Chapter 3: Telepathy

A Telepathy Primer

Before Taban and Kalian published their manual on telepathy there was very little substantive research on the mechanisms and experience of the telepathic skill or ability. While the Morgan book was pivotal it was only a start and it would be untrue of me to suggest that we’ve come very far in the fifty some years since the book. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how telepathy works and how it is experienced; however, I think its fair to say that there are still a lot of misconceptions and false information concerning telepathy that needs to be cleared up before we can progress. Despite the recent research on telepathy we still don’t know where or when telepathy originated. It’s very likely that there have been a small number of telepaths in the general population for several hundred years although they were too few–and in many cases disabled by the telepathy–to “blip” on anyone’s awareness. Also while there is likely some sort of genetic/inherited component of telepathic ability, the rapid increase in the general level of telepathic ability in the last forty years demonstrates that some percentage of telepathic ability is learned in some way.

Quite simply the telepathic ability allows telepaths to connect, sense, and sometimes affect another’s thoughts. Yet there is little that is simple about the experience of this ability which comes with a myriad of side effects. The lucky and usually weak telepaths only experience mild headaches and acute fatigue from the ability, while stronger telepaths often have crippling headaches, problems concentrating (even when they’re not “using” telepathy,) and more chronic fatigue issues although each individual is different. For some interference effects weren’t strictly related to the exercise of their abilities and was just a side effect of living in proximity to other people. Most telepaths were sensitive to the presence groups of people even outside of active telepathic experience, but some like Renee Flett who was one of the first telepaths to arrive on Mars–I think she even got there before Kyp Ebner–was found it hard to function if a group larger than really two or three other other people were nearby: the interference was that strong and that involuntary.

Mars made sense as a refuge for telepaths in the middle of the century because it’s population had never spiked as intended after the colony was established in the 20s. The colony was full of unused rooms, community facilities and apartments so it was possible to get distance and people weren’t as packed in as Earth had been for decades. Many today won’t remember the horrible overcrowding on Earth in the 40s, but it for a class of people that were sensitive to groups of people it was the worst place you could imagine.

The interference side effects were, before Taban and Kalian, often enough to prevent telepaths from “making use” of their abilities, and still to a large extent, prevent most telepaths from using their abilities outside of controlled and familiar situations with family and close friends. The Morgans were clear to illustrate that these side effects allowed telepaths to keep their abilities out of public knowledge for so long, because “normal” day-to-day living was difficult and any use of telepathic abilities was generally such a displeasurable experience, that telepaths rarely talked about their abilities with each other, much less, “outsiders.” These issues, the social and interference issues were the focus of Taban and Kalian’s book, and their research and teaching allowed a great number of telepaths to understand and to have some measure of control over the interference and the strength of their abilities.

Looking back now, it’s amazing to realize how little we knew about telepathy, even despite how much we still have to learn. I’m reminded of the early misconceptions of telepaths, which Kyp Ebener termed “cyberspace” telepathy. Basically many people thought that “real” telepathy was like the sort of “shared state” sensation that could sometimes result from running certain kinds of programs while on the nets with other hackers. Despite telepath’s strengths on the nets, Kyp and I always thought that the association of telepathy with “cyberspace” telepathy was the result of some overzealous “human rights” activists who opposed to telepathy because they thought that it would erode the strength of a hundred year old ban on “cyborg” style implants.1 Which probably wasn’t true anyway, but nevertheless these activists succeeded in shaping the early discourse on telepathy, which painted telepathy as an invasive, omnipresent, and violent phenomena. The work of the anti-cybor activists has had has lingering effects on how many–particularly on Earth–understand telepathy, even today.

While we know that the cyberspace telepathy model and cyborg telepathy is false, we still don’t understand the mechanics of the telepathic communication, just as the mechanisms of memory were not truly understood for centuries after the brain was found to be the seat of consciousness. This is, I suppose the nature of science.

We do know that telepaths tend to have a higher level of general cognitive functioning on standard tests, once you account for the interference effects, though we don’t understand the reason for this beyond the theoretical explanations. Some, like Kyp Ebner were able to leverage this in cyberspace and hacking for a little extra speed in the simulated environment of the net. Kyp was always convinced that there was something else special about telepathy that made so many telepaths, including Taban and Kalian, so good on the net. The numbers are certainly in Kyp’s favor: we found out, in time, that a surprising majority of the leaders and maintainers of the net community were telepaths. While the increase in cognitive acuity might explain it, I was always quick to suggest that telepaths were more likely than other sub-groups to spend time on the net at critical periods and were thus able to develop some truly amazing skills online. It was a fight that we rehashed with some regularity.

