Firing Blanks (story).
‘I’m here to fill in some gaps in your education. Better than reading books and manuals all the time. I’m sorry I wasn’t available when you arrived. We don’t always control when assignments come up.
‘All right. Pay attention. The most important lesson I can drum into you is Blanks are not immune to Psionic abilities. The only difference we have to normal humans is that we can’t be scanned, that is have our minds read. We have natural shields or as the Psionics say, we can’t be seen at all by their talents. The Psionics see us as being at the opposite end of the Gaussian curve to them. They see everything but us. Hence, we are blank to them and hence the name we’re stuck by.’
‘Other end of the spectrum. Didn’t you do statistics at school?’ Courtney Adams sighed and quickly drew a couple graphic lines and a high Mexican sombrero on the blackboard, before looking at the small class watching her. ‘Psionics this end. Middle Norms…normal humans. Some of these have partial shields that makes scanning difficult. Demi-Blanks either side. This end is us. The Blanks. The unseen. As the Psionics can’t spot us and we don’t know that we’re Blanks, we’re a bit hard to recruit until recently. Our ability is having no ability…at least in this area.’
She took a silver ball off the desk, slid open a port, pressed a button, closed it and threw it to the first of the eight Blanks in her class.
‘Touch it and pass to the next person.’
Each of the Blanks grimaced as they received an electric shock from the ball that they had met during recruitment. The final Blank, a woman, refused to touch it and so the seventh placed it on the desk instead.
‘That is a scrambler, although you weren’t given its name when you touched it a few months ago. It is a device the Americans and Russians developed as a means to conceal people from Psionics. Not perfect and certainly no good close up but we found that its frequency modulator shocks us and we finally had the means to make recruiting us…you Blanks easier. You people are the first found that way than having Psionics seeing if they can’t spot us, hence you’re a mixed bunch and being trained together.
‘Psionics are rare. Most of them come from the UK but Blanks are even rarer and still mostly British. It’s because of what we are that we have this job. The pay’s not too modest and with great expenses and eventually, travel. Much of the time, you do a little paperwork, administration and field work with the Psionics. There you monitor what they do and make reports, sort out any red tape and keep an eye out for any Norms…or Demi-Blanks who might not be total Blanks but certainly get past their concentration when they’re in Pro-mode. You just do a head count and see if the numbers tally to theirs. In the field, the Psionics are in charge. Out of the field, you run things around them and give them a chance to get their heads together.’
‘So we’re essentially clerks?’ one of the well-dressed recruits said slowly.
‘And giving hell to any agency that gets in our way.’
‘Except that this functional aspect of the Stable Consultancy doesn’t exist and have to represent ourselves as higher ranks of their own agencies we encounter’, Courtney interrupted. ‘In short, you do not say you belong to the Stable Consultancy to outsiders. They wouldn’t know what it was anyway. At most, they might have heard that it’s a governmental library service. You shrug, downplay and say you’re consultants if you’re not using fake ID. Make sure you understand the various regulation manuals you’ve been given to read so you can play the part for a brief time for whichever organisation we’re working with. We don’t have the advantage the Psionics have in scanning people and alleviating any suspicions. We apply tact, ladies and gentlemen, not hell. We need cooperation because they’re not going to understand any explanation we give because it sounds crazy.’
‘It still sounds crazy.’
Courtney smiled. ‘The so-called experts said that, too. Sit back watch the movie. You’re going to see the Psionic I work with doing his thing. Questions afterwards. If you’re good you can have bikkies mid-way.’
The biscuits weren’t need. The class of Blanks were rapt throughout the thirty minute film. Much of it was of Chris Lancier, out in a real field and spinning and manipulating objects in the open air with no means of support once they were thrown into the air by others before doing similar things in a room.
‘That wasn’t a magician?’ asked one of the Blanks slowly.
‘You should see him move meteorites. Have you seen any magician do anything like that? No cloaks. Open air. Nothing hidden and in multiples not even close to his body. A lot of the Psionics do things more subtle than that and I’ll even arrange a personal demonstration later in the week but Chris is our most graphic physical scooper or telekinetic. He moves the big stuff.’
‘I liked the way he threw that light across the room.’
‘That wasn’t light, Bianca, that was electricity. Chris has picked up the nickname of the Shock Treatment because of that little trick. He can grab anything in motion and re-direct it.’
‘Electricity? Like that stuff in the walls?’
This time all of the Blanks looked at Bianca, visibly shrinking at her response.
‘Yes, Bianca, the stuff in the wall. I wouldn’t get in the way if he ever does it. Electricity will ground to earth through flesh as well as metal. We aren’t immune to that. Remember that.’
‘It didn’t come out of the wall.’
‘Watch the film again in your own time, Bianca. As can any of you.’
‘You did call them y’know psychotics?’ Bianca continued, oblivious to the other Blanks reaction, ‘Does that make them y’know dangerous.’
‘Psionics. Extra-sensory perception. ESP. Or as in Chris Lancier’s case, telekinesis or scooping as he calls it. Not psychotics. Psionics. Name for their talent and what we call them. But yes, what they do can be dangerous. If they point, like Chris does there, it’s more to show where the action is going to happen and for you to keep out of the way. It doesn’t come out of his hands, OK? It’s the power of their brains. Mind over matter.’
