“Come in, Mary,” Professor Stone said, interrupting Mary’s intended knock before it could land on the door frame. The diminutive girl lowered her hand and stepped into the office without comment. It was still strange for her, being the one whose thoughts were heard rather than the one doing the hearing. Fleetingly she wondered if conferences of telepaths were like mime conventions, only verbal silence amidst the sound of a bustling hallway full of people.
“We don’t get together too often, mostly because of the strange feeling you’re currently experiencing,” Professor Stone said to the unasked question. “It’s humorous that we, of all people, are the least comfortable with having our minds read. One would think we’d be more open to it than anyone else.”
“Maybe it’s because we know what goes through other people’s heads that we don’t like it,” Mary pointed out.
“A valid point,” Professor Stone agreed. “Would you care for anything to drink? I can make us a pot of coffee.” A worn-out coffee maker was plugged in at the corner of her office, the red indicator light burned out to a point where one rolled the dice on getting burned every time they touched the heating plate.
“I’m more of a tea person. Thank you anyway.”
“So, would you like to tell me why you came by my office, or should we just proceed with me addressing the issue?”
“I think I’d like to articulate it,” Mary said. “That will help me keep my thoughts in order. I wanted to ask you for advice on increasing my level of precision and control with telekinesis. Training with Alex these past weeks has made me see just how great a divide rests between the two of us. Since I’ve seen your skills, I was hoping you might have some advice.”
“A perfectly reasonable question,” Professor Stone said. “One that I will likely be unable to fulfill, however, at least not to the extent you’re hoping for. The truth of the matter is that the exercises I teach in our Focus classes are what you need to be doing. They will help you improve steadily, if slowly.”
“I was worried you’d say that.”
Professor Stone sighed and shifted in her chair. “Unfortunately for Alex there is more demand for raw power than delicacy in people of our craft. You’ll likely go much further than he will, even though his precision is at a level you won’t ever reach.”
“I’m not saying you won’t improve; however, even among those of us with similar powers there is still room for individual variations and talents to shine. I assume the dean gave your group the ‘classification is meaningless’ speech last year?”
Mary nodded. It was one of the lectures that had stuck with her the most.
“Good. While I don’t agree with him on every point, Dean Blaine is right in that people are far too comfortable lumping us all together. Just as two men who are both good at directing might excel in different genres, two people with telepathy might have different aspects to what they can do. Take me, for example. I have an unusual gift with seeing people’s memories. With physical contact and time to concentrate, I can mentally experience almost anything that has happened to them.”
“So Alex’s specialty is his level of telekinetic control,” Mary surmised. “And mine is the amount of power I can throw around.”
“Yes and no. You are gifted in how much force you can utilize, but most of that strength comes from your years as a Powered. All that time dealing with the influx of thoughts taught you to narrow your focus, which in turn translates to a stronger telekinetic strike,” Professor Stone corrected. “I’ve done similar training myself. What I’m referring to are the subtle differences, small things we can do that we take for granted others can do as well, despite the fact that such is often not the case.”
“Um... I did once go into my friend’s subconscious.”
Professor Stone’s eyebrows raised several inches.
“Rich put us both under,” Mary said, hurriedly explaining her strange statement. “Somehow during that time I was able to enter his mind and interact with him.”
“Just him? Like mind-reading?”
“No, like his consciousness, but also a bunch of deeper things. His insecurities, his fears, even what I suspect was his good side, all of them were manifested.”
“That is a unique ability indeed,” Professor Stone told her. “What we do as telepaths is akin to skimming the surface of a pool. We can only see, or rather hear, what is on top. Being able to delve into the depths... I’ve only ever met a few other Supers with a power like that.”
“I’ve only done it the one time. Maybe it was something about the state Rich put us in.”
“That is certainly a possibility. Our powers are comparable to chemicals. Stable on their own, but when combined there can be all manner of unanticipated reactions. Still, if I were you, I would try and test that skill some. Perhaps your power has an aspect that’s yet to be fully tapped.”
“I’ll do that,” Mary said. “After I’m done with the final match, I mean. Just trying to better my telekinesis is time consuming enough.”
“As are all things worth doing,” Professor Stone replied. “Just be sure you are focusing on bringing your abilities to their upper level, not trying to duplicate someone else’s.”
“Message received. Work on precision, but accept that I might never be able to pull off some of Alex’s stuff.”
“Exactly. My advice is to keep up your exercises and try to find ways to work around your limitation.”
“Well, in our first out of class meeting I pummeled you with a barrage of rocks,” Professor Stone reminded her.
“In that exchange I was able to do it because all you tried to do was move the original hunk of concrete. With your mental strength you could have easily done that and wrapped a bubble of force around yourself simultaneously.”
“I didn’t know I needed to.”
“Do you anticipate your enemies will tell you all of their objectives in a fight beforehand?”
“Not intentionally, but yes,” Mary countered. Professor Stone gave the small girl a thin smile.
“My point is that while Alex can use telekinesis to interact with people without crushing them, you can use that formidable focus of yours to simultaneously do three things he could only manage to pull off one at a time. There are a bevy of tactical options besides throwing heavy objects at people. I advise you to start exploring them.”