The experience of telepaths on the nets is, no matter who’s argument you accept, quite interesting. Although telepaths had a little bit more power and sensitivity on the nets, they weren’t subject to the same kinds of interference that they experienced in the “real” world, because their bodies could exist in relative isolation while they were on the net. Cyberspace, was the first haven for telepaths, even before Mars. As long as I’ve known telepaths, a great many of them have focused much time and attention to the nets.

Though I cannot hope to fully communicate the experience of telepathy because I am not telepathic nor do I fully understand it myself. I have often found that the great “costs” associated with telepathic ability are often overlooked in favor the more fantastic aspects of the ability. Perhaps the more depressing fact is that even though we know so much about telepathy these days than we once did, many are still largely unaware of the totality of telepathic experience and history. The simple lack of information has already caused so much pain, let us pray that it doesn’t cause more.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars, 2597

Ongoing Investigation

“So we’re done?” Adrian Rathe, checked all of the company boards and his own messages for a third time before he finally admitted defeat to the boredom.

Thom Busby, however, had long since given up the pretense of being enthralled in his work, or frankly, upon closer investigation of being awake. Adrian wondered how often Thom had been able to feign wakefulness in the past, but quickly abandoned the project. Adrian coughed, “Busby! are you seeing anything?” Surprising his boss like that might not have been his best idea in a while, but he was desperate for entertainment.

“Wha? No, nothing.” Busby was surprised a bit, but he didn’t fluster easily. Adrian reasoned that although wasn’t as entertaining it was probably a good quality for an ISA Agent.

“What are we even looking for anymore, there hasn’t been any more attacks on our “telepath” files in like a year. Do you think maybe they’ve gone to ground or something.”

“They’re still there. Be sure of that,” Busby’s eyes glazed over, or maybe they hadn’t fully unglazed from his little “nap.”

“We have the sniffers up, I can be on the net within five minutes of an alarm. I mean, what’s really stopping us from working on other things?”

“This is the best case in the entire cyber crime department This is the stuff that could make our career, and no one else has a clue about it. We could be directors within the year.” Busby’s gaze cleared up.

“After it breaks. I mean, hell we’re not even sure that there are really telepaths–or whatever.”

“What else could explain it? Besides that’s what they call themselves, normal hackers for the tough persona, these folks… don’t. And they still have the net wrapped around their fingers.”

“You think,” Adrian said.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Not really, I guess. I just I wish we could get a look at the report of that incident a year ago, that might help, forensics is sure sitting on this one,” Adrian said.

“Good luck getting stuff from them, the geeks over there are practically rebels.” Busby’s sudden venom almost surprised Adrian, but by now he was pretty good at covering it up.

“Quinn Dasen seems to be pretty approachable,” Adrian said.

“She’s the one that’s been sitting on that file for months! She’s squeaky clean and very approachable, unlike some of the rest of them. Beyond that they’re all the same.”

“But if they are telepaths, should it really matter in cyberspace? I mean, if they had a hacking gene mod or onbard processing implants, then yeah, but as long as we stay away we should be safe. Right?”

“You don’t know that.” Busby’s response was abrupt and unambiguous.

There was a pause in the conversation, and if Adrian had had anything else in the world to do he would have started doing it, but there really wasn’t work to be done.

“And don’t you go trying to talk or meet with them, we may be ISA, but we’ve not made a great deal of progress on this case, and we have no idea what they can do. I can’t have you going rogue on me.”

“I just feel like–”

Adrian was cut off by the alarm, and then by Busby. “Don’t feel. Get to.”

Something had set off one of the their units cyberspace alarms. This happened pretty often and usually it was just some kid hacker’s or some internal long abandoned script gone awry. or another ISA team that had forgotten the operating standards; but false positives were the price of having a sensitive system that could detect even the most surgical attacks. Adrian reluctantly reattached his net tether but Busby was a bit ahead of him, but an instant later it didn’t matter. Their office disappeared and they were on the net.

Emergency

”I’m in, do you see anything?” Adrian said when he “landed,” in the net. Everything looked calm.

“Nothing yet.” Busby responded. The next message was encrypted and it took a second for Adrian’s pre-processor to decrypt. When it came through, Adrian saw that it wasn’t a false alarm and that there were two people involved, they were still logged in, and other smaller alarms were going up all along their department’s permitter. Probably distraction bots, or some such; which meant that this was planned out, and better orchestrated than the last real attack. That was a two person team too, but they brute forced their database and got a copy of most of their profiles a year back. Sloppy but effective.

