Lazy Luddite Log

24.2.13

Gumshoe Telepath: Maze

I have done it. I have completed something more than my usual very short story with this seventh and final part of Gumshoe Telepath. For now I will simply publish it but I will have to look over the whole story and possibly make some small adjustments for the sake of coherence. I wonder what the total word count is for this thing.

As we turned down one alleyway and then another I cursed my laziness. If I had only spent some of my spare time walking these alleys I would be on familiar ground. As it was I had spent hours of my life online and only now did that seem like a problem. Kristen seemed to think differently.

How could I tell what Kristen was thinking? Well it seemed she was projecting every thought to me, and deliberately, while also masking our presence from others. And what did she think? With a fanatical telepathic killer chasing us the best thing for us to do was get lost because then they would know only as much as we did.

We ran past trash cans and the only witnesses to our passing were a few rats. I wondered whether the Telepath Twin could interrogate the minds of vermin, but I only wondered in passing, because just then we found ourselves in a cul-de-sac. I turned towards the larger alleyway we had just run from, drawing my handgun, and motioning for Kristen to get behind me. A completely non-telepathic glare from her told me she resented this gesture, but she went along with it anyway. After all, I was the only one with a gun.

Kristen presented more information directly into my mind. The Assassin was accompanied by two armed military personnel of some kind, presumably the kind that the Government employed but could deny if they needed to. I feigned confidence, forming the coherent mental statement that this was good odds for us. Kristen smiled gently, but then her smile vanished and she stifled a sharp intake of breath. They were almost upon us.

First we saw a soldier, clad in balaclava and night reconnaissance fatigues, peep round the corner at us from the right, and in that moment I shot at him. Amazingly, my bullet hit, and our assailant crumpled to the ground. From that moment everything happened very quickly and what I remember could well be an approximation of events.

From round the same corner came the second soldier and she fired at me with calm precision. I was hit in the gut and slumped to the ground, my back resting against the left wall of our final refuge. From then on I was an observer, and the action played out for me like something from a fucking movie. I noticed mundane things such as the graffiti on the wall opposite me, declaring “Tracey 4 Stacey 4 Eva”. Here, far from the streets and front facades, surfaces lacked the usual Particulate Matter Repellent Finishing (PMRF) and so graffiti could still exist, and I found it somehow comforting. If these were my last moments then I would spend them in the presence of this lasting remnant of everyday emotional humanity. If only Kristen could be spared the same fate as me. What was happening with her?

She was facing the soldier and one other who had just entered the alleyway. He was dressed in similar military fatigues but I somehow knew that he was a Telepath Twin. His sister, who had masqueraded as a member of Congressional Security, was now in police custody over in Capitol City, having completed her mission of killing the Congressional Minority Leader. Here in the Bay Area was another Telepath Twin and it seemed his mission was to detect and eliminate a telepathic gift that Kristen shared with her mentor, the late Dr Pax. I started crying once more. For this once can I just blame the injury and blood loss of my gunshot wound?

The Telepath Twin locked his gaze on Kristen, a gaze which she returned, but while his balaclava-framed eyes declared anger, hers signified compassion. And I felt what she felt as she scrutinized the mind of her adversary. The Twins had lived a shitty life, filled with discipline, doctrine and deprivation, and Kristen decided she would rather be their victim than anything like them. The Twin must have sensed some of this because, aiming his own gun at her head, he sneered. And then Kristen closed her eyes, sighed, and everything went blank.

* * * * *

I woke in a hospital bed. The nursing robot suspended from the ceiling over my bed registered my return to consciousness and uttered, in the crisp neutral Trans-Atlantic accent of most institutional machines, a welcome and an assurance that I was recovering well from my injury. I was more interested in what had happened back in the alleyway.

“How did I get here? Who put me here?”

“I am authorized to play you a message at your assent.”

“I assent, babe, I assent.”

