TED blinked. Dodging in and out of cars and taxis was one thing, but you didn't argue with a hundred ton truck. A second later he was standing on the kerb as the huge container lorry swished by.
'Hey, that's a neat trick!'
'What's that, sonny?'
The young lad eyed Ted with admiration. 'You know. That leap you just made, right from the middle of the road! I've never seen anything so fast. How did you do that?'
'Want to learn?'
'Well, you hunch your shoulders like so. That's it. Now count to three. One, two, three! No, you've got to blink when you say "three". Like this.' Ted blinked and the next moment was gone, leaving the young boy speechless.
Later, as he sipped his second beer, Ted regretted his rash behaviour. It was foolhardy in the extreme to show off like that, especially now that bounty hunting had become a national pastime. Forget the 'concerned citizens' rubbish. It was the reward, quadrupled only last month to a massive, mouth-watering 10,000 Euros. The government must be awfully 'concerned' to round us up.
'"Us"? Who are you kidding? I'd claim the reward myself!'
Ted hadn't noticed Bianca sidle up to the bar. 'I told you never to do that!' Ted glared at the pretty young woman. Your thoughts weren't safe any more with telepaths on the loose. 'Just keep your nosy mind out of my head! It's unhygenic!'
'I resent that. My thoughts are cleaner than clean.'
'So you say.'
'That's right. You'll never know, will you? I bet that makes you really mad. Well, just remember, I'm a friend, and you need all your friends.'
'I'm doing all right.'
'You're forgetting I know all about that stunt you just pulled. That kind of carelessness can cost lives and not just your own.'
'Look, I don't usually go space hopping in the middle of a busy shopping street.'
'And you won't ever do it again, if you know what's good for you. Did you know they picked up three autotelekinetics last night?'
'I just caught it on the Breakfast News. Something about an attempted planet hop to the colony on Venus. I didn't think that was possible. What if they'd materialised in empty space by mistake?'
'They had a telepath with them, and there was another telepath in the British Venusian Sector to guide them in. She was picked up too.'
'That's really tragic. But what a brilliant idea! I mean, it would have been, if only they'd succeeded.'
'That's right, "if only". The four of them were found on the top of Primrose Hill in North London, holding hands in a hypnotic trance. Apparently they'd been standing there all night. It seems that they just couldn't build up enough psychic power. I'm telling you, Ted, the only way to survive this "mutant aliens" hysteria is to keep our heads low. At some point, reason has got to prevail. They can't go on forever with their senseless persecution.'
'Don't count on it!'
Ted put his arm around Bianca's shoulder in a clumsy gesture of reassurance. He did not resist when her thoughts oozed into his mind like warm honey. Closing his eyes, he formed a picture of an empty glass and a question mark. In a trice, chunks of ice and a twist of lemon appeared, then a large green bottle and a small white one, which proceeded to fill the glass to the brim.
'A large gin and tonic for my friend please, barman!'
Outside the Gypsy Rose, two men sat in semi-darkness in a battered Volkswagen hover bus that served as an undercover observation van. Two bright luminescent spots briefly joined together on the dull green oscilloscope screen, then parted again.
'Do you think the subjects up to something, Sarge?'
Sgt Bruce Cutter of the South Yorkshire Constabulary peered into the shifting pattern of lights that twinkled like showers of confetti. 'It's hard to tell with this lousy equipment.' He peered again. The two spots seemed to pulsate slightly, but showed no other sign of para-psychic activity. 'No, I don't think so.'
'Are you sure?'
Cutter glanced round at his young colleague, who seemed to be breathing heavily. 'There's no point in getting yourself all lathered up, Dawkins. We've got plenty of time. Remember, as they told us in the briefing, they're sitting ducks. Here, you can finish my Cola if you like!'
A blonde girl in a leather jacket and jeans put a coin in the juke box, then joined the couple sitting at the bar.
'Mind if I sit next to your boy-friend?'
'Hi, Lil! Ted, meet my latest flat-mate.'
'Pleased to meet you, Ted.'
'Did you just punch "Stairway to Heaven"?'
'Great to meet a Led Zeppelin fan!'
'There's not many of us left, you know.'
'Ted and I are drinking buddies. Ted's a space hopper, by the way.'
'Like me! Oh bad luck!'
'Yeah, Isn't that the pits? Do you know, I once thought it was pretty cool to be able to spirit yourself away to the destination of your choice without having to move a muscle.'
'You sad freak.'
'What'll it be, then?'
'Make mine a diet Scotch. Thanks! Sorry, I didn't mean to cause offence.'
'I'm not offended. So what happened to your other flat mates then, Bianca?'
'Need you ask?'
'You mean they objected to having their thoughts read?'
'No, you dope. They never knew, that's just the point. It makes you so sick to learn day after day just how two-faced Normals can be! Hey, look, Lil, isn't that your friend Malcolm over there? This is turning into a space hopper's convention!'
'Sarge! There's four of them now!'
'I can read the screen just as well as you can, Dawkins. In fact, better. From the frequency of the pulses, I would say there's definitely one telepath and let me see, now yes, three auto telly whatsits.'
