Modern Crusaders: Adeptus Major

By PsiDraconis

For disclaimers, see Chapter 1

"During the whole summer, the sun hid itself behind the clouds, as if unwilling to shine upon the earth. In the middle of the quietude, the earth began to quake as if it was dying. The mountains opened up to vomit forth fire and flames. Some of them sunk under the earth while in other places mountains rose out of the plains... Atland disappeared, and the wild waves rose so high over the hills and dales that everything was buried under the seas. Many people were swallowed up by the earth, and others who had escaped the fire perished in the waters."

- Oera Linda

Chapter 25

Huro el-Jassan's head jerked up from the computer monitor he was examining at the sound of his name being called. He looked around for the speaker, finally seeing the tall, solid form of Warder Tom Westin making his way through the maze of unoccupied computer terminals. Turning back to his own computer, Huro carefully saved his current work, knowing from experience not to leave without doing so. He was being paid for what he produced, not the time he put into it, and once when he had lost one file he had been working on he had also lost almost a full day's pay at the same time.

His work safely backed up, Huro very carefully rolled back in his wheelchair, being sure to avoid knocking his cast-encased right leg on the side of the desk. His tightly wrapped ribs under his standard issue grey shirt also protested, but they seemed to be doing well, just as the doctors predicted. The young man had managed to successfully extricate himself from his workstation by the time Westin had nearly arrived.

The Warder towered over el-Jassan, and would have even without the wheelchair. Well over six and a half feet in height, Tom had the body and features of a Swedish Viking. Per regulations, his golden hair and beard were trimmed short, a precaution against anyone grabbing them and using them against him. As Westin came closer, Huro could see that his expression was a mixture of confusion, awe and trepidation.

"Everything okay, sir?" Huro asked.

"Don't know," Westin admitted, his incredibly deep voice sending vibrations through Huro's chair. "You've got a visitor."

The man in the wheelchair was surprised. It was well before visiting hours, and the people in charge tended to be hard-liners when it came to following the rules and regulations. The surprise showed in Huro's voice when he asked, "Really? Who?"

His surprise and confusion increased when Westin started pushing the wheelchair towards the door, obviously unwilling to let the other man's injuries slow either of them down. So, they're people who shouldn't be kept waiting, Huro surmised, a guess that was confirmed by the Warder's reply.

" Dame Alleandre Tretiak."

"So how did it go?" Evelynne asked, rising to her feet to greet Ally as she walked into the Palace's study. She hugged the other woman, but didn't go further, conscious of the door which was still open. "Did you learn anything?"

Ally sighed and sank gratefully into one of the sinfully comfortable chairs. "Yeah, but not what I was hoping to. He didn't seem to know how he caught my attention that day. He just seemed really grateful that I had. I think he believes he just yelled and I heard him."

"You believe him?"

"Yeah, I think he's telling the truth." Ally shrugged. "It could have just been a one-time thing, Projecting like that."

"Does that happen?"

"Probably more often than we think. In a stressful situation, especially one where there is an imminent threat of death, the brain probably tries everything it can to survive. That could include activating certain areas that are normally dormant. Once the stress is over, the abilities 'deactivate' again. It's probably how those women lift cars off their children."

I wonder if she read his mind to see if he was telling the truth, Evelynne thought. Even as she thought it, she knew that Ally would do no such thing. The past week had been a learning experience as Evelynne came to realise the extent of Ally's ethical code over the use of her abilities, and one of the strongest was her determination not to read the thoughts of anyone except with their permission, or in an emergency. It had taken a while to realise just how guilty Ally had become after the slip months earlier when she had scanned Evelynne's thoughts, and another reading - this one with Evelynne's express permission - had been necessary for the other woman to believe that the princess truly forgave her.

The past week had also found Ally becoming more comfortable in her demonstrations of power, and Evelynne was quickly coming to realise just how integral to her personality Ally found her abilities. Surprisingly, Ally did not actually use her talents frequently. Most of the time she used her strictly mundane abilities for day-to-day tasks. "Conservation of energy," Ally had explained. "Opening a door psychokinetically takes the same amount of energy as simply reaching out with my hand. It just uses different 'muscles', and sometimes I get concerned about coming to rely too much on my psychogenic abilities. I don't have enough physical muscle as it is to let it atrophy."

