The meeting was to take place in the Deschutes conference room at six-thirty that evening. I slid my student ID into the card slot and was greeted by an audible click indicating approval. Rhiannon followed me inside, and we sat down at a set of three tables arranged in a U-shape.
Our student body president, Rebekah Farley, occupied the right corner. Next to her was the vice-president, Chase Ramsey. At the leftmost table were our secretary, Megan Mata; our historian, Eileen Kimball; and our public relations officer, Cassandra Saturn. Of these, Cassandra was perhaps the most peculiar individual, having landed her position despite only being a freshman undergrad. That wasn’t all; only two months into the year, and those around the residence halls had already begun to refer to her by a much loftier title: the ‘Matron-Saint of Faulkner University.’
She was a short girl – barely a hair’s breadth over five feet. Speaking of which, her hair was a natural platinum silver, silky smooth as it draped down the sides of her face, and stopping just shy of her neck. A white dress flowed across her gentle skin, and in the center of her chest was a shimmering silver pendant with an equally white stone at its center. This amplifier, which she carried at all times, allowed her to exhibit some rather incredible talents and made her one of the most powerful ESPers on our campus.
Rebekah adjusted her gaze toward the girl, the two seeming to exchange secretive gestures for a few moments. With a final nod, our president then cleared her throat and stood up. “Recent anomalies have brought to our attention the possibility of an unknown assailant targeting those members of the student population who exhibit extrasensory perception. I have called this meeting of the associated student body to address the problem.”
As if on cue, Rhiannon’s hand shot up. “What reasons have you to suspect that these anomalies have been manufactured, Miss Farley?”
“After examining the anomalies on a case-by-case basis, we have discovered that the source of rogue energy – what you refer to as the Zero Wisp – tends to originate a short distance from where a victim’s body is found. We have chosen to proceed under the hypothesis that the source of a Zero Wisp is actually a fragment of the victim’s own psychic power.”
“You didn’t answer my question, and given that fact, is it not possible that their own psychic power is simply too much for them to handle?”
“Insolent little…” Rebekah let out a sigh; she obviously had no intention of stooping to Rhi’s level. “Admittedly, while we did entertain such a possibility at first, none of the victims carried amplifiers of any kind. Nor were they capable of channeling that much energy of their own will. If they were and are losing control, then someone or something is providing the catalyst.”
“Hold up for one second,” I countered. “Rhiannon and I can both testify to the fact that the common wisps circulating around Patient Zero during each anomaly are derived from both ESPers and non-ESPers in the immediate area. In a way, it’s like each Patient Zero is using the general public as an amplifier.”
Chase turned to me and shook his head. “Even if the victims were trying to harness the untapped powers of their peers, it’s a fruitless endeavor given that they pass out the moment a Patient Zero is created within the Abstraction Sphere.”
Certainly a fair point… “Okay, then assuming that there is a person capable of invoking these kinds of anomalies, what would be the factors for which a victim is chosen? If there are three ESPers in a crowd of twenty people, what determines which of the three is targeted?”
“An excellent question,” replied Rebekah. “To provide an answer, we must first define the parameters which compose the Abstraction Sphere. We know it to be a fifth-dimensional construct superimposed over our three-dimensional reality. All possible outcomes exist in this construct, and the outcomes which we experience in our reality are often selected at random. Those of us who have psychic power are able to affect the selection process, albeit in different ways.”
“I think I get it. It’s like how I happen to be good at detecting psychic activity, while someone else might be better suited to manipulating it.”
“Our investigation did turn up some plausible scenarios to that effect,” Chase reasoned, “but even so, the degree of overlap between abilities makes it difficult to narrow down.”
“So in short, we’ve been going around in circles and are right back where we started,” concluded Rhiannon. This elicited a look of disgust from Rebekah to which the magician girl simply continued, “It would be diligent to remind yourselves that only ESPers have the ability to utilize this psychic energy. I mean, as much as I’d love to try harnessing that kind of potential, it’s not exactly what you would call compatible.”
