August 12, 1970
A bird's eye view.
Below there is a park, full of people, on a hot summers day. Couples walking, people talking, children playing. Close in.
A small group. Five or six kids, in their early teens maybe, playing some game with a bat and a ball. It appears to be rounders. Close in again, on one girl in particular. Blonde hair, grey eyes - piercing grey eyes. She swings the bat, and it connects with the ball which shoots off along the ground. A boy cries out at her to run. She starts to move and suddenly . . .
Near the centre of her brain, at the junction of two neural pathways, a change occurs. The two pathways fuse, and send out impulses, ones that are totally new to her body. Each of these strikes another junction which fuses in turn, sending out more impulses. A chain reaction. Neural paths connect all over her body. As her brain alters, her consciousness expands, and her entire life changes in an instant.
To the girl, it seems that as if her head is exploding. An incredible clamour of sound inside her head. A wild cacophony of sensations far beyond her experience assails her mind and body. Thousands upon thousands of thoughts, and fears, and pain, and joy, and sadness, and hope, and memories, none of them her own. And then the pain comes. Searing, terrible pain arching from one temple to another, shooting across the inside of her forehead behind her eyes. She tries to scream but her body has ceased to respond. Paralysed with fear, and pain, she tries to focus on something, anything. She sees one of her friends, a short distance off, and so far away, calling to her to run. She focuses on him, and that focus gives her a tiny surge of control, the merest instant of clarity.
And she screams! Her hands fly to her temples as her legs give way beneath her, as her body yields up control and collapses. Less than five seconds have passed from the time she struck the ball. And still she screams! Her friends? Visions of them near her, of people looking at her with fear on their faces. Other kids, whom she thinks she knows but she can't remember. She can see their fear, and she can feel it too. A man leans over her, pushing the kids away. He looks worried, afraid. A woman in white, almost luminous white, leans down next and tries to soothe her head with a cloth, but the pain continues, and so does the screaming, and the worry in the woman's eyes turns to fear, and then to terror.
Then, from amongst all the sounds and thoughts, and memories in her head comes one overriding thought. She feels it come, and she knows it comes from outside her body. But unlike the other sensations crushing her, this one is . . . controlled, and coherent. Not calm. It sounds panicked, as if it has no better idea than she does of what is going on. But it is strong, and steady, and somehow she trusts it, the only thought she trusts in a mind, and a body, that has gone suddenly crazy.
*Relax. Calm down. Give in and sleep. You'll be all right. Just let it go, just sleep.*
She fights on, for a moment, and then surrenders to the pain. The pain eases, and she can hear the dim sound of an ambulance approaching . . .
A dark haired boy, maybe fourteen or fifteen years old, rises from a chair, and attempts to rub from his trousers the lemonade he had been drinking, the glass he had spilled when the screaming entered his head. After a moment, he appears to realise the futility of his effort, and resigns himself to wet trousers.
He grabs a towel from next to the kitchen sink and uses it to wipe up the sticky mess on the floor. He casts his eyes around, and sees what he is looking for on another chair. He picks up the book, a large reference work of some kind, and turns to the back. After a second he flicks to a page. He sits back in the chair and commences reading. Very quickly.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
August 12, 1970
She drifted, almost climbed back towards consciousness. The sounds were still there, but they were muffled, much quieter, and the pain was gone. She was warm and comfortable, and while she wanted to wake, it was not easy. There was something holding her back, keeping her drowsy. She exerted every ounce of control she could muster . . . and woke. She could hear voices, the voices of at least two men. And these voices, to her profound relief, came from outside her own head.
"Well, I just don't understand it, sir. Her mother insists that she has never had a fit like this before, and all the tests show nothing."
"Nothing at all?" The second voice seemed surprised. He had an accent of some sort, but she couldn't place it.
"There're some minor irregularities in her EEG, but nothing that falls outside normal parameters."
The foreign voice spoke again. "What irregularities?"
"Unusual shapes in some of the background waves. Nothing major, but unusual, nonetheless."
She heard a rustle of paper.
"Hmm, yes, I see. You are right, Lassiter. But I cannot see these problems being related to her condition. No, I would say the catatonia is more a product of some sort of traumatic shock."
"Treatment, sir?", a new voice, this one belonging to a woman.
"As you are doing, Sister. But slowly reduce the degree of sedation. Monitor her, and call me if she has problems, but otherwise, I think she will be all right, given time."
The girl finally opened her eyes. Even this amount of movement was an effort, due to the sedation she supposed. A man was looking down at her. He was quite old, maybe sixty or so, with a grey goatee beard and big thick glasses. He saw her looking at him, and smiled. "Good evening, young lady. Just rest, you are in good hands. Do not try to speak yet. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we had better leave the girl to rest. No doubt, in a day or two, she will explain what occasioned this shock and we shall all be a great deal wiser. Now, rest my dear, you are going to be fine."
The man stood up and began to lead the group of doctors and nurses from the room. One of them, a younger man, in his thirties hurried along next to him.
"Sir, may I have your permission to oversee the girl's case. I find her most intriguing."
"Lassiter, if you wish, of course you may. I have no objection. But, please, I would ask . . ." The voices faded into the distance. And then another voice spoke to her. This one was only audible inside her head.
*Hallo? Hallo? Can you hear me? Please respond, please!*
It was the voice she'd heard before, the one that had calmed her screaming. This time, she almost panicked. It just wasn't normal to hear voices in your head like this. Was she going mad?
*Please respond. Please!*
It was a boy's voice, she was sure of it. And it sounded worried, really worried. At least that made two of them. She tried to think back at it.