The last part was beginning to change, however. Even after only a week of working out with Sir Arthur, Ally was already beginning to put on more muscle mass. Her build and metabolism seemed sure to prevent her from ever being "buff", but the Guard had taken that into account and appeared determined to develop Ally's speed, grace and dexterity instead. It appeared to be working, too, and Evelynne found the more confident way Ally was beginning to move extremely attractive. At times, especially when she "just happened" to be passing by the gymnasium while Sir Arthur, Major Nixon and Ally were training, the princess had to drag herself out the enticing mental scenarios that taunted her with increasing frequency.

It would likely be a while longer before those scenarios came any closer to reality, unfortunately. While Ally had forgiven Evelynne for her actions of the previous week, the other woman was still clearly hesitant about moving any further in their relationship, and Evelynne knew that it would take some time for the emotional hurts to heal. And it's not like I know to move forward, Evelynne thought. I'm not sure that I even know how to... well... do... that. She chuckled internally. If I can't even think it, I know I shouldn't do it.

Blushing, the princess suddenly saw that Ally was looking at her curiously, and realised that she had been silent for several moments. "Sorry, I was just thinking."

"Thinking is good. What were you thinking about?"

"Well... I was thinking about people with potential, um... psychogenic abilities. How many people do you think actually possess them?"

Ally shrugged again, though her expression was thoughtful. "I really have no idea. I personally know three, maybe four, people who are Talents. Of course, I've tended to go out of my way to look for them, so I don't know if that's a typical number for a person to know. I've heard about perhaps five more well-documented cases in the last forty years or so. I remember a news story on a possible telekinetic in Russia somewhere, and I saw a television special on a man in Brazil who can control electricity. Now that was cool. He was a TV repairman, and he could hold on to a live electrical wire with absolutely no ill effects. In fact, he could somehow 'store up' the electricity and then discharge it through his fingertips. It wasn't like a huge special effects thing, but he could make an arc jump from his fingers and use it to burn his name on wood."

"Interesting. And you can't do that?"

"Nope, not that I know of. And grabbing a two-twenty volt wire isn't something I want to try unless I'm absolutely sure it will work."

"Good point."

"I also remember reading about a... bellhop, I think, in the States about thirty years ago, who could create images on photographic film just by staring into the lens of a camera. I can't do that, either, and believe me, I've tried." Ally looked thoughtful. "So I guess no matter how you look at it, Talents aren't very common. Still, even with a very low percentage, there are potentially thousands out there. Based on the people I know about for certain, I'd guess that one in a million is a decent estimate. That still means that there are about six thousand world-wide."

Evelynne's eyes widened. "You know, it always surprises me when statistics are used. I always hear some really low statistic, but then I apply it and it comes out to some pretty large number. I know it shouldn't surprise me, but it does."

"Oh, I know how you feel. Take homosexuality, for example. There's this common perception that we're this incredibly small minority, and some people use that to trivialise our concerns. But still, about ten per cent are gay, according to the most consistent estimates I've seen. Now I remember sitting in a first year math class at university which had about five hundred students, and thinking, 'My God, fifty students in this class are gay.' Not a couple, not a handful, but fifty. Of course, I had no idea who they were, but it still made me feel a little less alone than I thought. My high school had a thousand students, which means that one hundred were gay. That's a fair number of people."

"That's exactly what I mean. You think, ten per cent, that's almost nobody, but then you apply it..."

"Yep. Say, how many people are there in the Hall of Nobles?" Ally asked.

"Well, three Dukes, twenty three Counts, and ninety seven Barons. A hundred and twenty three in total."

"Okay, twelve of them are gay."

Evelynne looked stunned. "You know, you're right. I mean, I had this idea that Duke Thomas is the only gay Noble, but when you actually apply the statistics..."

Ally smiled. "I just thought that might make you feel a little better about... well, you know."

"Oh, it does," Evelynne said, a bemused expression still firmly in place. She shook herself. "I'll have to think about that some more later." She refocused on Ally. "So if six thousand people are Talents, how many are like you? You know, Adepts?"

"Now that I have no idea. I'm the only example I know of for sure, which makes me statistically insignificant. If I'm the only one, then I'm simply an aberration, an anomaly."

