The air whirred when she stepped into the room.
That wasn’t all that unusual. Lots of bravos would spin a sphere or two around their heads as an impromptu weapon or threat display. Some of the more dangerous ones could manage three, with a coin-flip chance on whether what made them dangerous was the odds of them losing their grip on the third.
She had twelve.
Not sharing a track, either, like an idiot’s shotgun. She had them spinning at different angles, weaving in and out of intersecting orbits, in what was on one hand a breathtaking display of psychokinetic prowess, and on the other hand was a blatant statement that she could kill everyone in the bar between one breath and the next.
Cocky bastard, thought I. Then again, I bought her a drink.
There are those who have commented extensively on the military advantages, when considering the rise of the Empire, of highly disciplined legionaries able to cast obstacles aside or strike down enemies with lightning, all through force of will.“From the Mud to the Stars: An Agricultural History”, Ailil Ophris-ith-Ophris
Far fewer have considered the greater advantage, in economic terms, of the humble farmer who, from his hilltop, may plough and seed a hundred furrows with a gesture.
Probably the ugliest of these weapons was the windblade, a product of Merianvard artificery. A windblade resembled, in form, a smaller version of the Variasotec double scimitar without its hilt: i.e., two opposingly curved blades joined in the center, and sharpened to a razor’s edge.
No hilt was required for the windblade, as it was a specialized weapon designed to be wielded by a psychokinetic adept (of strength estimated at 288-plus, Revised Impulse Scale). The adept would levitate the windblade and cause it to spin rapidly; then, would propel it in looping curves amid the ranks of the enemy, slashing through everything in its path.
It proved less than useful as a battlefield weapon, both due to armor halting the blade’s rotation even when penetrated, and to the limited number of psychokinetic adepts with sufficient strength to use the windblade; on such occasions as it was deployed openly, the windblade battle often turned into a contest between multiple adepts, each trying to deflect, or seize control of, their opponent’s windblade while forcing their own to conclusion. Such contests were typically inconclusive, except when one adept possessed both great strength and the ability to handle multiple windblades simultaneously with dexterity.
Rather, it was as a weapon of mass assassination that the windblade was unparalleled. Wielded from ambuscade, a windblade could slash an entire rank or file of enemy troops to ribbons before a defense could be mustered. Likewise, scout troops armed with blackened windblades could scourge an overnight encampment clean of life while those within slept and, often, before the guards could be alerted.
– Ranged Weapons of the Era of Hand and Fire
“Leaving aside all the sophisticated techniques that are the domain of professional assassins, there are _two_ commonly discussed ways to kill someone with your brain – with, of course, the aid of its associated kinesis effectors:
“First, take hold of a blood vessel, preferably an important and large one, and then either pinch it shut or rip it open. Or grab an organ and crush it. It is not easy to do untrained, and is particularly difficult when the target is also a trained psychokinetic, but against most targets can be considered reliable and effective.
“Second, trace an ionization path through the air and permit cascading electrons to do the hard work for you.
“You will learn to perform both of these techniques during this course. First, however, we shall concentrate on an often-overlooked third technique: macrokinesis. In a typical target’s day to day existence, there are many moments at which a healthy shove, easy to deliver with little warning, can send the target into traffic, over a precipice, or flailing helplessly into space. It lacks, perhaps, sophistication – but simplicity sometimes has a sophistication of its own.”
– Psychokinetic Ktenology,
Faculty of Shade,
Imperial University of Calmiríë
Pstandard Psychic Pstance: The psychokinetic kind exists, as does the one-handed gesture version when using techlepathy. In neither case does it have any actual power-related function whatsoever, and you can use either without doing the gesturing. The former (see: Magical Gesture), is done purely for the sake of flamboyance, or possibly because if you’re – for example – summoning your drink from the other side of the room, you need to hold out your hand to summon it to. The latter is slightly more practical – people do it as a way of indicating the techlepathic equivalent of “hang on a minute, I’m on the ‘phone”.
(So, as we said before – use all the rope and wrestling grips and paralytic drugs you like, your trachea is still gonna be crushed.)
Well, I’m back from my holidays, in the same place as all my source material and, possibly most importantly, my big screens and comfortable writing chair.
Normal service should, therefore, be resumed as soon as possible.
Or tomorrow, anyway.
Power Glows: Technically, it doesn’t have to. Regular vector-control effectors don’t produce light, they just quietly work, and those implanted ones used to create technological psychokinesis could do the same thing.
