This morning I got up knowing it was about time I filled in the questionnaire I got sent by a cover designer I approached about a new cover for Shadow’s Talent. Three Beethoven Piano Sonatas, one Dream Theatre album and a hastily scoffed lunch later and I was just about done explaining the book and its concepts.
Trying to explain the Talent mind power as concisely as I could got me thinking about how a couple of years ago I wrote myself a guide to it, just to get things straight into my head before I started what later became The Talent Show series. One reader commented that Talent has ‘Levels’ and the differences between them is a little vague in the narrative. Fair point. I could put it bit more background in, perhaps. For now though, here’s a guide outside of the novels themselves.
In Shadow’s Talent there is frequent reference to ‘A Guide to the Uses of Talent’ by Sammy McCaffrey – an infamous Talent Master and a fabled ‘Level Five.’ In an early draft I wrote excerpts from this book and inserted them in between chapters. I scrapped this idea, but I kept my own notes and formulated them into a guide for my own usage.
Here it is, for anyone who’s read/reading the book, or for anyone curious. There are no spoilers contained in this (hence I’ve left out the section on ‘Forbidden Practices’ and punishments for those who do them), although the knowledge contained here could make for a few interesting reader guesses as to where I might take the series.
Of course if any of this totally confuses you or I’ve just plain screwed up explaining it, let me know. Nobody besides me’s read this yet.
A Guide to Talent
Basic Talent (Levels 1 and 2)
Talent, also sometimes known as ‘The Talent’ in historical texts, is the ability of a human mind to access another human mind. Someone able to do this is known as ‘Talented’ and inherits the ability from birth.
The stages of engaging someone in a Talent field are: Detection, Initiation, Acceptance.
The physical distance between two recipients at which it is possible to engage and maintain a Talent connection, through what is known as the ‘Talent Field’, begins at around 100-200 metres (for a Talented child first manifesting their ability, at around 4-5 years of age) and at Levels 1 and 2 can be developed and trained to reach an average of 5 miles. The greater the distance, the more practice it takes to locate recipients and engage the connection naturally.
On a basic level, the two people involved can hold a telepathic conversation (Level One). More than two people can take part in a conversation if connected to a Talent field, although for three or more people, the field that connects the recipients becomes harder to maintain, and therefore requires a more advanced user to tolerate and control it (Level Two).
NB: Someone who does not possess Talent can engage in a conversation at Levels One to Two, as long as they are shown the basics of engaging a field and controlling their ‘voice.’ What an unTalented person cannot do is engage a field and conversation themselves – they have to be ‘invited in’ by someone Talented.
A Talented person has what is regarded as an internal ‘third eye,’ which gives them to ability to see what the person they connect to with Talent is seeing. People new to Talent usually need to close their normal seeing eyes in order to view with the third one – a Talented child usually takes until around ages 10-12 on average to fully develop the ability to ‘see with three eyes at once.’
A competent Talent user at Level Two can block their recipient’s third eye connection if they want to keep their location and activity secret. An unTalented person can also learn how to block someone inexperienced once they realise a field has been engaged (and this is frequently taught to unTalented citizens for the sake of them feeling safe around people who can use the power).
With practice at Level 2, a Talented person can learn to engage a field with someone unTalented while keeping their presence undetected, IE the Initiation is slight enough that there is little or no sense (for the recipient) of anyone being inside their mind, and the Acceptance stage can be made to happen without them actually ‘accepting’ – a trick of the mind. This has lead to Talent being used as a surveillance method by those who possess it, and is one of the reasons Earth’s unTalented population have come to find it hard to trust the Talented.
The code of practice among the Talented is to respect privacy and not use undetectable presence on the unTalented. Many users, however, take the attitude that it can be useful to do this, and in some cases fun, without causing any harm or being a voyeur. In families where Talent is openly practiced, undetectable presence is often an a fun accompaniment to practical jokes, although a responsible parent will teach their children boundaries and encourage them to keep to the codes of practice in most situations.
It should always be taught that the misuse of Talent, particularly with an unTalented recipient who cannot protect themselves, can lead to serious harm for those involved in any ‘mind accident’ where fields become unstable. In severe cases it can lead to brain damage and other forms of mental trauma. Therefore someone at Levels 1-2 should always know the limits of how far to push a Talent field and avoid experimenting on unwilling or uneducated recipients.
Intermediate Talent Skills (Level Three)
A Level Three Talent user has developed their field not only to allow greater physical distances between recipients (around 8 miles on average) but also to be able to tune in to a recipient’s mind on a level that goes deeper than just a conversational presence, or a view inside their third eye.
Because the human brain is the control centre for the body’s functions, the ability to sense the body control and functions of a recipient and feel a sense of their life force and wellbeing are the basics of Level Three. A consensual Talented recipient usually teaches this to those who are ready by allowing deeper access to their field and letting a student get used to what it feels like to have a heightened sense of someone else’s body.