*Hallo, who is it?*
*Oh, thank God!* The worry left the voice immediately, and was replaced by the same calmness she had noticed before. *How are you feeling?*
*I'm not sure. Who are you?*
*My name's John. What's wrong?*
*Everything. I collapsed today, I'm in some sort of hospital, I think I'm drugged, and now I'm hearing voices in my head!*
*Don't worry about that. There really is nothing to worry about.*
*Nothing to worry about!*
*Look, I'll try and explain . . . what's your name?*
*All right, Carol.* He paused, as if he was trying to work out what to say. *You've developed a gift suddenly, at least one, maybe more than that, I don't know. You're on the brink, Carol, the brink of a new life. You've got a rare and marvellous gift.*
*Gift? What gift? And how rare?*
*Telepathy. Do you know what that means?*
*Yes, of course I do. You mean we're talking to each other with our minds.*
*It appears so. And it's very rare. As far as I know, only you and I have it. At least, for the moment.*
*How do I know this is real? That I'm not crazy, and making things up?*
*You'll have to trust me, at least for the moment. I might be the only one you can trust. Now, can you move?*
Carol experimented and sent back a message. *Yes, but I'm in bed. And I'm a bit groggy.*
*I know, I can tell. All right, where are you?*
*A hospital, I don't know where it is.*
*All right. Wait a moment.* There was a pause, and then, *Carol?*
*I can work out where you are now. Now listen to me, carefully. It's still too early, but later on, it'll have to be around nine or so, I'll come and see you.*
*Do you think they'll let you in?*
*I won't be asking permission, Carol. But I'll be there after nine.*
*What time is it now?*
*Twenty past seven, you were out for nearly four hours. Now listen, this is very important. Don't do anything, until I get there. Don't go to sleep, or you might never wake up. Stay relaxed and stay calm. It's crucial you don't get excited.*
*I'd better not say, you'll just get excited. Have you told anyone what's happened?*
*Then don't. It might be dangerous. I'll explain why later.*
She felt she could trust him. More than that. She felt a great need to trust him. It was right, somehow. *All right. I'll try and do what you say.*
And the voice was gone. Carol lay back. Don't sleep. Even without John's warning, she didn't think that was likely. Her head was awhirl, and she could hear the voices and thoughts still, just lurking at the back of her head. Was she mad, or was she telepathic? She didn't know which possibility scared her more.
*I'm on my way now. Is there anyone there with you?*
*Close your eyes.*
*Close your eyes. I don't want to scare you.*
*Why? Are you that ugly?*
*Just do it, please. It's important.*
*All right, all right. They're closed.*
"You can open them now."
Her eyes flicked open, and she sat up. Standing at the foot of her bed, was a boy, maybe a year or so older than her. He had short brown hair, and piercing brown eyes. He was wearing brown trousers and a checked shirt. His face was serene, and there was a faint smile on his lips. Around his waist was a thick belt with a very oversized buckle.
"Yes, Carol," he moved towards her with something in his hand, a belt, twin to the one he wore, "Put this on."
She took it, "Over my pyjamas? And where did you come from?"
"Never mind that. Just hurry."
Again, Carol knew this boy could be trusted. She wasn't sure how she knew, but the feeling was so strong, it could not be denied. She strapped on the belt and then looked at him.
"John, how do I know you're real?"
"Do you want me to pinch you?"
"Look, I'm real, as real as you are. And we haven't got time for this. You're only part way through the process of . . . um . . . changing . . . of developing your talents. We've got to complete the process quickly."
"Don't ask questions, just relax and look into my eyes."
She looked at them and felt drawn to them. She almost sank into them, and she somehow felt that she could never look away. His pupils were small and his vision seemed to stab into her eyes, or past her eyes into her brain. He spoke.
"Carol, imagine your mind is . . . Have you ever looked at the focusing lens of a camera, at the iris around the lens? Imagine your mind is like that iris when its closed. A tiny hole, a tiny aperture which lets the light through?"
"Open it. Let it expand and dilate. Let your mind expand and dilate. Let it grow and connect with mine."
The process begun earlier that day, when she hit the ball, was completed as the final crucial connections of nerve endings took place. Suddenly, the voices and sounds she had been hearing all day faded into the very depths of her mind, until it was only with a conscious effort that she could bring them to the fore. And suddenly, as well as just hearing John in her head, she could somehow feel him there as well.
And she noticed his pupils were now fully open, and she could sense his mind behind them.
Chapter 3: Chapter Two
August 12, 1970
John sat down on the edge of her bed. She immediately began to ask questions.
"What's happened to me? How do you know so much about it? And why were you so worried?"
"Steady on, Carol, please. This isn't much easier for me than it is for you. I don't have all the answers, but I'll tell you what I know.
"Three months ago, the same thing happened to me that's just happened to you. All of a sudden I . . . changed. It started with headaches, and then something clicked inside me, and I found myself able to move things with my mind. It was as if something in my mind, something within me, had decided to break out all of a sudden. I didn't know what was going on any more than you did, this afternoon. It seemed worse for you. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because you're a girl."
"What do you mean? I'd like to see anyone stay conscious with all those voices buzzing around inside their head."
"Voices? What voices?" His voice went quiet, and a slight frown etched itself into his forehead.
"All the voices, invading my mind. Didn't that happen to you?"
"No, it didn't. Still, I don't suppose there's any reason for us to be the same, have exactly the same powers or experiences. We have to work that out."
"What is happening, John?" He seemed to know more than he was letting on and she wanted to know it all.
"I'm not sure. I've been doing some reading. As I said, I can move things with my mind, and I can also move from place to place instantaneously. Teleport, I suppose you'd call it."
"Like jaunting, do you mean?"
"I've read that book, too. Yes, that's it. That's what the belts are for. Not for the teleportation itself, but for accuracy. Without them you can wind up miles off course over a long distance. With them - if you can do some heavy trigonometry - you can go a long distance in one hop."
"Can I teleport?"
"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me."
"Well, I don't know either."
"Well, can you telekinese? Move things with your mind?"
"Sorry, I'm not sure."
"Don't be sorry, I'm new to this too. As a matter of fact, I hadn't even thought about telepathy until this morning." He stood and walked over to a small table, and picked up a glass. He brought it over to the bed.
He fixed his eyes on the glass and a frown came across his face. The glass began to rise of its own volition. It hovered in mid air for a second, without moving, and then lowered back onto the bed.
"Now you try, Carol. Try and reach out with your mind. Try and wrap your mind around the glass and lift it."