‘Is that personal experience, Major?’ asked Eddie Martyr, a big burly Blank.
‘I was unlucky. I was young and believed as a Blank I was immune to all things Psionic and pointing out a danger at the wrong moment got in the way. It’s now a cardinal rule that when the Psionics are working in pro-mode, say something but don’t touch and where possible do something yourself if you can. Don’t get in their way. But then, there wasn’t someone like me giving indoctrination lectures at the time. I learnt in the field. Something you should be able to avoid by learning from our experiences.’
Courtney paused and looked around. ‘For much of the time, when you’re matched with a Psionic or a pair of them, you act as a team. Just because they can’t scan you, doesn’t mean they can’t protect your arse. The important thing to remember is you become very much the junior member when they switch into pro-mode.’
‘Pro-mode?’ another Blank said. ‘That’s twice you mentioned it
‘It’s what they call upping their focus intensity on assignment and their power levels go up accordingly. You don’t interfere when they’re using their power that way.’ Courtney winced. ‘I still have a scar on my back from my own mistake. We’re aren’t immune to their abilities. Guard their backs. Don’t let them get distracted. Don’t get in their way. It’s that simple. Drum it in as a mantra. Just remember, Bianca.’
‘So how do we become field Blanks? Ms. Caruthers said it took some time before she became one.’
‘You’ll be having some more basic training than the spy school gave you and the Psionic will have to like you before wanting you to work with them.’
‘So how come a newly recruited Psionic can walk in and straight off on a mission?’
‘Yeah! There was one on the bus that brought us out here.’
‘Mostly because they are impossible to teach. They’ve been using their talents all their lives and know more about it than even their fellow Psionics. They’re more than capable of looking after themselves. The Stable just gives a little vocational direction.
‘Psionics are not all powerful. Many of them have singular talents. The ranger level have several abilities and temporarily can add to them in what they call a Share.’
‘I read about that. Isn’t that like a Joe 90 thing?’
‘Something like that. Depends on how close they stay to how much is absorbed. With some of the more dangerous abilities, like Harbinger, they try to avoid contact at all. Think of it like remembering some lines in a play for a few days. They just do it with abilities.’
‘Something else I presume we’re immune from?’
‘Who’s Joe 90?’
‘Before your time, Bianca. A TV show about a kid who could carry the brain pattern of other people giving them their skills.’
‘Brain stuff. That’s really really spooky.’
‘Don’t let it bother you, Bianca,’ Courtney chipped in. ‘The Psionics do it like osmosis.’
Courtney paused, resisting a sigh, before finally saying, ‘I’ll explain in detail later.’
‘Do any of you have any special skill?’
The Blanks recruits all looked at each other rather furtively, waiting for someone to speak.’
‘I’ve got a good right hook,’ Eddie Martyr offered, showing his fist.
‘Quite. But nothing more cerebral? Be grateful we’re called Blanks rather than Blands. Very few of us have any singular talent anyway. There’s plenty of down time so be sure to study geography and brush up any knowledge. When you travel around the world, you’ll be relying on what you know.’
‘Those would help. Psionics have a nifty knack of being understood by anyone, present company excluded. They can hit the language centre of the brain and be understood by anyone. If you can learn a foreign language then the more likely you’ll be used for that particular country and be able to understand any conversation the Psionics do.’
‘Are you that fluent, Major Adams?’
‘Not very. French mostly. But I’m on assignment to one Psionic. That’s the goal you should all achieve. When you’re in rotation, you move around from Psionic to Psionic and don’t get settled, even if it’s while they’re home.’
‘I’ve heard some of these Psionics can be stressful.’
‘I won’t lie to you. That is also true. For those, you’ll be on rotation. The one thing we aren’t immune to is stress. On assignment, you’ll be a bystander and a feeling of helplessness is something you’ll have to get used to.’
Courtney paused, pleased that most of what she wanted to put over had been reasonably successful. ‘So what makes a Psionic? A lot of it is breeding.’
‘Upper class, like you, then?’ Eddie Martyr asked.
‘Middle class lucky, in my case,’ Courtney corrected him. ‘Britain is one of the luckiest places for Psionics. As far as we can figure out, it has the right genetic combination of various human varieties to yield the Psionic talent and us Blanks. If anything, they’re mongrel stock not thoroughbreds.’
‘What about America?’ one of the suited Blanks asked. ‘They have a lot of different nationalities there as well.’
‘But they are also mostly insular. They’re a young country and haven’t integrated and mixed nor had long enough to do so. At only a couple centuries old, they still haven’t blended enough. At most, they have one Psionic working for their government and he was found by a fluke.’
‘How many work for the Stable?’
‘About forty. Sara is always finding more though. The really powerful Psionics tend to find us.’
‘That can’t make keeping these places secret, can it?’
‘When they find people similar to themselves, it’s rare that they would come in fighting. They would run the other way with so many in opposition.’
‘But I thought you said that they can’t meet up because of this Share ability?’