The ability to ‘read’ a recipient’s body at different levels of function (such as a resting body compared to an athletically active one) takes considerable practice and usually requires a Talented student to ‘read’ many different people before learning how to detect what is normal and abnormal for an average person’s vital functions.
What comes next is the ability to understand what the body does in emotional situations as well as physical ones. In the same way that outer body language communicates feelings and states to people, a competent Level Three Talent user can get a similar language from the inside of someone.
This practice has made Talent a popular lie detector, both recreationally and professionally. Talented people have also been known to use body reading to enhance deep feelings for each other, and a bond between two Talented lovers is said to be one of the best recreational reasons for practicing the mind power. A competent Level Three will usually boast of how body reading with Talent enhances feelings and drive during their sexual activity, although purely neutral bonds created by body reading also assist in ordinary, every day relationships between Talented people – both professional and informal.
Level Three is also the level at which a person’s Talent field is strong enough to be able to use a crossing point to travel between worlds. Talent is key for this, because the composition of a Talented mind allows it to withstand the fluctuations in space time and matter that would scramble the consciousness of an unTalented person. This is the reason why all Seekers are Talented (see section: ‘Seekers’).
For those whose ambitions or family circumstances require travel with crossings, and for those who wish to allow themselves the option should they later require it, a certified competency at Level Three is a prerequisite for applying for a licence to use a crossing point. This can be taken from ages 16 upwards, although the test is rigorous and the first-time-pass rate is low. To be deemed a competent Level Three can take years of practice and most people enter their adulthood at this level.
Advanced Talent and ‘Talent Masters’ (Level Four and its 3 tiers)
Level Four centres around a Talented individual taking the body reading skills learned at Level Three and taking the next step: learning to manipulate the body of a recipient.
Level Four is generally only reached by those whose ambitions drive a need for it. Many Talented people are content with Level Three as this is where every day needs, both professional and informal, are met. Most high powered Seekers are practiced Level Threes. For a smaller number of people however, it is both acceptable and necessary to express an interest in becoming a certified Level Four. Such people tend to include, although not exclusively:
•Those who want to become certified to teach Talent to others and to become part of the examination process for Level Threes, as well as the regulation of the codes of practice
•The police and law enforcement agencies; prison officers; the Interplanetary Guard and the armed forces
•Those with ambitions to work in medical professions, and those who already do and feel ready to extend their abilities to advanced Talent use
•Research scientists who explore the ‘unknown’ element of Talent and the function of its fields
Level Four is where the ethical debates and power control issues become more complex. As is clear from the above list, Level Four is where the ability to control the mind and body is taught for both the purpose of inflicting damage and the purpose of healing someone after it. A Level Four will learn their skills according to the needs of their profession, and only alongside the other training involved – never as a complete solution or failsafe for any situation.
Application for Level Four training is subject to large amounts of background checks for criminal records and family history. Character assessments and aptitude testing are also considerable and it can take up to a year for the authorities to be satisfied that a candidate is suitable for Level Four, and is undertaking the training for the right reasons. The three tiers work as follows:
Tier 1: Novice
Tier 2: Professional
Tier 3: Talent Master
To qualify to use Talent in a professional field, Tier 2 must be reached, hence the name. Tier 3 is for those who have practiced at a professional level for several years and shown the aptitude to become teachers of Talent. There is little strength difference between a Tier 2 and Tier 3 – the boundary is judged on experience and consistency of Talent work. A Tier 3 Talent Master will have demonstrated diligence, responsibility and adherence to the relevant laws within their profession.
A Level Four will learn to stretch their Talent field from anywhere between 20 and 30 miles distance (the upper limits normal only reached by a few exceptionally able users).
The Elite (Level Five)
For one in several billion Talented people, an anomaly happens: the surpassing of the boundaries of Level Four and achievement of a Talent field that is seemingly limitless – reaching anywhere on the user’s given planet. This colossal jump in ability is often bewildering to anyone who reaches it, and is part of the reason why Level Five is often kept quiet even by those who achieve it.
With Level Five comes the ability to practice Level Four procedures on people while suffering little or none of the known side effects (see ‘Problems and Disadvantages’), and also being able to do so with an ease and speed considered impossible even for a high Level Four.
Talented people who claim to have communicated with Level Fives report that the entire feeling of their Talent field is different. When a Talented person reveals themselves to a recipient, initial contact is often described as making the inside of the head feel slightly cold (a poor user inducing freezing headaches if they do not control their field adequately.) A Level Five, on the other hand, has a field that always gives the reverse – warmth.
The people who achieve this almost fabled level are usually paragons within their field and have displayed an unusually high aptitude for Talent and the profession they use it for – the known achievements of Level Five have always belonged to middle aged Talented people (late 30’s to mid 50’s); never children or the elderly.
Someone who can prove themselves to be Level Five is both highly revered and highly feared, due to their ability to dominate or control anyone they should meet, Talented or otherwise. There is also the problem that their power would make them impossible for most prisons to hold, if they were even caught for a Talent crime at all. People’s main fear of Level Fives is that if one were to choose to be above the law then it would be extremely easy for them.