She stared at the glass. She wasn't sure what John meant, and for a moment nothing happened. Then suddenly, she knew how to do it. It was so obvious, so absurdly easy. The glass soared from the bed, gathering speed as it moved, and smashed into the ceiling. The shards of glass fell, on to the bed. John looked at her, a smile spreading across his face. She smiled back at him, and then they were both laughing. Footsteps outside the door attracted their attention. John leaped off the bed and clasped his hands to his belt. A strange shimmering light enveloped him and he was gone.
The door opened, and a nurse looked in.
"Are you all right, dear?"
"Yes, miss. I've broken a glass."
*I'm here, Carol.*
*Just outside the hospital. Look I'd better get home.*
*Carol, one thing. It's probably a good idea, if you don't tell anyone - about us, about the voices, I mean.*
She thought about that for a moment. It seemed very wise. *All right. Who'd believe me, anyway?*
A laugh. *True. I'll stay in touch.*
John reappeared a minute later in his bedroom at home. The posters on the walls, so important a few months ago, had already faded into insignificance in his mind. After today's events they seemed totally irrelevant. He took off his belt, sat down at his desk and turned on the lamp. He picked up his new book on the Apollo program. Man walking on the moon. He looked up from the book and stared at the teleportation belt for a long moment, then he picked up a pen and began writing. Maybe this invention would make a quid or two.
Chapter 4: Chapter Three
August 15, 1970
Two figures appeared in a flurry of lights, behind the park-keeper's hut. Carol, released from hospital the previous day, turned to John.
"So what do we do now?"
"I don't know. At least we know you can jaunt. That's something at any rate. I was hoping there might be something here that would give us a clue as to what happened."
"Have you any ideas?"
"Do you read much science fiction?"
"A bit." Carol said, not wanting to admit that her tastes still tended towards the Famous Five.
"There's a book called 'The Chrysalids' by John Wyndham. I'll lend you a copy. It's about a group of telepaths. Their powers were caused by a mutation caused by a Nuclear War or something. Maybe that's what we are - mutants, I mean."
Carol did not like the sound of that. "Mutants. I hope not."
"Mutation isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most mutations are detrimental, but occasionally there is a beneficial one. Like intelligence, or being able to walk upright, or opposable thumbs."
"I do understand evolution, John," said Carol, cutting him off. In the three days she had known him, she had discovered that John had a tendency to lecture at every opportunity. "I'm not a complete idiot."
He looked embarrassed. "Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. Anyway, it's just a thought. If we are a mutation, if there are two of us, maybe there are more."
"More." She thought for a moment. "That might explain the voices I heard."
"Yes, maybe. Can you hear them now?"
She tried. "No," She sighed.
"And except for you, I've haven't heard any either. Maybe we have to wait. Maybe there aren't any more of us. Maybe we're all alone."
He shivered slightly. John had always been different; he had only a few friends and he spent most of his time reading and designing, while his friends listened to music he couldn't understand. They seemed so juvenile. They didn't take anything seriously. In the girl who walked beside him he already sensed a kindred spirit, someone he could grow close to. They shared something special, and he hoped there were others out there, who would also share that bond.
His school friends would have made something of that, but he knew that wasn't what he meant. He didn't fancy her, he just knew he needed to be with her. He needed her, she needed him. Symbiosis.
She saw his shivering, and the same thoughts went through her head. They walked together in silence for a while, before she spoke up again.
"Why didn't you want me to tell anyone about the voices? Was is because you're frightened?"
He looked at her, and nodded slightly.
"Yes. We can communicate with our minds. We can go anywhere on Earth in an instant, maybe even further. Imagine what they could do with us. Imagine how useful we'd be in their wars."
"I know. But we have to tell someone!"
"John, we're still children. We can't deal with this alone."
"Who is there to help us? Do you think there are a lot of experts on telepathy around? If there are, do we want them to know about us? They'd experiment on us, or put us on television."
She was surprised by this calm, polite boy's sudden vitriol when talking about these people, these threats to them he seemed to see behind every tree. She took a step back. John saw this and tried to calm down.
"Carol, I've been thinking about this for months ever since I found out what I could do. I'm scared, and I don't mind admitting it."
"No, I do see what you mean. I don't want to wind up as a guinea pig, or be put in a circus. It's just . . . We have to tell someone. Our parents, at least."
He looked at her, and finally nodded. "All right, we'll tell your parents. I'm not sure about my father, but we'll tell yours."
"All right, you'd better come home with me."
They placed their hands to their belts, and vanished.
And reappeared a moment later in Carol's front garden. John looked around as the shimmering effect of their jaunt disappeared.
"I'm going to have to do something about those lights."
The two young teenagers walked up the path, and Carol let them into the house. Her mother looked up as they entered.
"Hallo Carol. Who's this?"
"Hallo, Mrs . . ." Johns mind flailed wildly for a moment.
*Barnet,* Carol telepathed helpfully.
". . . Barnet. My name is John. I'm a friend of Carol's."
"No, not from school."
Carol spoke up. "It might be an idea if Daddy heard this too."
Her mother raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "All right, come with me, you two."
She lead them up a hall and into a small room, obviously used as some sort of office.
"David, Carol and a friend want to speak to us."
David Barnet leaned back in his chair. John looked at his desk and saw a large number of documents bearing BBC and ATV letterheads. His eyes flashed to Carol.
*Carol, what does your father do?*
*He's a production assistant on television documentaries.*
*Bloody Hell! Why didn't you tell me?*
*Why? John, he's my father. We can trust him!*
*I hope you're right.*
"Do I know you?"
"No sir, we haven't met. My name is John."
"Well, what can I do for you, John?"
"This is not going to be easy to explain. Your daughter has developed some special talents - talents which I share."
"How do you mean?" asked Mrs Barnet, a trace of concern in her voice.
John hesitated. He still wasn't certain about telling them. But he continued. "We're telepathic. We can communicate with our minds."
"And that's just the start," Carol added.
"What? What are you talking about?" asked her father.
"This." Carol willed a pen on his desk to rise into the air.