‘Doesn’t mean they can’t communicate telepathically or work in combination at a distance. There is no control over the ability to share other than stay at a distance. All they really need is a Psionic who can control her ability to Share and they’ll all be able to adapt it. Sara found a Psionic who improved their ability to Shield from too many people around them at once.
‘I should point out that some of the Psionics don’t pair up. My own doesn’t, mostly because it tends to rob his of the shield he shares and that makes him prone to too many people around him and reduce his effectiveness.’
‘Why do Psionics tolerate us? I mean, we’re paid to watch what they do for Whitehall.’
‘You’ve read some of the reports. Would you believe any of it if you hadn’t seen the footage?’
Courtney watched them as the recruits all shake their heads, even Bianca who changed from nodding to shaking when she saw what the other Blanks were doing.
‘And you haven’t seen them do it for real yet. That will happen soon enough. Even if they reported themselves, people would still be dumbfounded. As Blanks, we are immune to brain control or spiking as they call it. We make the ideal witnesses. Like intelligence officers, what they…we do is somewhere between statutory law so proper records gives some element of accountability. The Psionics are good at what they do and probably know the law better than we do. All we do is make reports, not judge them.
‘However…that doesn’t answer your question. See the world from their perspective. They scan the world about them. It takes effort to keep all this information from being absorbed. They can’t scan us. We bring some uncertainty or unpredictability into their world. A little excitement.’
‘We can play an honest game of poker with them in other words.’
‘Something like that but be warned against practical jokes. They can do a lot worse back to you, especially if they don’t want to work with you any more as Maxine Caruthers should have pointed out to you. Being assigned to Harbinger, Mary or Flamin’ Scobie would seem light in comparison.’
‘Don’t they work in teams?’
‘That’s more a matter of co-ordination and twenty-four hour duty. It’s important to be able to work together when you have to.’
‘Couldn’t someone recruit Blanks to attack Psionics, Major?’ one of the suited student Blanks asked. Courtney struggled to remember the four names of these Blanks, especially as they seemed to have come out of the same box, right down to their hair styles.
‘That’s an interesting point but as even we have problems finding others like ourselves, anyone else without a Psionic helping them would have even bigger problems. I doubt if a Psionic would want to hire his or her own killers.
‘The Stable Consultancy’s normal function is as a high security classified library which can be neatly used to hide the Psionics and us Blanks in its expenses. It’s absolutely legit. The last thing needed is to point out where we live.’
‘Who does know?’
‘Certain high ranking members of the American and Russian secret services but they had their noses bitten when they tried to get in. As you will discover, the Psionics are the best security system in the world. Some countries suspect something is going on but put it down to secret organisations, which they are really even if they’re not sure how it’s done.’
‘How did these Psionics gain such a foothold?’
‘When there was a smaller number, the Whitehall bureaucracy would use computers to pass down assignments. Not being Blanks, they weren’t too happy about having their minds read. The Psionics in turn weren’t happy being around too many people so there was a sort of impasse. As Sara recruited more Psionics, she found one who had a perfect shield. Mind protection if you will. With the ability to share, some of this city restriction was reduced. The Farsighters, Psionics who can perceive future variants, could pin-point trouble-spots better than anything Whitehall could offer. A few reports to the then Prime Minister and the heads of Five, Six and GCHQ gained us a level of autonomy as we knew far more than they did and often in advance and quell problems before they got out of control. Weirdly, the Farsighters can’t see where and what happens when Psionics are on assignment. Interference they put it down to. Chris Lancier thinks like can’t see like. However, it is good for recognising who is going to be involved. Often we go in before things escalate beyond control and mostly where no other agency is involved in anything other than periphery reasons. The important thing for you to remember is that nothing is a foregone conclusion. They look beyond the obvious, just in case they missed something.’
‘Do we ever get in trouble?’
Courtney chuckled. ‘Always. However, a Psionic will protect your back and if you get caught, they’ll rescue you.’
‘I thought they can’t detect us?’
‘There are conventional ways. You’ll get more on that as you get indoctrinated.’
Over the next two months, the class ultimately turned into two halves. At one end were the four suited swots, Atkinson, Bromwich, Temple and Venables, who breezed through basic training, with a couple of them showing they could improve upon their basic French and German. They kept things impersonal and even amongst themselves they called each other by their surnames.
The other four, Lennie Darlow, Eddie Martyr, Rhyma Smith and Bianca White were, behind their backs, called the dunces. Barely able to shoot at a target between them and showed no aptitude for anything much other than being at the back of the class. Getting them to act as officials from various agencies was even harder, mostly because even with the right clothing on, they just didn’t look official enough. Lennie Darlow was a lank geeky figure at most. Eddie Martyr just looked like a big intimidating bruiser than being tactful. Soon as bleached blonde Bianca opened her mouth, no one would believe she could belong to anyone, except work at a hairdressers…stylists and then only to paint nails. Rhyma was a timid mouse, keeping quiet and reluctant to raise an opinion. When it came to purely administration work, only Lennie showed some promise. With the exception of Bianca, the other three realised just how bad they were for this type of work.
Courtney Adams reviewed their files with Maxine Caruthers looking over her shoulder.
