8: Little Acorns (part 1)

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8.1 The First Undeniable Proof

Oxford University, England: 2026

"Consistent results this time?" asked Professor Aubrey Maynard Rayburn, hands buried in the pockets of his jacket. Although still in his mid-thirties, he tended to give the impression of someone far older. Maybe it was the way he dressed, or the mannerisms that gave him an air of superiority, or possibly it was the thickness of his beard, streaked already with paler, almost blond hairs, whilst those on his head remained resolutely dark brown.

"Definitely," Doctor Linden Willard Ashley replied. Younger by three years but already balding, his attire of a shapeless and once-white lab coat, along with glasses that perched askew half-way down his nose, cast him in complete contrast to Rayburn.

With a quick glance along the corridor of one of Oxford's many halls of learning to make sure that no one was about to interrupt them, Ashley unlocked a door and they entered the room – Ashley's mostly private laboratory. He locked the door behind them. The walls were lined with electronic devices: probes, computers, electron microscopes, detectors and several things Rayburn could only guess at.

Ashley took a drinking glass from a shelf, inspecting it first to make sure it was relatively clean, before filling it with cold water from a tap at the small sink located near the window. After taking a sip, he placed the glass in the centre of a plastic-topped, metal-legged table.

"Please inspect both the table and the glass," he said.

Rayburn did so and could detect nothing untoward – furniture of exactly the same simple design and vintage could be found in many locations on campus. Ashley moved to one side of the room and placed some apparatus, shaped like a small cycling helmet, over his head. Wires led from it back to one of the electronic devices, which he switched on.

"Watch," Ashley said as he stared at the glass from over six feet away. After a few seconds it moved a couple of inches to one side. Rayburn raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Ashley concentrated again and the glass slid in a different direction.

"The device is tuned to your brain only?" Rayburn asked after re-inspecting both the glass and the table.

"At the moment. MRI scans of others indicate that the area responsible tends to be located in almost the same position."

"And you have already pinpointed the same location in my brain?"

"Yes, I had no problem locating it in your own MRI. Tuning the device to you is a minor adjustment," said Ashley as he removed the helmet and switched off the machine. "But, that's not all. Watch again."

Ashley stepped close to the table and squatted down until his head was just above the level of the tabletop. His face creased up and, after a few seconds, the glass moved again, juddering a mere fraction of an inch.

"How?" Rayburn said.

"Repeated use enables the mind to train itself," Ashley announced with a smile.

"Absolutely excellent," Rayburn said. "May I try with the helmet?"

"Be my guest," Ashley grinned.

8.2 Watering The Garden

Oxfordshire countryside: 2031

The van's doors were decorated with the text "Maynard-Linden Research." In the back Rayburn and Ashley sat amongst the racks of electronics and watched the screens. The central screen showed a woman, an L-shaped divining rod in each hand, strolling across the lightly ploughed field beside which the van was parked. On her head the portable MRI scanner sent its signals back to the monitoring equipment they were observing. She also wore a jacket that scanned her immediate surroundings at several frequencies.

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