It had been a harrowing week. First, the Adept Fraternity had cornered Tony; to escape, he had to knock down a wall creating havoc. Tony stunned all within reach before hurrying back to his secluded home. After all the dust had settled, the news outlets had tentatively assigned the incident to a gas leak after the authorities had commenced the investigation.
Tony was starting to relax, confident that the Frats would forget about him for a while. After a few days of hiding in his room, he was longing for some fresh air.
He had just become relaxed, until one day, a meeting turned his life on its head. Tony had sat down in his favourite cafe to enjoy a cup of tea when an older man asked, 'Mind if I sit here?'
Tony made a noncommittal murmur to discourage a conversation, thinking, 'Damn, can't a bloke get any peace?'
'I am Harry, a pleasant day?' The gentleman said as he settled into enjoying his tea.
As Tony was raised to be polite, he answered, 'Tony,' while continuing to study his brew.
'In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,' Harry offered.
'Double damn, a recruiter,' Tony thought but didn't react, though he started tapping his nails absently.
'The question one should ask, is he a ruler or a servant?' Harry said in a quiet voice.
Well, that eliminates the Frats, they would never suggest there is an option, only the rights of those with ability.
Perhaps he thought he had a live one, at the moment Tony was content for him to ramble on. He had a method to rid himself of a too persistent nuisance.
'I suppose you may be curious as to my motives?' Harry asked still quietly; he went on though Tony didn't answer, 'I also realise that you find this line of conversation a bother, I will cut to the chase. Please don't use the flash; it won't work, but may attract the type of attention you would rather avoid.'
Tony glanced using his unique ability; Harry seemed non-threatening.
'Ah you lift your visor, now if you look at me, you may see how easily I spotted you,' Harry said.
Harry now looked ridiculous with an over-sized blacked out goldfish bowl covering his head before resuming the dark glasses that Tony mentally assigned to others to avoid seeing their unfocused 'eyes'.
'Look a little deeper, and I will pass on the technique to allow you to blend in better,' Harry suggested.
Tony glanced and cautiously absorbed the method, checking a virtual mirror he adjusted his face to the unadorned face format, a handy ability which wasn't visible to 'ordinary' people.
'That's better; I am not a snake oil salesman or an evangelist. If you wish, I can provide my services as a mentor without expectation of any reward,' Harry said, offering a card.
Tony took the card, while Harry finished his cup and left without further comment.
Musing over this, Tony glanced at the card, it read [Harold Thompson entrepreneur] and had a mobile phone number.
At peace again, Tony contemplated his future, he was currently unemployed as he had a run-in with his last boss over his reluctance to join the ruling fraternity. He was unable to complain due to an unbelievable explanation and his employer's avoidance of error in paperwork.
Until now, there had been three types of recruiters, the fraternity, do-gooders, and vigilantes.
The Fraternity only wanted loyal followers; they did not tolerate dissent or opposition. Their business plan mirrored aspects of the pyramid schemes with your standing dependent on recruiting subordinates.
Another faction, the do-gooders, had high aims and hopes; but were ineffectual against the Fraternity; as they tended to be isolated individuals.
The Vigilantes were nearly as bad as the Fraternity with their methods and often in conflict with the 'Frats'. Their mode of operation mimicked the more dangerous side of the Frats; being hierarchical to maintain strict discipline.
Hopefully, Harry represented another faction with noble objectives and more democratic.
Over the last year, Tony had perfected his shield, which until Harry showed him the giveaway tag as this had allowed him to study the other adepts covertly and to recognise them before they approached to annoy him. Harry's refinement meant Tony had covered this vulnerability.
Tony mulled over the card for several days while he researched Harry's background. There wasn't much in public view beyond what was on the card. Discrete inquiries confirmed that most people thought he was harmless eccentric. Tony had no talented friends as he avoided them as a potential danger; that was the extent of data available. It was still disturbing the amount of knowledge that Harry had regarding his habits.
Steeling himself for a possible conflict, Tony rang the number using a public telephone, and Harry answered carefully, 'Hullo?'
'Hullo, Tony here,' Tony said.
'Tony good to hear from you,' Harry answered, 'What would you like to know?'
'Is the offer still open?' Tony asked, 'Where could we meet again? It needs to be somewhere private.'
'How about tomorrow at the zoo?' Harry suggested, 'Nine o'clock?'
'Safe enough, I will see you there,' Tony said, 'Goodbye.'
'Goodbye,' Harry rang off.
Good choice, the animals usually put up a racket when unshielded adepts were close, Frats were too arrogant to shield themselves, and beginners had to learn the technique. Tony had worked out the trick at an early age and was fond of visiting the zoo, content in the knowledge that he wouldn't be bothered by the factions. Dog parks were also useful, as adepts rarely had pets.
