June 14th, 1973
Experimental Weapons Establishment, Halton, Surrey
"So what's this chap like?"
Two distinguished looking men, in their middle to late fifties, sat in an office. Both were in sombre dark suits, but in spite of that it was obvious that they were military men. The speaker sat behind the desk, which was covered with neat piles of paper and many manilla folders - these each had a diagonal red stripe on their front cover. The other man, sitting almost opposite him answered the question.
"It's difficult to say, sir. I certainly wouldn't have said he was the type to make things up - I've heard very good things about him and when I met the man myself he struck me as perfectly normal. A bit enthusiastic, perhaps, but if what he says has even an ounce of truth in it, that's not surprising. That's why I asked you to see him. On the face of it, his position seems absurd. But he makes it seem very plausible and credible and he does have the evidence to back up his speculation."
"Is that him?"
The senior of the two men gestured out of the window at a man, wearing a suit rather like his own and carrying a briefcase, who had just climbed out of a car outside. He was met by a uniformed corporal who checked the papers that were presented very diligently and then lead the man towards the nearest door into the building. The man followed falling immediately into step with the corporal's measured pace as they moved around the building and out of sight of the watchers.
"Yes, sir. That's Major Masters."
Less than a minute later, there was a knock on the door. Before either man had a chance to answer a middle aged woman opened the door and stepped into the room.
"Major Masters to see you, General."
The younger man stepped into the room smartly and came to a halt in front of the desk. He had a confident air about him, which impressed the two older officers. Many young officers would have been intimidated to be in their presence. But not this major. He opened his mouth and in a smooth voice spoke.
"Major Masters reporting as requested, sir."
"Sit down, Masters."
The major took the second chair in front of the desk and put a dark briefcase in his lap. The General spoke.
"You know Brigadier Hamble, of course. Do you know who I am?"
"Good. The Brigadier has asked you here to show me what you think you've discovered." The General gave a slight smile. "He thinks it may interest me, despite its - sensational nature. Please go ahead. We are at your disposal."
"Yes, sir." The briefcase was snapped open and the major handed both of the other officers a neat folder.
"First of all, sir, I didn't discover this - that was done by MI6. All I did was put it together. It came across my desk in little pieces and I managed to assemble the data."
The General spoke. "A question - why was a promising infantry major working somewhere where such papers come across his desk? Why wasn't he with his regiment."
Brigadier Hamble answered. "Major Masters had a disagreement with his commanding officer, sir. A conflict of command styles, one might say."
"Really. Who was your commanding officer?" asked the General.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Beaumont-Savage, sir."
"Aah. I see. Continue, major."
"Thank you, sir. Taken by themselves the reports we received are not conclusive. However taken as a whole they suggest the existence of a new intelligence program within the Soviet Union. A program called the Kalhar Project.
"Of course, a new intelligence program is not unusual. But this one is special in two particular ways. The first is that it is a project that seeks to examine telepathy - broadly speaking, the ability to read minds - and it's military and espionage applications. Secondly though, and more importantly, it seems to be working."
"I understand you have evidence for this, Masters."
"Yes sir. The second document in the dossier I've given you is an internal report on the project. They tested a Russian girl's ability to read the minds of military officers. She scored a staggering 97% accuracy - and most of what she missed could be put down to experimental error."
The General examined the report. "I see, yes. How do we know that this report isn't a bluff designed to force us to commit our resources to a worthless counter project?"
Major Masters hesitated. "Well, we don't, General. This isn't certain information. There is always the possibility of misinformation. The source does seem reliable, though."
"And sir," Brigadier Hamble interrupted. "What if it is true? When the Russians start reading our minds I wouldn't want to explain to the Prime Minister why we did nothing about it."
"Good point. What do you think we need to do, Masters? You're up to speed on this."
"We need to establish a similar program of our own, both to do what the Russians are doing and to come up with methods to counter their activities. Ideally we should start by trying to identify British telepaths to work on such a project. I've already got one possible, a girl named Patricia Conway. I can approach her if you like."
"Yes, do that. I'm afraid that you won't be returning to your regiment, Masters -- we need fellows like you here. It's not all bad, I'll see you get the budget you need and the job will carry more rank -- Lieutenant-Colonel at this stage. Hamble, you see to the necessary orders." The General stood to indicate the meeting was over. The other two officers stood as well as the General leaned over and offered his hand to Masters.
"Good luck, Colonel Masters."
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
June 17th, 1973
Colonel Masters climbed out of his car and locked the doors. He put his cap on and then walked over to a shop window. He checked his reflection in it. Wearing a uniform was not necessary in his new position but he wanted to impress the girl he had come to see.
