It was the night of the 25th. Stephanie was on the way home from shopping, when she saw a lost child peeking out from an alley. She stopped, and
looked at the small girl. "Hey there, don't be afraid, are you
lost?" she said. The girl scampered away around the corner, out
of sight. Following her into the alley, Stephanie saw
nothing but a couple stray boxes. Looking behind one of them, she
was suddenly knocked down to the ground, and held in place.
"What do you know about 'The Orchestra'?" said a man's voice from behind her.
"What did you do with the girl?" Stephanie said, struggling but failing
to get free.
"She was only an illusion. Now answer
the question!" the man said.
"I have no idea what
you're talking about!"
"We shall see," the man
said, as the world went black.
I think not
Tomorrow. Mike headed back
from work, stopping by to check on Stephanie, as she hadn't
answered any of his calls today. Better safe than sorry.
Upon arriving, he found her front door open. That's odd. He parked
in the driveway, and walked inside. Nothing looked too out of the
ordinary. However Stephanie was simply sitting on the couch, staring blankly
ahead, with the TV off. "Hey Steph, are you OK?" he said,
walking up to her.
There was no reply.
"Are you alright? This is starting to freak me out," he said,
rocking her back and forth gently, noticing that she seemed to be
breathing fine, just unresponsive.
His phone rang.
"Hello? John?" Mike said, "Something's wrong with Steph."
"I know. It's a trap - you need to get out of there now," John said over the
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Just put Stephanie in the car, and drive with her to the Song-Lin
Chinese Restaurant on Oakwood Avenue."
call an ambulance or something?"
won't be able to help her - I'm sorry you're involved in this now, but
you're just going to have to trust me on this."
"Alright. You haven't let me down before..." Mike said.
Mike carried Stephanie into his car and began to drive to
the restaurant. Along the way there, he noticed that two
silver cars seemed to be following him. They would stay back at a
distance, but follow his movements even through the back streets he
took. He finally arrived at the restaurant, only ten minutes away,
but had already worked up quite the cold sweat. He
stepped out of the car, and saw John motioning to come inside with both
of them. The silver cars parked across the street, their
passengers obscured for the moment. He carried Steph inside the restaurant, and down
some stairs in the back - despite the odd looks from some of the patrons.
Meanwhile, inside one of the silver cars, an operative said, "they're surrounded,
proceed with extraction." Six men in official suits got out of the
cars, and strode into the restaurant, flashing CIA badges at the
John and Mike, carrying Steph together now, headed down the
stairs and reached a basement room. Inside were three others - familiar,
but acquaintances at best. The room had a most unusual decor of street signs, popular pictures, and photos
of world landmarks coating the walls. Most strangely, there was a staff in front of them, set vertically into the center of the floor.
It had a bluish crystal on top, and looked slightly metallic, but otherwise wouldn't have been out of place at a fantasy convention.
"We only have a
few seconds, so place her down on this chair, and hold hands," John said.
Mike placed Steph down on the chair, as
the group linked hands in a circle. John and the woman next to him
grasped the crystal on the staff, as they both looked at it intently. The crystal began to glow a
bright blue, their eyes matching its tint - as the staff, group, and
chair, vanished into thin air with a quiet shoof
Only seconds later, the agents burst through the locked door to the basement
room, and saw that it was empty, save for the odd decorations.
"Damn. I thought we would have more time," one said.
"It appears that our calculations were incorrect," another said.
So close, and yet, so far away
The group reappeared in another
similarly-decorated basement, and let go of each other's hands.
"Welcome to the Song-Lin Chinese Restaurant, on Oakpark Avenue," John
said to Mike.
"Wait - what just happened?"
"Perhaps you should see for yourself," John said, as he motioned a
few of the others to take a look at Steph.
walked up the stairs, and emerged in a familiar-looking Chinese
restaurant, only that now it appeared to be in the mid-afternoon, and
there were almost no patrons.
"Since we were being
pursued, we simply translocated to a different Chinese restaurant," John said.
"Wait - you mean we just teleported
different place?" Mike said, completely incredulous.
