Chapter 1

The realization that he had influence on the universe came to Franklin gradually, seeping into his awareness over many days, months and years of incessant coincidences and of having his thoughts seemingly being echoed by consequential events, individually trivial and explainable, but inexplicable when totaled together.

For a long time he ignored the strange rhythm of his thoughts and ensuing hapstance, as paying attention to the seemingly innocuous echoes would only invite insanity, after all. He gradually came to accept, and eventually to embrace, the cause and effect power of his inattentive thoughts.

He found that the best results were obtained with a dreamy fugue, letting the thoughts drift across his relaxed mind, while being careful what he called. He had to let go of passion, anger, and meanness after some accidents had occurred which had left him feeling quite guilty for months, and now, with his Zen like acceptance that the quantum resonance of his thoughts had a greater affect on the world than most, he was able to "think good thoughts" and seldom interfered with the destiny of others in negative ways.

Franklin winced as he remembered a few early instances where his random thoughts had manifested in nasty ways, but luckily no one had been killed by the coincidental echoes of his day dreams. For awhile, he had been tempted to interpret the effect as premonition on his part, but had been forced to realize that he was the actual cause, and not just anticipating events if only because of the sheer improbability of the occurrences.

In a universe of infinite possibilities, any single event is not only possible, but actually likely, but just because it is possible to flip a coin and get heads twenty, fifty, or five thousand times in a row, one doesn't really expect to have it happen, especially on the second, fifth, or five hundredth session, but that is the equivalent of what Franklin experienced ever since he started noticing, that his thoughts seemed to find physical manifestation.

If he thought of cookies and milk, he was more likely than not to see the words in print within minutes. If he found himself humming a song, some phrase or word from the song would end up at his feet before he was all the way through it, and he would actually trip over it. The effect scared him somewhat, enough that he never tried to use it, or cause it, but he couldn't help but notice, and accept that it did in fact happen. He tried to live a tranquil life, free from stress or want, and to let the echoes of reality which haunted his thoughts pass unremarked, so as not to encourage it. At least, at first.

Those early events, when his darker thoughts had manifested, had kept him from exploring and trying to take control of the effect for over a decade, and had kept his mind tranquil and placid, his thoughts serene and mellow, and his wants and desires muted and unformed for a long time, until it had become a habit of being, and yet even so a stray thought would spring into awareness as a realized tangible solid echo coughed up by the universe like a hairy furball.

He thought back to High School, and his outcast status which quickly faded to invisible and unnoticed, a lesser yet preferable state. Still, he had come to the notice of a equal opportunity bully, who was that day handing out abuse at random instead of to his usual targets, and the unexpected slap to the back of his head had caused Franklin to glare at the obnoxious Jock and wish a karmic come-upance on him. Shockingly, just such had happened moments later when the Jerk had stepped on his own shoelace and stumbled as he turned away with a guffaw, face first into a suddenly opened locker which was slammed shut by the force of the impact.

Jerk-face was knocked senseless, and the owner of the locker had the good sense to decide she didn't want anything from her locker after all, and left quickly, along with everyone else in the vicinity, as the bell signaling the start of class was ringing anyway. Jerk-face came to about five minutes later, not really sure what had happened, and went to his next class with a bump on his forehead only to receive a tardy slip, and be sent to the office, where he was assigned three days detention, this not being his first nor even his tenth infraction. Luckily Jerk-face never associated his woes to the angry glare Franklin had directed at his back.

Now, a more usual manifestation would be to wonder how many hours his 500 hour lightbulb in the hall had been burning, and if it really did last for that long, and then catch himself with a mental groan. A day or so later, the bulb would expire with a bright flash, at a time when he had forgotten all about his previous mental meander until startled by the atypical response to flicking the switch, and then remembering he had forgotten to buy bulbs, again.

Because of his early negative experiences, well, negative for somebody, and guilt causing to himself, at least, Franklin tried not to yearn, desire, or want any particular event to transpire. It wasn't safe for him to daydream, not even in a positive way, because of unintended consequences. The finding of money on the ground could be as much a disaster for the one who lost it as a windfall for the finder. There was no knowing what ripple effects could occur.

