At the current moment, Devon was completely ignoring speed. What he needed was some way to observe more of the small planet at once. He could stretch his senses perhaps a quarter of the way around, which meant no matter where he was he left about half of the small planet uninspected. To get anywhere close to Anton’s intended speed, he needed much more. That was all without considering that just because he had a single thin line of sensory energy stretching somewhere didn’t mean he actually covered half the planet. Instead, it was more of a very gradual process that would cover the area without Devon moving.
With no other ideas, Devon flew along at a steady pace. If he couldn’t stretch his senses away from him, perhaps he could leave a trail? He didn’t think it should matter whether he was stationary or moving, but he was out of other ideas.
He managed a half loop before his energy snapped. It was too weak… and not good for much, even sensing. The thin tendrils of energy simply didn’t hold up. But Devon wasn’t going to be deterred with just one or two or ten or a hundred attempts.
At this point, he wasn’t even looking for Anton. He was just trying to make something happen, with the goal of working out from there. Wanting to make his energy more durable, he expanded the size like a growing vine. It lasted a bit further, but ultimately he couldn’t hold onto it enough to complete a single rotation of the training area.
He tried again and again, until the point he began to tire. He zoned out, not quite concentrating on what he was doing. Normally that should have led to an earlier failure, but he was quite surprised when he completed a full rotation and came upon his own energy. The shape was a surprise as well, though it shouldn’t have been.
Chains were natural to him now. Solidity combined with flexibility. Not too complex, but it also saved on energy compared to a tube of similar width. And more important than all of that, it fit him.
Focusing his energy, Devon could feel a small area around the chain. He would likely need hundreds or perhaps thousands to survey the entire planet at once… but it was progress in what had seemed a hopeless endeavor.
Next he began to attempt other things that seemed natural to him. Forming a chain behind him might be useful in rare circumstances, but it was much better if it extended away from him. Unlike an actual chain, he had no issues with pushing it away from him as it grew. Letting his other energy fade, half an hour later he completed a thin chain, smaller around than his finger, stretching from himself in both directions around the small planet. It wouldn’t be any good as an attack, and he could still only sense a small distance from it… but it was faster. And more importantly, it had greater reach.
Before attempting anything more, Devon messaged Anton to inform him he would be taking a proper break. He didn’t have anything in him to actually find his grandfather. Not in any reasonable period of time.
After a few hours rest, however, they began again. No doubt Anton was watching everything Devon did, but he hadn’t commented when they met up. Whether that was a sign of approval or not was unclear.
Two chains connected into each other from Devon’s outstretched arms. Then he brought them together, linking them in front of him to make them fully a single entity. The difficult part was doing so in a perpendicular direction while holding the first. He’d tried a dozen times, but now he finally felt confident he might actually complete it. Soon enough he had the planet divided into quarters… and he was glad he had followed his instincts. Something about the zones between the chains drew his senses towards the others. The range was greater, though nowhere near close to spanning all of the planet. Along with that, Devon found he sensed deeper into the planet- though earth and solid stone still greatly diminished the distance.
Devon didn’t know how he’d gotten it into his head that he had to survey the entire planet at once, but something told him that he was making progress in the right direction. Creating a third chain was difficult, and a fourth shattered his concentration before even an eighth of a rotation in either direction. But as he grew more practiced in the budding technique, he began to see where it might lead.
Narrowing his focus, he created a sphere of chains around himself, criss-crossing over each other. There were dozens of them, but they only hovered around a kilometer away from him. He could see further than that, and even just expanding his senses normally he could take in the whole area. But something was different when he did it that way. He could focus on any spot in much greater detail, and the shift was rapid.
As he slowly worked to expand it, he determined that the number of chains required was fairly limited. Four divided the planet into eight slices. Perpendicular to that a single slice doubled it to sixteen. Crossing more and more, he determined that five more chains completing crossing sections for a total of nine would cut it into forty-eight triangular regions of equal size.
Nine. He had a goal. He couldn’t guarantee that he would be able to sense everything between them, but the strange crossing pattern wouldn’t leave his head. And in general, that was a good thing in cultivation. Focus provided results.
Anton left Devon to meditate. It was unclear if he would be in his state for a day or a month, but either way Anton could find something to do. He would keep watch on him, though there shouldn’t be anything around to harm him. He wasn’t quite certain what his grandson was planning, but at the very least it would suit him more.
Chains snaked out from him, slowly growing until they crumbled due to lack of energy and focus. Then Devon would rest, drawing in the surrounding natural energy, and begin again. Each time, he became more proficient in his technique. The increased proficiency was obvious, but the full picture didn’t make sense to Anton at first.
Devon soon succeeded in four chains that made the small planet seem like an orange. They could be snapped with the slightest force, thin and tenuous… but they were there. And more subtle than one would assume, for something spanning such a distance.