"Good Lord!" He exclaimed, leaping to his feet. He swept his hand over the pen, and under it, looking for strings. He turned and stared at the two youngsters, his mouth open. His wife drew next to him.
John spoke into the tense silence. "We realise what a shock this is to you, and how hard it is to believe. But it is real. We can move things with our minds, and use them to communicate with each other without speech. We can even teleport from place to place, anywhere on Earth."
"But it needs to remain a secret," Carol said firmly. "We don't want to wind up in a zoo or anything."
"But if you can do these things, they have to be studied. Research has to be done."
John looked at the man. "Mr Barnet. If it became known what we can do, our lives could be in danger. Carol insisted that we tell you. I haven't even told my own father. We have decided to trust you."
"But why would research necessarily harm you?" asked Mrs Barnet.
"It wouldn't necessarily, but we can't afford to take that risk," Carol answered, "People might try and use us, use our powers, I mean, to commit crimes, or spy, or even plant bombs."
"And we will not allow that, under any circumstances," said John. "If necessary we will die, rather than allow ourselves to be used in that way."
David Barnet paled at this seeming fatalism, but then he nodded slowly. "I see. I think you are right. But I wish I could do a program on you."
"I don't think that will ever happen, sir. Maybe one day."
"Well, in the mean time, we'll keep your secret. With Carol at stake, we can hardly do otherwise." He held out his hand to John who shook it.
Chapter 5: Chapter Four
August 15, 1970
"Now if you'll excuse us, I need to show Carol a few things. This is all very new to her. I need to teach her some more, and we need to do some investigating, some experimenting of our own."
Carol's parents looked at one another. Her father nodded.
"All right. But please be careful."
The two young people placed their hands to their belts, and jaunted away. John had preset the coordinates for his room, and they appeared there an instant later. Carol looked around, curiously, at the almost bare walls. They obviously hadn't been that way for long. She could see tape where pictures had been taken down. Only one remained and that was of an astronaut standing on the moon. There were books everywhere - on the chest of drawers, on the bed. The room could have been - should have been - cluttered with the amount of things in it, but everything was neatly piled. On the desk was a stack of papers. She moved over and looked at the pages. Mathematical calculations, neatly written, a street map of London with her home, and the nursing home marked along with a number of other sites. A sketch of what looked like some sort of spacesuit labelled "Artificial Environment Suit Mark I". She turned and looked at John. He shrugged slightly, nervously.
"Just something I'm working on."
"A spacesuit?" She couldn't help allowing a small amount, just a trace of sarcasm, into her voice. She'd thought he was a bit old for the schoolboy passion of designing spaceships, and spacesuits, and rayguns. It came as a surprise to her to realise that he wasn't much older than her. She'd known it before, but it hadn't really struck her until now.
"Not exactly, although it could be used in that way. It could also be used at extreme depths, offer resistance to heat, and cold. A large variety of other uses. I expect to have a prototype ready in a week or two." He stopped as he saw the scepticism on her face.
"Look, Carol, I'm quite serious. This idea can work. I'm not exaggerating. I've been inventing things since I was very young. And most of them work. I've even got a couple of patents - a type of switch for a computer and a booster valve for a radio receiver. I made the belt you're wearing."
"What does it do precisely? You said we didn't need it to jaunt, didn't you?"
"No, we don't. We do need it to go any distance. Without it, if you try to go too far you could wind up anywhere. The belt allows you to preset coordinates. Most of those take hours to work out." He indicated the many pages of calculations on his desk. "I really need a computer. I'm trying to design one, but that's a bit beyond my skills. I suppose I'll have to continue doing the mathematics the old fashioned way."
She looked at the calculations. They were so complex, far beyond anything she'd ever done at school. And yet, she understood them. They suddenly seemed - easy was the wrong word. Obvious would be better. She didn't know how, but she knew that she could do these calculations if she needed to, or if she chose to.
"I see. It's a lot more complex than I would have thought. I can see why, though. It isn't just a matter of working out the coordinates, that would be like latitude and longitude. But you have to do so much more."
"Yes, factor in the speed of the Earth's rotation and revolution, the curve of the planet. Imagine you want to jaunt to a point one thousand miles to the west, as the crow flies. Any jaunt seems to take about a fifth of a second. The rotation of the Earth at London is such that in a fifth of a second the Earth moves about 180 feet. That's just the start. If you jaunted 1,000 miles due west using the horizon as the basis you'd end up nearly 400 miles above the ground - you wouldn't last long. For short distance jaunts it isn't a problem. For long distance ones it could be very dangerous. So we work out the coordinates in advance and we store them in the belt. It acts as a navigational beacon. Of course we could still go a long way without the belt and without the calculations. We'd just have to do it in short hops."
"You really worked out all of that, by yourself?"
"Yes, of course. It was actually quite easy once I got the basic concept. And I got that in a hurry I can tell you. The first time I tried to jaunt any distance I ended up ditching in the sea. If it had been land under me I would have been killed."
Carol shuddered at the thought. "How awful."
"It was very frightening." He looked vulnerable for a moment, and Carol was glad to see that he had problems with the changes they'd experienced just as much as she did. "But at least, now there's you as well," he continued. "I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that there's someone else who can do the things I can do."
Carol voiced a thought that constantly lurked at the back of her mind. "John, there have to more of us. If we are a random mutation, well, the odds that there would be two of us, so close to each other, and developing identical powers so close to the same time must be astronomical. There must be more to it, surely. There could be thousands of people like us, even millions."
"I don't think that necessarily follows, Carol. Really, if there were more of us, why can't we contact them? Why don't they contact us? What evidence do we have?"
"You didn't hear the voices. I did. What else could they have been?"
"I don't know. It could have been different for all sorts of reasons."
"You might have imagined them. I know what it was like. It's frightening. Your brain could have played tricks on you."
"Why me and not you?"
"I don't know. You're a girl . . ."
Carol couldn't believe what she was hearing. "I don't believe this. What does me being a girl have to do with it?" She pulled the jaunting belt off and threw it on the bed. "That's it. I'm going home." She began to walk to his door. Her hand had just reached for the handle when . . .