"Oh, I don't know," Evelynne said, smiling fondly. "I prefer to think of you as one of a kind."

"Thanks." Ally laughed. "That does sound better, doesn't it? Still, I don't actually think my abilities are unique. There are enough historical references to people with 'supernatural' powers -" She finger-quoted. "- that even if only a few are accurate, that's still... well, a few. Magicians, prophets, shamans, witch doctors, gods, demons... any of them could really be Adepts."

"Why did you quote 'supernatural'?" Evelynne asked, curious.

"What? Oh, that. I hate that word. To my mind it's effectively meaningless."

"I don't understand."

"Well, anything at that does truly exist is, by definition, natural. It doesn't matter exactly what it is. On the other hand, things that don't exist... well, don't exist, and should therefore be ignored by science. For example, if ghosts do actually exist - and I personally have seen no proof one way or the other - then they are, by definition, a natural phenomenon, and are therefore subject to some kind of physical laws. Laws that our science has not discovered yet, perhaps, but ones that exist in any case. It's the same with everything else: spirits, gods... all of the so-called 'paranormal abilities'. If they actually do exist, they're natural, and can therefore be studied scientifically. Now unfortunately, scientists have tended to become somewhat narrow-minded, with preconceived beliefs about what actually exists, with the result that they are resistant to studying certain potentially rewarding areas."

Evelynne was intrigued. "I understand that. Anyone who studies anything... well, 'supernatural' is laughed at." She frowned in thought. "I seem to recall that there are only two universities in the world that offer serious programs in psychic science."

"Yeah, one is in Scotland, the other is in France."

"So why do you think we've come to this point where anything 'paranormal' is automatically considered suspect?"

"The Church," Ally replied promptly. "For a really long time, the Church was considered to be the keeper of knowledge, at least in the western world. It could explain why everything was the way it was. Basically, it was considered a scientific institution, although nobody used that word. But as time progressed, other scientists began making their own discoveries, some of which contradicted Church teachings. Unfortunately for them, any scientist who did something like that tended to get spanked quite severely. Over time, I suppose an unstated agreement evolved: anything 'spiritual' was the sole property of the Church, and the physical became the realm of the scientists. And anything even vaguely religious became classified as 'spiritual' and therefore out of bounds for science."

"And that included ghosts, spirits, miracles, prophecy... the things that you can do. Anything in the Bible, really."

"Exactly. And by now it's become automatic. Those kinds of things are not even considered to be worthy of study. Seeing my fellow scientists burned at the stake for heresy would certainly make me leery of crossing the line. And now it's become basically a kind of scientific phobia. Completely irrational, but automatic."

"Still, it has been getting better. People seem to be more open to the idea of the paranormal these days."

Ally made a gesture of uncertainty. "Do more people believe in those kinds of things? Maybe. Do they even consider that they should be studied? Absolutely not. Take that guy in Brazil. I personally would be fascinated to study him, to see how he does what he does. But as far as I know, no other scientific researchers have even approached him. People see strange things, but then decide to studiously and effectively ignore them. People are only consistently interested in the mundane." She scowled. "It's more than a little frustrating."

"I can see why you feel that way," Evelynne sympathised. "You can do all of these amazing things, but the chances of you being able to seriously study them yourself are... well, slim. It would be almost impossible to get research funding."

"Yeah. And in my case, anyone who knew about my abilities would most likely want to exploit them. And because I'm the only Adept I know of, anyone who could control me would have a huge advantage over everyone else." Ally smiled self-deprecatingly. "I'm kind of like the first nuclear bomb that the States developed. Nobody else had anything like it, and I really don't want to be responsible for the kind of destruction they caused."

"Well, I promise you that I will never try to exploit you for something like that." Evelynne tried to inject some humour into the conversation. "Besides, can you imagine what you could do to an unsuspecting population? Isis, you could cut a huge swath through the women! And the men would be so jealous..." She shook her head in mock sadness. "I can see it now: riots, anarchy... a path of exhausted women..." She was rewarded by the glowing blush on Ally's face.