"Yes, in a sense. Sorry I haven't told you about this before, but as I'll explain in
a bit, this is
a rather dangerous line of work. And to be honest, we were hoping you two wouldn't get wrapped up in our problems."
"But aren't you worried that they'll just drive to this restaurant next?"
"No, because we were in Los Angeles five minutes ago - now we're in New
"But... but..." Mike said, "how is that even
And what does any of this have to do with what's wrong with Steph?"
I can explain, as we drive to a safer location," John said. The group
walked out of the restaurant together, and into a nearby parked van, driving off uptown.
A brief history lesson
all started in 1958, as the Soviets were conducting research into
psychic powers to help their cold war effort," John said, "now most of the
theories were disproven, but a man named
Viktor Kalinastrat, working on the top-secret Project
'Honeycomb', managed to invent something truly remarkable -
the psychic amplifier." John pointed to the staff he had used earlier, now sitting in the van.
"What he found was that everyone possesses some low-level psychic
ability, but in the vast majority of the population, it's essentially
undetectable, and even those who are truly gifted may only be able to discern
intentions or view locations at a distance - at best. However, the psychic
amplifier taps into the vast reserve of life energy present around and in the
world, and allows a user to exert thousands or millions of times the
psychic influence they otherwise would be able to. Now while
reading minds or controlling others is still quite hard due to natural
resistances, it was found that certain properties such as probability
alteration, long-distance remote viewing, and physical to life-force
were surprisingly easy to amplify. Besides
the obvious powers, this allows us to convert ourselves into the essence
of life-force, and travel across the mental landscape of shared
consciousness. In essence, where people associate two things
together, for example, the same coffee shop, or two cities with the same
name, we can travel along these links. We call it the Psychic-Semantic
Shared-Consciousness Transportation Corridor
Network, or PSSCTCN, for short."
a mouthful, how about something easy to remember and catchy like... 'The Mental-Link Highway?'" Mike
"I'll... think about it, but that honestly sounds pretty goofy,"
John said, "so, to continue: Dr. Kalinastrat, upon his invention of the psychic amplifier
felt that it was too great of a power to give to his superiors, much less to let loose upon an unprepared world. And so he
escaped the regime, and lived in secrecy for decades. He worked on improving
the design, and attracted many naturally-gifted psychics, such as those
you see here, myself included. We studied under him, running from
any organizations trying to capture us, as he manufactured a scant few of
these amplifiers and imparted his knowledge to us. One day in
1978, he was studying advanced translocation, and simply disappeared.
We haven't seen him since. In his stead we eventually managed to
link many of us together into a group mind, called . We've
been studying to try and build more amplifiers, or discover where
Dr. Kalinastrat went, but have been somewhat unsuccessful, as our group
is rather short on engineering talent, and we can't trust many others.
In addition, in the last decade another group has risen, calling
themselves the 'Network Intelligence Agency' or NIA. Posing as official government agents
and utilizing their front as an internet-security business, they have been
capturing psychics and attempting to track our group down for years. Their motives are unknown,
although one shudders to think of the possibilities that could be exploited if this technology fell into the wrong hands.
Recently, they've also been capturing friends and family
members in an effort to drive us out in the open. More relevant to Stephanie, they have a
mental scanner that forcibly extracts any information from someone,
but it has a side-effect of de-associating their mind, making them
incapable of performing anything but basic tasks."
"So that's what happened to her..." Mike said.
"Exactly. It wears off naturally in a month or two, but we have some
experience with this, and should be able to get her back up and running in a day
or so, although it'll still take a week or two for her to return to full strength."
"That's amazing! Thanks! Even if all this is a bit hard to process, to be honest," Mike said, "but wait, what am I supposed to do now?"
"No problem, this is a lot to take in. Also, you're a materials scientist, right?"
"Sure, I've done some work in that field... why do you ask?"
"Well, since you're stuck with us now, and I'd say we can consider you at least an honorary member of our group...
We can provide all of our knowledge, and any resources you need for this - because we want to see if you can figure out how the psychic amplifier works, and if
you can build more."
