Chapter 1: School of Thought
With the Birth of Andrew Alan McKesson, Dave and Ginny decided they needed to build their own home on Meadow. They began looking all across North America for the perfect place. It wasn't until Sheb Halliday suggestion it that they looked in the area of the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. When they saw Meadow's version of the Cataloochee River valley, the knew they had found their place.
They picked a spot near the upland end of the valley, on a small rise that gave them a dramatic view down the valley. With the spot picked, they soon began looking at plans. After three months of endless changes, Dave's mom finally made a proposal.
"Do you two trust me?" She began. They both nodded. "Then why not leave this to me? The two of you are too wrapped up in being parents, and the millions of details involved in getting the folks on Obsidian operating smoothly, being Legionnaires and explorers, its no wonder you can't make a decision about a house. I'll get together with your Grandpa A.J. and a few other people, and we will design and build your home, and present it to you. Everyone's happy, and we all get back to business. What do you think?"
They should have known that Elizabeth McKesson was just acting as the front man for a larger organization. The plan to build a house for the new family was a joint effort of... everyone! Every member of the McKesson Clan, every one of the Holders of Rhel, everyone in the Legion, every one involved in Obsidian and with Obsidian Research. Everyone but Dave, Ginny and Baby Andrew McKesson were in on the building. And they built big!
While Dave and Ginny had been thinking of a house just big enough to raise three or four children in, everyone else understood one simple fact. Wherever they lived would become the center of the universe for their friends, family and followers. There would always be company at their house. It would be a place where people gathered, groups met and decisions were made.
So while there was a small dining table in a rear sun room near the kitchen, perfectly placed to catch the morning light coming up the valley, there was also a massively huge dining room which could seat a hundred. The kitchen was also greatly oversize, with room for a large cook crew to prepare large meals for the crowds that might fill the dining room. There were a dozen guest bedrooms on the second floor. The third floor was the 'private residence' part of the house. There was a basement, even a secret level of sorts, but there was no massive underground component like they had built for the first house on Meadow.
Built of massive timbers and stone, but with all the modern amenities, as well as all the Seeker extras that Con and the Obsidian staff could hide behind and inside the walls, ceilings and floors, the house was completed and they were moved in within six months. A house that size was going to need a full staff to take care of it, and unlike in the past, they built the caretaker's house at the same time, in a side valley a few miles to the northeast.
It was during this time that Arden Anderson and Alicia Jackson got married. Dave's prediction of a double wedding turned out to be oddly accurate as well. Pete Parkin and Sarah Granger were married in the same ceremony. Arden and Alicia honeymooned on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Pete and Sarah honeymooned on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. Within a month, and only days apart, Alicia and Sarah announced that they were expecting.
The applicants for the head caretakers position was limited to couples 'hitched or fixin' to get hitched', as Hoot Jenkins put it. Dave and Ginny selected their surprise preferred choice, Dwight Alvarado and his bride to be Shelaana Dru.
The two had met during the basic classes all Meadow settlers were required to take. According to Dwight, they had walked out of the Garden on Obsidian at the same time, thanked their teachers, turned and saw each other. The attraction was instantaneous and mutual, and they stopped on one of the low benches that surrounded the garden and struck up a conversation. They were at the meeting-the-parents stage within three weeks. They were married in their new home in what everyone referred to as a combination wedding and house warming party.
Dave, amongst others, had noticed the high incidence of romantic connections being made between McKesson and Rhellian candidates. It was hard not to notice, with his Uncle Ambrose and Ia Sardic now each very seriously disinterested in most anything that did not involve the other.
The other nice thing about living in the Smoky Mountains was being able to stay synchronized with the folks in Chocowinity. They were regular visitors to the McKesson house, and Aaron, Ambrose, A.J., Sheb and Violet became regular benefactors of their Light rejuvenation treatments. This soon came to include Doc Aillard and Ia Sardic, as they became regulars at A.J.'s house as well.
One pleasant morning, just before Andy's fifth birthday, Dave was sitting with his Dad and Grandfather A.J., Drinking tea in the sun room and watching Andy and Ginny playing, when A.J. Started an interesting conversation.
"Dave, how difficult do you think it would be for Constantine to build an exact copy of my house in Chocowinity here on Meadow?"
"Not much of a problem at all, grandpa. Why? Are you thinking of moving to Meadow?"
"I'm planning on dieing, Dave. At least I'm planning for everyone on Earth to believe I'm dead."
"What!" Dave exclaimed in surprise. When he realized his dad hadn't reacted similarly he turned to him "Dad, are you in on this idea?"