Later that evening, Evelynne walked into the sitting room of Ally's suite. Seeing her friend apparently engrossed in a thick book, the princess was about to announce her presence when she hesitated, surprised by Ally's actions. At first glance the other woman appeared to be simply reading, but as Evelynne watched she finished one page, then turned to the next. Less than ten seconds passed before she flipped the page and continued reading. The procedure repeated several times, and it looked like Ally was skimming the book for information.

"Hey there, trying to look something up?" Evelynne asked.

Ally jumped in her seat, placing a hand over her heart. "Jesus, don't do that," she shouted, gasping for breath. She immediately gentled her tone. "Sorry, I was just kind of involved. I didn't hear you come in." She shook her head, trying to throw off her odd sense of disorientation.

"Obviously," Evelynne said, smiling as she walked further into the room. "I should have knocked."

Ally waved away the apology. "No, please, come in whenever you want. I've been trying to keep the times when I'm naked confined to my bedroom."

"Oh, well you don't need to do that on my account." Evelynne tried to leer provocatively. "I don't mind." She sat down next to Ally on the couch.

Ally blushed. "I'll keep that in mind," she said.

"So what are you reading?" Evelynne asked. She tilted the book in Ally's lap to see the title. "Mystical Architecture: Sacred Geometry in Egypt, Atlantis, and South America." She looked at Ally. "Is it any good?"

"The subject matter is fascinating," Ally replied, throwing an arm around Evelynne's shoulders with only a slight hesitation. "The problem is that the author is incredibly pedantic and boring. It's taking me forever to get through it."

Evelynne happily snuggled closer into her companion's side. She was especially enjoying Ally's increased willingness to engage in casual physical contact. The fact that her partner still possessed a deep-seated, lingering shyness made the princess encourage her actions even more, and they were both slowly building a confidence around each other.

Pulling herself out of the pleasant haze, Evelynne commented, "It didn't seem like it when I came in. Were you just skimming?"

Ally looked confused. "Pardon? No, I was getting every word. Every long, tedious, snore-inducing word. I was wanting to keep busy until supper." She looked around in vain for a clock. "Are we eating late tonight? I feel like I've been at it for hours."

This time it was Evelynne's turn to look at her companion quizzically. "No, we'll be eating at the regular time. It's only about five right now. And it looked to me like you were reading really fast. Like super-fast. Are you a speed-reader?"

Ally frowned. "Kind of. If I'm reading something interesting I generally get through about a page a minute."

Evelynne pulled back to see if Ally was joking with her. "Well, if that's right, then what you were reading must have been absolutely riveting. I was watching you and it looked to me like you were reading about a page every ten seconds."

The taller woman gaped at her. "You're kidding, right?" Evelynne shook her head. "It sure didn't seem like it. It seemed like it was going really slowly." She sat for a moment with a bemused expression. "Jesus, that's weird. Yet another thing to puzzle me. As if I don't have enough new stuff."

"New stuff? What do you mean?"

"Well... Ever since the night before you knighted me I've kind of developed this... eidetic memory, which I've never had before. I mean, I've always had a pretty good memory, but this is just... beyond good."

"Really? You mean like total recall?"

Ally nodded. "Yeah. It's not like... knowledge memory. You know, like when I ask something like, 'What year did men land on the moon?' and you remember it's 1969. Now I know that, but I couldn't tell you when or where I first learned it. But this new memory I have is... kind of like a VCR in myhead. I can play back anything I've seen or heard... pause, rewind, fast forward, and so on, but it's not like I can just automatically recall specific information." She held out the book she had been reading. "Here, I'll show you. Turn to any page before page 237. That's where I stopped."

Evelynne obediently flipped to a random page. "Alright, page 68."

Ally closed her eyes and concentrated for a moment. "'The Great Pyramid at Giza is an example of the controversy surrounding the function and form of ancient sacred buildings. On the one hand, the majority claim that the Pyramid was a temple to the Sun, used primarily or exclusively in the burial rituals of the dead Kings. A small but vocal minority hold the viewpoint that the Pyramid is in fact a component of a much larger set of sacred buildings, used in an ongoing ritual that was effectively inteded to take place over hundreds or thousands of years.'" She opened her eyes again to see Evelynne tracing the words with her finger.

The princess looked up, an awed expression on her face. "That's amazing," she breathed. "That was word for word. You must have the entire book memorised. That is just... cool!"