Learn and re-learn
The next day. Two of the other members of the
group had their hands on Stephanie's forehead, working on reconnecting
her mind, as while she was eating and sleeping, she still remained practically unresponsive. Meanwhile, Mike was looking over the blueprints
for the psychic amplifier from Dr. Kalinastrat, and had talked over the
recent findings with the rest of the group. He moved the
staff back and forth on the table, looking horribly confused.
"This doesn't make any sense!" Mike said.
"We've been trying to figure it out for ages, so don't feel too bad about
that," said another member of the group, Emily.
"It looks like you
almost have it - the mental modulation field parameters, the
connection based on trans-personal association, and even the amplifier
"But the amplifiers we make don't work."
the strange part. I'm afraid I have no clue why not,
though. I mean there's nothing different between them, right? It's just those were made back in the sixties and seventies, and these were made now with... the modern
"Yes, but these are all exact
analogues of what Dr. Kalinastrat did originally, and we don't really
have access to his old equipment. And certainly nothing like time travel, just in case you're wondering."
you guys can still teleport around the world, right? Do you think you could at
least get me a cauldron and stirrer set like the one in this picture?"
"We can try, but I doubt that
will help," the Emily said, as she left.
around, Mike said to the pair on Steph, "How's it going over there?"
"She is healing well, but we expect it will take until tomorrow until
we can try to wake her up completely."
They make them like they used to
"Whoo, that's hot,
careful!" Mike said, carefully maneuvering a molten
metallic substance in a foundry ladle to the ceramic stirring pot. "Now, according to
his notes, you're supposed to mix this continuously as it cools, but
there's no way we can do that until it cools to at least 1500° or the stirring tool will melt."
"Unless you use the titanium stirrers we have," said an assistant.
Dr. Kalinastrat didn't have access to those, did he?"
"No, no he did not," the assistant said sheepishly.
waiting for a while for the substance to cool, then stirring until it
nearly solidified, Mike took out a microscope, and inspected the
substance they had just made, comparing it to the previous attempts. "Wait - there's something
different - these crystal planes aren't aligned the same between these
two. The modern process one has only one alignment pattern, but the new one we just made
has smaller structures encased within that, with a completely different alignment. They must have formed during the initial cooling process, and almost look like microscopic resonance chambers.
Hmm... there's only one way to find out for sure, though. I don't suppose I
could open up one of the functional amplifiers?"
"We only have five remaining! Are you absolutely sure
about this analysis?"
"I can't guarantee anything, but I don't think there's any other way to
know for sure."
"Let us think about it..." the assistant
said, looking ahead for a moment, "very well, but only one, and be
careful." He handed him one of the few remaining staffs.
Mike cracked open the crystal sphere on top, with more than a slight
cringe by the assistant, and looked at one of its faces under the
microscope. "Yes, that's it! This has the same alignment pattern as the
new sample we made, with nested structures. It also has a layer along the surface too - that must have formed during the initial cooling as well. The one I made has a chipped layer from our prying it out, but it's the same structure, and should be easy to fix.
It makes sense that Dr. Kalinastrat's notes weren't too detailed, leaving out this layer and the actual cooling process. He probably did that that
as a precaution against this recipe falling into the wrong hands. Alright, let's test it out, hand me that empty staff." He took the staff from the assistant, and placed his newly-minted crystal where the crystal he had just shattered had previously been. Mike said, "okay, give this
"Very well," the assistant said, placing his hand on the top,
as it began to glow a dim blue, "yes, it's weak, but this is it.
You've... actually done it." The assistant looked suitably surprised and impressed.
"Thanks!" Mike said, wiping the sweat from his forehead, "just took a
bit of old-fashioned elbow grease and busting up a priceless artifact, that's all."
Later that day, in between congratulations, the pair from before came up
to Mike, and said, "we are ready to wake her up. Having someone
she recognizes and trusts will be best."
nodded in agreement, as they brought him to Stephanie, and tapped her
three times on the forehead.
said, holding her head as if recovering from a splitting headache, "...what
happened? I just remember this alley, and then there's just a
jumble... what a dream."
