Mary was surprised to find herself called into Professor Stone’s office after the first day of Focus had concluded. The upside to having a pair of telepaths in proximity was that there was no need to send notes or give a message in front of the rest of the class. Mary had long ago grown accustomed to listening to her professor’s thoughts while she taught; it was not only considered proper, it was part of her training. So it was that as the rest of the students filtered out the door, off to their next course of the day, Mary walked over to Professor Stone’s desk and took a seat in her usual place. They’d had several after-class conferences over the last year, usually to discuss some area Professor Stone felt she should change tactics or improve on, and Mary had no reason to suspect this would be anything different.
“I want to know,” Professor Stone began, taking her own seat behind her desk, “Why it is you’ve been neglecting your training?”
Mary inched backward in surprise. Nothing in the older woman’s thoughts had betrayed this sentiment, but then again she was likely very adept at controlling what rose to the surface of her mind.
“I haven’t been,” she said after a moment. “I do the concentration exercises, the listening exercises, and the precision exercises, all just like you instructed me to. I’ve improved my level of delicacy with telekinesis by quite a bit, and I still make sure to keep up with telepathy.”
“Yes, Mary, you’re very diligent in working with your advanced mind abilities. At least, the standard ones. Perhaps I should have been clearer, I want to know why you haven’t been trying to get a better skill level with your dream-walking talent. You’ve yet to come to me to discuss it, and I’ve never picked up any thoughts about you experimenting with it, or even musing on how to get better.”
“To be truthful, my plate was already pretty full trying to keep my team nudging along and making sure my own skills improved. The dream thing seemed rather unimportant by comparison,” Mary admitted.”
“That is…fair,” Professor Stone said, her tone somewhere between a grumpy sigh and stage whisper. “This program does put a heavier emphasis on the abilities that produce more tangible results, especially in the first few years. I’ve never quite agreed with that strategy; however it has proven to be overall effective. Still, I’m sure you were paying attention to the dean’s speech today, yes?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mary replied immediately.
“Then you know that there are considerations made beyond raw damaging power when we select who will graduate. Yes, with your strength you could qualify going that route, but it would be a waste not to use your time here to explore this very rare gift you’ve been given.”
“Is dream-walking really that rare?”
“Incredibly so,” Professor Stone said immediately. “Dream-walking is what we refer to as a deep-mind ability. Telepaths like you and I are considered to have a shallow-mind, or upper-mind, ability. We skim the surface of a person’s thoughts. We see only what’s going through their head at a single moment, and even then a trained person can control what gets into our view. Some of the best telepaths can go a little bit deeper, sensing what is dwelling beneath the surface, but those thoughts aren’t as well organized, and even if one can see them it doesn’t mean that person can correctly interpret them.”
“I think I follow,” Mary said. “So, since when I dream-walked I was able to go into Nick and Vince’s subconscious, I was accessing a part of their brain that most telepaths can’t get at.”
“Precisely. My own skill to view a willing subject’s memories is another example of a deep-mind ability. We’re breaking through the surface and interacting with the core of what composes a person’s very consciousness.”
“If deep-mind abilities are that rare, how do they wipe memories at the other HCP schools? Do you travel to them at the end of the year?”
Professor Stone’s expression clouded, the genial look she wore during conferences giving way to the hardened eyes of someone uncomfortable with the situation. “Beg pardon?”
“I know you’re the one who wipes people’s minds when they fail out,” Mary replied, her own eyes not quite, but nearly as, unyielding. “I’m not saying it’s wrong, and I’m not trying to take you to task over doing it to my friend, but you’re the one I have the most to learn from at this school and I thought it was time to put all our cards on the table.”
Professor Stone let out a slow breath as she perused her student’s mind. This was a conversation she’d manage to have thankfully few times during her tenure at Lander, but it was one she definitely never looked forward to. At least Mary seemed to be telling the truth; the girl was holding back judgment since she saw the necessity for such precautions.
“I only have to travel on occasion. There are two other Supers who can do what I do, or at least a close enough approximation of it,” Professor Stone said after a few moments had passed. “Much like how a chartable percentage of elemental controllers have the ability to emulate or turn into their element, approximately one in ten Supers who possess the advanced mind power will also have some form of deep-mind ability. Of those, about twenty percent’s deep-mind ability will engage the memory in some form or fashion. Dream-walking manifests in less than five percent of those with deep-mind abilities.”
“I see. That’s why you want me to work on mine,” Mary surmised. “But, I feel like I should point this out, so far that power is really limited. I’ve never walked into a genuine dream. I was only able to do it when Rich put someone under, and then only when I was touching them and had been put under myself.”
“Yes, it does have a lot of limitations, so far,” Professor Stone agreed. “Yet just as you didn’t gain telekinesis and immediately throw a two-ton boulder, so must this talent be worked on and honed to be more useful.”
“Great, so how do I start?”
“The same way all training begins,” Professor Stone informed her. “Lots and lots of repetition.”