Such power is thus often regarded as too much for one person, and a Level Five will often face the sad situation of nobody, their close friends and family included, being able to fully trust them despite any of their past virtues. Level Fives are subsequently almost always reclusive in nature and keep to small circles of friends, or else vanish from mainstream society altogether.
One of the biggest problems with Level Five is that nobody can tell how or why someone achieves it – it remains the biggest unknown amongst the Talented communities. Historically, the few proven Level Fives have been notoriously guarded about it and refused to let researchers engage them in experiments. They also refuse to discuss the circumstances of achieving it, or even how they first realised they had.
Such is the speculation on how to achieve Level Five that Talented people have tried dangerous and often fatal experiments to determine how to do so. The code of practice among Talented people has subsequently become not to attempt to achieve this level – it can only come naturally if you are apt for it and those who get it usually have no way of knowing about it before it happens. Many predictions are made with especially gifted Talent students from Level Three onwards that they may eventually achieve Five, but it is only said to happen to two or three people per generation across Earth and Carnathia combined.
Level Fives are also the one group who have some degree of resistance to anti-Talent (See separate section for this.)
Famous/infamous Level Fives in The Talent Show series include: Samuel McCaffrey, Esteban Devrish and Dexter Sekaro.
The use of Talent requires body energy, in a similar way to physical exercise, except it is a Talented person’s mind that consumes energy levels rather than muscles. In the same way physical fitness and stamina can be built up with training and over time, a Talented person has to regularly ‘exercise’ their Talent to make themselves able with it – getting to the desired level partly depends on an individual’s ‘Talent fitness.’ How quickly people gain it when training and lose it when abstinent are largely dependent on the individual’s genetic makeup, which goes part of the way to explaining why some are naturally adept with Talent while others take longer periods of time to become proficient.
It is rumoured, although not proven or documented, that a Level Five will never lose their Talent fitness even if they abstain from training and practice and do not suffer from side effects. For every other level, care must be taken not to overexert the mind as this will produce symptoms physical exhaustion, in the same way over-exercising the body does.
Stress relating to Talent
In occupations that expose a person to the suffering of others, such as medicine and law enforcement, a Talented individual can be arguably even more prone to mental stress due to their sense of emotions and what other people feel inside being heightened by their power. In extreme cases, the witnessing of a distressing/traumatic event can lead to post traumatic stress.
For a Talented person who experiences such a situation without being trained in any way to deal with it, the effects can be particularly devastating. Shutting off a Talent field in such a situation is usually a way to avoid this, however anyone taken by surprise often does not think of doing this until it is too late.
Counselling for Talented people requires specialist training in addition to the normal qualifications, and requires that a doctor or therapist is Talented and at Level Four.Talent Academies
A Talent Academy is licensed by the Talent and Seekers’ Councils and serves four main purposes:
– To act as the registry for those who wish to be recognised as Talented and claim the privileges this affords
-To educate those who are Talented and provide support to them and their families
-To examine and regulate the levels reached by Talented people and award the relevant licences
-To maintain a nationwide awareness of what Talent is and to educate those who are unTalented but wish to understand what the Talented population can do
Talent Academies run classes for people of all ages, although the demand is mostly driven by younger students.
The education undertaken by Talented children of school age, and in some academies at pre-school age, is always separate from their main school education, with classes usually taken in the evenings or at weekends. It is not the law that a Talented child has to attend a Talent Academy – some Talented families prefer to educate in their own approach to it, although it is advisable to have some professional input into a young person’s Talent development even in highly experienced families.
Occurrence of anti-Talent is as rare as the occurrence of a Level Five. Someone whose mind has what is known as anti-Talent is extremely dangerous for a Talented individual to make contact with. The exact nature of anti-Talent is unknown as few people have ever been proven to have it and out of those who do, nobody will participate in experiments and few Talented people would be prepared to be part of any experiment of this kind even if it did take place.
The mind of an antiTalented person will give a natural warning sign to anyone Talented who detects this mind within the field. With regards to the three stages of engagement, a mind with antiTalent will give this warning signal at the detection stage. A Talented person who tries to force initiation, whether detectable or not, will almost always go into extreme mental shock that stops other vital body functions and results in death if not treated immediately.
Treatment of someone who has exposed themselves to an antiTalent mind is seldom ever effective, as the effects on their brain are usually irreversible, even when dealt with by the most experienced of Talented doctors.
Those who survive are severely weakened and often have problems maintaining and controlling a Talent field. Descriptions of the experience and what they felt when in contact with AntiTalent have never proven helpful as they are objective and inconsistent, and in many cases a survivor will remember nothing at all.
Such situations are, however, extremely rare, as AntiTalent minds are said to be fewer than Level Fives, and the warning signs they give off during the detection phase are almost always enough to prevent the initiation.
It is believed, although again not proven or documented, that a Level Five can reach the engagement phase with an AntiTalent mind and proceed as normal.