"I'm sorry to say it wasn't a
dream, Steph," Mike said, holding her hand, "but I'm here for you now."
"Wait, more is coming back - you two," Steph said, pointing at the pair,
"you helped me, didn't you? ... Thanks. ... Hold on. Those
scumbags that did this to me - where are they? They're going to
pay for this!"
"Calm down Steph, try not to blow a
blood vessel just when I've got you back - we'll take care of them soon
enough," Mike said.
"You... have also been
working on their amplifiers, right? They've told me about it...
," Stephanie furrowed her brow realizing that there was no ordinary means by which she could know this information.
"So, did you figure out how they work, or how to make more?"
"Yes, yes I did," Mike said, grinning. Looking around, he had a sudden thought, and said, "Wait a moment - that old sports car over there in
the corner, does it still work?"
"Yes, it needs
some repair, but it should still run, why do ask?" said one of the pair.
"Because I just had a crazy idea. We're not just going to make
more amplifiers, we're going to make them better.
One week later, it was finished. "Sporting the latest in
psychic amplification technology," Mike said, "the slipthink car has the
capability to translocate between adjacent places in mental-physical
space. It comes standard with pattern-matching jump GPS,
V8 engine, power steering, anti-lock brakes... intermittent windshield wipers, uh... and air conditioning."
"Nice work!" John said, looking over the refurbished sports car.
Besides the new paint job and tune-up, it now contained a computer
screen between the front seats, displaying GPS-assisted translocation
routes, two handles for the psychic amplifier in the passenger seat, and
twin-cylinder amplifier crystals under the hood, with field line
generators strung throughout the frame. "Have you tested it yet?"
, but I'm pretty confident it'll work. We just
need someone to drive, and someone to operate the amplifier circuit to
peform the jumps."
"Then why don't you two take it
for a spin?"
"Us? But... we're not like you
guys..." Mike said.
"It's not that we don't want
to help, but I think I would have noticed it if I was psychic before,"
"You two..." John said, shaking
his head and placing his hands on their shoulders, "you two are most
certainly capable of this. Whether you believe now or
not. Everyone in this world is connected by the same life-force, a
true mental-physical bond - and those who are most attuned to this are
naturally attracted together. It is not
coincidence that we have been friends all these years, or that you two
found each other. We have told you all we can... so get out there
and show the world (but mostly the sham 'NIA') your true power..."
"We'll... give it a shot," Mike said uncertainly.
"Okay, but I'm
driving," Steph said.
"Then I'll try to perform the jumps, as long as you promise to drive safely,"
"Of course - jeez, when have I ever not
driven safely?" Stephanie said, "What? What's that
That time in New York was nothing but expert
A scenic test drive
The garage door opened, letting in a waterfall of sunlight, as the slipthink car drove out onto the street, Stephanie at the wheel, and Mike
looking up a test route on the GPS. "Okay, let's try to jump from this
Howaburger on Park Drive, to the Howaburger on Park Drive in the city just north of here, about 50
miles away," Mike said, "that sounds pretty reasonable. And
before you ask, no
, we do not
need to be going 88 miles an
hour to jump."
"What? I've barely even taken us off the driveway yet!" Stephanie said, as they pulled out of the garage.
With a slight look of friendly suspicion, Mike said, "Okay, turn left, then turn right at the next light," as
they headed out and towards the restaurant.
arrival, they pulled into the parking lot, as Stephanie said, "okay,
we're here. Ready to try it?"
see what this thing's got..." Mike said, holding onto the energy link handles, as
he concentrated on the map, attempting to visualize the other location.
Yes, I can see it. Connected to here - not too strongly, but
strong enough. Now us. As they said, we become mental
energy, travel along this link, then rematerialize on the other side.
Piece of cake. (Yeah, right.)
"Are we going to
jump or not?" Stephanie said, as Mike thought it over.
"Just give me a minute..." he said, concentrating harder. That's
it. Tap into the reserve of all life. The planet - it's as bright as
the sun from here. The light of life - everywhere. Yes,
the amplifier's working, we're getting closer.