So, Franklin tried to maintain a mental balance of general positive neutrality, which was difficult at first but got easier the longer he did it. Eventually he didn't even get derailed when he heard bad news, and start wondering if he had slipped up and thought it into existence, sometimes actually causing a negative event by such pondering. Franklin never watched the news, or read the paper anymore.

A few years ago, he had caught a headline in a paper box shouting out about a high fire danger. He tried not to think about it, but just you try not thinking about orange fish, go ahead, don't think about them now- Hey, stop it, already. See what I mean? Anyway, that summer was a record for wild fires. It only stopped when he thought the only thing that would put out all the fires was a lot of rain- and then there was the fall of flooding and mud slides.

Franklin accepted all weather, and was content as much in the rain as the sun- else, there might be drought or flooding. He forgave aggressive drivers, and maintained his mellow outlook in the face of all provocation. His response to a rude encounter was a sincere smile, an apology, and good wishes which usually left the recipient feeling like a jerk, and or cheered up for the rest of their day, and often apologizing for their previous attitude.

He kept to himself, not wanting to get emotionally involved lest he unduly influenced someone's feelings, or was pulled off balance by his own. He avoided arguments with his family by not spending much time with them, and keeping conversations at a superficial level, and disengaging when anyone tried to gossip to him or badmouth another to him. Even the most self-centered oblivious person can be trained in a pavlovian fashion with consistent repetition, and Franklin tended to avoid these types anyway.

He didn't dare relax his inhibitions with drink or drugs, and didn't trust himself around those who were so uninhibited, so he tended not to attend parties on the rare occasions that societal propriety caused him to be invited, declining with a reasonable mild excuse and smiling apology.

So successful in fact was Franklin at damping and negating the effect he had on his universe, that it might not have even been an entertaining story, much as if Clark Kent never donned the red and blue spandex and performed feats, but rather only ever manifested as a mild mannered reporter. That is, until the day he met Syd.

Franklin would never forget his first meeting with the red-haired catalyst called Syd, who disturbed his equilibrium and had him affecting his world like never before, only his long years of practice avoiding negativity preventing a chain-reaction of disaster followed by catastrophe. One minute Franklin was his usual mild, friendly, neutral self, and then he was pulled off balance, to orbit forever around Syd's gravitational attraction.

Not that it was all one way, oh no. Syd was purposeful and intentional, meaning to catch the attention of the nice but mysterious Franklin, and once she did, of course, and he wanted her, there was no escape for either of them, not that they would have wanted to, or could have wanted to in Syd's case. Franklin's desire for her affected her, and made her his- good thing that is what she wanted in the first place, and was able to make him realize it.

It started like any other day, Franklin biking down to the yard, and checking out his usual cab, number 1701. A number which should be familiar to any trekkies out there, as the registry number of the U.S.S Enterprise. Being a cabbie was the perfect job for Franklin, as there was no boss over his shoulder as long as he stayed out of accidents and didn't get his photo taken by any red light cameras. His general positive attitude made for uneventful days, not to mention good tips.

Just because he was polite and friendly, not because he was affecting his fares, or so he told himself, anyway. Everyone creates self-fulfilling prophecies, it was just more pronounced in Franklin's case. Suppose you tell yourself that so-and-so is a real jerk, on not much evidence other than a bad first impression. Your reactions to them based on your negative opinion might cause them to not be too fond of you either, and as Vonnegut says in Slaughterhouse-Five, "So it goes".

When the gorgeous Red-head clambered into his cab, out of turn in the line at the air-port, Franklin returned the angry glares of the cabs ahead of him with a rueful smile and a Gaelic shrug, which seemed somehow incongruous on his dark Gipsy features. The bad manners of not taking the next cab "up" were not his, and kicking a fare out of his cab merely for breaking unwritten tradition seemed rude in and of itself, not to mention, did I mention, the said fare was gorgeous? She was, heartbreakingly so.

