?
After indulging in that angst for a few moments, he growled at himself. Get a hold of yourself, fool! Sadness never helped anybody. If he, Lester, was all the Governor had now to help her defend Rado and start the school, then he would have to do. Somehow. And that meant he had to escape from this prison.
All right. He had a way to see through walls, and around corners if it came to that. He could make a swizzle on short notice, and make his supper tray levitate, but he didn't see how any of that was going to break him out of here.
He spent the rest of the afternoon until dinner trying to work out a plan, using what he knew how to do. What he finally came up with was risky but not, he was certain, as risky as remaining in the prison until the Honcho tired of waiting for everflames and decided to turn him over to the TCC.
After the guard had brought the dinner tray and departed with his lunch tray, Lester wove another window to the outside. He had no way of telling time in the cell, so he couldn't simply wait for darkness. He would have to watch for it.
While he waited, he thought about Xander. The wizard had not mentioned any mentors. The implication was that he had learned everything he knew on his own. That was encouraging, in a way, because it showed that it was possible to become a wizard by teaching yourself, without a more experienced practitioner to guide your training. On the other hand, it had taken him a long time, obviously, and it seemed likely that there was a lot he had never learned. If he knew the trick of telescopic seeing, he had never mentioned it to Lester.
Outside, the streets were darkening. There was still an orange-yellow glow reflecting off some of the buildings, but soon it would be dark enough for him to act, and then...
Wait a minute. That glow was to the East, not the West. Had he somehow slept through the entire night and it was morning? He couldn't believe it.
And then he saw the first people with torches come around a corner. There seemed to be a lot of them. He wondered where they were going. After he watched them for a couple of minutes, though, he knew, and felt like an idiot for not knowing it immediately.
They were coming for him. It was time to leave. He un-wove the “window”, jumped off the bed and concentrated on the door lock. It was only the work of a few moments to get it open. Now what? His original plan had been to overcome the guard and slip out the front door. But from what he could see, both exists were going to be packed with torch-holders. The original plan was out of the question now.
Lester strode up and down the hall, weaving temporary transparencies as before, but this time he was looking up through the ceiling. In a moment he stopped his pacing and contemplated the roof, imagining a huge smoke-ring of pathspace just above the spot he had selected, its suction end against the roof.
He covered his ears. If this worked, it would be quite loud.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish