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."