Noticing the amplifier begin to glow blue, as the edges of the frame of
the car matched, she said, "hey, something's happening. We
still haven't jumped yet, though - the others did it nearly
instantly. Would it help if we were moving forward?" She
began driving the car to the end of the parking lot.
"No, no, it's just my first time, just a few more seconds..." Mike said.
Closer and closer. I can feel the transformation taking place,
slipping into the mental realm. Joining the light, even if for a
"We're almost at the end of the
lot!" Stephanie said.
Got it! Moments before
hitting the curb, the car vanished into air, leaving a blue shadow for a
fraction of a second, the only reminder of its prior location.
They melded with the light, and traversed the vast connective landscape
of the planet.
They rematerialized at the other
restaurant, and abruptly hit the curb at the end of the parking lot,
sending them bumping down a small hill. "Oh jeez, you didn't tell
me this one was on a hill!" Stephanie said, trying to control the car.
"I did it! It worked!" Mike said, "Wait. Shit - is that a freeway
"Aaaaahhh!" Stephanie said, trying to
turn away from the oncoming traffic unsuccessfully.
Not here. Anywhere but here.
A moment before
impact, they vanished once again, the tractor-trailer hitting nothing
but mist in the right lane, horn blaring.
existed once again, and bumped down an old cobblestone street, Stephanie
finally managing to regain control, dodge a scooter, and stop just in
time against a railing at the end of the street.
Let's try not to do that again," Mike said, "so... where are we?"
Stephanie got out of the car, noticing it was night, and looked around.
The dead-end they had landed at overlooked a canal or river of some
sort, with a beautiful nighttime city skyline in front of them.
Spotting one obviously-recognizable landmark later, she said, "where do you
we are? We're in Paris!"
Mike got out, and
took in the view. "Wow."
Leave nothing to chance
A few days later, they rematerialized on a back street in Las Vegas near the casino strip.
"Okay, remember the plan. We've been practicing jumping for a few
days now. We got this. Destroy the NIA's financial and logistical
network - just hit their casino - in and out," Mike said.
"You don't need to keep telling me this," Stephanie said, "I already
know what we're doing."
"Yes. I know," Mike said,
"I'm mostly trying to convince myself..."
arrived in front of the extravagant casino, and were greeted by a valet,
"park your car in the garage, madame?"
Stephanie said, as they drove into the self-park area. Squeezing
into a tight space near the stairs, Stephanie got out of the car, and
said, "okay, I'll start the feed when I'm inside." She walked up
the stairs, and into the Casino. Once inside, she activated her
hidden camera, displaying a live video of the casino's interior on the
computer monitor in the car.
Mike, still inside
the car, studied the video, as Stephanie walked around the floor.
Visualize the location. See it simultaneously on the screen and
in my mind. Yes - that's it - the casino - millions of events
happening by chance, the probabilities ever so slightly biased, existing
on the edge between success, and failure. But not for long.
The car's psychic amplifier began to rev up, as the engine glowed a deep
blue, it's power permeating across the building, no longer confined to mere
imagination. And in a moment, it happened - the power was
released, providing just the nudge that was necessary. Alarms
went off inside the Casino - to the sounds of cheering, as every
machine, every draw, and every table hit the jackpot.
Stephanie snuck out in the
ensuing chaos, as the patrons demanded to be paid several times in
excess what the casino was worth. Silently stepping back down the
stairs, she got back in the car with Mike. "That was awesome!
"Well, I have been practic-"
"Stop! You two in the
car!" a guard said, followed by six other armed men in suits.
"Damn, they're fast - let's get the hell out of here!" Stephanie said,
throwing the car in reverse. They lurched out of the spot, and
squealed through the parking lot, reaching the exit gate.
"Hey, slow down!" The attendant said in the parking booth, ducking back as
Stephanie drove through the gate, and bounced onto the street, scraping the undercarriage.
"Woo! I always wanted to do that!" Stephanie said.
Two silver cars pulled out behind them, as a man in the lead car pulled
out a gun, shooting their bumper.
" Stephanie said, "warp speed - Mike - warp speed
"Give me a second!" Mike said, visualizing
their location, as they jumped once again, moments before hitting a
stopped truck, as their pursuers spun out to avoid collision.
