Detective Robin kept thinking and dreaming about the new world he had just come into contact with - the world of telepathy. People who can read other people’s minds and constitute a web of thoughts that could cross space invisibly. He thought that a few centuries back Internet must have seemed the same kind of miracle. But now, these people had no need of emails, no need of computers, no need of words. Just thinking. What is a thought? Something physical? Here, another thing he had never wondered about: what is a thought? No, but the most intriguing aspect was the idea of a world where communication among people would happen without the use of language- what kind of world would that be? A silent world? Would that be possible, would it ever work? Detective Robin was thoroughly confused, but also somewhat exhilarated, by the unexpected questioning in his mind. A telepathic web, maybe a gigantic espionage web? No, not with people like Mrs. Curby. Then, what else could it be for?
-What did she say? – Detective Robin was still mulling over her words - No name, she didn’t want to give me any names…
He should now go home and start work. No! Not his style. He needed ac-ion. And all of a sudden he realised. Or course Mrs Curby had given him a name and an address. Apparently in another context, but knowing her, well, there must have been a reason why she mentioned this priest, what did she say, the abbot of a chapel…
He looked on Internet and found the chapel, it was in a suburban area, actually a district you wouldn’t set foot in if you didn’t want to be mugged… Why did she mention this name? He decided to go and see.
The taxi-drone driver left him by the entrance of the big underground station. From there a series of little streets meandered into the dark core of the city. He looked at his Internet map and chose the little road on the left. Almost no pedestrians about. Detective Robin nearly missed the Notre Dame Chapel, it was so small and hidden away. He pushed an old, wooden gate and entered a small alleyway with some trees. It was a long time since he’d seen a tree in the city, he thought to himself in surprise. At the end of the alley was a door. It was closed. He knocked.
After a short while, there was the sound of light steps and the door opened. Detective Robin found himself looking at a young girl, perhaps ten or eleven years old, with two big inquiring eyes and a very serious, in-tense expression. She didn’t smile but, without a word, let him come in. Then he noticed how thin she was, and how slowly she moved, step by step. It was dark inside. The young girl promptly disappeared, leaving him in a small dark room, with two dimly visible chairs, and no other doors; he felt trapped and his hand moved as if by reflex towards the gun in his internal pocket. No sound.
-Oh, Detective Robin? – a voice seemed to come from nowhere- Yes, Mrs Curby told me that you would probably pay us a visit…
-A telepathic message from her, Mr Abbott?
Now, a short and rotund man appeared all of a sudden. He had a friendly face and shook hands with the detective.
-Yes, of course, Mr. Robin. Let me tell you that we do not like receiving visitors here. Particularly from the G-CIA, and particularly those who are inquiring about our web.
-So, you have a web, then?
-Of course, Detective Robin. You know that by now. But follow me, please.
-I will take you to the class of our best pupils –he said- you can see what they are doing, and then talk to them …
The small, rotund abbot clicked a button on his wrist, and a door opened on the wall, silently. They went through the door and down a long white corridor where everything was modern and shining.
-A secret central unit? - asked Detective Robin.
-No, it is more of a school, you see. Look at our students!
They could see the students behind a glass wall, there were about ten of them, all very young, sitting on school benches just like high school students, in a big circle. In front of each of them sat a large screen on which fuzzy figures or words appeared and disappeared.
-Each of them – explained Mr Kleinkopf – is in telepathic contact with a partner, somewhere in the world. The screen reports to them whether and to what extent the partner has received their telepathic messages. This is an exercise that is really for beginners.
-I do not see any clear messages…- said Detective Robin – on any of the screens, at least it seems to me…
-Detective Robin- said the rotund abbot looking at him rather impatiently - I know that you are new to the field. Telepathy is not email, you do not send a telepathic letter, although you can. Generally telepathy is more than that…you send your feelings, an entire sensation, an entire dream you had in the night, a résumé of an entire book… I am sure that you have occasionally experienced the memory of a love affair passing in a few seconds - a kind of rapid thought-film…You can send all this in a second or less…. do you see the point, Mr. Robin?
-I guess so… But not really, I have to get used to this way of thinking. And tell me: these young people are going to be trained for… what? What is the aim?
-You will understand that soon. But now I have to go. You look at what they are doing on the screens. In a few minutes, they will finish and you can go and talk to them if you like.
Detective Robin remained alone in the little room. All of a sudden, his attention was grabbed by a few words on a screen, something like “a good tailor does little cutting…”.