"Wait! Please wait!"
She turned and saw John standing there. The look on his face was awful.
"Carol, I'm sorry. Please don't go. I need you. I need your help."
"I'm just a girl. What can I do?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. Please stay."
She looked at him and felt emanating from him, not via telepathy, but just from the subtle signs that she'd always been able to sense from people, that he was lonely. She knew the type; the children at school who had no friends because they were different from the others. She'd always felt sorry for them. John had been so calm, so collected since she'd known him that it hadn't occurred to her that it might not always be that way. Under other circumstances she never would have noticed him. She suddenly realised that he was special in some way, other than the talents they shared. She couldn't put her finger on it . . .
And then she knew, though she had no idea how. John was special. He had so much potential as a leader. He had intelligence, he had charisma. What he lacked was confidence and only time could give him that. What he showed the world was a facade covering up someone who was very vulnerable. He acted confidently, but really he was always afraid, always questioning every decision he made. She also realised how much that apology had cost him. All he had was his mind, his intelligence, these were the things that defined his sense of self worth. To admit he was wrong, to say he was sorry was very difficult for him. But he felt a need for her that was so strong, so desperate that he had done so.
Carol picked up the belt and smiled at John. "Don't be silly. Of course I'll stay."
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
April 11th, 1972
*John? I'm jaunting in.*
Carol materialised in John's room an instant later. He looked up from his desk.
"Hello Carol. How was Spain?"
"All right. Flying was a bit of a let down, though. I wish I could have jaunted."
"Yes, well, your parents can't, so you have to fly. Turning up in Barcelona without any record of having entered the country just might have attracted attention."
"I know, but it would still be easier. So how's the computer going? Any big breakthroughs while I was away?"
John shook his head. "No. It's going slowly, very, very slowly. I think I may have got the memory right, but the arithmetic/logic unit is still causing me problems. I don't know. I'm thinking of buying one to tell you the truth. There's a lot of money in the kitty at the moment." He pointed at a small building society book. Carol looked over at it.
"You're worried about me attracting attention? John, there's a small fortune in there."
"Yes, well, I have had some small measure of success."
"So have I."
John looked up at her, immediately interested. "What have you been up to?"
"I discovered something in Spain. Something very interesting."
"I understood Spanish. Not the language itself, I don't know more than a few words. But I was able to get the meaning behind most of the sentences using my mind, sort of a limited telepathy."
"That is interesting. We'll have to look into that."
He seemed about to say more, but there was a sudden flash, interrupting him. Both of them experienced it in their heads at the same instant. They saw a train, a rail yard of some sort. Then it was gone.
"What on Earth?"
"Did you feel it too?"
John stood up, "Yes, I saw something. What did you see?"
"A train. Tracks."
"That's what I saw too. And I know I've seen that place before. Give me a minute." He sat down again, trying to remember.
"It's just outside North London, I think." He picked up the map of the city, covered in calculations and pencil markings, unfolded it and pointed. "About there."
Carol leaned over his shoulder. "No coordinates. So what do we do? Short hops, or calculate it."
"Both. You start now, going the long way, and I'll work out the mathematics and get there as soon as possible."
Carol straightened and left the room in a blaze of light. John grabbed a ruler and began calculating.
About ten minutes later, Carol finally arrived at her destination. While jaunting was fast, the distance limitations and the necessity to orient yourself between each jump tended to slow you down. She looked around but saw nothing of any interest.
*John, there's nothing here.*
*All right. Give me another ten minutes and I'll be with you.*
She looked around the rail yard. A lot of trains were stored here, more passed through and were gone again, but at the moment it was almost empty. A few old engines and carriages were still there, but they were almost museum pieces. One of them looked familiar, and she realised it was the one she and John had seen in their short, shared vision. She walked over towards it.
It was definitely the same engine - she could tell by the identity number. It was quite an old diesel engine, slightly rusted. She hadn't noticed the rust before. Maybe because she'd seen it from further away.
Carol turned around and walked up a slight embankment, every few seconds turning around to compare the engine to her memory of it. The ground was hard underfoot, mostly dirt, with only a small amount of grass. Finally she seemed to be standing at the point where her mindseye view had originated. She looked around and then down. Just at her feet, in the slightly damp dirt, was a pair of footprints. Small footprints, those of a child.
The lights announcing John's arrival attracted her attention. He appeared about 40 feet away from her and began to walk towards her. She waited until he got there.
"John, look at this." She pointed down at her feet. He looked at the prints, and then at Carol. He was about to speak, when . . .
The voice came from behind them. They whirled around to find themselves facing a middle aged man. He wore the uniform of some sort of security guard and his face was angry.
"How do you kids keep getting in here? Don't you realise it's dangerous, playing around on the tracks? What are your names? I'm going to call your parents."
John tried to placate him.
"Please sir, that isn't necessary. We didn't mean any harm. We'll leave right away."
Fortunately, his tone seemed to mollify the man, who nodded.
"All right, you can go. But don't come in here again. I can't see what the attraction is. And you tell your little friend that if I see him here one more time, I'll be having another word with his mother."
This time it was Carol who spoke, "Friend, what friend?"
The man glared again. "Don't come the innocent with me. Kenneth Reed. I know he likes the trains, but it's more than my job's worth if you lot keep getting in here. Now come on you two. To the gates."
He lead them up a path, and out of a chain linked fence. As he locked the gates behind them, they could hear him mutter, "I'll be blowed if I know how they get in here."
A minute later, the two telepaths were once again in John's room. They both spoke at once and then stopped, looking at each other. Carol began again.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Normally," answered John with a grin. "But, in this case, yes, definitely. This Kenneth could be another one of us."
"Oh, I hope so."
"So do I. But we can't afford to jump to conclusions. Go get a phone book could you? We'll see if we can identify him."
"I wouldn't have believed there were so many Reeds in London."
"It's a big city. Still, based on the fact that we know he's only a child, and probably wouldn't have travelled far, this is the most likely one."
"Unless he jaunted."