"Yeah, I guess it is," Ally agreed, although she couldn't quite keep a hint of worry and doubt out of her voice.

Evelynne picked up on it immediately. "You don't sound completely convinced."

"No, it's just that..." Ally sighed. "I just worry sometimes about just how much I'm changing. I mean, I wasn't able to do this before that day in December, then it basically spontaneously developed. And now if you're right something's changed so that I can read incredibly quickly. Maybe my brain has the rate at which it processes information. I have all these abilities already, and who knows what I'll be able to do next?"

"Maybe," Evelynne agreed, "but that isn't a bad thing, is it?"

"No, not necessarily," Ally said, her voice still troubled. "But what if something else changes? What if something in my brain changes and I become a sociopath? Or a psychopath? And even if it isn't something that obviously dangerous, anything else could happen. I can already sense people's thoughts. What if I lose control of that and can no longer figure out where my own thoughts end and somebody else's begin? Or what if my way of thinking changes so radically that my thought processes become completely alien and I can no longer function among normal people? I'm in completely uncharted territory here, and sometimes it frightens the hell out of me."

Evelynne looked up at Ally, clearly seeing the fear that the other woman was trying so desperately to hide. This was an aspect of her friend's abilities that had simply never occurred to her. Ally usually appeared to revel in her talents, taking such joy out of everything she could do, which made this latest revelation all the more surprising.

Evelynne wrapped her arms around Ally, squeezing her in a warm hug. She held the tall woman in silence for several minutes, quietly offering support. Eventually she asked, "Do you ever consider... stopping? Refusing to use your talents any more?"

"Occasionally," Ally admitted, her voice murmuring into Evelynne's right ear, "but not often, or seriously. If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that whatever it is that makes me... different is probably genetic, and by now it's hard-wired into me. So even stopping won't make it go away. All I can do is try to learn to control my abilities as well as I possibly can. And hope that nothing changes too fast."

"Well, no matter what, you'll always have people to help and support you. You know that, right? Your parents, Chorus... Annie... me. We all love you, and we always will."

Ally hesitated. "That's one of the things that scares me the most, you know. I know my Mom and Dad will always love me, because they are my parents. But everyone else, I hope, loves me because of who I am. I worry about what might happen if I change so much that I'm no longer... well, me. Will my friends still love me then? Will you?"

Evelynne started to protest, but then paused to consider. "I don't know," she admitted, feeling Ally's flinch at her words. "But I'll tell you that it would have to be some really huge change. I'll be honest, if you did turn into a psychopathic killer or something, then I don't think I could love you. But then, as you said, you would no longer be you. It would be as though you were dead, and a different person had taken your place. But I promise that I'll love you for as long as I'm psychologically capable."

Ally was silent for a moment, then laughed hoarsely. "It's horrible to be loved for your personality, isn't it? If you were only after my body it wouldn't matter how weird I got."

Evelynne laughed as well. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I think your body is really hot as well, but it could change as well. The fact is that all of us have the chance of having both our bodies and minds changed, sometimes beyond recognition. And we also don't know how we'll react, let alone the people around us."

"Well, thank you for being honest," Ally said. She pulled back slightly, just enough to lean back more comfortably on the couch, Evelynne pressed against her right side, almost in her lap. She felt the princess' head settle happily on her shoulder, and an arm wrapped around her stomach. "That's one of the things I love most about you," she continued. "You're always honest, especially about things that really matter."

"Except when I'm running away," Evelynne replied, feeling another stab of guilt over her actions of the previous week.

"Well, I never said you were perfect," Ally teased, a note of true playfulness in her tone.

"Well, thanks," Evelynne said, slapping her human pillow lightly on the belly. "You're supposed to tell your girlfriend that she's perfection incarnate, that no one is above her in mind or body, that the ground itself is thankful for her to walk across it, that -"

"Okay, okay, you can stop now. Really, Evelynne, I never thought you saw me in exactly that way." This time Ally's teasing was accompanied by a playful tug at the princess' red hair.