‘You’ve got to give the dunces ‘A’ for effort for at least trying. Well, except for Bianca, but she’s so ditsy that if she was captured, they’d be paying us to take her back,’ Courtney finally said.
‘You’re being too nice to them.’
‘Like we were with you, you mean? At least they don’t have your attitude.’
‘Or any attitude. Bloody wimps. I don’t have an attitude!’
‘Or just trying not to screw up any more than they are. They were losers before they ever got as far as us but Blanks are rare.’
‘But dopey Blanks. Jeeze, Courtney. Have you talked to Chris about them?’
‘Or you with Libertine just for training? Even just for looking after her body when she jumps. Maybe if it’s a lack of confidence?’
‘Well, Sheena won’t be much good for that. She’ll just scare them and Sara flatly refuses to take any Blanks out in the field with her in case she finds Psionics who don’t know what they are. Imagine them with Mary or Harbinger.’
‘What about Scobie? She’ll…’
‘…make them even bigger nervous wrecks. They’ll have to stay with the single talent Psionics. We’ll just have to trust Romantic.’
‘At least they aren’t psychopaths.’
‘Did you see their shooting scores?! They’d miss the barn door if the entire barn was made of doors.’
‘Well, as Chris would say, we’re bound to get some right ones eventually. Look at some of the crazies amongst the Psionics. Any reports to Whitehall would need extra verification.’
‘And the swots?’
‘They’re too perfect. No make that prefects. All public school. I checked. I wonder who went around the uni’s looking for them. No wonder they stick with their surnames. They’d probably spill too much to Whitehall thinking that’ll get them up the greasy ladder of promotion. They reek of ambition, thinking they’ll run the place in under a year. That’s about the only blind spot they have in not understanding this isn’t a promotional post and the Psionics’ good will gives them any field experience. Can you imagine them keeping any secrets if it served their own purpose not to?’
‘As if we keep any secrets.’
Both Blanks looked at each other for a moment, before shaking their heads. There would be enough problems even to tell each other what they knew, let alone let it get any further. The bureaucracy could work better without knowing absolutely everything and that was an unofficial order about accountability.
‘Maybe we should find a different name for the swots.’
‘Let’s not complicate things. Other than the scrambler, we’re going to have to have a different vetting system before they get this far next time.’
The opportunity for a field mission came up when news of an anti-terrorist exercise in London was announced. The worse problem was keeping people calm and not interfering. A secondary problem for the Stable was whether a terrorist group was being led by someone like Achillos and whether he or she could be captured should one be used. The Farsighters had gossiped that there was interference and that suggested one of them. A message from the Whitehall bureaucracy green lit a no interference for a field test for the new recruits to work with an established Psionic. Abby Dane, also known as Lull, who had arrived on the same bus as the class, stepped up to the task. The Psionic who was the calm in the middle of the storm. There was only brief introductions before they were away in two people carriers, Lull with the swots, the dunces on their own.
‘Any idea where Courtney’s gone?’ asked Lennie.
‘She said to rescue the world again,’ Eddie muttered, not totally believing it.
‘Do you think they can?’
‘After all we’ve seen this past month, I’ve given up thinking anything is impossible.’
‘Except our scores,’ Lennie added. ‘I’m not very keen on guns.’
‘Except the swots.’ Eddie continued. ‘We’re hardly star pupils. We’d be bottom of the class even without Bianca.’
‘Can we be fired? Would they fire Blanks?’
‘Maybe we’ll have y’know desk jobs,’ Bianca said, totally oblivious to parts of the conversation. ‘I’ve never had my own y’know desk before…well, except at school.’
‘Which day was that, Bianca?’ Eddie asked.
Lennie mouthed at the other two, ‘Does she hear what we say?’
Rhyma muttered, ‘A world of her own. Only hears when she needs to.’
‘But it doesn’t help us’, Eddie put in. ‘Is there anything we’re particularly good at. Something we might show we excel at something?’
‘We’re got what the Psionics call oddball personalities,’ Rhyma chipped in, unusually talkative. ‘I’ve been reading some of their archives. Blanks that can distract from what they are doing in public are the equivalent of conjurors’ assistants.’
‘No. Just distraction.’
‘By being stupid…?’
‘Did you say something, Eddie?’ Bianca finally asked looking up from filing her nails. ‘Y’know about being fired? I like the pay and y’know and I’m hardly doing anything.’
‘Are there any more like you at home, Bianca?’ he asked.
‘Brothers. Three. Not sure y’know if they’re y’know Blanks. There’s Matt, Satin and Gloss?’
‘My Mum liked y’know Bros. Some 90s music group or something.’
‘I thought they were called Goss?’
‘Satin? Not Satan?’
‘The vicar said y’know that as well. Satin.’
‘Sounds like a paint job to me?’
‘A paint what?’
‘It doesn’t matter, Bianca.’
The conversation dried up until they reacted one of the outer London boroughs.