Franklin gave her his most professional smile, only the practice of years keeping him from longing for her and lusting after her, and asked,

"Where to?"

Subconsciously affronted that a man was not stuttering, drooling, leering, or flirting, especially a tall good-looking man, she decided to wind him up, to prove herself irresistible and attractive as her entire life had verified until this moment, or to reassure herself that this attractive relaxed man was gay. She began her campaign with her throaty melodic voice, a purring sensual vibration that pierced Franklin's soul.

It was her natural voice, she always sounded like that, and many a man was so caught up in the sound of her voice that they couldn't understand her words the first time causing them to seem stupid and dull when they had to ask her to repeat herself. The bonus on their part, was they got to hear her voice again, but many couldn't focus on meaning even on the second repetition. She would have to look them in the eye, and speak slowly and distinctly, as if talking to a dog or foreigner or child, and then, often as not, they would get lost in her limpid light-brown eyes, falling dreamily into their hypnotic depths.

It is little wonder then, that she considered most men, with the exception of her daddy and her older brother (who still called her "Pest") who were semi-immune to her charms, her daddy being wrapped around her finger since she was three, and her brother who loved her like a brother and hadn't come out of the closet to his family yet with his homosexuality.

"I have several places to go this afternoon, Driver- You wouldn't mind multiple destinations, and waiting for me, would you?" suggested Syd.

Franklin reviewed his recent thoughts, and found that he had vaguely hoped this beauty would be spending some time in his cab, and gave a mental version of his shrug of a few moments earlier. 'oops' he thought insincerely.

He said cheerfully "We have an hourly hire rate, which beats the meter and mile drop if you are going to be needing me for more than one trip- it is a minimum charge of an hour, and fifteen minute increments thereafter. Would that sound all right to you?"

Syd was amazed, he was looking right into her eyes in the mirror, and yet there was no stammering, and he was speaking in coherent sentences! Also he was acting friendly and accepting, usually women and gays came across as hostile, sullen or cowed. She wasn't used to this sort of reaction or interaction. She liked not having to deal with idiocy or hostility!

"Yes, let's go with the Hourly Rate please, and since we are going to be together for the afternoon, why don't you call me Syd? Let's start by heading for the Financial Building downtown, all right?"

"That sounds like a friendly offer, Syd. Please call me Frank, or Driver if you wish to, either is fine." Franklin smiled, as he keyed his mike and said "Dispatch, Enterprise here. Going Off Active on an hourly runabout until further notice. Franklin Out."

A bright female voice crackled back on the cheep speaker saying "Roger BuddaBoy, Off Active until further notice, good luck and Dispatch Out."

"So, Franklin, what was that about Enterprise, and BuddaBoy? I hope you don't mind me calling you Franklin since it wasn't one of the choices you offered me, but since that is what you call yourself, it is either that or 'Driver' I am afraid."

"Sure, Syd. Most people call me 'Frank' except for my folks, and yeah, I think of myself as 'Franklin'. It is a bit more intimate than I am used to from my passengers, but as you say, we will be together for the afternoon, anyway. Enterprise is because of the cab number, if you didn't notice it is 1701, same number as Captain Kirk's ship. As far as that 'BuddaBoy goes, I choose to think of it like a CB handle, that's what Dispatch and the other cabbies call me, at least on the Radio, anyway. To my face, they all call me Frank."

Syd thrilled at the easy, normal conversation she was having with Franklin. She could tell that he was attracted to her, but he wasn't acting like an idiot. It felt very familiar to her, because he was in fact talking with her like her Daddy or brother would, only better, because he wasn't calling her 'precious', or 'pet' or 'pest'. It was an intimate conversation, not because of using first names, but just because it was a normal adult conversation, as if her devastating beauty wasn't stunning him, or her stunning good looks weren't devastating him, or whatever.

