|And Then There Was One
Author: D. M. Domini PM
Talentfic. Merci Gren didn't mean to plan the political assassination of Earth Prime. But when that same Earth Prime is undermining the work of centuries, she has a choice to fight to keep the FT&T as she knows it intact, or just let it crumble.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,109 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 12-19-07 - Published: 10-28-07 - id: 3860899
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Children are so interesting. My son, he wants to be a colonist, you see. My son! This kid who has lived his entire life in the big city. I told him, no kid, how do you know you're not going to be one of those city people who totally freak out the first time they're under sky that's actually black and starry, with the wild animals roaming outside, fearless of humans, and so on? And so he says he loves camping, and I say, honey, colonizing a planet like Deneb is a totally different tune than camping out in one of the preserves with a few buddies. And he says, I know mom, in this really snotty voice. You know, the one we used to use on our parents. 'But I don't want to work in a Tower!' he says. He's telekinetic, you know. Damn strong too. But he really wants to go out and colonize, even talking about changing his last name for it, some sort of bird theme. It's amazing."
"Why doesn't he want to work in a Tower?" Merci asked. Serafina was the head of Talent Training and Development, and would chat on for hours about anything and everything. She was also slightly telepathic in a way that let her send her internal monologue out about as loudly as her speaking voice to anyone in close enough range could hear it, but not being a telepathic receiver herself, she sometimes didn't realize she was doing it. She used herself as an example in class--see, this is what happens when you don't have training! But it wasn't exactly a training thing...her Talent just lacked a working volume knob. Which wasn't uncommon--at least her default "volume" wasn't a hair-raising scream, as it was for a few certain notorious telepaths. It was more that she was just partially telepathically deaf.
"I don't know why he doesn't want to go in the FT&T. It's a mystery." Serafina studied Merci for a few long moments, as they sat at the cafe table, waiting for lunch to be served. "You're working too hard."
"I'm pulling double duty," Merci said.
Serafina's eyes widened. "You're not supposed to be doing that."
"It's not all tower work. I'm not insane, you know. I do my six hours backing Edward up tossing things to Altair and Capella and the like, then two on paperwork, and then an additional four on...things." Her voice was sour.
"Did someone quit?" Serafina looked thoughtful, and Merci could hear her sorting through the tower staff for likely prospects.
"No, nobody quit. Somebody just doesn't like to do his damn job. Say, have your people twigged any new talents recently? Strong ones?"
Serafina didn't let herself be distracted. "Edward's such a nice young man, I don't see why you don't get along with him. You used to get along with him very well."
"Ten years ago." Merci waved her hand, trying to dismiss the subject before Edward happened to pick up Serafina's unshielded thoughts.
"We have young Peter Reidinger coming up the line, but he's still too young for us to start training him. He's at least a T-3, probably stronger." Serafina had an odd talent that made up for her weak telepathic skills and made her perfect for her job; she could judge a person's talent rating within a half-level of what it would be when they were grown and at their peak of life. It was a bit odd for her to give such an indistinct range.
"He's a prime," Merci said. "Why are you waffling over saying it?"
Serafina grimaced. "Because he has an ego as big as an elephant."
"...and that's unusual for Primes...and teenagers...how?"
"Shush, I don't have shields like you do. Let's focus on something different...like how yummy that food coming for us is going to be."
And indeed the waiter was coming with their food, and Serafina was quite good at masking her thoughts with the taste of zesty salad dressing spreading over her tongue in tart goodness.
Merci chuckled. "You're like a telepathic advertisement for this place. Anyone 'tuned in' is going to run over here for their lunches too."
"Mmm-hmm," Serafina said around a mouthful of greens.
They ate their lunch in silence for a while. Merci's eyes absently roamed around the restaurant. It was mostly Talents and FT&T employees, with a few business travelers mixed in. The place was off a bit from the main throughway in the vast Earth Tower complex, through a hall that made newcomers suspect they perhaps shouldn't be walking down that way, although it lacked "Employees Only!" signage. Merci preferred it to the more tourist and traveler-frequented places, mainly because she had never yet been waylaid by a CEO frustrated that his or her particular pod's travel time had been delayed for whatever reason.
Of course, being waylaid by the Tower's employees was another matter. Halfway through her excellent bowl of soup the com that was nestled in her ear most of the day chirruped and spoke. "Merci?"
"Yes?" she said. Serafina looked up at her for a moment, before determining she was speaking to someone else.
"This is Amelia. I know this is your lunch hour, and I'm really very sorry for interrupting it, but we can't find Edward and his com is off to anything but a the-Navy-is-attacking-Earth-Tower-with-nukes kind of emergency, which this isn't really."