Of course, on one hand, it can’t be denied that shedding waste energy as photons outside the body is probably significantly more healthy than dumping it directly into the bloodstream as extra heat.
On the other hand, there are other places where it could equally well be dumped.
On the gripping hand, it looks awesome. (And under the right circumstances, intimidating.)
And that’s that pretty much decided.
Mind Over Matter: The eldrae, and various other transsophonts, play this absolutely straight, with the usual laundry list of clever applications for psychokinesis. Of course, being a “firm SF” universe, it’s not any kind of Psychic Power – it’s implanted nanosome vector-control effectors.
On the one hand, this does let you take the psychokinesis up to eleven, uprooting buildings and throwing aircraft. On the other hand, it makes it easy to spot and to deal with the person doing so, because of the city block-sized mass of much bigger effectors and generators they need to have following them, slaved to their personal systems, to pull those tricks off.
Magical Gesture: Sometimes, especially when the mechanical psychokinesis is invoked; for one thing, it’s useful as a concentration-aid in training. But, like we said back in Invocation, it’s entirely unnecessary for the thing to work (the neuron-implanted nanopicosomes are reading your mind directly, so you think things, and they happen). It’s just done to look cool.
(And, okay, maybe to lure some dumb enemies who haven’t read the book to think that they’re necessary, and that binding them hand and foot is enough to prevent you from crushing their trachea with a thought. Maybe. But it’s still mostly about looking cool.)
“Are you sure this will work?”
“Well, no, it’s an experiment.” Brandel held up his hands, warding off the glare thus produced. “But the theory is sound. We’re never going to find out more unless we move it in vivo.”
“The theory is barely formed.” Soléä gestured at the triboard with her half-eaten sandwich, before noticing and setting it down on the lab bench. “The kinesis effectors were designed to work with a specific neural architecture, and a fully sophont one, at that, and we only barely understand how they work. You think they’re self-modifying to optimize for the specific host brain, but this is a whole other order of difference. Do you really think they’ll be able to adapt to that?”
“Their neural architecture isn’t so different from ours. And I think the effectors might, yes. They’ve proven remarkably versatile in the past.”
She snorted. “You’ll be lucky if they just don’t work.” Her hand fell to the bench, came up empty. “Where’s –?”
On the other side of the lab, the first of the test subjects swallowed, flipped his ears, favored the researchers with a canine grin, and went searching for any remaining sandwich crumbs as the photon-discharge corona faded around him.
“…I withdraw my objections.”
Battle Aura: Not really a battle aura – since it’s hardly restricted to military situations (see: Mundane Utility), but those implanted effectors used for mechanical psychokinesis do, under the right circumstances, bleed off excess energy in the form of photons, in turn in the form of nice light shows.
Which can be both convenient and inconvenient (needing to keep that energy somewhere else when sneaking, for example), and which quite a few people learn to trigger even when they’re not about to lay some psychokinesis on something, just to show off. Or intimidate.
Power Perversion Potential: Well, we’ve already mentioned the potential of forking, haven’t we? (Rhymes with gleesome, but requires fewer people.) And the applications of techlepathy and psychokinesis are also fairly obvious and well-explored territory. And then there’s microgravity and body-swapping (and its subset, gender-swapping) and desire control and virtuality and I’ll be in my bunk…
Psychic Powers: Of course, there is absolutely no such thing as psychic powers. Don’t exist. No place in a rationally organized universe, like any relatively firm-to-hard SF universe. Can’t seriously believe otherwise.
But that said…
Telepathy/Empathy: Do you believe in wireless networking? Evidently the Precursors did, and they really hated waiting while runners were sent or shouting was done, because they built this one right in to the brains of their favored manufactured race. If you want to detect telepathy, you’ll find it in those weird screebly neural-gestalt signals hanging about in the high microwave part of the EM spectrum.
Precognition: Do you believe in clionomy? (On the large scale, the gentle art of computing statistical predictions concerning the future of organizations and societies.) And very advanced predictive algorithms? (Because with a computer in your head and advanced enough body-reading, simulation and prediction software – and maybe a little SQUID use – you can read people and predict their future actions in a downright spooky manner. Especially when done in combat.)
Psychokinesis: Do you believe in implanted vector-control effectors? Another fun now-reverse-engineered Precursor leftover tech, these tiny nervous-system-integrated nanopicosomes are all you need to toss gravomagnetics around, fetch yourself drinks without standing up, indulge in wuxia wire-fu, and kill people with your brain to your heart’s content.
All available in stores for the usual enhancement prices, should you be unlucky enough not to be born with them built in…