“Right…” Rebekah tapped her fingers against the surface of the table below her. “Though it might be of no insight to you, allow me to give my own personal assessment. The wisps emit a frequency which ESPers like Lana are quite adept at picking up. That’s what lends her toward being your navigator in the Abstraction Sphere.” I couldn’t help but blush as she looked in my direction. “However, once those energies approach a certain threshold, the wisps can exude a frequency which the minds of even the most normal humans can pick up.”
“Meaning?” asked Rhiannon.
“What it means is that even if a human cannot harness that energy outright, they would still be aware of its existence and potential. I believe that someone who is not an ESPer is targeting us in order to find a way to circumvent this, and unless you have a better idea, I would respectfully ask that you refrain from further outbursts.”
I could feel the malice dripping from each word, though Rhiannon meanwhile appeared completely at-ease. These taunts were a clever way of steering the conversation, goading Rebekah into revealing more than she might otherwise. It was almost painful to watch, and it soon fell upon me to diffuse the situation.
“Um… Miss Farley, do I have your permission to speak from the perspective of a navigator?”
“Very well, go right ahead.”
“One factor we can be certain of is that a Zero Wisp will function by taking control of other, smaller wisps that – for all intents and purposes – serve as manifestations of psychic energy. Non-ESPers will obviously fail to notice this net loss in their power, but it makes me wonder: why is it those ESPers in the vicinity of an attack are completely oblivious to what’s happening to them?
“Controversial though it might be, Rhiannon has a point. If nearby ESPers are somehow excluded from this psychic fluctuation anomaly, then this does come off as an attack purpose-built by ESPers for ESPers. However, there is one more scenario to be considered. It is possible that the Zero Wisp is merely offsetting this draining of psychic energy by commanding the localized wisps to acquire energy elsewhere, thus cancelling the loss. It may explain why I’m targeted while inside the Sphere, not to mention it would establish further precedence toward your theory of a non-ESPer trying to masquerade as one.”
Rebekah waited until I was finished before sitting down in her chair, arms folded over her chest. “While I have many questions as to what goes on while in the Abstraction Sphere, I suppose I will have to grant special consideration to your theory. If we are to proceed under the assertion that only the initial victim is in danger, then our priority becomes the prediction of who the next target will be.”
“And in regards to the disrupting of these anomalies?” snickered Rhiannon.
“While I hate to admit it, those best equipped to neutralize these manifestations of powerful psychic energy are the ones completely resistant to their effects. The associated student body shall continue to requisition the aid of the magician girl Rhiannon until this crisis has been resolved.”
Had Rhiannon been standing, she might have jumped for joy. As things were, her smile was one which could pierce through glass. In a way, I pitied Rebekah for having to endure such humility, though it couldn’t be helped. I merely nodded my agreement while to my left, Cassandra slowly brought up her right hand.
“Miss Farley, as the public relations officer, I have taken steps to ensure the safety of our ESPer population. We have issued a bulletin for ESPers to have someone accompany them from place to place, and we have also reminded them to report any suspicious activity as soon as possible.”
“Fantastic work, Miss Saturn; you do your campus proud.”
“Thank you for saying so! Now then, our plans to hold an autumn ball have not been changed in the wake of this situation. Can we allocate an additional layer of security for the event?”
Oh crap, I hope she doesn’t mean-
“That was another matter of which I hoped to deliberate,” answered Rebekah.
So she does… “Ma’am, while I wish to assist in any way I can, I’m not really one for crowded events…”
The president raised an eyebrow, sucking on the inside of her cheek. “Unfortunately, while the campus does maintain a strong security force, none of them are as well versed in the anomalies as us. It might be a bit inconvenient, but we are counting on you to take the reins on this, so to speak.”
“I understand…” Had I known this would be a requirement, I might have considered a different institution…
“Then it’s settled. Let us adjourn for now. Cassandra, if you and I could talk further in private?” One by one, we rose from our seats and made our way from the conference room. Rhiannon split off to go study in her room, and since I didn’t quite yet feel like hitting the books, I decided to go on an evening stroll around the campus. I didn’t make it far before I heard a voice calling out to me.