"Well, in that case we may as well be looking in Germany, or New Zealand, or Timbuktu. For the moment let's assume he's in London, as that's where we know he was this morning."
The two teenagers were standing in a street in East London, outside a small neat house which the phone book had indicated was the home of a Reed family. Carol nudged John.
"Could that be him?"
John looked. It was a small black boy, maybe ten or eleven. He was walking towards them dribbling a football.
"He's pretty young."
Carol smiled. "So are we, John."
"But even so . . . I've got an idea."
So did Carol, "Let's do it."
The boy stopped in his tracks, his ball forgotten. He cast his eyes around frantically. When he saw John and Carol he broke into a run fleeing away from them. He took only a few steps, when his legs gave out from under him, and he crashed down.
"Damn!" said John, as he ran towards the boy, Carol barely a foot behind him. Kenneth lay on the ground, writhing in pain. A film of light began to form around him.
"No." snapped John, his voice calm and cold as ice. He ripped the jaunting belt from around his waist, and rapidly fastened it around Kenneth's. He was just punching in a set of coordinates when he was thrust out of the way by a woman in a nurse's uniform. She bent down over the small boy.
"Kenneth!" He didn't respond and she looked at John. "What's happening? What have you done to my son? It's bad enough that you have to tease him, now you're hurting him as well."
John backed away in confusion from the verbal onslaught. She thought he'd done this to the boy. Well, maybe he had, but not in the way she thought. He was trying to collect his thoughts long enough to respond when Carol interrupted.
"John didn't do anything. Anyway that doesn't matter. We have to get Kenneth inside. We have to help him."
The child's pained squirming had stopped for a moment, or at least eased. He seemed to have fallen into some sort of trance. The nurse they assumed to be Mrs Reed, looked at John.
"All right, help me get him inside."
John helped to lift the boy and they took him inside his home, Carol following with the football. They helped him into a chair, where he sat looking lifeless. His mother felt his wrist.
"His pulse is very weak. I'm calling an ambulance."
John knelt down next to the boy. "Please don't. I think we can help him."
"It's hard to explain. But if what we think is happening is happening, we might be the only people who can help him."
"This is ridiculous. I'm calling an ambulance."
Carol touched her arm, and looked into her eyes. "Two minutes. Please."
Mrs Reed looked at Carol, and at John, anxiety etched into her face. Seeing something in their eyes that she couldn't understand but somehow trusted, she sighed.
Carol joined John on her knees, on the other side of Kenneth. Each of them took one of his hands in theirs and they concentrated.
*Kenneth. Try and concentrate. Listen to us. You have to wake up. Now. If you don't wake up, you could die.*
His response came from a great distance.
*Who are you?*
*We're like you. We're different. We'll explain later. For now, just try and wake up.*
They felt the slight struggles of the mind in the distance. Not knowing how, not knowing if it would do anything, they tried to will the boy awake. It was like swimming against the current, but a thousands times worse, and if they failed Kenneth would certainly die. Finally the boy's eyes flickered and opened. He looked at the two leaning over him.
"John? Carol?" He looked confused. "How do I know your names?"
"We'll explain. But, yes, I'm John, she's Carol. And you are Kenneth?"
He grimaced. "Kenny. Only my mum calls me Kenneth."
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
April 11th 1972
Carol and John sat sipping what were probably the tenth cups of tea that Mrs Reed had made for them in the last few hours. Kenny and his mother had gone off for a moment, as she insisted on checking he was all right, and they had a chance to speak freely.
"John, he almost died." Carol's voice showed deep concern.
"I know. I'm not sure what went wrong. It wasn't that bad for either of us."
"I think his body just wasn't strong enough. He's only eleven, and he's not very big. I think it happened too early."
"I guess, we will have to be more careful in future. Although, I'm not really sure how. We could have left him, but he might have died. You could have died too. Maybe there were others before me. Maybe they all died without help."
Carol spoke slowly, just sorting out her thoughts, working through the threads in her mind. "Yes, but . . . John, I think our problems were different. I think something happened that stopped me, sort of, halfway. That's why you had to help me finish. With Kenny, I think it happened too fast and his body went into shock. What was it like for you? You've never really said."
John sat there silently.
He looked at her, the only person in his life, he had ever fully trusted, and nodded slowly. "All right. I was at school. Someone had stolen my homework, again, and I was in a lot of trouble. So I went after him." John's eyes went dead for a minute. He found it difficult to continue. "I'm not a violent person, but I'd let these people get away with things for too long. I really went after him. There was a fight, a short fight, and I brought him down, and then I started kicking him, in the head, over and over again. I wanted him dead. I think I wanted to kill him myself. Suddenly I came over all hazy, and then I passed out. No voices, not like you. When I woke up I was in hospital, and I knew I was different. I knew I could never feel that way again. I never want to anyway, but I know it for a fact." He looked at the girl, his expression very serious. "Carol, could you kill? If you really had to, I mean. No choice, kill or be killed."
Carol thought about it for a moment, and realised something. While, on an abstract plane, she could contemplate reasons for killing, valid reasons, defending herself or John, or her parents, she discovered that there was something blocking her, making the idea seem too stark, too - evil. It could never be more than a purely academic exercise.
"No, John. I couldn't. I just couldn't. I'd die first."
"So would I. I don't think we can kill. I think it's part of what we are. We are peaceful."
They sat there, chilled, and at the same time relieved. Chilled, because it deprived them of a means of defence. Relieved because the idea of killing utterly repulsed both of them. In the midst of their silence, as they came to terms with this new understanding, Mrs Reed and Kenny returned. They both looked at the nurse.
"He's fine," Mrs Reed announced.
"I told you I was," complained Kenny.
Carol and John rose. "Mrs Reed, I need Kenny to come with us for a while to my home. There are some things he has to see."
"How will you get there? It's rather late."
John smiled. "We have our own methods. They're quite safe, I assure you."
Mrs Reed knew she could trust them. These children seemed to emit an aura of trust and already Kenny was doing the same. They'd told her what they could do, they'd even demonstrated it. It was hard to believe but, clearly it was true.