It'd serve him right if we put a message through on that band, just to get through to him, Merci thought. "He said something about Bermuda," Merci said instead.
"That'd be out of my range, even if I wasn't a one-way. But this is important. Can you come speak to me in my office?"
"I'll be there momentarily," Merci said, and started to look around for a waiter.
"Don't worry about it," Serafina said. "I'll get it packed up and find someone to 'port it to your desk so you can enjoy it later."
Merci smiled. "You're a dear. Thank you."
"Not at all."
Fifteen minutes later, Merci was in Amelia's office.
Amelia was a mouse-like woman, with brown hair, and brown eyes, and a small upturned nose. If she stood still, it would be easy to overlook her. Which was probably why she was always in motion, like a small mouse skittering around its enclosure, the sort that would cause an entire herd of elephants to trumpet and stampede. With good reason, too; she headed the clairvoyant and precognant arms of the FT&T, and typically didn't approach people unless she had something to say. Her primary Talent being what it was, what she had to say wasn't always welcome.
"I have these printouts," Amelia said, a folder full of them floating over to Merci. "Little things. The odd 'cogs, you know?"
The "odd 'cogs" were the clairvoyant and precognant Talents that either had such an odd focus that they rarely had any visions that procured information of interest, or had episodes that were so featherweight and scattered that it was very difficult to piece the puzzle together. Foreseeing the present or future was trying to guess the picture from a half-completed puzzle even with the strongest Talents of this sort, but odd 'cogs had even less than the usual clarity.
"Before I look at these, how would you sum up the forecast?" Merci asked the other woman.
"I would say tremors and navel gazing," Amelia said cryptically.
"That's either very profound, or somebody has gas," Merci said with a snort.
Amelia obliged with a tinkling laugh.
Tremors and navel gazing. Tremors meant that this might be one of the times where the odd 'cogs predicted a prediction by one of the heavier-class precogs. Like the tremors before an earthquake. Navel-gazing meant something local, be it the local physical location, or something that affected family, or even Talents themselves as a group.
Given the data sets she'd waved at Earth Prime the day before, that gave her a bad feeling. It wouldn't be the first time the odd 'cogs rippled a bit just before or just after some Big Problem fell into her lap, like nausea stirring in the collective Talented gullet.
Merci sank into a chair in front of the other woman's desk, and flipped through the plastic sheets, thumbing an animated display here, and a tinny sound recording of the precog's voice stating what he saw that made the sheet tremor with sound waves.
It took fifteen minutes to go over the sheets, and an additional ten to play detective and see how these bits and pieces of scattered, discombobulated information gelled with what she knew already. "What made you decide to show these to me?"
Amelia shrugged. "You or Edward? My gut. Which actually means my brain; I reviewed the logs and I definitely had a small precognant episode when considering my gut feelings. The squiggly lines don't lie!"
"You keep your brainwaves under surveillance?" Merci asked in surprise. Such record-keeping had been pandemic in the early days of the FT&T, out of necessity, granted, given the general public paranoia, but these days it usually did not occur once a Talent was out of training.
"Remember that incident twelve years ago, with the clairvoyant trainee?"
It had been before Merci's time as the second in command of Earth Tower, but she did indeed remember. "That was a long time ago."
"Once burned, twice shy," the other woman said wisely, tapping her nose.
"Were you in that training class?" Merci asked.
"Yeah. She sat next to me, and we usually ate lunch together."
"Ah," Merci said, understanding. Now that the woman was head of the Precognant and Clairvoyant arm of the FT&T, she didn't need old skeletons coming back to haunt her, even if they weren't her skeletons, strictly speaking, at all. Merci could understand that.
"Well, thank you for showing these to me. I admit nothing definite has fallen into place by reading them, but the smoke they show me matches the smoke I've been smelling. If any more come in--"
"--I'll keep you up to date," Amelia said, and then grimaced as the faint sound of the huge Tower generators revving up caught her ears. "Sounds like Edward is back; should I forward them to him too?"
Merci doubted he would get much more from them than she had, but he was Earth Prime and should see them as a matter of course. "Yes, please do."
Amelia nodded. "Well thank you for coming down here; my 'gut' felt like someone should look at them, right now. But it doesn't look like you came away with much of anything." She sounded disappointed.
"I trust your Talent," Merci said. "Perhaps they'll come in useful later on today; that's usually how things work."
"That's diplomatic of you," Amelia said, and Merci caught the ill-shielded thought that Edward had been disregarding the ones that weren't immediately obvious.
"Well, second in command is always the PR man, or woman. But for what it's worth, my trust is genuine. I need to skedaddle; if Edward's warming up the generators, we'll be pushing space junk around shortly. I'll see you later, Amelia. Mind if I take these with?"
"'Not at all. See you later, Merci."