The city block got increasingly quiet as Lull systematically snared the traffic causing the drivers to turn off their ignitions and then reached out to the pedestrians and then the office staff and anyone living in the locality before putting them in a state of sleep. To have someone step out into calmness and wonder what is going on would have been a distraction and that really was Lull’s job. If the other field agent Psionics couldn’t contain them, then they could chase them in this direction and not have to contend with panicking bystanders getting in the way.
The four swot Blanks with her looked around in a formation around Lull. Was anyone moving or wondering what was going on? Were there any unknown Blanks or anyone having a Demi-Blank tendency around would have to be dealt with. It was conceivable that the terrorists had recruited such people as themselves and then they would have to do something.
Even with all the preparation, none of the Blanks were comfortable with this field mission. The four swot Blanks had spread out the furthest from Lull after being told she didn’t need protecting but needed pointers. The dunce Blanks were told to stay much closer. There was some apprehension at this. As bodyguards, it meant that they were at the most risk. They couldn’t fire Blanks, so making them cannon-fodder rattled in their heads. There was also an instruction to point out anyone who didn’t seem out of it. If Lull couldn’t control whoever it was, they were to be picked up and passed to a police squad down the road. As far as the police were concerned, the area was a no-go zone while they and the intelligence service completed their exercise. All of them had shown SIS identification to the most senior officer as they drove through the checkpoints but to the rest, they had police identification as they were supposed to be undercover.
The noise of the rest of the city rattled in the distance. In the vicinity, it was only the noise of the birds left. A movement of someone entering the block, Bromwich pointed but already the man was slumping to the ground. The use of Lull was to catch the terrorists not to kill them. The Blanks were getting both a Psionic demonstration and field work.
Anything now was to be the magic moment. An experience noted in the prep as only something they would be able to see in action providing they were fast enough. Apparently, not all Blanks could take it all in. Fast reflexes than any other ability.
A basic stop and grab, more than a match for whoever these terrorists when they got hit by Lull’s psionic ability. They’d be as meek as lambs. Added to that, there just wasn’t enough Blanks to cover all the areas. They were just the closing net. Capture anyone actively fleeing.
Their earjacks flicked on. ‘Car incoming. Speeding. Possible target.’
They looked around at each other and at Lull, who just nodded. She didn’t need an earjack. Someone had obviously spaked at her. Abby Dane as Lull was in pro-mode. Gone were the earlier smiles. This was total focus. There was an intensity in her stare that made no sense to them but then, they were Blanks. Perhaps normal humans could sense it. Then again, perhaps they had because most of them were slumped on the ground. A pure demonstration of ability.
They listened out. There was a roar of a motor. Not a car. A land rover. At least it wasn’t a train of cars. If Lull stopped them all at once there would have been one almighty shunt speed.
The car sped past. It didn’t stop. All the Blanks turned to Lull.
‘Was it the wrong car?’ Temple running back asked Lull.
‘A car just went past.’
‘It did? Did you see it, Rhyma?’
‘No…I was looking the other way.’
Six Blanks looked at Rhyma oddly. Now her lack of concentration was going to reflect on them all.
Bianco shrugged here shoulders. ‘I missed it too. As if that y’know would make any difference.
One of the Blanks was already on the phone, giving a description before looking up. ‘That was the only car running. That wasn’t part of the assignment and we’re the closest to follow.’
All eight Blanks turned to Lull for orders, who seemed to be listening to something. Spaking.
‘You four are to return to base.’ Venables interrupted. ‘We four with Lull are to give chase.’
‘What do you mean us four?’ Eddie Martyr roared. ‘Aren’t we good enough?’
‘They just didn’t want too many involved. Fall over our own feet. Especially yours. Better luck next time,’ Venables said smugly. Extra brownie points if they resolved the problem without the real losers in the group was what he meant.
The people carrier with them in it drove off.
‘So who’s taking the other y’know fork now that they’ve taken the first fork?’ Bianca asked.
All heads turned to her.
‘What do you mean, Bianca?’ Lennie asked slowly.
‘I used to y’know live in this area and the road forks off down there.’
‘Doesn’t mean they went that way,’ Rhyma offered.
‘We could always say we took a diversion and took a look on the way back.’ Lennie shrugged. ‘Better than nothing.’
Eddie Martyr kicked the pavement. ‘At least we’d be able to show we’ve got some initiative. Do any of you fancy going back with zitch?’
‘We were told to go back to base,’ Rhyma reminded him.
‘Let’s not y’know get down in the dumps and look,’ Bianca chirped in, ‘we could always say y’know we got lost.’
‘What about you, Rhyma?’
She shrugged her shoulders. ‘You’ve got the car.’
‘Then it’s agreed then.’
‘I’ll drive. Bianca in the front as navigator. You two in the back.’
‘Who put you in charge, Eddie?’
‘You want to drive, Lennie?’
‘Fine. Let’s get going before the trail dries up.’
They drove off, taking the alternative route to the other team of Blanks.
After several miles with a few people moving around normally and on the border of the borough. ‘OK, Bianca, which way now? Eddie called out. ‘Have we gone the wrong way?’
‘I lived around here but y’know that doesn’t mean I know every street does anyone know the names of all the streets where you live?’
‘Great. Does anyone know where we ought to go?’
‘All the indications are that they’re leaving town.’ Lennie offered. ‘Perhaps we should do that as well.’