"Oh, you..." Evelynne said indignantly. She poked Ally in the ribs several times, eliciting the cute squeaks she was so fond of, until her hands were captured in Ally's larger ones. The princess looked up from her trapped hands into Ally's face. "You are, you know," she whispered earnestly. "You are the most beautiful person I've ever known." She stopped Ally with a hand on her chin before she could reflexively look away in embarrassment. "Believe it."

Fighting her natural bashfulness, Ally looked down into Evelynne's blue eyes. "I believe you," she whispered back. "At least when you say it." With that she lowered her head and spent many minutes reacquainting herself with Evelynne's mouth.

"Mmm," Evelynne hummed when they parted. "I love doing that. Do you think we'll ever get bored doing it?"

"Not likely. We just have to be... inventive."

"Hmm, inventive. I can do that." Evelynne pulled Ally back down and tried out a few new moves. "Like that?"

"Uhh..." Ally seemed to have lost the capacity for speech. Rallying, she said, "Yeah, that's a good start."

"Well, I'll keep thinking." Evelynne dropped her head again to rest it back on Ally's shoulder. "You know, there is one way that would enable us to remain... compatible, even if you do change. It was actually what I was coming in here to ask you originally."

"Oh? What's that?"

"Well... Is there any chance you could teach me to do the same kind of things you can? You know, moving things with my mind and so on?"

Ally was shocked. "You mean see if you're a Talent?"

"Yes. Or maybe even an Adept. You yourself said that it's practically impossible to know who actually is one."

"True. It's not as if we all have blue skin or horns or anything... unless I'm even a freak among Adepts." Ally thought for several moments. "We can try," she said finally. "Although I can't promise anything. While I believe that everybody has at least some psychogenic potential, few people have it in any significant amount. And if you don't have it..." She shrugged.

"That's alright," Evelynne assured her. "I know it's a long shot. But I just thought that I'd like to know how you feel, how you see the world. Of course, part of it is just that I'm fascinated by the possibility. Who knows, maybe I can heal people, or teleport across the world. Besides, if you go nuts, I'd like to be able to join you." Her grin took any seriousness out of the words.

"It's always good to have company," Ally said. "Well, we can start after supper if you want."

"So soon?"

"Sure, why not? We don't technically need any equipment, at least at this stage. Unless you're busy this evening...?"

"No," Evelynne said firmly. "After dinner let's make some magic!"

After dinner and a change of clothing, Evelynne returned to Ally's sitting room. Deciding to follow Ally's lead, she had first stopped by her own room to change into a more comfortable set of silk pants and shirt. When she finally entered Ally's room, she saw that the other woman had done likewise. Ally's attire consisted of a pair of black silk pants, which contrasted strikingly with her red silk shirt, and Evelynne immediately thought she looked good enough to eat, then mentally smacked herself for the prurient thought.

"Hey, Evy," Ally said, looking up from where she was placing a few small objects on a coffee table in front of the couch. "Ooo, I like that colour. It brings out your eyes."

The princess looked down at her own dark blue attire. "Thanks," she said. "You know, I never really considered how nice silk feels until you started wearing it. And, well, I like feeling it when it's on you, so I thought I'd try it myself. You've converted me, love." She smirked at Ally's flush.

"Yeah, well, I've always dressed more for comfort than looks. You've shown me that it is possible to have clothes that are not only comfortable, but good looking as well. I like this." Ally smoothed her hands over the material. "It feels... sensual." She blushed again.

"Sensual is good," Evelynne agreed, "but as much as I'd like to get sensual with you, I think we had other plans for this evening. Unless you've changed your mind? I'd be quite willing to explore this new sensual nature of yours instead." She waggled her eyebrows.

"As tempting as that is," Ally said, feeling as though her face was going to explode, "I think I'd prefer to stick to the original plan tonight."

"Okay," Evelynne agreed. "We can be sensual later." She lowered the pitch of her voice enticingly. "I promise."

"Um, I... that is... uh, yeah," Ally stuttered. Shaking her head in an attempt to clear it, she waved a hand toward the table. "Um, have a seat. Wherever you're most comfortable."

The princess considered for a moment, then sat down cross-legged on one side of the table. While Ally sat down in a similar position across from her, she considered the objects on the table. There weren't many: a pair of dice, a glass of water, a deck of cards, an eraser, a couple of pins, several bits of paper, and what looked like one of Ally's earrings with a piece of string tied to it.