"All right. But bring him back safely, and not too late. He has school tomorrow."
John looked at the others. "Come on." He placed his hands to his waist and realised that Kenny was wearing his belt. Carol looked at him, a smug expression on her face. She seemed to take great delight in his errors and mistakes. Not that he made very many, of course.
"All right, Carol. Top right hand drawer of my desk."
"I'll be back in a minute."
Kenny and Carol faded in a burst of light. Mrs Reed looked at John in amazement.
Then Carol reappeared and handed John the spare belt. As he strapped up, Mrs Reed asked her, "Is Kenny all right?"
"He's fine, Mrs Reed." She grinned. "Something seems to have got him excited, though."
And John and Carol jaunted away.
"Where do you sleep?"
For a second John felt like giving the obvious answer - on the bed - but as he looked around the room, he acknowledged it was a fair question. With all the equipment he had developed, the books, the pages and pages of notes, his room was very crowded. Two AE suits hung in the wardrobe amidst the other clothing. The room was still neat, though, despite the cramped conditions.
"I move things," he said instead.
"What is all this stuff?"
"Yeah, right." Kenny's disbelief was obvious.
Carol rushed in to defend John, "It's true Kenny, most of things in this room were designed by John. We've got AE suits - they're a bit like space suits, all sorts of detecting devices - things to measure radiation, light, heat. He's even trying to build a computer."
John nodded. "Yes, for real. That's why the room is so crowded. All my projects take up an awful lot of my time, and my space."
"Then you need to get somewhere else."
"Maybe, but there are all sorts of problems involved. For starters, we need somewhere secure, somewhere no one can find all the gear."
"Kenny, some of these things are years ahead of anything anyone else has done," added Carol. "In the wrong hands, they could be misused. We can't just put them anywhere. We need somewhere secret."
Kenny looked at them, a smile spreading across his face. "I know a place."
"You do?" asked John.
Carol was almost as quick. "Where?"
"I could show you."
John went to his shelves. "Can you show me on a map?"
"Sure I can."
"Where is it? London, England, America, Europe?"
"London, of course. I haven't been to those other places - not yet, anyway."
John brought over the map of London, and placed it on the bed. "Show me."
Kenny looked at it, and then pointed. "Right there."
"What is it?"
"Part of an old Underground tunnel. They had to shut it down because of earthquakes or something. No one knows about it - except me that is."
Carol looked at him. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, of course I am. I go down there a lot. I've never seen anyone else down there."
John picked up pen and paper, and began to calculate the coordinates.
They walked through the tunnel, examining it. Dusty, dark, but almost certainly secret. Just what they needed in fact.
Finally John voiced what they were all thinking. "Well, I say yes. It's going to need work, but that won't hurt us. We'll start tomorrow. We're going to need a lot of things. I'll make up a list, and then we can buy it."
"Where will we get the money?" Kenny asked.
Carol looked down at him. "Money isn't a problem."
He grinned. "I think I'm going to like being one of you."
"Well, one thing is almost certain," said John. "If there are three of us in London, there are probably more of us out there."
"There's the problem," responded Carol. "We still don't know what 'us' is, what it is that we are."
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
May 17th 1972
*Jaunting in now, John.*
Kenny appeared on the small raised area they had constructed near the old cast iron stairs that John was currently painting. He was carrying a large bag in his hands, which he placed on one of the tables they had purchased for the Lab, as they had taken to calling their new secret base.
"I got the chemicals. Next time you'd better go."
John looked up. "Why?"
"They don't seem to like selling volatile chemicals to kids my age. They seem to think I'm going to blow something up."
"They're just for photography, that's all."
"That's what I told them. I'm not sure that they believed me though. Why can't we get our photos developed like everyone else?"
John looked down from on high. "Because Kenny, when your holiday snaps show two separate moons in a green sky, you're likely to be asked for a 'please explain.'"
"All right, there's no need to be like that. When am I going to go into space?"
"When we're ready to take you. It's not a game you know."
"That's not what Carol said. She told me about the time you . . ."
John was quick to cut him off. "All right, never mind what Carol said. Your AE suit is ready. Maybe in a week or two. When the Lab is finished."
*Telepaths On Earth. Respond Please.*
Kenny almost dropped the bottle he had unloaded from the bag. "Was that you, John?"
"Well, it wasn't me, and I don't think it was Carol."
Carol appeared behind him. Before the lights had dissipated she was already standing next to Kenny. "What was that?"
John came down the stairs and sat down at the table.
Carol and Kenny sat down on either side of him, and they placed their hands near each other. Drawing on their combined strength, John sent out his thoughts.
*Who are you?*
The reply was severe. *We might very well ask you the same question. Are you not aware that Earth is a closed world?*
*No, we weren't.*
*Nobody told us,* Kenny interrupted.
John silenced him with a look. The voice in their minds continued.
*This is very disturbing. What is your planet?*
Silence for a moment.
*What is your species?*
*Can you teleport?*
*What coordinate system do you use?*
*I'm not sure . . . We developed it ourselves.*
*Think of that system, and open your mind to me.*
*We will set up a long distance teleportational wave for you, in one of your hours. Please come to us. We wish to meet with you. There are things you must know.*
*How do we know it is safe?*
*You must trust us. I assure you that we cannot harm you. We may be of help to you if you do come.*
John looked at Carol, who nodded, and then at Kenny, who did the same.
*We will come.* John agreed.
*We will expect you.* And the voice was gone, as suddenly as it had come.
The three of them fastened the last straps and then began to step onto the jaunting pad. John stopped and the others, following close behind, almost walked into him.
"Maybe Kenny should stay here."
"No way," Kenny said rapidly. "I'm going. You can't make me stay just because I'm the youngest."
"Kenny, it could be dangerous."
"So why are you going?"
John looked at him and nodded reluctantly. "All right."
They all stepped onto the pad, fixed on their helmets, and were gone.
They stood in another, unfamiliar, place. A building of almost pure white, made of what looked like marble columns. Walking towards them was a man in pure white robes. He stopped a few paces from the small platform they were standing on. "I am Kina of Sophostria. Welcome to our world."