'Just like Primrose Hill! We've got to make our move!'
'I don't think they would dare to try a psychic link up. Not in the middle of a crowded pub. I'd say it was just a coincidence.'
'Can you be sure of that, though?'
The older man sat motionless for several seconds. Reflected in his unblinking eyes were four pulsating dots of light. 'Call control. Tell them we've got a code four three. We'll need marksmen with night sights and helicopter gun-ship support. And tell them to hurry!'
'How long do you think we'll have to wait?'
'Who said anything about waiting? We're going in!'
Ted lay on the grass clutching at the gun-shot wound in his arm. Bianca, Lil and Malcolm were just coming round. They were still holding hands. Bianca opened her eyes first, then shut them again. The sunlight was dazzling. 'Where on Earth are we?'
'Not on Earth, that's for sure judging by the twin suns.'
'We did it, Ted!'
'Yes, but don't ask me where we are, or how we got here.'
Just at that moment, a group of indistinct figures appeared, translucent at first, then rapidly gaining solidity and form. They were wearing coloured tunics. One had pointed ears.
'I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Ted. Welcome to Heaven!'
The giant out door auditorium was filled to capacity. Overhead, robot drinks and ice cream vendors darted about amongst the hovering TV cameras. On the podium a man in a blue tunic had just started to speak. Distorted images of his friendly features loomed on scores of giant video screens.
'...Some of you might remember me from the old television series, Star Trek. For the benefit of those who haven't seen any of the episodes, my name is Captain Kirk. And yes, I am a real Star Ship Captain. The series is substantially based on true events, though of course we had to simplify things to fit each story into a fifty minute slot. Followers of the series will be glad to hear that all your favourite characters are here. You might even get the chance to meet some of them. You will all have met Mr Spock of course...'
Captain Kirk's words were almost drowned in wild cheering. He paused to salute his Science Officer, who was seated behind the podium. Spock stood up briefly to take a stiff bow.
'...Like the rest of us here today, Spock has para-psychic powers. In his case it is the relatively rare but extremely useful gift of bilocation, the ability to appear in several different places at one and the same time. Some of the Catholic Saints were able to bilocate, I believe.
'Well that is by the way. The main question that seems to be on everyone's lips is, 'Where is Heaven?' That's a little difficult to explain. But if you give me a few minutes, I'll do my best to fill you in. Mr Spock has written a useful little book for those of you who've done a bit of maths and physics, complete with equations and flow diagrams, but I shall just try to keep things simple.'
Kirk paused for a few moments to collect his thoughts. The famous smile beamed down from scores of video screens. One thing you knew for sure. The maths and physics weren't above his head.
'What is Heaven? It isn't a place you go to when you die. You're all pretty much in the same physical state you were in when you left the other universe, or the "Mother World", as we call it. Yes, that's right. Heaven is in a different universe, it's not somewhere up in the sky!
'The only way back to Earth is the way you came. But I have to warn you, without massive telepathic power to guide you from the other end, the chances of hitting the target are, well, pretty slim. You can forget travel by Star Ship. There simply is no space connecting Heaven with the Mother World. Sorry! But, hey! Why should you want to go back? They don't want us there. And you'll each have a wonderful opportunity here to make a great life for yourselves!
'Some of you might be asking how I know that Heaven is in a different space. Frankly, that's a difficult one. This is something most of you non-physicists will have to take on trust, but calculations based on astronomical observation show our universe to be between one hundredth and one thousandth the size of the Mother World. That's still pretty big! Our twin suns belong to a galaxy containing millions of stars, and there are many, many more galaxies. Of course, it is still possible that Heaven and Earth are just very very far apart in one and the same space. But all things considered, the theory of two spaces seems a better explanation.
'There is other evidence. The laws of physics do seem to be slightly different here in Heaven, sufficient to have allowed para-psychic powers to have evolved, though there's some argument amongst the scientists about that. It seems that around a hundred million years ago there was a cataclysmic explosion, and a fragment broke away from the original universe, forming a space of its own. Life evolved on our particular planet pretty much as it did on Earth. Then around two thousand years ago, a group of "Heaven-lings" accidentally made a telekinetic leap back to Earth, at least we think it was an accident, no-one knows for sure. You are the descendants of those intrepid travellers. The genes for your psychic powers have lain largely dormant over the generations...'
Bianca was munching a choc ice. 'I wish they'd get on with the concert. This is boring! How's your arm, by the way, Ted?'
'Fine. Spock sprayed something on it and the bullet sort of popped out. Do you believe that stuff about two spaces?'
'Nah! They're just covering up for the fact that they don't know where on Earth we are. I just hope they don't start preaching sisterly and brotherly love and handing out harps. What about you, Lil?'
Bianca turned to speak to her friend, but Lil was gone. Far up ahead a blonde girl in a leather jacket was just visible amongst the crowds gathering at the foot of the podium.
'Electrons' © Ruth Klempner 1999
'Space Hopper' © Geoffrey Klempner 1995