Chapter 5.

2 Feb

Dawt had mentally rehearsed his new role numerous times already. All through the unfamiliar concert, he had gone over what he believed his best manner of approach might turn out to be.

The sound of the mass movement of feet reached his ears. A small group of music lovers were walking down the stairs, passing him by on their way to exiting the building.

And then came the owner of Central Echolines, all by herself.

The moment to act had arrived, he realized. There was no way to avoid carrying out the plan.

“Pardon me, Miss Lokum, but it is vital that I speak with you,” he entreated her. “Please allow me to explain my reason for petitioning you thus, but it is important that we talk.”

She stood still like a thunderstruck statue. Her brown eyes focused on the stranger addressing her as she gasped and gulped. It took the woman a moment to restore her equilibrium to what it had been.

When she started to speak, her voice was dry and shrill, not at all dignified or even polite.

“Who are you? How dare you…”

“I am a lowly magnetic engineer, Miss, but my purpose in accosting and addressing you this way is closely connected to the future of your personal interests. In fact, what I have to tell you may avert the otherwise inevitable bankruptcy of Central Echolines. It is a serious matter. That is the reason I am taking such a brazen liberty in order to talk to you.”

He waited and watched her reaction. It was plain to him that she was carefully following what he was saying to her.

“So, allow me the time necessary to explain the technical problem that will soon face your company and my scientific solution to the frightening menace hanging over your echophone system. I assure you it will be to your benefit to hear what I have to say.

“There is a spicery across the street from Harmonium Hall. Why don’t you and I stop in for a cup of teaberry or something? It will not take me long there to tell you the facts I have. Your driver will certainly keep your conveyance parked until I am done describing what I have in mind for the salvation of your echo network.”

Xipha was on the verge of breaking away, but something in his pleading face and cobalt eyes drew her attention. What was it? she asked herself. Something too fleeting and evanescent for her to conceptualize or vocalize, she later realized. But it was sufficient for her to give the stranger the opportunity to present his case to her.

She could not have explained her motive to anyone, for she did not recognize what it was at that moment. Was it something on the level of instinct or intuition? There was no way for the rich heiress to determine that about herself.

“Very well,” she whispered to the stranger, as if surrendering to an invincible destiny.

Dark red-brown caoba wood gave the spicery a subtle romantic flavor of carefree extravagance and luxury. The two concert patrons took a side booth away from everyone else in the place. They both sensed their need for absolute privacy.

A waitress in a turquoise skirt and blouse took Xipha’s order for a zingibar and safranum elixir, while Dawt chose a tamarind zedoaria melange. He began his rehearsed presentation to her at once, without fanfare or prologue of any sort.

“There is a noose, Miss, around Central Echoline that will soon become an inescapable snare. Every surrounding carrier has entered into contracts permitting its patrons to use its tubes for focused psychic transmissions. They see that as their future. Telepathy in a directed, Focusist form is about to save these providers of sound and visual lines from extinction. Yet as the only holdout still tied to the old echo technology of magnetics, your company faces eventual, perhaps even swift extinction. The end of the old system of general telepathy is doomed. There is no way for those who turn down the change to avoid catastrophe. Other interests will come in and replace them with the new. It is only a question of when.

“I believe that only a policy of partnership and compromise with the advanced psychic forces can guarantee survival for the business that you head, Miss Lokum. There is no alternative way for your firm to continue and to prosper.”

Her face was blazing with fury. A bitter scowl covered her lower jaw.

Dawt suddenly realized that his words had set the woman afire with anger. What could he possibly do to dispel the storm he had unknowingly created?

“Forgive my bluntness, but I have to say with all candor what I think and feel. Why should you allow Central Echolines to die when it can be saved at a cheap price?”

She peered at him with razor sharpness in her gaze. “You tell me what kind of panacea you are trying to sell me. How can I trust what a total stranger is presenting as the truth?”

At that moment, their waitress arrived with their spice drinks on a small tray.

She set it down on the teak mensal, then went off again.

“I am not a mountebank or a confidence man. My engineering experience gives me the scientific authority to provide credible advice to those who manage echophone lines. I foresee the death of any network of communication that does not rapidly convert its tubing to a superior telepathic system.”

“What is this superior system you refer to?” she inquired.

“Telepathic concentration, Miss Lokum. Let me assure you, it works much better than what has existed for so long. The process is already successful out in the countryside and is ready for the capital. The future will be on the side of the modernizers. Let me describe for you the details of how it operates.”

The two sat there, drinking spice tea, as he outlined what he planned. She did not leave, but listened with care to all he revealed to her. The waitress brought them refills four times as they continued to sit there, the one speaking and the other listening.

Dawt could never identify the precise moment when he triumphed, but he was certain that he had won her favor and support.

It gradually dawned on the Focusite  leader that the heiress was gazing at him with a brightening glow in her brown eyes. He realized that she was absorbing everything he said with her enthusiasm rising.

“So you see, this new advance is by no means a negation of our telepsychic heritage. It is rather its true fulfillment and actual realization. What was always the potential of mental communication will now be attained. A new, higher level of achievement has now appeared and must be brought to fruition. There is no alternative.

“I believe that the central nucleus of telepathy has always been in the magnetic fields of our Velvet, but only now has that crucial factor received the full evaluation it has always deserved. We will see expanded prospects as the magnetized echolines are converted to psychic use. Knowledge of magnetic theory is becoming a necessity for our psychic specialists and adepts.”

Xipha now posed a pivotal question to Dawt. “Do you think that I and my company can aid you in doing all that you have described to me?” she inquired.

A beaming smile formed on the mouth of Dawt. “We need your contribution as the cornerstone of our final victory, Miss Lokum.”

He searched her eyes with his own, confident that he could uncover positive signs there.

Xipha proceeded to voice her conversion to the promise of the new psychic current of the Focusists.

“I have never been presented with such an inspiring prospect and opportunity,” she told the man who had introduced himself at the end of the evening’s concert. “Will you help me to see my path forward? For years, I have been awaiting a project to which I can completely dedicate myself.” She smiled joyously at him. “I think that you have shown me a way to advance forward toward a higher purpose.”

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