A bleak smile touched his face.
“This should in fact improve our future position,” he remarked. “The discovery that Toru’s and Ormota’s bodies showed no outward sign of injury after the Stone had taken their hearts has made many new believers in the supernatural tonight.” He turned away, concluding, “Remember what I’ve told you!” and walked off.
They looked after him. Unaware that he was doing it, Hatzel reached into a pocket and switched his mind shield back on. It would stay on now.
Trigger said thoughtfully, “No way those telepaths can find out you had him point the Stone’s wand or whatever it was at himself?”
“No,” Telzey said. “I released my controls on him just a moment ago. Sams is naturally suspicious, but if he looks over Hatzel’s mind, it will seem everything happened exactly as Hatzel thinks it did.”
The Glory Day games began. The Grand Arena’s spectator sections were astir with rumors, curiosity, and interest. Word had spread of great and strange events in the House of Wirolla the night before—the Regent Toru and the Servant of the Stone had been revealed as traitors and slain by the Stone itself, and the long-absent Askab Perial Casmard again ruled Tamandun, supported unanimously by the nobility. The general expectation was that there would be omens and signs to make this year’s Glory Day one to be long remembered.
Five sat in what previously had been the Regent’s box—the Askab Casmard, Lord Vallain, Telzey, Trigger, and Hatzel, Lord of the Games. Casmard and Vallain were in an undisturbed state of mind. They were undisturbed because they knew that the occurrence in the House of Wirolla, horrifying—though very fortunate—as it had appeared at the time had been the work of a friendly psi. They knew it because the friendly psi had told each of them so mentally; and they’d compared notes. They didn’t know who the psi was and had been instructed not to try to find out. They wouldn’t. Casmard intended to announce his abdication in favor of Lord Vallain at the end of the day’s games—
Sams Larking and his group were aware that Telzey was controlling Casmard and Vallain, but there was no reason for them to object. The two had needed support and guidance in a critical situation, and she was supporting and guiding them in a way which avoided problems for Sams. Hatzel, when he appeared in the arena box, had murmured to Telzey and Trigger, “Larking tells me you’re cooperating nicely. That’s fine! Let’s be sure it stays that way.” He’d smiled gently at them. He had no doubt it would stay that way. He’d demonstrated his potential for instant deadliness, if there’d been any question about it. And one of Sams’s telepaths was remaining in good enough contact with Casmard and Vallain to catch any suspicious maneuvers Telzey might attempt through them. If she attempted any, Hatzel would be informed at once and was to take whatever steps seemed required. The group was playing for keeps and had made the fact clear.
There was another mind on which Telzey was keeping tabs—that of the yacht navigator. Kewen had been released from the arena pens to which he’d been transferred; and it occurred to Casmard then that a fine seat at the Glory Day games should compensate the poor fellow in part for his unnerving experiences. He wasn’t far from the Askab’s box. One of the telepaths had checked him and found Kewen had been in a state of shock and was coming gradually out of it, held under calming control by Telzey.
As far as the psi group was concerned, that took care of Telzey. She’d been neutralized. She mightn’t like what they were doing, but it didn’t matter. They each had their work to handle now, playing out rehearsed roles in the ascending series of thrills and marvels which would wind up with Sams Larking being roared into office as the new Askab by the people of Tamandun.
* * *
The opening events of the games were brisk and colorful enough, but still tame stuff by Tamandun’s standards—mere preludes to what the day should bring. The crowds watched in tolerant appreciation for the most part, details of the action being shown in enlarging screens above each arena section.
Then what seemed to be happening in the arena was no longer what was shown to be happening in the screens. Dovari’s illusions were putting in an appearance. The spectators realized it gradually, grew still, fascinated—the Stone of Wirolla was manifesting in ways it hadn’t manifested before! The illusions weren’t disturbing in themselves. But uncanniness was touching that area of Tamandun.