The face of the robot was a cluster of lights and lenses with one circular monitor in the centre. That monitor switched from a soothing teal to a recorded moving image. It was the face of Kristen and the accompanying message went something like this:

“Derrick I’m okay and I hope you are too. As soon as I overcame our assailants I called an ambulance and then stayed with you till your operation. You were lucky. I’m lucky to still have you in my life. But I cannot be there now and I’m sorry. I suddenly have other commitments to attend to. Here is some footage to help you understand…”

Suddenly I was looking into the alleyway from the perspective of those who had chased us there. I realized I was looking at micro-cam data from the uniform of the soldier who had shot me. Over the shoulder of the Twin I saw me, slumped to the side of the action, and there was Kristen standing in the centre of the scene, closing her eyes with a look of calm acceptance. A moment later the Twin just fell from view and then the soldier evidently fell over too.

“Derrick, while you cannot see it, at that moment I projected a burst of compassion into the Twin. I did it deliberately, but it seems that the desperation of our predicament enhanced my ability, and it thoroughly altered his consciousness. Every dormant mirror neuron fired at once and the shock sent him unconscious. But it did more than that…”

I guessed that the soldier and I were also rendered unconscious by the whatever it was that Kristen blasted at the Twin. Her face returned to the monitor image and told me more.

“As well as switching on his compassion I also switched on the ability of the Twin to project compassion into others. In his unconscious state it activated in an undirected manner. It affected everyone within a few kilometres and the handful of other telepaths within range also started projecting, so it started transmitting all over town and beyond.”

Wow. I bet there was a ton of crying. Kleenex-Xerox must have sold a lot of replacement tissue boxes the following morning.

“Another thing happened Derrick. Our erstwhile assassin transmitted directly over a much greater distance to his twin and then she did the same thing, resulting in what the media is calling a Compassion Epidemic growing from both the Bay Area and Capitol City to affect a huge population, including all the powerful players in global politics who gather in and around Congress.”

Again, Kristen replaced her own image with footage, this time from news reports showing a sudden slew of good news. There were a record number of induced coma sentences that were suddenly commuted. There were ceasefires and peace accords among Non-Congressional nation-states. Most significantly Congress fell into disarray. Why? Because all its members decided to take pity on themselves and take a vacation from the stresses of ruling the world. The Police suddenly had nothing much to do because violence statistics had suddenly become non-existent. Even the Masonite and O’Leery clans declared an end to “investing” in anything detrimental to anyone in the community and donated the bulk of their fortunes to non-showy forms of philanthropy.

One of the last things Congress had done while still in session was to establish the Pax Commission to investigate the impact of the Compassion Epidemic and its implications for the world. And then the smiling face of Kristen returned to the monitor.

“They made me the Commissioner for the inquiry Derrick! How fantastic is that? I have a lot of work to do. I have to get this right. I am the best person for the job and I have the resources I need to get it done. And I want to do more than just describe the phenomenon and suggest responses. I intend to show how we can use this power to reform the world. We can employ telepaths like the Twins to project compassion into more and more minds. We can develop more telepaths to have this skill. We can make a world worth living in…”

At that I started to get a bit dizzy. The nurse robot noticed and suggested I look at the rest of the recording later and rest now. I agreed. But I found it impossible to rest. What Kristen had told me was nagging away at me and while she was evidently thrilled by recent events, I was spooked by the whole thing, and by her own enthusiasm for it.

I should have been all for the application of this Mirror Neuron shockwave. It could produce all sorts of wonderful. But I also got the feeling that Kristen was intoxicated by it and her new role as its originator. It took decades to turn a self-centred kid into a caring adult and only sometimes did that work because so many things in our world worked in the opposite direction. But was flipping a mental switch the answer? Was flipping that switch the answer if it was Government that was flipping it? Kristen had always been a critic of the holders of power but was this just a new power to be abused?

The last words I half-heard from Kristen’s recording as I was losing focus came back to me as I finally drifted off into the winding pathways of sleep.

“The old way to rule was with a monopoly on violence. My power spells an end to violence and that is why they wanted to kill me. Now many have it and our numbers are growing. I sense you will worry but I will have to visit and convince you that it will all be fine. I can be very persuasive.”

Well that is a bit of an ambiguous ending. I do think that the world needs far more compassion and a part of me revels in the concept of paranormally imposing it on everyone but then I had to throw in a caution that possibly any kind of power has its problems. Also I think it fits my characters. Derrick will worry for Kristen even if she is correct and things will now be fine.

Find the rest of this story via this listing.

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