Tony thought about Harry's claim that the 'flash' wouldn't work on him. Tony had depended on using it to protect himself from persistent recruiters. The revelation was a worry, and he hoped that a counter wouldn't become widespread. It was the final reason why he decided to follow up with learning more about Harry.
A little before 9 am, Tony arrived at the zoo gates then walked in with an eye on the surrounding crowd, which was light being the mid-week. As Tony expected, none of them showed signs of being adepts.
Tony wandered over to where he could keep a discreet eye on people as they entered. Right on time, Harry arrived and spotted Tony waiting. Harry pointed at an alcove a little off to the side near the monkey pavilion; if there were any eavesdroppers the sensitive animals would drown them out, this is where Tony practised his covert shields.
'Good morning, Tony. Nice place, eh?' Harry said, 'Ask away.'
'Your claim of flash immunity?' Tony asked.
'It caught me once, I worked out how to avoid it, sorry can't prove it as the chimps would never forgive you,' Harry said.
'Point taken, does anyone else know?' Tony asked.
'No one that I know,' Harry said.
'What is the plan?'
'Our primary task is to train newcomers and rescue any captives of the Fraternity crew or other malignant sects.'
'Since I am not a captive, I have been avoiding attachments to any others,' Tony said.
'Precisely why I have spent so much time and effort to locate you,' Harry said, 'Frankly we need your expertise, I am getting a little old for these activities.'
'Supposing I agree, what sort of expertise is required?' Tony said.
'The fish nibbles. It can start whenever you are ready,' Harry said, 'Here are the directions to our safe house, need I emphasise the safety of the information?'
'Gotcha, memorise and then eat it,' Tony said.
'Remember the directions and return it to me, I would hate you getting indigestion,' Harry said, 'It disintegrates once it is more than a metre from my pocket.'
'Interesting Tech? Yes, I know the place, a good choice, it should be easy to monitor all approaches,' Tony acknowledged, then casually drifted away, enjoying the menagerie.
The note had suggested the evening as it was in a nightclub area which Tony avoided because of the white noise that party goers broadcast. The doctors had diagnosed him as having Autistic spectrum syndrome when he was a child. Tony was sensitive to bright light and erratic noises; his idea of hell was a disco club. Once Tony had established his shield technique, it enabled him to mingle in society, complete his education and gain employment.
Tony approached the designated building cautiously, as the 'white noise' of the partygoers started to cover the usual give away traces of adept observers. Of course, this worked both ways as it made adepts harder to follow discretely by the Frat agents.
The note had indicated that there was a sign that only an adept could read, this, in turn, would only show if there no unwanted passersby.
There was a subtle flash; Tony made the hand sign, another site now indicated the entry was safe. Approaching the door, Tony opened it and walked in; finding Harry waiting with a smile.
'Come in, and I will show you around,' Harry said, 'Anytime you feel uncomfortable you may leave the same way.'
‘I am afraid life would get a little noisy if anyone tried to prevent that,' Tony warned.
'Another hidden talent?' Harry asked.
'I knocked down a wall when the Frat cornered me,' Tony said, 'The authorities put it down to a gas leak.'
'That was a puzzle, gave everyone I know a headache,' Harry said, 'For that reason, I should keep your part in it to myself. However, I will now be able to assure them it wasn't a Frat weapon.'
'I haven't agreed to anything yet,' Tony said, 'If you continue the tour, I may be able to make a decision.'
'I am keen to have you with us,' Harry said, 'I certainly don't want to get on your bad side.'
'I am easy enough to get on with as long as you don't try and push me into anything,' Tony laughed, 'What is happening here?'
'Follow me, and I will show you our programme,' Harry said as he ushered Tony down a hallway, then signalled a halt as they reached a window which showed a small class watching floating balls.
'Why am I not feeling emanations?' Tony asked.
'We have developed a damping shield which prevents interfering with another. The only thing which allows us to conduct a class,' Harry said, 'Otherwise it takes an expert to teach one at a time. Also, it keeps our activity from attracting unwelcome attention.'
'I head to remote areas well away from people to practice my techniques,' Tony said.
'We did before this invention,' Harry said, 'Like to come in and take part?'
'Well I have been able to do this trick years ago, perhaps I can give a little more advanced tuition?' Tony suggested.
'If you think you can contribute, go for it,' Harry said, 'I will warn them to expect a few surprises, I don't think I have seen everything you can do.'
Harry knocked on the door and went in to speak to the instructor, before gesturing Tony to follow him.