“Where are you?! They’re on their own system, we can’t slow them down from the outside.” Busby signal was loud, but it was probably directed enough that it wouldn’t set off the hacker’s alarms.

Adrian started executing programs and sending them off into the background. Some watchdog-style programs that would pull his attention around so that he could chase after someone trying to escape, and a few filter/sniffers looking for traps left behind by the intruder’s programs. that the hackers might have set to keep them away, and a couple went on data collecting missions. Adrian looked over the data that Busby had sent him and confirmed that they were being powered on their own system. He swore, but thankfully recovered before he could send the message to anyone.

The intruders were damn good, that much was clear. By the looks of the traps that they had left, they’d been here for a while without tripping an alarm. He left to himself a note to check to see if they’d gotten into other systems without tripping the alarm.

Adrian was in motion, and had been ahead of Busby relative to the node that they entered the system on pretty much from the get go.

“Go ahead!” Busby’s irritated voice snapped in his ear. Though there were no comms on the net, it was odd, how the body processed net-inputs the same way it processed the rest of the world.

Busby wasn’t afraid of the net, per se but he knew enough to be aware of his limits. Which is why he’d hired Adrian to take care of all the operations on the net. But sometimes it was too much control for Busby to let go of entirely.

Adrian began closing on the blips. They had stopped suddenly and were standing still, trying to gain access to a database tower. He looked around and figured that, based on where they were on the net, it was one of the back end databases. Internal use only. Not overtly useful, of course, but with enough time and a good guard-dog program of their own they could probably leverage some of the data against ISA in the future.

Adrian lopped around that database and slowed down, trying to evade notice. If he startled them, the might end up doing even more damage, and if they ran or escaped-out he couldn’t get them. Busby sent a message, encrypted this time, but Adrian put the decryption preprocessor on low priority so that he could move a little faster, so even though he knew it was there, he wouldn’t hear the message for a minute or two.

Busby wouldn’t be happy, but that wasn’t anything new. For years now Busby had always opted for speed optimizations. Adrian had always called this the “better to be able to get to the scene with a badge than, know what to do when you got there,” philosophy. Which worked most of the time, except when it didn’t.

Busby’s message was as predicted. “Don’t slow down! What the hell are you doing?” But Adrian almost wished that he hadn’t decoded it, even if it had been good advice, which it hadn’t.

Adrian Rathe stayed put and watched the two intruders, he felt collected enough to make an attack. If he waited to long, he thought he’d be chasing them anyway. He sent out two attack bots, queued a couple of virtual restraint programs and counted to three.

The intruders fell for the trap and began to defend against the drones. Adrian walked out slowly, but was alert enough to “run” after them if they made a dash for it–assuming of course that the drones didn’t keep them busy.

When they saw him, the drones somehow winked out of existence. ”They weren’t the best programs in the world, but they often lasted a bit longer than that,” Adrian thought. ”Maybe these bastards are the real deal.

Adrian saw the intruders touch, or their representations at any rate, and there was a brief interference blip, like static that you felt in the core of your chest, except you didn’t have a chest because it was the net. ”Data exchange,” he muttered and continued toward the intruders, the distance growing painfully long as he ran.

By the time he got there, the intruders had split up and were moving off in opposite directions. He dashed left, almost on impulse, even on the nets he could only go after one perp’ at a time. An instant later he triggered a script to chase and track the other intruder. The script wasn’t as sophisticated as the program that they dispatched without much effort a few moments ago, but the costs to execute them weren’t prohibitive. ”And hell,” he thought, ”it was small enough that it might do some good.

Adrian Rathe was a good programer, hence the gig with ISA. Ironically, before he started working at the agency he hadn’t been very good at “hacking.” He was good at keeping the firewalls secure, and writing little scripts, but he’d never gotten the hacking experience that most of his foes had. At first it was hard for him to get over the idea that the largest law enforcement agency in the world needed to participate in illegal raids in order to function. But there it was.

The line between cop and criminal blurred for many, there were agents who hacked the agency and it’s corporate collaborators, but it never held the appeal for Adrian. Maybe Busby had argued a high enough clearance for him that he never really needed to. Adrian thought that by opting out of internal spying Busby had managed to keep his attention focused on this case for so long. It also made him come off as a bit of a vigilante.

