Monday, January 23, 2017

Little Kindnesses and Small Moments

"I scare the Hell out of you, don't I?" Sir Bert asked knocking ash from his cigar. He led his guest down a hallway to a door guarded by two Squires.

Sissy Bobeck regarded him coldly and finally said, "Just your mind."

"I've had to do ... some bad things in my time. Stay out of there. Who invited you anyway?" he finally snapped.

"Well keep your thoughts to yourself.," she muttered softly. The older man gave no sign of hearing.

"We had an agreement for your citizenship. I would give you instruction and papers to pass as a native born Zaonian. You would tell me what the Mayor was up to. You have not given me any useful information."

"Sue me. The Mayor is an anomaly. He may be the only politician in this world's history, heck in human history who says what he means."

"It's galling. I can never catch him at anything ... and that annoying tendency to take responsibility for what he's done wrong."

"Galling," Sissy replied with a big smile.

"Right. Here's what you're going to do for me, my little undercover psionic," Sir Bert brushed past the Squires who saluted smartly and opened the door. Sissy peeked in and entered when she received a small shove. She regarded Jorge Pierre Gutman's form floating in a tube of blue cryo-solution with awe and disgust.

"All right now. We removed the leads letting him talk and listen at his request. They were hurting him. You will be his ears and voice and provide whatever solace you can with your mind witchery. Do a good job and those records of your past will go away. I hope you appreciate this second chance."

"... you know, Galen could break you in two. I should let him. I could leave your every Squire in his path a drooling wreck."

"Go ahead. But Galen would hear all the charges you had against you ... drug production, transportation, use ... ah ... you don't want that. Then stop making idle threats. For what it's worth if it was a personal matter I'd trust you. But this is Zaonia. I don't take chances. I do not enjoy this.  But I'm going to see that he has help and that his secrets don't go past these walls."

"I was dealing with psi amplifiers ... to help my people defend themselves!

"I don't care."

The door opened again. Dame Ranna entered and greetings were exchanged. Sir Bert said curtly, "Don't tire him out." He turned and left giving Sissy a glance on the way out. There was a promise of reward there or pain.

Ranna managed a smile and Sissy tried hard to smile back. "So do I sit down ... take my gum out ..."

Sissy shrugged. "Sit or stand. Doesn't matter. The exchange will take about a minute to observers. To us and him it'll seem longer, ten or fifteen minutes. Your body won't move. It's like when you're dreaming of running ... your feet stay put." Sissy hurriedly opened her compact and removed a small pill.

"I hate doing this stuff. It feels like ..."

Ranna was throwing her gum away and raised an eyebrow. "Headaches? Nausea?"

"Worse. You feel everyone's ... everything and you can't turn it off for a good hour. I'm glad there are so few people out here at the Project. Otherwise I ... never mind," Sissy took the pill and downed it without water.

"Thank you," Ranna said. "This means a lot to me ... and Jorge."

"... you're welcome. It wouldn't hurt to ask nicely."

"Bert doesn't do nice. Let me apologize for the Order. I think when you get know us you'll find we're the same as you."

"Including Sir Bert?"

"You got me there. But however this turns out you're getting a good report from me and Bert will give you whatever he promised. You can bank on that. He could no more break his word than you could grab Nuzon as it passes by,"

"All right let's do this. Mr. Gutman is getting impatient," Sissy sat down as the rush from the pill hit her. Thoughts, memories began trickling in but she shoved those aside and focused on the two lovebirds.

For Jorge Pierre Gutman it was a bucket of cold water dousing him. He could see, hear without a half meter of blue goo to interfere. He could see Ranna.

And Sissy. The rest of his surroundings were more indistinct, blurred and not important. The trio seemed to be standing in a place of fog and mist. Things were flying a swooping nearby in the fog.

"Okay Jorge, Dame Ranna here's the rules. Look at each other or me. Not the things around us! I said don't look! Good that's it look at each other! Oh. Uhm, I'll be right over ... " A short cry from Ranna interrupted her.

"My eye ... it's here. I mean the one I lost!" she blurted the words out and then laughed.

Jorge spared Sissy a brief moment of his attention. "Those ... things, are they real?" he asked.

"Only if you look at them directly," Sissy cautioned.

"What are they?"

"Don't know. Don't want to know," Sissy said softly. "Now get on with whatever. The meter is running. I can't keep this link going for long.?

It was all the encouragement they needed. Sissy tried to give them at least the illusion of privacy.
.
***

First fish got uppity, grew legs and climbed out of the water to the new frontier: land! Millions of years later their descendants embarked on the next great frontier: vacuum. In most SF settings the third great frontier is the mind and the pioneers psionics.

Psionics are often treated kind of like internet access. Other minds are the data files you need to access or communicate with.  Let's extend the analogy.

Pop ups, cookies, malware, viruses (I'm no IT but you get where I'm going) all those equivalents in your mind. So you see treating as a simple pay x psi points for y effect doesn't do it for me. There's room to elaborate here.

Your brain uses a lot of your  caloric intake every day. Put of the 1300 calories an average human consumes everyday your thought processes burn about 300 or 25%. think more or less often doesn't vary this by much (I know it seems stupid people would need far less.) Assuming psionic power involves thinking really hard maybe that 300 calories will double or triple or be multiplied even more.

Little girl in the corner booth? The one who ways maybe 50 kilos wringing wet with her pockets full of change? The one knocking off her fourth helping of flapjacks? She might be a psionic!

How does the information a psionic mines for get conveyed to them? Modern day psychics go on about spirits being present and saying this that or the other thing. That isn't necessarily true (GASP!) Humans have five senses but psi is none of the above. Anyway having something you never see whispering in your ear would leave me ready for a padded room. Maybe psionics perceive their information in different ways, like a heads up display or a certain itch or twitch (DC had a superhero: the Elongated Man who's nose twitched when there was a mystery about).

Maybe other minds are jungles and their thoughts are birds flying through. Just catch the right one. Maybe you have to picture yourself at a dock fishing for information. Maybe the psionic controls the imagery they use. Perhaps it's subconscious or reached by consensus.

It's hard to say. In many ways we're still just uppity fish struggling to breathe air.