Dovari was an excellent illusionist, Telzey thought. And now it seemed to be time. She gave Trigger the signal they’d agreed on. Trigger smiled in response, slipped a knockout pill into her mouth, swallowed it.
Ten seconds later, a shock of fright jolted through Kewen’s drowsy complacence. And Kewen responded. Telzey erased her shielding screens in that instant, brought all personal psi activity to an abrupt stop.
Hatzel, sitting behind Casmard, jerked violently, and disappeared. Trigger slumped limply back in her seat, eyes closed. The illusions in the arena whirled in a wild, chaotically ugly turmoil.
Shock waves of alarm could almost be sensed rising from the spectator sections. Perial Casmard calmly switched on the amplifying system before him. His calm voice spoke throughout the Grand Arena, telling his subjects that what they were witnessing wasn’t merely another manifestation but one which, by its very violence, must be regarded as an augury of an approaching great period in Tamandun’s history . . .
It was a rehearsed speech, but Casmard didn’t know it. And it was effective. There was no general panic.
“There’s one type of psi,” Telzey had told Trigger some hours before, “no other psi wants to run into. They call him the howler. A howler has just one talent—he can kick up such a hurricane of psi static that the abilities of any other psis in his range fly out of control and start working every which way. That’s pretty horrible for those psis, especially for the ones with plenty of equipment. The more they can do, the more’s gone suddenly wrong—and the harder they try to hang on to control, the worse the matter gets!”
“You and I got hit by a howler when Casmard’s yacht was attacked. It was our navigator. Kewen didn’t know he was doing it; he doesn’t know he’s a psi. But when he gets frightened, he howls. It’s an unconscious defensive reaction with him. He was frightened then—and your shield began to batter itself with psi energy instead of repelling it. You felt as if your head were being pounded with clubs. I can’t really say how I felt! I went crazy instantly in several different ways. Fortunately, it was just a few seconds before the stun beam they used knocked us and Kewen out—”
This time, Kewen was going to stay frightened for something like three minutes. That, Telzey thought, certainly should be enough. Then his fears would shut off automatically. She’d arranged for that.
Trigger would be unconscious meanwhile, oblivious to the fact that her shield was drawing torrents of hammering energy on itself. While Telzey, awake and unshielded, would have divorced herself from anything remotely resembling an ability to handle psi until the howler had gone out of action again.
Some four hours after the official conclusion of Glory Day in Tamandun, Telzey and Trigger were sitting in a lounge of an Orado-bound liner. Sams Larking walked in, glanced around and came over to their table.
“Why, hello, Sams!” Telzey said. “We didn’t know you were aboard.”
“I know you didn’t,” Sams said. His eyes seemed slightly glazed. He sat down, ordered a drink through the table speaker, sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“To tell you the truth, I’m not in the best of condition,” he said. “But I didn’t feel I needed to be hospitalized. I came on just before takeoff, rather expecting to find you around somewhere.”
“How are the rest of them doing?” Telzey asked. It had taken a while to locate the members of Sams’s group individually and get them under sedation; but they’d all been rounded up at last and transferred to the Federation’s base hospital on Askanam.
Sams shrugged. “They’re not well people, but they’ll recover. They’re shipping out on a hospital boat tomorrow. None of them felt like hanging around Askanam any longer than they had to.” He shook his head. “So you ran in a psi howler on us!”
Telzey lifted her eyebrows. “I did?”
“Since you two are in fine shape, yes. There aren’t that many howlers around. It wasn’t a coincidence that brought one to the Grand Arena, and set him off just as we were going into action. How long did he go on blasting?”
“Three minutes, more or less.”
“It seemed a lifetime,” Sams said darkly. “A hideous, insane lifetime!” His drink came; he emptied it, reordered. “Ah, now!” he said. “That’s a little better. It was rougher on the special talents, you know. Dovari was still running waking nightmares when I left—and those are pretty badly singed pyrotics!”