"Of course your dad knows what is going on Davey, he's my chosen successor after all." A.J. Said with a wicked grin. "Listen, I've been thinking for quite some time about how to handle the fact that I'm looking younger and younger every year. You rejuvenation treatments are not only working nicely, but the effects seem to be building some momentum. I'm starting to look too young! Hell, I'm 83 years old, but I look like I'm 40! I have to wear makeup to make myself look older when I go to any McKesson Group functions."
"Wow! I hadn't thought about the age difference thing. Too involved in the process to think about the long term results, I guess."
"Well the same problem is starting to worry both of your Uncles, Doc Aillard, Sheb and Violet too, although they have less to worry about since they're not quite the public figures your Grandfather and you are."
"Thanks for reminding me Dad." Dave said with a laugh. "I assume, knowing the way the McKesson mind works, that you all have devised some sort of plan?"
Of course they did, and it was dramatic.
Three years after the triggering of Dave's original set of inspiration bombs, the publicly known research in the field was sufficient for Obsidian Research to announce the Obsidian Fusion Reactor. The oil and power industries on Earth had immediately tried everything in their power to suppress it. They dumped millions of dollars into the pockets of congressmen and officials of the Atomic Energy Commission and every other Federal agency who had a shred of control or influence. Legislation was introduced, PR agencies were hired, TV advertisements condemning the reactors as dangerous and untested blanketed the airwaves. The reactor technology was on its way to being bogged down in red tape for decades.
Then Howard Dexter stepped forward. Howard was a senior aide to Senator Warren Remington of Virginia, and he quickly became history's most famous whistle blower. He stepped forward with digital video recordings of both the meeting between Senator Remington, three other senior Senators and a group of OPEC oil ministers, as well as another meeting between Senator Remington and the heads of three of the four largest American power companies.
"I just had an epiphany that woke me up in the middle of the night." Howard was quoted as saying. "I realized how truly evil our actions were, in trying to suppress the fusion reactor, merely because doing so benefited those people willing to pay for the Senator's influence. So I decided to do something."
A couple more whistle blowers came forward from the ranks of congressional aides and corporate assistants to confirm Howard Dexter's story, and the tide shifted. TV, radio and newspaper news organizations seized on the corruption story and ran with it.
Obsidian Industries, Obsidian Research and the McKesson Group were all publicly the world's biggest Howard Dexter fans. But it took only a second of consideration to make us wonder about our benefactor.
Obsidian Industries invited Howard Dexter to a symposium on fusion energy at Duke University, as a special guest of honor, all expenses paid. The Dave/Ginny full fusion gave him a thorough going over. Howard Dexter was definitely under the influence of a coercer, and one with much more finesse than Lyle Boyle.
The compulsion that had been laid on him to reveal the actions of his employer, the former Senator and currently indicted co-conspirator Warren Remington, was still there. When the time came, Howard Dexter would testify, with utter truthfulness and an uncanny level of detail. Several other compulsions had been laid upon him. The simplest was one that compelled him to get as close to me, or the McKesson family as possible.
Whoever he was, this coercer was infinitely more sophisticated than the sick combination of Dwayne and Lyle Boyle. Howard Dexter had no idea who controlled him, no idea he was being controlled at all. Faint traces, bare hints of a masculine touch lingered and nothing more.
To find the coercer who held Howard's strings we were going to have to keep him as close as possible, and monitor him heavily whenever he was near any of us. It became a waiting game.
The powerful men he had exposed had been quick to hire investigators and researchers to look for some dirt in Howard Dexter's past. We arranged to get the results of their efforts ourselves. More importantly, we looked for signs that the investigators themselves had been tampered with.
Three months after Howard Dexter came forward, the Chinese physicist whose work had 'inspired' the development of the Obsidian reactor held a press conference to claim that the reactor technology was indeed safe, and that the Chinese government would immediately begin negotiating with Obsidian to open a plant in China to produce reactors for the global market. The rest of the world, and the rest of the U.S. Congress, took notice.
It was in the midst of this chaotic series of events that we finally got a nibble from our surveillance of Howard Dexter. We were able to do a quick trace to an unknown face in the crowd during an independence Day parade in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We planted our faintest, most gossamer tag and then studiously ignored him. With our tag planted, and Howard Dexter's testimony before congress completed, Grandpa A.J.'s plans were enacted. To celebrate the recent good news, A.J., Ambrose, Aaron, Sheb, Violet and Doc Aillard took the Nereid out for a run up to Boston.
After a stop in Ocean City, Maryland to pick up our new good friend Howard Dexter, In full view of at least 6 other vessels, as well as a large number of people on shore, the Nereid exploded in a blinding and deafening blast that completely and utterly obliterated it.
Public opinion quickly placed the blame on the energy companies that had so recently been exposed. We definitely felt a little guilty when the President declared a national day of mourning. Of course there had been no one on board the Nereid when the blast destroyed her. They were all safe and secure in the new replica of A.J. McKesson's house on Meadow. Howard Dexter, freed of his compulsions was giddy with relief, and just a little awe struck.
