“Get out, please!” The voice was quiet, not at all menacing. He helped her climb out of the car, then took her by the elbow and guided her to a door in the back of the carport. He unlocked it, motioned her into a passage and locked the door behind them. “This way—”
She sensed a psi-block around them which might enclose the entire building. The appearance of the passage suggested it was a private residence. Probably the home of her kidnapper.
The blurred face said from behind her, “You did intend to jump from your car back there, didn’t you?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Aerial littering!” He sounded amused. “If you’d alerted the dropcatch system and been picked up by a sprintcar or barrier, you’d have found yourself in rather serious trouble! Rehabilitation’s almost the automatic sentence for a city jumper.”
Telzey said impatiently, “I could have got out of that. But I’d have been kept under investigation for three or four days, with no way to get to you, whatever I tried. I don’t think you could have held on to me for three or four days.”
“Not even for one!” he agreed. “It was a good move—but it didn’t work.”
“Am I going to be told why I’m here?”
“You’ll be told very quickly,” he assured her, stopping to open another door. The room beyond was sizable and windowless, gymnastic equipment set up in it. The man followed Telzey inside. “We haven’t been acquainted long,” he remarked, “but I’ve already discovered it’s best not to take chances with you! Let’s get you physically immobilized before we start talking.”
A few minutes later, she stood between two uprights near the center of the room. There were cuffs on her wrists again, but now her arms were stretched straight out to either side, held by straps attached to the cuffs and fastened at the other end to the uprights. It was a strained position which might soon become painful.
“This is a psi-blocked house, as you probably know,” his voice said from behind her. “And it’s mine. We won’t be disturbed here.”
Telzey nodded. “All right. We won’t be disturbed. So now, who are you and what do you want?”
“I haven’t decided yet to tell you who I am. You see, I need the help of another psi. A telepath.”
“I’m to help you with what?”
“That’s something else I may tell you later. I’ll have to make sure first that I can use you. Not every telepath would do, by any means.”
“You think I might?” Telzey said.
“If I weren’t almost sure of it, I wouldn’t have hung on to you,” he told her dryly. “You gave me a rather bad time, you know! If I’d realized how much trouble you were going to be, I doubt I’d have tackled you in the first place. But that’s precisely why you should turn out to be the kind of dependable assistant I want. However, I can’t say definitely until you let me take over all the way.”
“Would you do that, in my place?” Telzey asked.
“Yes—if I were aware of the alternatives.”
She kept her voice even. “What are they?”
“Why, there’re several possibilities. Drugs, for example. But I suspect they’d have to depress your psi function to the point where I couldn’t operate on it. So we’ll pass up drugs. Then I might be able to break your remaining blocks by sheer force—after all, I did manage to clamp a solid starting hold on you. But force could do you serious mental harm, and since you’d be of no use to me then, I’d try it only as a last resort. There’s a simple approach I can follow which should be effective enough. See if you can use your pain shutoffs.”
Telzey said after a moment, “I . . . well, I seem to have forgotten how to do it.”
“I know,” his voice said. “I was able to block that from your awareness before you noticed what was happening. So you don’t have that defense at present—and now I’ll let you feel pain.”
There was a sudden intolerable cramping sensation in her left arm. She jerked violently. The feeling faded again.
“That was a low-intensity touch,” he said. “I suppose you’ve heard of such devices. As long as their use is confined to arms and legs, they can’t kill or do significant damage, but the effect can be excruciating. I know somebody I could bring to the house in a few minutes who’d be eager to help me out in this because he likes to hurt people. If you were being jolted constantly as I jolted you just now, I doubt you could spare enough concentration to hold up your blocks against me. Because there’d be nothing to distract me, you see! I could give full attention to catching any momentary weakening of your defenses, and I’d say it would be at most an hour then before I had complete control. But meanwhile you would have had an acutely uncomfortable experience for no purpose at all. Don’t you agree?”
Unfortunately, she did. She said, “Let me think about it.”
“Fair enough,” he told her. “I happen to be in something of a hurry, but I’d much sooner settle this without any unpleasantness.”
“How long would it take to help you in whatever it is you want to do?” Telzey asked.
“Perhaps four or five days. A week at most.”
“You’ll let me go when it’s finished?”
“Of course,” he said reassuringly. “I’d have no reason to keep you under control any longer.”
That might be a lie. But a good deal could happen in four or five days, and if he were to make use of her as a psi, he’d have to leave her some freedom of action. “All right,” she said. “I’ll give up the blocks.”
* * *
“How do you feel?” his voice asked presently.
“My arms are beginning to hurt.” He hadn’t released her from the uprights and he was still somewhere in the room behind her where she couldn’t see him.
“I didn’t mean that,” he told her. “You’re aware of the changes in you?”
Telzey sighed. “Oh, yes. I know how I felt before you started.”
She reflected. “Well . . . I’ll do anything you tell me to do, of course, or try to. If you haven’t given me specific instructions, I’ll do whatever is to your advantage. That’s more important now than anything else.”
“More important than your life?”
“Yes,” she said. “I know it’s not at all sensible, but it is more important than my life.”
“Not a bad start!” There was satisfaction in his voice. “You’re aware of the manner in which you’re controlled?”
She shook her head. “If I were, I might know how to break the controls. That wouldn’t be to your advantage. So I can’t be aware of it.”
“How do you feel about the situation?”
Telzey considered again. “I don’t seem to have much feeling about it. It’s the situation, that’s all.”
“And that’s also as it should be,” his voice said. “I noticed you have connections with the Psychology Service, but if you keep your shield tight—as you will—that won’t be a problem. So aside from a few additional modifications, which I’ll take care of presently, we’ll consider the job done. Let’s get you out of those cuffs.”
She was freed a moment later and turned to look at him, rubbing her, arms. He was smiling down at her, face no longer a blur. It was an intelligent and rather handsome face but not one to which she’d feel drawn under ordinary circumstances. Of course, that didn’t matter now.
“I make it a rule,” he remarked, “to use psi only when necessary. It lessens the chance of attracting undesirable attention. We’ll observe that rule between us. For example, we don’t talk on the thought level when verbal communication is possible. Understood?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Fine. Let’s have some refreshments, and I’ll explain why I want your help. My name is Alicar Troneff, by the way.”
“Should you be telling me your name?” Telzey asked. “That is, if it’s your real one.”
He smiled. “It’s my real name. Why not? Federation law doesn’t recognize human psi ability, so this is hardly a matter on which you could take me to court. And the Psychology Service makes it a rule to let independent psis settle their own differences. Your friends there might interfere if they knew what was happening, but they’ll take no steps later on.”
“I might tell them Alicar Troneff is a psi, though,” Telzey remarked.
He grimaced. “Unfortunately, they already have me on record as one! It’s made some of my operations more difficult, but I have ways of getting around that obstacle.”
Over plates of small cakes and a light tart drink in a room overlooking the garden, Alicar came up at last with some limited information. “You know what serine crystals are?” he inquired.