“Oi Lana, you got a tick?” It was Eileen, our historian. A university second-year, she majored in computer sciences and minored in web design. She and Megan both lacked awareness of a sixth sense, so tonight’s meeting must have been a bit of a culture shock for the two of them.
“Sure I do; what’s up?”
“I hadn’t a chance to pipe up during the meeting, though a point in particular had me curious. Say a wisp could grow enough that a normie like me felt its presence. What’s stopping someone like me from toying with it?”
It was a valid question, to which I answered, “It’s best to think of the Abstraction Sphere as having its own language. Some ESPers are more adept at interpreting the language, while others are better at manipulating it.”
“Ah, so it’s a bit like programming, yes?”
“I’m not quite sure it’s the same thing… We can’t tell the Abstraction Sphere what reality to create. It simply gives us a range of realities and we do our best to capture the ones we most want to make real.”
“Some real quantum shit right there, mate.”
“Heh, I suppose you’re right.” It always surprised me that Eileen could be so quiet most of the time, yet once she decided to open her mouth she had literally zero filter. Had she been our PR officer instead of Cassandra, I was certain our campus culture would have been wildly different.
On top of that, she was a hell of a looker. Her hair was dyed black and always fashioned into a side-ponytail, bangs cut cleanly above a pair of emerald-green eyes. Her standard attire was a pair of blue jeans and a solid black T-shirt; not once had I seen her wear anything different. She wore leather cuffs on her wrists and a matching choker around her neck. I didn’t consider myself lesbian by any stretch of the imagination, though when it came to her, the idea of batting for the other team was all too tempting.
We ended up walking together for about thirty minutes, eventually coming to a stop at the main parking lot. Our conversation was nothing special, though the mere act of being in proximity to her seemed to fill my soul with an unusual serenity. Eileen kindly wished me goodnight as she got into her car, setting off toward her apartment in the city’s downtown residential district. An eerie silence washed over me, disturbed only by the gentle hum of nearby streetlamps. I should probably get going too.
I had been given a room on the third floor of the westernmost residence hall. My window – also facing west – overlooked a pair of tennis courts, an access road, and the nearby mountain wilderness. At night, I could occasionally catch a glimpse of campus security patrolling the road, a bright spotlight panning toward the hills just in case something malicious had made its way down. Though initial sightings had made me a bit uneasy, I had finally started to become used to their routine presence.
What a day… Setting down my bag, I made my way over to the window sill. It looks like they’re at it again. Now, if only they could find the source of our wisp problem… It suddenly occurred to me that no official record existed of which campus officials were ESPers and which were not. These anomalies had only begun to occur after the start of the fall term, so the campus was rather lacking in any real contingency plan.
It was Tuesday evening, and the ball had been scheduled for the coming Friday. Cassandra would be preoccupied as the night’s hostess, while Rhiannon would be stuck on standby for obvious reasons. The only ESPers on duty would be Rebekah, Chase, myself, and any ESPers who signed on voluntarily. As far as I knew, there weren’t that many, and anyone else would be essentially powerless to intervene. Realizing that fact made me a little worried.
Can I really do this on my own…? I closed my eyes, sucking in a deep breath and balling my hands into fists. As I let the air out of my lungs, I could feel a shiver reverberating across my arms, my legs, and my back. I did my best to put on a smile and slowly allowed my eyelids to open again.
“Right! Tomorrow is Trigonometry followed by CAD class…” Taking a seat at my desk, I began to pull my textbooks from the top shelf. Come what may, I was still a first-year university student above all else. I had come here to learn, not to be some kind of hero or to fix other peoples’ problems. Should circumstances go to hell and a handbasket, I would still find myself able to accept the actions I had taken as being simply the best I was capable of. For me, that was enough.
The real question was whether those around me shared in that sentiment…
TO BE CONTINUED…