‘OK then, which way.’
‘Next left?’ Bianca chirped in.
‘I thought we Blanks didn’t have tuition?’
‘Just using my Sat-Nav,’ Bianca said. ‘They wouldn’t want to get too far y’know from whatever y’know they’re going to do and there’s fewer houses that way.’
‘Let’s hope they give themselves away and park their car where we can see it,’ Rhyma added.
‘Are you always that optimistic, Rhyma?’
‘Only because we appear to be on a fool’s errand. At least the boys have a Psionic with them.’
‘If they don’t find them then at least we can point out the roads we’ve checked.’
‘Slow down, Eddie. There’s a few lanes along here. Maybe we can spot fresh tyre tracks.’
‘Who’s in charge here?’
‘We are,’ the others called out. ‘Joint decisions. Agreement by consensus according to Saint Courtney Adams.’
‘Are we doing this by the book?’
‘This isn’t by the book,’ Rhyma reminded him. ‘We walked off the page a while back.’
‘Stop. Look. There’s a track.’
Eddie brought the car to a halt and they all looked out the mud on a dirty lane.
‘Could have been a farm vehicle.’ Lennie offered.
‘We haven’t seen anything in the last few miles,’ Eddie said. ‘The track is fresh and going in, not leaving. Skid mark.’
‘Could have gone ahead.’
‘We could go down a few miles and if we don’t get any proof we can come back again.’
‘Nothing to lose by looking.’
They followed the road around a dip and then to a farmhouse, where a land rover was parked.
‘Is that the one?’
‘Check the engine. See if it’s warm.’
While three stood watch, Eddie felt the bonnet. ‘Still hot. Doesn’t mean anything.’
‘Can we help you?’
They turned. There were four police officers. Civvies but wearing police body armour.
An exchange of badge identification. The officers were Brandon, Barber, Collins and Shaw and an invitation into the house and a cup of tea, with only Rhyma declining.
‘So you’re pursuing a range rover and blundered in our drug bust operation instead,’ Brandon the team leader pondered. ‘We’d just followed a range rover down here ourselves. Maybe the two are connected but we have jurisdiction. We were here first.’
‘We don’t want some out-of-town bunch getting the glory,’ added Collins.
‘We could always go in together,’ offered Lennie weakly.
‘I know my team. I don’t know you. They’re probably armed.’
‘And you are?’ Rhyma asked. ‘You’re not a Unit 7 or CO19.
Collins opened his coat, showing a shoulder holster, giving a sly grin, before drawing his gun. ‘I am, though, We’re just a composite team ad hoc for this operation. There wasn’t time to bring in a complete team at short notice. Spread too thinly. Like you, we just followed the bad guys.’
‘I don’t mind you staying,’ Brandon said, ‘but we’ll cuff and leave you here, just in case you have any funny ideas about getting in the way. Wouldn’t want to see any of you shot. Too much paperwork.’
All four Blanks looked at each other and then the gun, seeing little choice, they offered up their wrists.
What they didn’t anticipate was being locked up in an upstairs bedroom and hearing the land rover drive off.
‘This isn’t a field test. I think we’ve blundered into the real thing,’ Rhyma said quietly. ‘I think that was our suspects.’
‘And you say that with what authority?’ asked Eddie sarcastically.
‘Which of us didn’t touch the scrambler at Courtney’s first lesson?’
The three Blanks turned and looked at each other.
‘Er…you did…or didn’t.’ Lennie said. ‘We thought you didn’t want to get that weird electric shock again.’
‘Or maybe because I wouldn’t feel anything and couldn’t fake something I couldn’t feel in front of you people.’
Eddie groaned. ‘You’re a Psionic sent to spy on us, aren’t you?’
‘You were the one who commented that Psionics join and go off on assignment with no training. We thought it was about time that we looked over how the training went with a larger class and offer any suggestions. What better way than go through the experience ourselves. ‘Sides, how can I spy? You’re Blanks to me. I can only see what you are. I can’t scan any you.’
‘And you are actually y’know Rhyma Smith?’ Bianca asked. ‘You don’t have another y’know name for me to like remember.
‘Sure. Also called Romantic by the other Psionics. I’m a Charm.’
‘I befriend anyone. People love me. Do anything for me.’
‘Natural charm there or hadn’t you noticed?’
‘You mean you’re not really that y’know shy?’ asked Bianca, rather dejectedly.
‘Only in the eye of the beholder, sweetheart. Don’t be disappointed.’
‘So why didn’t you stop them when we were captured?’
‘Yes. That is a puzzle. I couldn’t sense them. Neither could Abby. Probably Blanks or Demi-Blanks up the curve.’
‘What can you do, ma’am?’ asked Lennie. ‘Charm the locks away.’
‘In answer to both your questions. I wish. I’m strictly one on one. People love me. A true romantic, hence the nickname.’
‘What are you going to do, Rhyma?’ Eddie asked. ‘Can you spake to the Psionics and call up some help?’
‘Spake when I’m spaked at. Sorry. Single talent only. I’m not a sender.’