As Tony walked past, Harry whispered, 'I said that you had a couple of new tricks without building you up too much.'
Tony entered and introduced himself, 'I am Tony, I have a couple of party tricks which may amuse you, and I am sure each of you has a gem as well.'
Starting with a few innocuous balls; Tony soon had them tumbling in an increasingly complex pattern before halting them in a line and then gently returned to the original position on the bench. 'I did most of my practice with pine cones out in the bush, these smooth balls are easy,' Tony said, 'Your turn to show your talent one at a time.'
A couple of students put their hand up and did their routine, variations of the technique Tony used. The last girl looked at Tony.
'Hi, Tony. Remember me? Jenny,' She said.
'Jenny, I haven't seen you since high school,' Tony answered, Jenny had been a shy girl keeping an even lower profile than Tony. This time had been before Tony had been able to detect adepts. Jenny glanced at the workbench and gestured for the others to stand back, and once they had cleared it, the table smoothly rose before settling quietly again,
'One up on me, Jenny,' Tony said, 'I will let the class get back to the practice.'
Harry led the way out; Tony said, 'Well if Jenny is here, so am I.' And shook on it, 'If we sit down and discuss what my role will be, I am your man.'
'I am glad to hear that, step into my office, and I will make you a brew,' Harry invited.
After they had settled with a cup each; Harry started, 'If you join the class and work through the basic defence techniques, perhaps you may fill in the few that you are missing. I sit in occasionally to keep my hand in and still can pick up an odd trick or two.'
'If you do it, I won't be arrogant and claim to be a know-it-all. It becomes tedious to trek into the boondocks whenever I need a little skill polishing,' Tony said, 'How do you avoid attracting the adverse mobs to here apart from the shield?'
'There is a path which each follows and allows us to discourage tails before they can zero in on our complex. Then once cleared each member has a slight variation to their path and ensure that the visits are random,' Harry said, 'Tedious but the safety of our students is paramount.'
This task settled, Tony joined the coalition of students while he worked his way into his new career.
Once Tony was sitting with the others, he listened and watched while the instructor ran through the various techniques. Tony was already familiar with most though there were slight differences, some of which were slightly easier to apply. When the practical session started; Tony smoothly used the changes and demonstrated where his techniques were better.
Later, when they were on a break, Tony approached Jenny to ask for a demonstration of her technique with the heavy lift.
'What is the chance of sharing the mental preparation for that lift, you seemed to handle it with no stress, I can show you my protection tricks?' Tony asked.
'Show me yours, and I will show you mine?' Jenny laughed, 'I haven't heard that since school, and he got a slap.'
'Here is my stun trick,' Tony said as he formed the field but didn't release it.
'Good, this it?' Jenny duplicated it.
'Excellent, to throw it, pretend it is a sponge ball and direct this at your target,' Tony said, 'And this is the shield for it.' He formed that in his mind.
Jenny did this as well as it was a defence she was able to form the complete matrix.
'Excellent, here is the wall buster,' Tony formed this matrix, 'Now for goodness sake don't throw this one or we are homeless, I don't have a defence, please be very careful.'
'I suppose we should leave the actual practice until I am well out of town, Eh?' Jenny laughed, 'Now the lift technique.' Jenny formed the matrix.
'Now I see how you did it so easily, it is a double field, a weight reduction for the item and then reversing the gravity field to lift it towards the ceiling. The technique I use requires a physical effort which is tiring,' Tony said, ‘And limits me to what I think I can lift.’
'If I modify my wall buster, using your technique it would be easier and less tiring,' Tony considered as he raised the matrix again, 'Yes that would work, I know an abandoned mine where I can practice this technique. So we will have to go there and have a practice.'
'Now for the last, the memory damper, when you throw, it has to be like a gentle puff as if you are blowing a little piece of down off your fingertip. Too hard and you drive his memory back to childhood,' Tony said as he formed the matrix in his mind. 'Not something to do if you are mad. And the Frat can be damned annoying.'
After a few days at the school, Harry had shown Tony how to construct his telepathic damper shield. With this in hand, Jenny and Tony made their way out of to the quarry where Tony practised.
'I will set up the field between us and the town,' as Tony placed the unit down and switched it on.
The telepathic murmur died from that direction indicating that the field was active. As it only worked as a single wall, the scrublands beyond were still open though there was no activity from that direction.
Tony began his practice by lifting a boulder and moving it to an open area where he split it in two.
Jenny then stepped forward and duplicated the action reducing the boulder to gravel.
'My trick with the lifting technique would still leave me stuck inside,' Jenny said.
'Using a more delicate touch keeps the noise down. We make a great team,' Tony said.