In her small flat, Patricia Conway reached up to put a mug away and winced as the sudden headache hit her.
She carried the mug over to the sink and filled it with water, at the same time as she fumbled a pair of aspirin tablets from the box near the window. The headache, which was always there now, had been getting worse and the periods of intense pain more frequent. Her doctor could see no cause for them and she was not going to allow him to order any more tests - the EEG had been disturbing enough. So she supposed she'd just have to grin and bear it.
She heard a knock at her front door and walked over to open it.
Standing just outside was an army officer. He held up a small wallet and showed it to her. Before she had a chance to read the card inside he'd pushed past her and into the flat.
"Who are you?"
"Ministry of Defence, Miss Conway. I need to talk to you on a matter of some urgency."
"Well, I'm not -"
"It's a matter of vital national interest," interrupted the Colonel.
"In that case, please sit down."
Colonel Masters did so and Patricia sat down opposite him. The officer began to speak.
"Miss Conway. You have just recently completed University, haven't you?"
"While you were there you encountered a Doctor Lassiter who gave you a number of tests. Do you remember?"
Patricia felt her heart go cold. Her headache got worse. "Yes, I do."
"So you recognise these?" The Colonel drew out a deck of cards from his pocket and showed them to her. Not normal cards, these were the Zener cards that were used to test for telepathic ability.
"Miss Conway, papers in the possession of Military Intelligence indicate that you scored far better than chance on these cards - in fact you scored perfectly in most tests. Isn't that true?"
"No, I'm -"
"Come now, Miss Conway, there's no need to lie. We know you are telepathic. And we need people like you. Your country needs you."
The headache was worse now - much worse than she would have imagined possible only a few minutes earlier.
"Please excuse me for a minute."
She returned to the kitchen and washed down another two aspirin tablets. Then she walked back into the front room.
"How can I help you, Colonel . . . Masters?" The headache had eased very slightly but it was an incredible relief even so.
The Colonel smiled at her use of his name. "You're an intelligent young lady. I'm sure you realise how useful your skills would be to your country. We need people like you."
"To spy for you?"
"I don't suppose there's any purpose in mixing words. Yes."
Patricia wasn't exactly sure why not - she just knew that there was something inside her that wouldn't allow her to get involved in such things. Her headache started to get worse again.
"Miss Conway - I'm not asking you to do anything immoral or wrong. I'm asking you to serve your country. That's all. We need people like you."
"No." The pain was so bad now that she was coming close to tears.
Colonel Masters pushed on relentlessly.
"Is it what you've seen in the movies that worries you? Spies don't kill people, Miss Conway - well, only very rarely. And if that concerns you, we can take steps to keep you away from that side of our activities."
Now the pain had enveloped her entire head, arcing from one temple to another. She just wanted to lie down - she felt she was likely to pass out soon.
"No." This time it was weaker. She felt sick, the pain was so bad that it alone was making her physically ill.
The Colonel continued in a very reasonable tone of voice which she found harder and harder to hear. "We have to face facts, Miss Conway. Our countries enemies are going to use telepaths against us - that is a certainty. We must have telepaths to protect our own interests. We have to maintain a balance of power. Won't you help us?"
"No, I can't." The headache was extremely bad now - so bad that she was now certain she would pass out soon. There was also a low grumbling in the background - some sort of cacophony of noise.
"Miss Conway, if you help us you'll be doing yourself a great deal of good. You'll be doing all telepaths a great deal of good. Because if we can't trust telepaths how can we normal people be sure that they won't work against us? There'll be pressure brought to bear in high places to remove the threat that you might cause. If you won't be our friends how do we know that you aren't our enemies?"
The sounds were growing louder - they were voices, thousands, maybe millions of them. The pain was intense but now she was terrified as well. Was she losing her mind? Even if she was not, she was certain that she was about to if the voices didn't stop. She wanted the Colonel to leave. She wanted to be alone so she could lie down and try and bring all this under control. She was ready to do anything to get him to leave. His voice continued, a cadence of charm and sincerity.
"I want to help you, Patricia. I want to help all telepaths. Yes, I want to use your powers but I also want to help protect you. I know what you can do and that has to be preserved. Won't you help me to do that - to accomplish both our goals?"
"Yes, all right yes! Yes, I'll help you. Just go away. Leave me alone." She had resisted for as long as she could and he had won. She wanted him to go away so she could be alone and lie down. She would have agreed to anything to accomplish that aim.
"Very well, I'm leaving. I'll be in touch later to tell you what we need to do."
He stood up and left the room and Patricia stood up to stagger to her room to lie down. Then she realised something.
Her headache had gone.