She was so unsettled by the experience that she felt unsure herself, and felt that she might start stuttering and stammering herself, with this personable cab driver and his darkly handsome good looks. For the first time in her life, she was finding herself letting someone else lead the conversation, rather than being forced to initiate every verbal exchange which wasn't babbling or insulting or both. It felt like a huge weight was removed from her, a pressure that she hadn't even been aware was there until it was gone. She didn't want it ever to end, and have to go back to conversing with people who were either drooling idiots or hostile rivals.

"So, Syd, are you visiting our fair city, or are you a local girl?" asked Franklin, not assuming anything just because he had picked up this fare at the airport.

Responding with a liquid throaty chuckle which thrilled Franklin to his core, and threatened to tip his usually smooth-gliding canoe, Syd answered "Both. I grew up here, and moved to the Big Apple after I graduated from the State University. I am back now in regards to my Job, however. I will be in town for a week or so on assignment, and I will save my hotel stipend by staying at my folks place. I will also get to have a nice visit, as well."

Franklin pulled a business card case from his suit jacket- he was the only cabbie who wore a suit coat and tie, although he wore comfortably broken-in jeans and cowboy boots on his lower half, and his tie was a western bolo, a medallion of picture jasper in a silver frame, although sometimes he would dress up with a jade bolo held in gold filigree- And handed a card back to Syd as he told her

"You are welcome to call and ask for me for your further transportation needs during your stay here. Syd. Just give me a half hour notice before you want me, so I have time to clear any trips I may have engaged."

Syd was thrilled with his offer, mostly because he was able to make it without a leering expression or any innuendo dripping like slime from his voice. It felt like a straight-forward offer to be of service if she needed him, and not some subterfuge to spend time with her- er, like she was using to spend time with him! She blushed at her thoughts, and looked at the card he had presented. Franklin Dodger, MBA Accountant.

Franklin answered the unasked question in her look, "I was good with the numbers, but the job wasn't good for me. If I would have been able to be my own boss, perhaps I could have done all right, but I make more money wrangling this cab, when you add in the tips, and I enjoy it more, besides getting to meet lots of interesting folks. I get to live in my own mind, instead of using it to crunch numbers. That is very important to me, being able to think my own thoughts."

It made perfect sense to Syd, who while she could focus intensely on her job of forensic accounting and auditing, really appreciated the down time between assignments. Due to the nature of her job, she would tackle the assignment until it was sorted out, preferring to work weekends and nights when accounts were not active. Having funds moving as she was trying to trace and quantify them made things a bit more difficult, although at times it flushed out a red-handed embezzler.

She usually came in on a Friday afternoon, and froze all activity on the system until she had teased out every last thread and tittle, finding mis-keyed errors as well as deliberate fraud, hopefully finishing the audit before monday morning. Then came the analysis of the data, which could take up to a week depending on what she found. After she had done her magic was often a time of personnel adjustments in the companies she investigated.

It seemed that this cowboy cabbie, besides being a good conversationalist, would be able to converse and understand about her profession! Most people who could still think and talk in her presence, very soon got a glazed look as their brains shut down when she talked in any detail about her work. She felt a thrill of lust shoot through her, damping her panties at the thought of being able to talk about her day at work with someone.

She shook herself alert, and managed to stammer in reply to Franklin's well-spoken offer.

"Ye-es, I would like to utilize you as my personal driver, er..." she faltered.

Franklin chuckled, the deep pleasant sound sending additional frissions of pleasure careening through Syd's being.

Just then, they pulled up at the Financial Building, and Syd told Franklin that she would be back in half an hour or less. He nodded, grinned at her in an open and friendly manner, and picked his Stetson off of the seat beside him, tipping it down over his eyes as he slumped down in his seat, not to sleep, but to think, and hopefully keep passersby from disturbing him despite of the "off duty" light as plain as day on the roof.

Syd hesitated a moment, not really wanting to leave this man, then turned decisively and strode into the building to check in with the client, her heels making a rapid staccato against the pavement in the breezy sunshine.

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