John stepped down and, not knowing why he did so, bowed slightly. The others instinctively followed his example.
"Please come with me."
They were lead into another room, this one built like some sort of council chamber. Six men, almost identical in appearance and wearing identical robes sat around a table. There were four chairs still empty. Kina motioned the three humans to the chairs and took the fourth one himself. When they were seated, the man directly opposite them spoke.
"I am Henta, Lord Philosopher of Sophostria. We have asked you here in order that we can explain to you certain things. Do you have any questions?"
John did, a simple, basic query. "What are we?"
The men all smiled, in identical expressions of what seemed to be satisfaction and it was Henta who answered.
"You are the future of your species. The first people on your planet to have made and survived the transition to a new level of evolution.
"Humanity, your race, is one of the most feared in the Galaxy. Most races as vicious and as violent as yours never reach any level of civilisation, even close to becoming a threat to our survival. Mankind is one of the few that has. We have been forced to accept that, and prepare to deal with it, as peacefully as possible. Now it appears that your own planet has taken a hand. Your species has become perilously close to extinction, through war and through neglect. Your science is based primarily on developing new, and more effective ways of killing each other. That must stop. You make it possible for it to stop.
"Just as the predominant humanoid species on your planet is Homo Sapien, or wise man, in your taxonomy you are Homo Superior - better man. You are peaceful. You cannot kill. You are wiser, more intelligent than the bulk of humanity. One day, you and your kind will take over the world through peaceful means. And science and technology will be used to feed the people, to repair the damage that has been done, and to save your planet, rather than destroy it.
"You are your planet's future, the next stage of human development. Because of you, tomorrow your world will be different from today. And one day, it will be a jewel in the crown of the galaxy. One of millions of worlds all working towards a common peaceful goal.
"We cannot help you much. Our rules prevent us from interfering in the affairs of, and I hope you will pardon the expression, primitive worlds to any great extent. What aid we can we will provide.
"Your primary needs are simple. First of all survival. You must develop means of defending yourselves. As you cannot kill, they must be non fatal, but that is not too difficult. Secondly you need knowledge, and guidance. This we can provide."
A large drum of some sort of liquid appeared on the table. Next to it were folded sheets covered with writing and diagrams.
"These are the plans for a computer. A very advanced computer. The liquid is critical in its operation. The rest of the components are available on Earth, in one form or another. You must acquire these components and build the machine yourselves.
"This is the extent to which we can directly assist you. In time and on occasion we may be able to offer indirect assistance. We will now return you to your own planet."
Kina stood and lead them from the room. John and Carol held the drum between them, surprised by its lack of weight compared to its size, while Kenny carried the plans. They stepped up onto the podium on which they had arrived and before they had a chance to put on their helmets they were back in the Lab.
John and Carol stepped down and manhandled the suddenly heavy drum onto a table. They all looked at each other, not quite sure of what to say. In the end it was Carol who was the first to speak.
"That's what the man said," answered John. "It does make sense you know."
"It might make sense, but it sounds pretty arrogant. I don't really like it."
"It doesn't make sense to deny what we are." John saw Carol about to argue and he held up a hand. "But I agree. We need another name."
He thought of what Henta had said, and a phrase leaped out at him.
"How about The Tomorrow People?"
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
30th April 1973
In a classroom sat a boy. Brown hair with piercing blue eyes, in a school uniform like any other. The best word to describe him, might be as a pretty child, but at thirteen he had begun to outgrow, and would certainly have resented the label.
He sat at a desk, writing his name over and over again, a penalty he had earned by forgetting to put his name on yet another piece of homework. Write it out one hundred times. The teachers didn't seem to understand how boring the school work was, and this just made it more boring. Just his name over and over again.
Stephen, Stephen, Stephen . . .
In the Lab John sat up. He thought he had heard something, some sort of telepathic message. He moved over to the table and sat down, and spreading out his hands on its top surface, he concentrated.
*Stephen, Stephen, Stephen.*
"TIM, that isn't Carol or Kenny, is it?"
The urbane voice that the Tomorrow People had come to trust answered immediately.
"No, John. It does not appear to be."
"Maybe I should answer?"
"I would not advise it, John. Not yet at any rate."
He tried to concentrate on the telepathic message again, but it was gone.
*Yes, John. I heard it too.*
*Can you come here quickly?*
*I think so. Give me a few minutes, I need to find an excuse. Some of them are wearing a bit thin.*
Kenny came in at that point, right on cue.
*Do you want me John?*
*After school, Kenny. Your mother doesn't like you missing classes.*
*But John . . .*
*Neither do I.*
Kenny fell silent.
John leaned back.
"Any ideas, TIM?"
"Only one. Perhaps the name Stephen means something to the person sending the message. Most likely it is their own name."
"Yes, I suppose so," said John in a doubtful tone. "But what type of person sends a telepathic message repeating their name over and over again." His tone sharpened. "Unless Stephen is trying to make contact."
"What's possible?" asked Carol stepping off the pad.
"That this Stephen is a new Tomorrow Person trying to make contact with us."
"Well, then, maybe we should contact him, John. Let him know he has made contact."
"I think so, yes. We'll try when Kenny gets here. That way the two of you can try and triangulate his position."
"Besides, if we don't wait for Kenny, he'll never forgive us," observed Carol.
John smiled. "True enough."
"Right, you two. Carol, you go to the park, Kenny, you go to -"
"Tower Bridge?" asked Kenny hopefully.
"All right, Tower Bridge, but be careful. We don't want you falling off again."
"I was only little."
"It was last week!"
"Do I look big to you?"
John looked at the irrepressible boy, and found it difficult not to laugh. "All right, get your map and go. Wait until I signal, then we'll try and contact Stephen."
John walked over and sat down at the table as Kenny and Carol disappeared from the Jaunting pad. He gave them a few seconds to get into place.
Stephen turned into the market on his way home. He walked along looking at the stalls. A few yards behind him two men climbed off motorcycles.
John sat in the Lab.
*Are you ready, Kenny?*