A few weeks later, Stephanie and Mike
had hit two more locations, purportedly throwing the NIA into chaos.
She got up, and stretched out on this sunny morning. Wishing for some fresh
air, she opened the door of their apartment to a magnificent panorama of the
Swiss Alps. What a nice view, she thought. Wait a minute!
We're not in Europe - this apartment's in Los Angeles! She
hurriedly closed the door, and waiting a moment, opened it again to the
rather boring second-floor veranda she would expect. Okay, that
"Hey Steph," Mike said,
walking behind her and sipping on some coffee, "going out to get some
"I was... but watch this," she said,
closing the door, concentrating on the mountains, then opening it again... to the same boring suburb, "I could've sworn that..."
"What? We lived in a different place? Happens to me all the time,
all this jumping makes me feel like I have eternal jet lag.
Whoog," Mike said, drinking the last of his coffee.
"I guess so..." Stephanie said, looking outside, "wait, were those three
silver cars there a minute ago?"
said, watching ten men in suits get out of the cars, and run up towards
the stairs, "no! Shit! How did they find us?"
"Who cares? We've got to get out of here now!" Stephanie said, closing
and locking the door.
"But the slipthink car is in the back
parking lot!" Mike said, as they rushed towards the closed bedroom door.
"Wait - I know what I saw, let me try one more time..." Stephanie
said, as she opened the bedroom door... to a magnificent view of the
Swiss Alps, from what was apparently the front door of a small cabin.
"Okay. That works too," Mike said, looking rather dumbfounded, as pounding could be heard from
their front door. "Let's go." They jumped through the door,
and closed the cabin door behind them. "What do we do now?"
"Try to warn the others... maybe find out where we are?" Stephanie said,
looking around at the sparsely populated area. She shivered a bit from the sudden change in temperature.
Mike took out a cell phone, and tried to call John. "No response,
. If I know anything about The Orchestra, someone's
"You don't think..." Stephanie
A silver car approached on the dirt road
from the south, traveling slowly on the uneven surface.
"Yes. I think it's the most likely case," Mike said, as the two of
them ran down the mountainside, into a forested grove. "We've got
to get out of here."
"But how, and where?"
"That door -" Mike said, pointing
to a door on another cabin, "can you do it again? We should try to
make it back to the source..."
"I can try..."
Steph said, as she opened it to a nighttime scene in Tokyo. They
jumped through again, and walked around the dark streets, trying not to attract
any unnecessary attention. They wandered around into a back alley from the
closed shopping district they had arrived in, and saw a most unexpected
"Is that... the slipthink car?" Mike said, as
it was apparently parked right in front of them.
"Get in! Get in!" Steph said, noticing a silver car approaching from
They got inside, and started up the engine, "next
stop - the source. Hold on," Mike said, as they sped up, and
jumped out of the alley.
They rematerialized in a
dusty desert, on a small painted road in the middle of nowhere deep within
central Asia. Seeing no sign of pursuit, or any other signs of civilization nearby, they drove along the
cracked surface for some distance.
Kalinastrat's laboratory. This is The Orchestra's most isolated location, no one outside their group has
ever found it. Hopefully we can hide
out here, and if anyone survived they'd be here too," Mike said, as they approached a smallish metal building,
sporting a variety of antennas, and looking like it hadn't seen proper
maintenance in decades.
"Wait, they're here!
Behind us!" Steph said, looking in the rear view mirror at an approaching silver car,
"get us out of here!"
"Okay, let's try -" Mike
attempted to say, as they were rammed head-on by another silver car,
crushing the slipthink car's front, stopping the engine and shorting out the
psychic amplifier. Two men reached out of the silver cars and shot
the slipthink car's tires out, leaving them entirely stranded. The other
suited men got out, and surrounded the damaged slipthink car. Mike and
Steph reluctantly opened the doors, and walked out, hands in the air.
"Run out of doors?" one of the men said.