With A.J. McKesson having been 83 years old, nobody thought it odd that his estate was so well prepared for his demise. The transition of control of the McKesson group from A.J., Aaron and Ambrose's hands to Gerald Alan McKesson had already been in the planning stages for several years, and the various boards and subsidiaries had no problems with the sudden passing of power. Because of the loss of so many family members at once, everyone understood when the family announced there would be only a small private service at the family home in Chocowinity.
Dave, Ginny and Eru were joined on their morning runs on Obsidian by Riah and Zaia. The twins had been the first success for the Ginny/Dave fusion in bringing someone else into a fusion. With the girl's deep reservoirs of power, and now able to follow them into the Light while in the fusion, it took only 4 months to tear away the barriers to their perception of the Light, as had been done for Ginny.
It took another 6 months for their combined four way fusion to bring Eru to that same place. That brought the number of known Light sensitives in the universe to five.
Dave had finally had to get together with Con and built a separate running track. They had begun to draw crowds every morning when they ran. Perhaps it was the sight of five people running at thirty miles an hour, or perhaps it was the sight of three beautiful women in relatively skimpy running gear running at thirty miles an hour. Con built them an interesting clover leaf out of the perfect running surface that was the ring material. The track was five miles away from the rings
Their cool down period usually consisted of 45 minutes of mental sparring. Eru had built on the experience Dave and Ginny had with the Boyle brothers, as well as on his own experience, and they sharpened their offensive and defensive mental techniques on a daily basis. Two observers were always watching, in full fusion, ready to prevent any accidents. They were able to practice one on one and two on one as well as one on two.
After the 'cool down', they just sat joined only lightly, and talked for a while. Today's chat began with a familiar topic.
"Riah, Zaia, have you worked the kinks out of your love life yet?" Ginny asked them.
"We're still stuck with the same problem." Zaia said. "Dave's already married to you, Andy is still too young, Eru simply says no, that it would be unhealthy to have a relationship with our teacher, and we still are always picking the same guy out of a crowd."
"We've given it a lot of thought, and we are probably going to have to find someone who will be willing to have a relationship with both of us. Eru says it used to be a common thing for twins in the old days." Riah added.
"There is one guy who has always made us swoon a little"
"But he's never indicated any interest"
"Probably because of the age thing, though we're all getting closer to the same physical age every year."
The twins were usually pretty good about not slipping into their ping-pong speech mode, but they still did it now and then when they got nervous or excited.
"Well that limits my guesses to someone in the Legion, since they are the only ones besides Eru and Dave's family who are getting regular doses of our anti-aging Light work." Ginny said. "Let me guess. Chet Alvarado?"
The two glanced at each other and blushed.
"Well, that's a yes, obviously." Eru added with a laugh.
"Girls, if you are interested, you're going to have to make the first move." Ginny said. "In the society in which Chet was raised, multiple marriages were not just frowned upon, but were actually illegal. He will need a lot of encouragement to overcome those inhibitions."
The Great Library at Ureda was already becoming legendary, and as its legend grew, so did the prosperity of Borthun's Rest. At first the Library's staff had been comprised of McKesson Clan and Rhellian volunteers, while Borthun's rest had been staffed completely by locals. As the bright young minds of first Ureda, and then other regions arrived, the brightest were quickly recruited, and the staff at the Library slowly shifted towards a greater and greater percentage of locals.
Borthun's Rest actually went in the other direction, but only slightly.
It had been no fluke, or freak coincidence that the mental gifts that Dave discovered he shared with Eru were awakened in Ginny and the rest of the Legion. Eru and Felicia had been set the task of picking other candidates for mental awakening. Stability, Integrity and 'depth of character' were the selection criteria. In the first three years since the establishment of the Great Library, 6 McKesson Clansmen and 8 Rhellians had been awakened.
When it was realized that the volume of people passing through Borthun's Rest was at least four times greater than actually made the trip to the Library, Borthun was suddenly inspired to hire two 'hostesses', who met arriving patrons at the door and found them a table, but did not actually wait on tables themselves. The hostesses were Tavi Brek and Cuhi Sul, awakened Rhellians who had gone through the first year of Eru's soul diver school. They began screening every guest for those qualities which would make them candidates for awakening.
Three months into the assignment, Tavi encountered the mind of Laik Hulin. For the first time since Dave met Eru, they found a fully awakened mind.
Tavi was stunned to encounter an aware and active mind. Eru's Soul Diver classes had stressed the possibilities of encountering coercers, and with no other experience, she made that assumption, and called for help. When Cuhi touched this man's mind, she too panicked and sent out a call to Eru.