‘So what do you want us to do or why break cover? I mean, if we just wait here, someone will come and let us go in an hour or two, just by wondering where we vanished to.’
‘Except, Lennie, we didn’t tell anyone about our excursion. An hour or two, someone will try spaking to me. They’ve obviously done some sort of crime and fleeing the country. There’s going to be a lot more witnesses and the absence of several police officers would be noticed, too. It isn’t a Stable matter. We alert the police and act as normal citizens and obey the protocol of staying out of the limelight that was drilled into us.’
The three Blanks looked dejected.
‘We’ll never live this down,’ Eddie grumbled.
‘But wouldn’t you prefer some brownie points for sorting out a real crime?’ asked Rhyma. ‘Some of us get in the way by default.’
The three Blanks looked at each other for a few moments.
‘You can do that?’ Lennie asked somewhat disbelieving.
‘We could go after them,’ Eddie put in.
‘Or we could find a phone and y’know ring the real police up and tell them y’know there’s a robbery taking place,’ Bianca added.
‘Been. It’s only an assumption and we don’t know where, Bianca?’ Rhyma asked. ‘London’s a big place and it’s being used for a terrorist alert and we tagged our operation in the middle of it. Better to chase them before they get too far away then tell the police which we’re supposed to belong to that we gave up the chase.’
‘We’re not going to be that lucky with muddy tracks again,’ Eddie grumbled.
‘Any private airfields around here? They aren’t likely to want to carry any bootie through regular channels.’
‘There’s like Felby y’know. My brother Satin took me there once y’know or was it Gloss…’
‘All right. We have a target.’
‘How do we get out of these cuffs, Rhyma? asked Lennie.
‘Do we need to? This isn’t a police show. Eddie, do you think you can kick the door open?’
The burly Blank looked up at the Psionic and then at the door. ‘I can give it a shot.’
It took more than a shot. A few shoulder smashes and then one kick at the lock and the door finally opened.
As they ran down the stairs, Lennie called out, ‘What if they didn’t leave the keys?’
‘Then we hotwire it, dummy,’ Eddie shouted as he began to kick at the locked front door. ‘Someone check where our mobile phones went.’
The farmhouse phone was smashed and their own mobile phones in the sink full of water and Lennie picked them up as Eddie got the door open.
The key was still in the ignition.
‘That was careless.’
Rhyma got in the driving seat. ‘Bianca, next to me. I need some directions to that airfield.’
‘Y’know I haven’t been there like y’know for a long time.’
‘General direction. We’re bound to hit some signs. Lennie, you and Eddie work the sat-nav between you. It has to be in that direction.’
‘Won’t we be going like y’know into another farm?’
‘I don’t give a flying…’
Rhyma stepped down on the accelerator and they sped off.
‘So how do we explain the handcuffs?’
‘That’s my problem. Just give me some directions one of you.’
‘Nothing on the sat,’ Eddie called out.
‘It’s just a y’know field used by those London boys for y’know smuggling.’
‘Just the place if they want to leave. Left or right, Bianca.’
Rhyma looked at the bleached blonde Blank. ‘You sure?’
‘It’s a y’know short-cut.’
The Psionic put her foot down on the accelerator.
‘Lennie worked his way through the phones until he found one that worked and waved it in the air.
‘Call the police,’ Rhyma ordered, looking in the mirror. Tell them where we’re going and pursuing some bank robbers are making a getaway.’
‘Not the Stable?’
‘This is a police matter, Lennie. We’re also supposed to have police identification. Use those protocols we tried drumming into you. Where now, Bianca?’
‘Straight on like. I always remembered y’know like it was like down a long straight road.’
Rhyma breathed in deeply and sped on.
‘Why couldn’t they have been picked up at that farm?’ Eddie asked.
‘Maybe they saw us coming or maybe there’s more than one team.’ Rhyma paused. ‘Tell them they’re armed, Lennie.’
Lennie nodded. ‘We are a special police unit working out of London. We interrupted a robbery and pursuing people to outside Felby. I’m activating an app so you should be able to lock in on us. Repeat. They are armed. We are not. Please send accordingly. Thank you.’
‘Nearly y’know there Rhyma. There should be a y’know left about here then a y’know a right into the field.’
Rhyma followed the instructions and stopped at a gate and wound the window down. There was the low sound of a helicopter rotor whipping. ‘Stay here.’
She climbed out of the car and crept to the side of the fence to look into the field, before getting back in.
‘Looks like you were right, Lennie. The land rover is there and they haven’t taken off yet.’
‘I suppose we could drive in, posing as the second team,’ Eddie said.
‘In a car they know? Let’s wait for their accomplices.’
‘They might not y’know come through this gate.’
‘There are others?’
‘Two like y’know.’
‘They can’t have long to wait.’
‘Maybe they’re keeping the chopper revved up just in case.’
Rhyma smiled. ‘Lets’ drive in blind side to them. That way they can’t see the car. Bianca, in the back. Eddie, you drive. I need my mind free.’
‘I drove that way.’
‘With whatever, you’re going to do,’ Eddie got into the driver seat, as Bianco climbed back over the seats and Rhyma moved into the passenger seat.