We know what you know
Mike and Steph regained
awareness of the world as their masks were removed. They sat, tied
down to metal chairs in a large open room, presumably in a detention center. The room had
20-foot-high solid concrete walls, with the only vents mounted in the ceiling. Any obvious escape was completely out of the question. The
front wall had the only exit, with bulletproof glass sections for
observation, and a heavy metal door.
A man stood
in front of them, wearing a suit like the others. He addressed the
pair, "where is the rest of The Orchestra?"
"Who are you? And why should we say anything at all?" Mike said.
"I'm the one asking the questions here, so shut up," the man said,
glaring at them, "now tell me - where is John? And Emily? We
know they're hiding."
"We'll never tell you
anything!" Steph said indignantly.
"Then if you won't talk, we'll
simply have to use our mind scanner again," the interrogator said with a smug attitude, "of course, it still does have that
nasty side-effect of removing your mind." He motioned to one of the
guards, as they opened the door, and brought in a helmet-shaped device, connected to long wires leading from the observation room.
"Unless you have something you'd like to tell us otherwise?"
was all Steph replied, as the guard moved closer to her.
No. I can't let this happen, Mike thought. Not Again.
your training, John would say. We haven't even scratched the
surface of what should
Stephanie squirmed as another guard attached the helmet onto her, and
said, "It's ready, but we shouldn't be in the same room for safety."
"Very well, activate the scanner as soon as we -" the interrogator said,
only to be interrupted by the slipthink car rematerializing directly behind
him, knocking him and the other guard into the glass, denting it.
The other guard rolled in pain, as more rushed in to assist them.
Surprisingly, the interrogator stood up, seemingly uninjured, and brushed himself off. "Hmph.
You won't be able to stop me quite that..." He noticed that Mike and
Steph were already in the slipthink car, right in front of him, revving the
They floored it, and while
the other guards were sensible enough to get out of the way, they hit
the lead interrogator dead on, and continued to smash through the
bulletproof glass. Glass falling off the slipthink car's hood, they backed up towards the rear wall again.
The interrogator got up once again, virtually unhurt, and took out a
pistol, pointing it directly at them. They drove the car forward, as
he fired - the bullet hitting only their mist as they vanished,
making a single tak
against the back wall.
"Where are we?" Mike said, looking around at the dimly-lit
interior and large machinery, walking carefully.
"We're in the generator levels below Grand Central Station, New York City,"
John said, sitting down on the ground, "The large amount of electrical, mechanical, and psychic interference (from the passengers) should allow us
to stay hidden for a while. But with their captured psychics searching for us constantly,
it's only a matter of time before they find us.
One iota of good news is that the connection is still there, although weak, and we know what their plan is.
Combining the power of all the people they've enslaved, they've built a massive psychic amplifier, with enough power to find anyone or anything.
They're planning on activating it today, and that's when they end us. Along with the rest of the world."
"So they've built a massive psychic amplifier using the power of a hive mind of psychics," Mike said,
"I'm having a hard time understanding how that's good news.
"Now we know where they are! All we have to do is take it out, and rescue the others!" Steph said.
"Just us five
? Against all of the NIA, with the other
psychics still under their control? There's no way we can do
that!" Emily said.
"Steph's right, we have to try," Mike said,
"we owe it to them. And to the billions out there whose lives are
John thought about it for a few
minutes, before he finally said, "you're right. Whether The Orchestra is complete or not, at
this moment no one else on this planet knows more about psychic powers
than us five. The other psychics have warned me, the NIA doesn't need our power to activate their amplifier.
They have enough people already, and the plan is going forward. With us, or without us."
"No chance to get help," Steph said.
"We never had a chance. But we must try either way."
When all is one, one is all
almost complete, sir," a technician said to the NIA leader, the same
man who had interrogated Mike and Steph earlier today. They were
in a white room, with a large device in the center, vaguely resembling
a vertical satellite dish. It had a flat platform in the center, spires
and wall segments along its edges, and numerous cables connected from it
to the equipment, and into the walls. On the walls of the room were
glass-windowed observing chambers, with a variety of technicians
observing equipment readouts and screens.
"Excellent," the leader said, "any uninvited guests yet?"