When the alarm reached Eru, he was in the middle of observing a class. He sent a quick thought to Felicia that there was a coercer report coming in from Borthun's Rest and jumped to the spare room at the inn that was aways mysteriously unused. He made his way down the stairs and found Tavi and the newcomer standing, staring at each other, unmoving.
"Well, this is interesting. Tavi, Cuhi, you may stand down, He is not a coercer." Eru said to the women.
"I am Eru Jehn. May I invite you to join me at a private table?"
"Yes, thank you. I am Laik Hulin of Espos. We Esposians are supposed to be renowned for our gastronomic sensibilities, though I confess to having fled the region as a child, well before my inner gastronome was revealed."
Tavi escorted the two of them to one of the private rooms in the rear of the inn and told the waitresses that she would be waiting on these guests herself. The two hostesses were known to make this request for users of the private rooms now and then, so it was nothing unusual.
"Tavi, I suspect our guest would not object to trying the house specialty, and if we could have a pitcher of the Ryennian Dark Ale to go with it?"
"Yes teacher!" Tavi said, and spun sharply and exited the room.
Laik's eyes followed her as she left. To be honest, most men's eyes followed Tavi when she walked away.
"I was so stunned to encounter her mind as I entered that I did not quite have time to appreciate her beauty. Was she there specifically to catch me, or others like me?"
"She is a beautiful young woman, as is Cuhi. Please accept my apologies, but they are here simply to screen those who pass through in the hopes of finding likely candidates to send on to the Library. We are currently seeking to fill a great many staff positions there. Her training made her assume you were a coercer, and act accordingly."
"Ahh, I heard you use that word earlier, and I saw it in the young lady's thoughts, just before she was able to close them off from me. What is a coercer? And she called you teacher??" Laik asked excitedly. "Hers was the first mind I have ever encountered that was able to resist my probes. Quickly followed by the other woman's and yours of course. How is this possible that the world could seem so empty of others like me, and then I stumble across three of them at once!"
"Coercers are people who are somewhere between the unawakened and awakened state. They are able to use certain aspects of the gift, usually very crudely. They are also set apart by their willingness to use the gifts to compel others to do their bidding.
Where I am from, you or I would be called Soul Divers. We came by our gifts naturally. Tavi and Cuhi are what we call 'awakened'. Normal but sensitive people whose minds have been shown the way to the gifts. I run a school where we teach the skills of the Soul Diver to the awakened."
"That it is possible to give the gift to those I've come to call the mind-blind is amazing to me. How did you come to be able to do this?"
Tavi came back into the room with a large pitcher of the rich ale and two glasses. Cuhi accompanied her, carrying a tray with their meals. Cuhi walking towards a man was as much a magnet for the eye as Tavi was when walking away.
"Lets discuss that after we finish our meal." Eru said. "Thank you Tavi and Cuhi."
As Eru spoke to Tavi, he reached out with his thoughts to find Dave.
<Dave, can you join me at Borthun's Rest? We have a new wrinkle!>
"This is very fine glass work." Laik said, holding his up to the light.
<I can't get free for another twenty minutes or so. Can I meet you somewhere?> Dave thought back.
"The people of Eruda are very progressive, and are perhaps the premier craftsmen of Eruda. This is, in part, the reason why the Library was established here."
<Can you be waiting for us in the Head Librarian's quarters?> Eru thought back to Dave.
<Yes. I'll be waiting for you there.> Dave finished. Eru turned his attention to Laik's words.
"Word of this legendary library is what brought me here of course. But by the smell of this marvelous food, there are plenty of other good reasons to come to Borthun's Rest. Certainly the quality of the staff would recommend it as well!"
The two men tackled their meals then, and were interrupted only once when Tavi came in to see if they needed a fresh pitcher.
Finally they had both pushed their plates away, full.
"Laik, there is a simple solution to the dancing around we are doing here. You can let me into your thoughts." Eru said.
"Will you then let me into your thoughts as well?"
"I cannot. There are secrets there that are not mine to give you." Eru sighed. "But I can promise that unless your thoughts reveal you to be some hideous monster or diabolical villain, you will be in my thoughts before the day is out."
"Very well." Laik answered. "To be honest, I have no idea how to prevent your from taking my thoughts anyway."
The Esposian drained the last of his ale, wiping the foam from his lips.
Eru slipped, a gentle shadow, into the mind of Laik Hulin. He sifted gently through the man's thoughts before diving into his memories. The experience was memorable. Laik had a mind at least as ordered and deep as his own. Unless he was a master deceiver of a magnitude beyond Eru's comprehension, he was a decent man who had spent half his childhood and all his adult life looking for something he had come to think probably didn't exist. Others like himself.
<You find us at the end of a long and incredible journey. I hope we do not disappoint you.>
Science Fiction /