It appeared Devon was not finished when he achieved that goal, however, as the chains began to branch out, covering the planet in a three dimensional mesh. Though it was quite a different technique, it reminded Anton of the Star Catching Net he had developed with Everheart. That one was meant to be flat to cover the most cross sectional area possible, stopping things passing through, and it was more solid as it needed to resist their motion. For that, it was much smaller- a hundred kilometers on a side would only cover the tiniest of moons, many orders of magnitude smaller than this.
Anton knew that Devon could sense somewhat from his chains, but he didn’t quite know what this technique would do in that regard. He would have to find out in a practical manner. Soon enough, Devon indicated he was ready.
“I want to try,” he said.
Anton nodded. “Very well.” When Devon isolated his senses, Anton took off. He picked a random point on the planet, not too close to Devon as that would certainly be close to his chains no matter what angle he projected them. Then he waited.
For a sensing technique, it was rather slow. It was so far not as good as Devon rushing towards him and getting a little lucky. However, after a handful of minutes Devon’s net was complete… and then his energy twisted, pointing to Anton’s location. Anton wasn’t at the furthest point, but it seemed to cover a wide area.
“Exactly how good is that?” Anton asked as he met back up with Devon.
“I’m not quite certain,” Devon admitted. “But it seems to cover everything inside the net I create. Though I would suppose there might be blind spots.”
“The center of the triangles, I suppose,” Anton said. “That would be the furthest point. We can test that, of course. And then we need to determine if you can pierce formation barriers, since that’s a large part of this.”
Devon laughed sheepishly, “I didn’t even think about that.”
Anton nodded, “It’s also a great expenditure of energy, isn’t it?”
Devon sighed, “Indeed. I can’t exactly do this in combat. Or at least… I wouldn’t expect that to be possible at my current strength.”
This time, Devon created his net before Anton made his way into it. He didn’t hide his energy, and Devon discovered him almost immediately… but only when he dipped close to the zone he created.
“It doesn’t see outside,” Anton commented. “Though if you’re covering a whole planet, I would suppose that’s not exactly a weakness.”
The next time, Anton hid his energy. It still only took Devon a few seconds to notice him in the area. “Your physical body is a stark contrast to everything else here,” Devon said. “It’s not bare rock, it’s the only thing moving… so it’s hard to miss you.”
“Not bad,” Anton said. “Now we need to test somewhere with distractions. I would suggest Ceretos except it’s… quite a distance away. So Akrys will have to do. It’s quite a bit larger.”
“I… am not certain how much that will matter. The shell should scale more slowly than the volume it covers, at least. It’s some tens of thousands of kilometers of chain either way.”
“Atmosphere might screw you up,” Anton noted. “And larger gravity. I notice you kept the chains significantly above the surface…”
Devon nodded. “I think atmosphere will be factors in creating the mesh, but for that I only have to go a bit away from the planet. Gravity… may or may not be an issue. We’ll have to see. Either way, I don’t think I’m quite ready to cover something the size of Akrys. And the natives there… might panic.”
“Only if they’re looking,” Anton said. “It’s a great expenditure of energy, true, but I was watching for it. Spread throughout the entirety of a planet, it’s nothing much. The smaller meerkats could snap the chains apart, if they came upon them. Not that they would, above the planet. I’m surprised you can actually sense from there, though.”
Devon shrugged. “It’s just what fit.”
“I understand that,” Anton agreed. “Following my arrows, I get a clear sense of things far away from my body even at extreme ranges.”
Just to be certain, Anton went to find the coalition. He had Three Squeaks sense the sky as Devon attempted his technique. It took Devon a few tries- that was after resting for a few days after their latest experiments- but he managed to surround the planet for a few moments.
“I haven’t sensed anything yet,” Three Squeaks said. “Except the line that was going up from him,” he pointed to Devon. “Is it done?”
“Indeed,” Anton nodded. “Thank you for the verification.” Approaching Devon, Anton informed him of the good news. “It should require active attention and or very significant senses. I wouldn’t immediately try anything risky but… it’s going in the right direction. So what did you sense?”
Devon shook his head. “In that time? I could only sense the strongest things. You, myself, Ty, and the few scattered Life Transformation equivalent creatures on this planet. Though I also have a pretty good feel for the terrain as a whole.”
Anton nodded. “Picking out all of those things is good. Let’s compare notes from my previous observations.” Anton was used to sweeping individual locations- including extremely wide arcs. But now he was feeling that his techniques were a bit too limited. Sure, he got instant feedback and better quality information in an area, but covering a large area all at once seemed valuable. Anton didn’t think he would be content stopping with a single planet, though.
Author’s note: The shape of chains ends up like this