Evelynne looked up expectantly.

"Tonight I thought we'd try some psychokinetic exercises," Ally said. "It's what I seem to be most skilled at, so I figured we may as well start there. It's also something where any success you may have will probably be obvious and unequivocal. It's not like telepathy or remote viewing, where you might think you've sensed something, but it's just your mind playing tricks on you. With psychokinetics, if something moves... well, then it's definitely moved."

Evelynne nodded. "Okay, that makes sense."

"Okay, I suppose I should first explain a bit about how I think my own abilities work. Whenever I do anything, there are two basic components. I call them focussing and channelling. Focussing is where I essentially see the result I want to accomplish in my mind, and it's basically the same as anything else you do. If you're going to throw a ball normally, for example, on some level you send the appropriate signals to perform the task you want. If you're trying to throw the ball to someone, you visualise how the ball is going to fly through the air to that person. Well, exactly the same thing happens here. If I want to lift something with my mind, I send the right signals to the right 'muscles', visualise the result, and there we go.

"However, that's only one aspect, the part that provides direction. The other part is actually putting energy into the act to do what you want. If you're really weak physically, you can't throw the ball very far, and if you have no arms, you won't be able to throw it at all, no matter how well you visualise. On the other hand, if you're a well-trained quarterback, you can really send it flying."

"I get it," Evelynne said. "It's kind of like driving a car. Channelling is like using the gas pedal to provide power, and steering is like focussing, letting you move the car where you want it to go."

"Basically, yes," Ally said, pleased. "If you don't have any gas, you're not going to go anywhere, and if you don't have a steering wheel, your options are very limited."

"Okay, then, so how do I go about getting my driver's license?"

Ally smiled. "Well, first let's see if you even have a car." She paused a moment. "There is one other thing," she added, "and that's confidence. If, deep down, you don't really believe you can do it, then quite simply you can't. I'm not saying this to discourage you, but if, on some level, you don't truly believe that what you're trying is possible, your subconscious will bring up that doubt, possibly even just when you're about to actually succeed, your concentration will be broken, and you'll fail. That's probably part of the reason why so few people display these kinds of abilities. Lots of people might possess the potential, but they've been taught all their lives that this kind of thing is impossible, so even if they really want to develop it, their doubts hamper their ability. The ones who do develop their powers are either extremely confident, are never told it's impossible, or have so much potential that it can override their scepticism."

"Well, I know for a fact that you can do it, so it's not like I think it's impossible. And while I'm not positive I actually have the potential, I don't know that I don't have it, either, so I'm pretty open there. I guess all that's left is to see whether I do have it."

"And that's probably the best we can hope for right now. Just remember that even if nothing happens tonight, that doesn't prove anything. You might not have psychokinetic ability, but you might have a huge talent in some other area. Or your ability might be 'activated' differently than mine. Or, as I said, you might have that tiny niggling doubt that trips you up just when you're about to succeed. The only thing we can do is keep trying."

"Fair enough," Evelynne said. "So where do we start?"

"Well, I thought we'd start with focussing, since that's something that you basically already know how to do. The trick is to learn how to focus without the kind of physical feedback that you normally get. And to practice that, we use this." Ally picked up the earring, letting it dangle on the end of its string. She held it out and Evelynne took it.

"Okay, so what do I do?"

"First, put your elbow in the table for support, and let the earring hang on about eight inches of string." Evelynne promptly did so. "Okay, now you don't want your hand to wobble all over the place, so try to keep it steady. Good. Now, what you want to do is concentrate on the earring and focus on making it swing in a circle. Go ahead and try that."

Evelynne's face was a picture of concentration. After only a few seconds, the earring began to move, slowly at first, then in larger circles. "Isis," the princess breathed, "I did it!" Her expression was exhilarated.

Ally hated to burst her bubble. "You did," she agreed. "However, that is not psychokinetic ability."

Evelynne's face fell. "It's not?"

"No. However, it's very close. What actually happened is that even though you were keeping your hand still, subconsciously your mind was using all the tiny muscles in your hand to swing the earring without you being aware of it. But you still learned something: you were able to focus on your goal, and attain it, without consciously directing your efforts, and without any obvious physical link between your thoughts and actions. True psychokinesis builds on that, simply using a different set of 'muscles'." Ally smiled encouragingly. "Do you remember how you felt when the earring started to move?" Evelynne nodded. "That's exactly how you feel when you actually move something with your mind."