"No sir, no anomalous psychic energy readings yet," another technician
"Unfortunate," the leader said, "I was looking forward
to achieving ultimate power, and
removing our only
meaningful opposition in a misguided rescue attempt all at once.
Would have been nice, perhaps, but the world awaits."
"Yes sir, two
minutes until charge completed," the first technician said.
Meanwhile, looking down from a few cracks in the ceiling, Mike, Steph,
and John were positioned above the device. Mike whispered, "we have to
go now! Before they start it up!"
have a plan. If what the psychics are trying to tell me is right,
our best option is to join them on the platform right as it's
activated," John said.
"I still can't believe they
didn't detect us jumping in here," Steph said.
"This is the greatest gathering of psychic energy in the world - ever.
Detecting us here would be like trying to see a firefly in broad daylight," John
"Sir, charge is complete. We're ready
to activate," the lead technician said.
"Excellent," the NIA leader said as he and six other guards stepped
onto the platform in the center of the device. Lines along it
began to glow blue, as enormous volumes of stored psychic energy were
piped into it.
"Now!" John said, as the three of
them burst down from the ceiling, landing on the platform just as the
energy reached maximum.
"Wait -" the leader said,
as the ten of them vanished into blue mist.
Out of sight, but not out of mind
They reappeared - but not in material form.
They found themselves on a semi-transparent platform, suspended miles above the ground. The Earth below appeared as an enormous globe, bathed
in an incomprehensible network of connections, glowing
with the mental power of billions of individuals.
"Yes! Here we are. The abstract space," the leader said, "hold
The guards moved to restrain Mike, Steph, and John.
"Finally - what I've been looking for all these years..." the leader said, as he walked along the platform to
a small metallic-looking table. On top of it was a book, with a
blank white cover. "Dr. Kalinastrat's most closely guarded secrets..." the leader said.
He opened it, and read from it, "It says . . . 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17 -
a sequence of numbers?" the leader
said, picking it up and rapidly flipping through the pages, "junk! Nothing but junk!"
You can feel it too
, Mike heard, silently, but clearly from
John. Yes, I can. Everything
is imaginary. Everything
"Bah! Nevermind, we don't need it anyways! With the hive-amplifier and our psychics, we still have
sufficient power to -" the leader said, then looking at the three, still
restrained by the guards, "what are you doing?"
"Stopping you!" Steph said, as she kicked the two guards holding her
across the platform.
"What? Stop them!" the
leader said, as Mike and John also managed to throw themselves free.
"No - this time it's our
turn," Mike said, as a rocket launcher
appeared in his hands, pointed at the leader.
I understand now," the leader said, pulling out a small handgun, and firing at
"I bet that your... nah, I'm not even going to
say it," Steph said, effortlessly dodging the rounds.
Mike fired a rocket at the leader's feet, knocking him back into the metallic table.
Landing disheveled, but unharmed, he said, "I think I've had
enough of your -"
They all rematerialized on the
platform, as the device deactivated. Emily stood next to
it, twirling an unplugged power connector.
What took you so long?" John said to Emily.
"Just took a bit to convince the authorities, that's all," Emily
said as a group of Police and SWAT officers were standing next to her.
"All members of the so-called Network Intelligence Agency are under arrest for
abduction, grand theft, and various other illegal activities," one of
the policemen said, "get them out of my sight."
"Hey John, professor of transdimensional cognition, eh?" Mike said,
walking up to John's desk.
"Would believe it?
Looks like people are actually interested in this junk," John said, "I
hear you two haven't done too bad either?"
"Well, making the new jump transportation network is pretty tiring work. Some
days I wake up in Tokyo, have breakfast in Beijing, go to work in
Zurich, have lunch in London, hit the afternoon in New York, then go to
bed in San Francisco - those days are killer
"Just don't burn yourself out - we don't want you disappearing like Dr. Kalinastrat."
"Yeah - did you ever find out any more about him?"
"Not really, but I've been
talking with a variety of other professors, and we think he may have
figured out a way to jump to an alien civilization."
"Wow. Do you think we'll ever get that far?"
"I think so. One day."