PAJANG -- Day 3 (afternoon)
It is funny walking with Herlioni through the crowded starport. He is Zhodani and has the classic features: tall, fair and very high tone in his manner. As much as the Imperium fear and hate psions, they fear and hate Zhodani. As a race the Zhodani are psionically gifted and in their region of space it is not only acceptable to use one's talents, it is expected and even used by the authorities to ensure 'right thoughts'.
Which, I grant you, can be a double-edged sword.
Anyway, Herlioni strode through the crowds a full head taller than almost everyone else. He doesn't even flinch at the mumbled, and not so mumbled, insults. I had to jog to keep up with him.
He rented an air/raft and we flew to the top of a building on the towering edge of the port city. The building wasn't in use from the unkept appearance. We had the landing pad to ourselves.
Herlioni spent a few minutes smelling the air and meditating, I guess. I just watched him and the constant flow of starship traffic. The wind gusts at this altitude, snapping my hair into my face like tiny whips and tugging at my clothes. The same effect that was so uncomfortable for me made Herlioni appear powerful. His long blonde hair pulled evenly back from his face and with his arms stretched out from his sides the air rippled his silken shirt and trust his jacket out behind him like a cape.
The wind died down and Herlioni smiled at me. "This is the spot."
I glanced around. "What spot?"
"The underground is nearly impossible to find for the 'deaf' masses. You have to be psychic. If you can't sense them, you have no business seeking them out."
I made a face.
"Go on. Give it a try."
"So you aren't just going to take me there are you?"
"If you are meant to find them, you will succeed on your own."
"How very mystic of you. A Zhodani trait, I suppose."
"Just part of my charm."
So I closed my eyes and 'listened'. As a novice, I tend not to pick up anything unless it is a clear, close target. While I have heard that telepaths are bothered by background 'noise' from all the thoughts, I don't hear them. Never have. At most I get a sense of being crowded. Like the air is thick.
After what seemed like forever I finally said, "I'm not getting anything."
Herlioni sighed, "You haven't learned much have you?"
He place his palm against the back of my head and instantly I felt as if I had opened my eyes and ears for the first time. My whole face felt strange like my sinuses had opened after having suffered a cold so long I forgot what it felt like to breathe through my nose.
I could see and hear the psionic underground beneath me, in the basement levels of the very building where we stood. There must have been two hundred of them.
"Oh," I said, stupidly.
He let go and the new sensations left me. "Come on. You are not ready to be here."
"That's why I am trying to find an institute. So I can learn."
"I'll teach you for now. Jack, too, if he wants."
Herlioni was disappointed in my lack of skill, I could tell. Still, that is not my fault. We returned to the RIM RUNNER. He said we'd start with the basics tomorrow.