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Chapter 11

The Cafeteria

Atalen ya Doaka

April 2008

Davic entered the cafeteria and blinked a few times to adjust his vision to the subdued lighting. He walked through the crowds and noise of students from the first antechamber through the second into the third, dodging friends and acquaintances along the way. In the third chamber, around half the room were waist high shelves bearing drinks and foodstuffs. This whole section of the Great House had probably been a storage area of thirty-two interconnected chambers. But the Anasazi had spent most of their time out of doors which explained the large plazas and the small rooms.

Behind him, a pleasant woman brought another platter of breakfast burritos. He took a plate and three burritos. “Good morning, Sarah!” he smiled. “Your food looks as delicious as ever!”

“Good morning, Davic!” she answered in her Hopi accent. It was more the intonation pattern and the nasals that gave it away. Her grammar was impeccable. “I’ll have some cinnamon rolls in a few minutes if you want some.”

“Oh, thank you!” he nodded. She took her job as head of the Cafeteria seriously. She knew the students well and tried to provide each of them with some sort of reminder of their home cuisine. Davic was easy to provide for. One of the students from a smaller tribal area in Papua-New Guinea had been a challenge. Getting him to wear clothing had been a challenge as well. That is until winter came. Then he wore several layers of clothing under the robes and hygiene became an issue.

Davic took his breakfast and wandered through the warren of dining rooms. The original builders of the Great House had set up this area like a grid, made up of eight columns of rooms, four rows deep from the plaza side to the outer wall. The eight rooms in row A along the plaza were linked sideways by doorways in what seemed to be a long tunnel. So one could travel the length of the complex along this main thoroughfare, but to enter the dining rooms deeper in the complex, one took a doorway from one of the rooms and traveled perpendicularly to the B, C, or D rooms.

The room Davic claimed as his dining room was 3D (or 4D if that one was full). Sometimes he even took 5D. But always a D room along the outer wall. There was less traffic in the D rooms. As he was passing 3C he noted two students sitting close to each other, but otherwise ignored them. That is until one called out to him.

“Davic!” It was Ian. “Come here and join us.”

He saw that the other person was that same girl that Ian was with before the funeral. “Are you sure? Last time you called me a Bozo.”

Ian looked sheepishly at his friend and then said “OK, I’m sorry. Please sit down.” He motioned to the floor beside them. Davic slid a cushion with his sandaled foot to the indicated place and sat. Then put his breakfast beside him.

“This is Marta; she’s from Argentina.”

“Holà Marta. ¿Que tal?” He smiled and began eating.

“Bien, bien,” she said, and yes, she was definitely Argentine. The lyrical almost Italian accent gave her away.

“I was trying to explain to Marta here, about mana,” started Ian.

“It is so confusing.” She frowned slightly and drank a bit of her coffee. “I don’t understand anything he’s saying.”

“This is her second term.”

“Oh,” said Davic. “You must still be in Ethics then,”

“Yes, with Professor Hendersen.”

“Good old Jared! ‘If you saw a fish jump out of a bowl of water’ . . .” They all laughed.

“You have his voice exactly!” She laughed a pleasant, joyful sound. Davic suddenly had a very strong memory of Retta sitting beside him in Hendersen’s class laughing at the same jokes --and he paused for a second.

Ian’s smile faded. “I was trying to tell Marta about the effect of the moon on the patterns and . . .”

“Dude, you probably understand more about mana than anyone in our graduating class and maybe half the Professors here. But you’ve got to start simple.” He turned to her and said, “So what do you understand about mana?”

“It’s made of light and you can draw it in the air.” She frowned again and shrugged her shoulders. “That’s all I understand.”

“See?” he said to Ian. “Simpler and from the beginning.” He took her hand in one of his and placed his other over the top. “When I feel your hand, I feel the whole. It’s an organism.” He squeezed and she squeezed back. “It’s alive and it has mass.” He then slid his hands until his fingers were under her hand and his thumbs were on the top. “If I feel under the skin, I feel what the hand is made of: bones, ligaments, skin and blood vessels. That’s the first level down. If I go down another level, each of the parts is made of smaller parts. The bones are made of a sort of calcium substance with chambers in it and some of the chambers are filled with cells. The next level down shows what the cells are made up of and the next and the next and the next. Molecules, atoms, protons, quarks, gluons. Down and down and down. Smaller and smaller bits each making up the next level higher and made up of the next level smaller. Right?”

She took her hand back and felt it with her own thumb. “So mana is the bottom level? Everything is made out of mana?”

He smiled. “Almost. We think that there’s at least one level below mana. It’s called spirit for lack of a better word. We can pull a cadaver out of the grave and remake it down to the mana level exactly the way it was anytime before death, except it won’t be alive. So there must be something smaller and below mana, that we can’t access. We can heal people on the verge of death. But once they’ve crossed that barrier, they’re gone.”

“But, what’s this business about patterns, retro-patterns, and basal ones? I don’t get that.”

“Well, that’s where the moon comes in,” said Ian.

“What does the moon have to do with mana?” Marta asked Davic.

He glanced up at his acquaintance and stuffed the rest of his first burrito in his mouth. After chewing, he took a sip of his orange juice.

“Like with the oceans, mana is affected by the gravity of the moon, at its high tide, if you will, causes a small bump in the basal (or basic) mana pattern of your existence. At the noon-point of the moon’s orbit, the lunar-noon, this happens. I can count them back to see how old you are. I can pull one out and use it as an override to change you back to a previous state or I could alter it and change you into something different. This is how healing takes place.”

“Tell her about Kyle,” suggested Ian.

He was onto his second burrito and had to chew for a few minutes. “You,” he said through the food in his mouth as he took another bite.

“Davic and his girlfriend Retta . . .”

Davic nearly snorted a crumble of cooked egg through his nose.

" . . . were sent to Wyoming to save this kid who’d been in an accident. It seems his father had run a red light at an intersection and they were hit by a semi. Davic and Retta went to the hospital and saved the boy’s life, but the father was long gone. They reached into the boy and pulled out his basal pattern and felt back to the retro-pattern from the lunar noon before the accident. Retta was having a hard time finding it, but her abilities were not in that arena anyway. Davic threw down a spike . . .”

“Spike? I don’t understand that bit either.”

“It’s a conduit that finds and channels free-mana to be used by the mage . . .”

Davic finished his burrito and joined in. “The moon has a tide effect on the materials of the Earth. At high tides, lots of things are affected by the passage of the moon across the sky. Free-mana escapes from fissures in the grounds and collects in pools on its way to the surface. Some shapes, a horseshoe like Atalen ya Doaka, can collect free-mana as a reservoir. Its shape holds mana here for our use. There’s one by Yellowstone National Park and one in Kilimanjaro in Africa.”

“When we were in Rutul, in Russia, at the funeral, there was a huge one underground . . .”

“And the one at the Motu is even bigger! After you pass your ethics classes, they’ll initiate your mana sensitivity and you’ll be able to play with the patterns.” He took a last sip of his orange juice. “Well, I have to go visit Professor Johnson. It was nice to meet you, Marta. See you around. And you, Ian, we’ll see the review of your assignment in Johnson’s class. Do you know where he is, by the way?”

“I think he said something about an emergency conference at the Lodge.”

“Oh,” frowned Davic. “Right now?” He shook his head sadly as he left.

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