"It was... exhilarating," the princess mused, remembering. "That's quite the incentive."

"And that was the other part of this lesson. Now you have something to look forward to."

"No kidding." Evelynne looked at Ally quizzically. "I'm curious. How exactly do you focus on moving things?"

Ally thought for a moment. "Well, kind of like this." She directed her gaze to one of the dice on the table. "I... reach out with my mind, and kind of... wrap the object in it. I get this... feel for it, for every part of it, until it seems to be a part of me, like my arm or my leg." As she spoke, she was focussing on the small cube, putting her words to actions, though Evelynne couldn't see it. "Moving my arm is easy; I've been doing it since I was born. Once that object is... a part of me, it's just as easy to move as any other part of my body. All I do is... flex the necessary 'muscles', and..." The die lifted up off the table and smoothly floated across to hover in front of Evelynne's face. The princess reached out hesitantly and touched the object, and Ally directed it into her hand before releasing it. "I've been doing it so long that it's almost as easy for me as... lifting my hand, or wiggling my fingers."

"Isis." Evelynne examined the now ordinary die closely. "So what are your limits? How much can you... pick up?"

"I don't know," Ally admitted. "Theoretically, I suppose as much as the energy I can control. However, I don't know where the power comes from. I don't know if it comes from ambient energy, like the sun, or heat, or background radiation. Maybe I store it up in my nervous system somehow. Maybe every time I use it a minute portion of my body mass gets converted directly to energy, a few cells at a time. Heck, maybe it comes from another dimension, or it's a form of dark matter. Maybe God provides it, or maybe God is really doing all of it, and my focussing is just a form of prayer. I don't know, but I'd love to find out. Other than the energy criterion, I think I'm limited only by the same thing that I told you about earlier: my confidence in my ability to succeed. Even though I know I can do it, I'm still constantly surrounded by sceptics and reminders that what I'm doing is 'impossible'. We're all taught that we can only move things that we can physically touch, and are therefore in our immediate vicinity. So the farther away things are, the harder time I have moving them, because no matter how much I may intellectually believe that my abilities are limited only by the range of my senses, subconsciously I have this deep-seated belief that I can't move things that are far away. So I have to invest more of my concentration overcoming that belief, and I have less to actually move things. Things that are close enough that I could pick them up physically if I wanted to are really easy." She indicated the die still in Evelynne's hand. "It's the same thing with mass. The heavier something is, the less I truly believe that I can lift it. Fortunately, the more I practice, the more I chip away at those doubts, which means that extreme attempts are continually becoming easier."

"You know, that's amazing," Evelynne said. "I used to think that all you did was... think about it and it happened. But you really have to work hard at it, and now I think that's even more impressive."

"Yeah, I'm really just like any other athlete or artist... or anyone else, really. They work just as hard as I do to develop their skills... harder sometimes. In the case of athletes, they're limited by the physical limitations of their bodies. As far as I know, I'm only hampered by the limits of my mind and brain. We only use about ten per cent of our brains, by the most optimistic estimates. Einstein believed that if we even learned how to use our entire brains we would instantly lose our need for physical bodies and exist as pure energy. He only used about nine per cent of his brain."

"Isis, you could become a goddess if he was right," Evelynne murmured.

"Well... I don't know about that. But this is one of the reasons that I get frightened sometimes. If this is what I can do while running on ten per cent, what will I be like at fifteen? Twenty? Fifty? I honestly don't know if I want that." Ally's face was troubled, and Evelynne reached across the table to grasp her hand.

"Well, if it happens, you'll deal with it, and I'll be there to help you." Stroking the back of her companion's hand, Evelynne smiled reassuringly. Suddenly she looked thoughtful. "You know, I think I was wrong about you becoming a goddess one day."


"Of course," she said matter-of-factly. "It seems obvious to me that you're already a goddess. Athena, perhaps. Or Bast. No, no, no, I know: Aphrodite." Evelynne chuckled at Ally's obvious blush, before leaning across the table to kiss her.

Continued in Chapter 26