Detective Robin was now sitting in front of the young boy who had written that sentence. An adolescent or just beyond, very tall and thin, two big ears, two shining eyes and freckles all over his face. He had an air of arrogance.
- James, how and when did you notice you had this power?
- Telepathy, you mean? I’ve known since I was very small, perhaps five or six. I could read my mother’s thoughts, and we began communicating in this way.
-She also had this aptitude?
-Oh, yes! But I know, from reading her mind - excuse me, sir - that you have met her.
-You do not mean Mrs Curby, do you?
-That is indeed my mother, Detective Robin.
-And hence the Dao De Jing sentence about the tailor who does little cutting?
-So, is this power genetic? Does it come from your mother?
-We do not know the answer to that question, sir. We have a science unit working on that.
-So, this Telepathy web has independent working units?
-But you already know about the web, don’t you?
- And since you can read my mind, you also know why I want to know.
-No, sir, I cannot read your mind. I can only read the minds of people who are in empathetic contact with me. Look at the screen and I’ll show you, Mr Policeman.
On the screen, in rapid succession, appeared the faces of a dozen teenage girls, about the same age as James.
- Look, I am in telepathic contact with all of them - but I have many more people in my file. They are my friends. Everyday we exchange all possible thoughts. And two or three of those girls, you understand, are very par-ticular friends of mine.
- When you talk to one of your girlfriends, can another one interfere and see your exchange?
-We have devised some defences for privacy, sir, but I cannot be specific about that, it would be too difficult for you to understand.
-So, the aim of your web is … what?
-Our aim is to exchange thoughts. You as a policeman might not know much history, but you may have read that a couple of centuries ago people exchanged emails, making big families of friends. Do you remember hearing about something called “Face-book”?
-I remember something of the sort, yes…
-Well, we do the same with telepathy. In the twenty-first century this association was full of stupid young people, who also used it to insult each other. We do it only among good people and since we read the mind, we know who has good intentions and who doesn’t. The aim is to extend our web as much as possible, you understand, Mr Policeman, a wide network of good people communicating by exchanging thoughts, all over the world.
-I don’t like you calling me “Mr Policeman”, it sounds somewhat insulting, James.
-Maybe it was meant to be a little insulting… - said the youngster, then he got up and left the room.
Detective Robin answered with a quiet:
-Go to hell!
The door opened again and the kind smiling face of Abbot Kleinkopf appeared in the dim light.
-Seen something interesting, detective?
-Yes, I’d say so. But tell me again: so, you cannot read my mind? Or any-body’s mind?
-I told you, sir, we can only read the minds of people we are in agreed telepathic contact with. It is too difficult to read the minds of people who do not want to, or who are untrained. Occasionally, we can read a glimpse of thought. For example, Detective Robin, in your mind I saw the thought crossing that you yourself would like to be in our network.
-It was just a crazy, spontaneous thought.
-I can reassure you, Detective Robin: you have zero capability of telepathy. And do you know why? – the smiling face looked at him and went on – You see, the point is to be able to receive telepathic signals. Now, your mind is always busy making theories and conjectures, the receptor is never empty and quiet enough to accept signals. Like a radio that cannot receive a signal because it is overcrowded. Understand?
-Yes, I guess so. And at a conference, I heard someone saying that our ancestors, millions of years ago, before language was born, probably ex-changed thoughts telepathically… an ability that has been lost as the intelligent brain always looks for rational solutions.
-Yes, it is a nice theory. But we have no proof of it.
-Actually, to tell the truth, - said Detective Robin after a short silence - I do not know if I like this telepathy of yours. Doesn’t reading other peo-ple’s minds violate intimacy, the most central privacy of home?
-This is one of the big bio-ethical problems we have, Detective Robin. We have a special unit working on this.
-So, you have several units working and all in the greatest secrecy, right?
-Right, Detective Robin. And do you know why. If all this were public, your G-CIA people would jump on us, and teaching places like this would be closed within days… Don’t you think?
- I do, Mr Abbot.
- So…- now the abbot looked down at the floor and his voice became less firm - so, when you write your report to the boss, that Mr Hughes of yours I mean…I hope you will not mention all this… the school, the working units.
-You ask me, a government man, to write a truncated report, is that right, Mr Abbot?
-Yes sir. We know…that you can write very good short reports… it could be a very short one. And, do you know why? A good tailor does little cutting.
Read also the Part One