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Arte sat on the concrete floor of Zoey’s unfinished basement. Her dad had said this would probably be the best place to train, since he wasn’t too worried about sweeping up salt from it. She was reading Jude’s notebook, but it honestly seemed like it was all common sense. She thought he had said he was a professional trainer for some rich guy’s daughter, so she assumed he would know what he was doing, but the instructions were more or less as follows:
First, see what she has already gotten down. Second, get her to be able to make a rock out of salt. Third, see if she can make the rock go faster than just throwing it. Fourth, see if she can make a salt sword? Maybe a wall of salt? If you run into any problems just think of it in a different way.
Arte sighed. She had honestly expected something more detailed. It looked like she was gonna need to start from scratch. Jude had some good goals. Ideally, if Zoey was gonna fight someone with potentially any power, she would need offensive melee and ranged capabilities, along with some form of defense. It might be a challenge to get all of that together in four days. She didn’t trust Paul’s statement that she didn’t even need training at all. She couldn’t believe that guy was going to be her last bet to find Ashley.
“Alright, Zoey. To start off, I want you to show me everything you’ve worked out so far.” She pulled out a pen to take notes.
“Alright. It’s not gonna be very impressive.” She gulped, and took a deep breath.
Zoey took a step back, and concentrated. A rock of salt began to form in her hand. After about thirty seconds, she had one the size of a baseball. She shifted her grip, and the whole thing fell into dust.
She sighed and hung her head. “Ta-da.”
“That wasn’t bad! It’s not like your powers came with an instruction manual.” Arte got to her feet. She felt bad for the girl, because Arte’s powers had, in fact, come with an instruction manual. “Can you do it again?”
Zoey nodded, and repeated the process. This time it stayed for a second before falling apart.
Arte nodded. According to Jude she needed to ‘think of it in a different way’, whatever that meant. She thought back to her chemistry classes. Salt, as a crystal, forms an intricate lattice, so it would naturally take time to construct. Zoey seemed to be taking her time and concentrating, so if it was going to be useful by Saturday, that had to be the wrong approach. She couldn’t believe Paul was giving them three days to do this.
“Alright… So when you try to make a larger crystal, it looks like you’re straining yourself. I think I have an idea.” She pulled out the notebook. “So when you want to draw a straight line, it’s usually best to just take one quick stroke, than to take your time and try to draw the perfect line. When you take too long, you end up with a squiggly line, instead of something almost straight. So it’s possible that your powers are like that. Why don’t you try loosening up, and doing it quickly?”
“Alright…” Zoey took a deep breath, and swung her arm, like she was pitching a softball. Something solid flew out of her hand, and made a crack as it hit the wall. It clattered to the floor, and broke into a few large pieces.
Arte picked one up and examined it. It was an opaque chunk of solid crystal. She tried to crush it with her hand, but it held up. Arte smiled with satisfaction. “Take a look at this.” She placed the crystal in Zoey’s hand.
“Alright! I did it!” She jumped up and down with excitement. “I’ve been trying so long! I didn’t think I’d ever figure it out! Thank you so much!” She wrapped her arms around Arte.
Arte was caught off guard, but reciprocated. “Hey, it’s you doing the work, I’m just over here talking.”
“Alright, what now?”
“Okay, so I want you to try to make something bigger. Like a wall big enough that you could hide behind it.”
“Gotcha…” Zoey crouched down, and put her hands on the ground. She sprang up to her feet, and two separate towers of crystal formed.
Arte was about to congratulate her, but noticed Zoey was starting to stumble back. She ran up behind her and caught her, as she began to fall back. “Are you okay?”
Zoey slowly looked up to Arte. Her face was red. “I’m fine, just a little light headed.”
“Alright, let’s call it there, and maybe we can get back to this tomorrow.”
“Okay.” She got to her feet, and took a couple of steps, before stumbling and being caught again.
“How about I carry you upstairs, okay?” Arte scooped Zoey up in her arms and made her way to the couch upstairs. She was nearing the edge of her stamina, but made it just fine. She gently laid her on the couch, and took a seat next to her.
Zoey regained consciousness, and started to sit up, but Arte stopped her.
“Hey, it’s alright. Just lay back down. I think your dad left, but I’ll stay with you.”
“Thanks.” Zoey yawned.
“I’m sorry, I think I pushed you too hard. We’ll keep it small next time.”
Arte waited by her for a few minutes, and she seemed to have largely recovered. She got up from the couch and went towards the kitchen. “Alright stay there, I’m going to make a couple of phone calls.”
First she called Zoey’s dad, but he didn’t pick up. She called him again, and after he didn’t pick up, she left a message.
“Hey, Mr. Rodriguez. This is Arte. I just wanted to let you know your daughter fainted while we were training, I think I pushed her too hard. She’s fine now, but I’ll stay with her until you get home.”
She then pulled out her notebook, and dialed the second number. It rang for a moment, then someone picked up.
“David Smith, who’s this?”
“Hi Mr. Smith, I’m a friend of Jude’s, and I’m helping him with this case. He wanted me to let you know we’d need a couple of favors…”
(Art credit: WordPress Free Photo Library)