In any case, at this very moment Adrian was just another programer on the net, slower than the real hackers and loosing ground against the intruder running a few seconds ahead of him.

As Adrian began to tire thoughts of rewriting the environment clouded his mind. It was a little distracting, but it kept him involved in the environment. Perhaps he was transmitting it as a message, because Busby responded: ”Won’t work, not enough time, we’ve got the world fast in here… It’s only been fifteen minutes on the outside. Keep Running!”

“Do you have anything that would help me?” Adrian sent. He wasn’t sure what, exactly subjective time felt like, but he would have sworn that it had been an hour or maybe two. Good thing you couldn’t get real damage in cyberspace, though the headache might make you wish you had died.

Nothing yet, but we’ll have lots of good data at the end. Keep running!” Busby cried.

“Won’t forensics be happy,” Adrian said, but decided not to send. He was still running, of course. Running was such a bad metaphor for what he was doing, he thought, as another representation flew by. He was almost distracted by it, and he chided himself for thinking about other things, but he kept on.

He got closer to the intruder he was chasing, only to find the scripts lingering around collecting data. ”Weird,” he said, Busby probably heard it as a message, but that didn’t seem to matter much. He dumped the data and sent the scripts after the second intruder He never expected them to last this long: after the intruders mashed his two attack bots without much effort, he thought these other bots wouldn’t last more than a few seconds.

“What?!” Busby sent. Adrian was so involved in coding out his next move–and running so fast on the net–that it took him a moment to figure out what Busby was talking about.

“Shit!” Adrian cried, “Look at the records from when they killed the attack bots at the data tower, boss and tell me what you see.” He stopped completely, and initiated a security sweep.

“Why did you stop?!”

“Just look boss, you have the data, and I don’t have the capacity for that right now,” Adrian sent.

“There was a blast of interference nothing major or unusual. Now why aren’t you moving?”

“Look at it harder, they pulled a fast switch on us. Had to have. I didn’t see it?”

“They’re both wrong?”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Adrian sent and he let his representation start to drift in the net. He wasn’t moving fast but his orientation shifted slowly. “There were two at the data tower, and there was a blast of interference. I bet you they used the interference to cover a logout and bot spawning.”

“What?”

“Back up your cache, and run for the node. I’m going to kill all bots on our net, and see if I can pull the net down for a second to clear them out?”

“You can do that?”

“Yeah… Well, I wrote a script last week, I haven’t done something like this with it before, but it’ll get them out, and our data should be safe?”

“Doesn’t that risk our systems?”

“Shouldn’t, much.”

“Much?” Busby bellowed. Adrian instinctively reached for his ears but stopped.

“It shouldn’t, but I’ll bet you any damage is already done. Just get out of the way,” Adrian yelled. He was right, but that didn’t mean the Busby was going to be less angry.

“Ok, backed up and logging out. Go for it.” Busby’s message was almost a grow. reported, he didn’t sound happy, but that wasn’t all that unusual, and he sounded much less concerned than Adrian would have expected, and Adrian couldn’t decide if this was good or bad.

“Ok, here goes.” Adrian called out. He slowed his clock speed down a lot, but he was tired enough that he didn’t have a good handle on what “normal was.”

There was another blast of interference, this time everyone on the ISA subnet felt it. Adrian hurt everywhere, but maybe maybe that was exhaustion kicking in. He was too distracted at first to notice that the blips, all of them, the intruders, his bots, the ISA sentries, disappeared. “Damn!” Was all that Adrian could manage to say as his system ground to a halt, he was pretty sure that Busby would get that message.

Now, finally the agency’s alarms went off, ”Now, that’s ironic,” Adrian said, careful to not send.

“They were bots, the intruders, were bots the whole time,” Adrian sent, “Or since I came upon them, at least. I’m escaping-out, to get the defenses back up before I pass out.” Adrian’s words were simply an announcement of his behavior, rather than a request. “Also, we have got to come up with something more proactive, because getting beaten up like this isn’t going to get us–me–anywhere.”

And then he escaped-out. Reality hit him harder than he expected, but he was numb by this point, anyway. There was still work to be done but it could happen later, after he passed out.


  1. The cyborg ban was based on a fear of implants being used to subvert free will or some such. Though these laws were largely irrelevant because of the level of technological development present when they were introduced. The ban outlawed all implants that had processing power “onboard,” rather than just dump “pipes,” on the theory that if people had computer’s with processing power implanted they could simulate telepathy and infringe upon telepathy.

tycho garen

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