‘That won’t stop me. Drive around the field. We want something opposite to where we are now.’
‘What about the other guys?’
‘If we bump into them, so much the better. One task at a time.’
‘Which is the shortest way, Bianca?’
‘I dunno like I’ve never like y’know done that here before.’
Eddie grunted but didn’t raise a comment and drove off to the left. At least she was finally paying attention.
‘Not too fast. You can speed up when you ram the gate. Just stay blind side to the chopper.’
‘Don’t you have to have eye contact, Rhyma, for it to work?’ asked Lennie.
‘I’m only going to target the pilot. We can’t be that unlucky to have five Blanks. All of you stop the others getting out. Block the doors.’
‘But they have guns.’
‘Then call out that if they fire they’ll blow the chopper up. They aren’t stupid. Just don’t let them think too much. Shake the chopper. I’m sure they thought they under-estimated us. ’
‘Here we go.’
Eddie crashed the people carrier through the gate. Simultaneously, through another gate came another land rover.
‘Keep to the plan.’
‘What about the pilot?’
The people carrier kept going and at a skid and clipped the helicopter tail. ‘Will that help?’
Rhyma was gone, heading towards the other land rover. The three Blanks looked in the helicopter. The pilot was slumped over the controls and the police were looking out as Collins drew his gun as Eddie’s voice bullhorned.
‘Go on, fire! We can all go to heaven together when the chopper blows up. You are all under arrest and we are about to read you your rights so shut the…’
Another four people jumped out of the other land rover.
‘I take it you aren’t the cavalry? Should I say that I am…?’
‘Two of the four men drew guns?’
‘For me? It saves me asking for them.’
‘On the floor!’ one of them demanded.
‘And I thought you were going to be the strong silent type and invite me to dinner tonight.’
The four men swayed, looking briefly at each other.
‘Or was it you? Or you? Or you?’ Rhyma looked at each of them in turn, pausing to give them a brief smile. ‘I know. You two give me your guns and then you can fight amongst yourselves to decide who will dine with me. Is that fair enough?’
As two of the men handed their pistols over, the other two hit them from behind.
‘Ooh! Play fair, boys. Play fair. The keys to these handcuffs would be handy as well. Thank you.’
Rhyma walked back to the helicopter, leaving all four men brawling. The helicopter rotor had stopped. One of the men inside had thoughtfully turned it off.
‘We haven’t got long,’ she said, unlocking each of their handcuffs and then waiting for Lennie to undo hers ‘No sense looking like we won and can’t get out of the cuffs.’
‘You…You control minds?’ Lennie said, in somewhat disbelief. Like…like…’
‘Like Sheena? No. I’m Romantic. I told you, everyone loves me and men are putty in my hands.’
‘But how did you stop the pilot?’ Eddie asked.
‘I shared a little with Abby. Not much but enough for one burst.’ Rhyma paused. ‘I hear the cavalry. Let me do the talking.’
Back at the Consultancy, the three dunce Blanks were in the classroom with no sign of the four swots.
A smiling Rhyma walked in with Courtney Adams and both sat in front of them.
‘Things have changed somewhat,’ Courtney began. ‘This was only supposed to be a training exercise but you’ve all done better than expected. Rhyma says the decision to check the other direction was a joint decision. You might not always be so lucky but it was the right action to take, especially that there was no order for you to go home.’
‘So we’re not fired then?’ asked Lennie.
Courtney shook her head, smiling. ‘We never fire Blanks…but we can give them desk jobs.’
‘You’ve still got some more specialist classes to attend,’ Rhyma added. ‘but you followed the basic rules. When you knew I was a Psionic, you obeyed me and didn’t get under my feet and even provided the right information. You all co-operated with each other. Even you, Bianca.’
‘The bleached blonde Blank stopped filing her nails for a second, smiled and then instantly got distracted by a spot on a nail she missed.
‘What happened to the swots?’ Eddie asked.
‘They disobeyed Abby and nearly drove into the next county,’ Rhyma said.
‘They have a lot more to learn not to do.’ Courtney added. ‘They haven’t got back yet.’
‘That sounds like desk jobs?’ Eddie smirked.
‘Don’t let it get to your heads. You’ve all got reports to write. Even you, Bianca. No conferring. We want your independent perspectives of events and any recommendations for the future. That is still part of the field test and normal work. For the record, those eight cops were using the exercise as a diversion to do a private act of theft. The Farsighters only spotted activity but not what.’
‘What about you, Rhyma?’ asked Eddie. ‘Aren’t you going to write a report to share the class experience?’
Rhyma smiled. ‘Not for me. I’m back to Psionic duties and I’m not a Blank. I don’t have to write reports.’
‘That makes you the first failed Blank.’
‘Or the most successful transformation between the two. Just be grateful I’m not running the class.’
‘Well, at least you can’t charm the socks off us.’
‘Why would I want your socks, Lennie?’
Psi-Kicks, The Stable Consultancy, Courtney Adams, Maxine Caruthers
Abby ‘Lull’ Dane, Rhyma Smith, Lennie Darlow, Bianca White , Eddie Martyr
© GF Willmetts 2012
All rights reserved
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