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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 54: Kondor 163
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 53: Brown 189
Kondor saw the emissary at breakfast, and while he inattentively ate his meal he tried to make the double mind reading connection. It was tricky, establishing one link to the man’s current thoughts and another to his language center to process what he was thinking. He would lose one of the links and try to reestablish it, which wouldn’t always work on the first try, then he would be connected for a while but would suddenly lose the other link, so that half the time he was either listening to gibberish or hearing nothing at all. Yet he kept at it.
It wasn’t terribly informative. Although the man was thinking about his return trip and what he would tell his liege when he arrived, he was also engaged in conversation with the Amir here, which had him thinking of that as well. The contents of the report contained no surprises, at least in the parts Kondor found, being mostly about the castle and the people here, including himself, Zeke, and Lauren, along with information about Slade and Shella and events surrounding the rescue of the Calipha (a story that had been seriously redacted from the original version).
Suddenly the emissary seized and collapsed. Kondor’s medical instincts took over as he leapt up and ran to the man’s side, but he knew what was wrong: he had botched somehow and sent a surge of mental energy through the man’s mind. Although Lauren was already coming toward him, he connected with her telepathically.
I might have burned out this guy’s brain, he sent.
Botch on mind reading? she responded.
Yeah, something like that. Can you do anything?
I never have, but I’ll certainly try.
The man was breathing, but staring blankly into space. Kondor supposed it was something akin to a stroke, but he’d never treated or even actually observed a stroke patient so he couldn’t be certain. In any case, Lauren was already there, staring at him in a way which Kondor concluded was some kind of mind reading effort, some effort to diagnose the problem.
“He’s had a stroke,” she said loudly enough for everyone on the dais to hear, “but I’m going to attempt to repair the damage.” She placed her hands on his temples and closed her eyes; her breathing was slow and deep but regular, like she was concentrating on something. Abruptly she inhaled powerfully, and then shook herself.
The man’s eyes had closed; he appeared to be asleep.
“He should awaken in a few minutes,” she said. “He’ll be all right, although he might have some gaps in his memory, particularly of recent events.”
“Will he be able to travel today?” one of the ministers asked.
Lauren shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I presume that someone travels with him?” There were several affirming nods. “Then it shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure he rests tonight and doesn’t push himself too hard for a few days.”
Kondor wondered if Lauren had a clear concept of what it was to travel in the wilderness here, but decided not to press the point.
“We’ll be back,” she said, and tilted her head to suggest that Kondor follow her, which he did.
As they stepped into the hall he said, “What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing, really,” she said. “I told you that maintaining two connections would be difficult. I should have mentioned that with psionics, difficult usually means dangerous. Particularly with newer skills, sometimes you make mistakes--not mistakes, exactly, more like you don’t get it exactly right. I once heard someone say that when you’re programming a computer in Basic and you make a mistake, it’s like giving yourself a paper cut, but when you program one in one of the advanced languages they were learning when I left earth, it was like shredding yourself with a scalpel. Playing with psionic powers is incredibly dangerous, and sometimes people get hurt. This time it was the emissary; it might have been you. It might have been everyone in the room, or even everyone in the world, but with telepathic skills it’s usually one or all of the people connected telepathically.”
“So, are they too dangerous to use?”
She shrugged. “Are guns too dangerous to use? Sometimes things go wrong and people get hurt. Sometimes surgeries go wrong and people die. It’s a risk-benefit thing; are we going to benefit enough from this to make it worth the risk? Usually the answer is yes.
“So, what did you learn?”
“What, from the botch?”
“No, from your mind reading efforts before the botch. Or did it hurt your memory, too?”
“No, I don’t think so. I didn’t learn much--his thoughts were disjointed, and I kept losing one connection or the other. But he was thinking about telling his liege about the castle and the Amir, about us and Bob and Shella, and other things that one would sort of expect would be of interest to another lord. It didn’t strike me as particularly threatening.”
“Well, we’ll let Bob know. Maybe he’ll worry a bit less.”
“Maybe. But somehow I think he thinks it’s his job to worry.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #338: Verser Missteps. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: