Tech Bits – Psionics in the Cat Universe

Psionic abilities appear somewhat frequently in the Cat Among Dragons (CAD) universe. Rada Ni Drako is an empath, telepath, healer, and has strong temporal sensitivities. Joschka von Hohen-Drachenburg is a telepath who could be stronger if he’d put in the effort. Zabet dar Nagali, being a True-dragon, is a telepath by default, although she and other True-dragons can vocalize speech if they really want to.  Master Thomas’s telepathy makes Rada sound like a whisper in the wind, and healing doesn’t leave him flat on his back, unlike his mentee. The Azdhagi have healers, and although she didn’t realize it at the time, Rada encountered one Azdhag with passive telepathy. But outside of Rada’s circle, just how common are psionic talents/gifts/abilities/tendencies?

Psionics depend on the ability to use and manipulate energy. For example, simplifying mightily, the human eye uses special cells to convert light into electric impulses that travel via nerves to the brain, where they are interpreted as images. Animals take in food, break it down into chemical components, then convert those into heat (if endothermic), kinetic energy, electricity, and other things. Just so, some species in the CAD universe can consume or convert other energies into psionic abilities, because all psionics are just forms of energy manipulation. But not species do that, at least not the way Rada and her associates tend to.

Passive telepathy and empathy are the most common abilities among the sapient species. They use the least amount of energy, and provide some benefits, at least once the individual sorts out what are their own thoughts and which belong to someone or something else. Active telepathy, or as Rada puts it “projective telepathy and empathy” are rarer, but still somewhat common, for low values of common. For example, in the first century that he lived on Earth, Joschka encountered at most eight people with projective telepathy, including a few House members that he crossed paths with.

The next most-common ability is Healing. The ability to transmute energy into cell growth or to isolate pathogens and toxins is the rarest type of Healing, because of the energy demand it places on the Healer. Weaker forms, such as the ability to sense what the problems are (a diagnostic Healer), are more common.  That’s why even the most powerful Healers, like Master Thomas or the chief Healer at the Azdhag Imperial court, also learn surgery, toxicology, and other non-psionic medical techniques. Along those lines, don’t ask Rada about her stint learning how to treat various mammalian venereal diseases. If she’s in the right mood, she might give you an illustrated lecture.

Telekinesis and its variants are rarer still, enough so that in all her travels over 300 or so Earth years, Rada’s only encountered one species with telekinetic abilities. There is some argument among experts over the extent to which Healing involves a telekinetic component, but that’s an academic argument among those who don’t have active medical practices. Telekinesis makes enormous phenomenal metabolic energy demands for the amount of work done, one of the reasons it remains unusual. The symbiotic creature in the Dark Hart is descended from ancestors that hunted using telekinesis and temporal sensing, although the telekinetic ability has been bred out by the Wanderers (or so it seems).

The rarest ability of all is temporal sensitivity. Thus far only three species have usable forms of it: Wanderers, Rowfow, and Osstal, and even among those groups, at most 5% of the population has the ability. The Traders average 10% because of inbreeding, with the problems that one would expect.

The Wanderers, of whom the Traders are a subculture, can only navigate through time with the help of the symbiotic creatures in their ships. The Wanderers sense time and its potentials, while the creatures actually “twist” or manipulate temporal energy. Working together and boosted by energy storage and collection equipment, they can move back, forward, and sideways through time, along what Rada calls “threads” or “streams” of temporal energy. The symbiote actually consumes temporal energy, along with high-protein food. Compared to a pure-blood Wanderer, Rada’s abilities are weak. If a normal Trader time pilot has a sensitivity of 1.00, so to speak, Rada is at .75. Her emotional sensitivity allows the symbiote to make up the difference. Rada could never handle a large Trader transport ship on her own, but the Dark Hart is small enough for her to power and steer.

Rada’s “weakness” explains why the arrival or departure of other time ships causes her physical discomfort. She senses the warping in the time threads without the psychic buffer that most Wanderers have, even those without active temporal sense.

Other species can sense temporal energy even though they cannot use it, or even recognize exactly what they feel. Rada befriended a human who had what she came to suspect was a streak of temporal sensitivity that grew stronger over his years of working with, and around, Rada. He was also able to sense animal thoughts, giving him the ability to communicate telepathically with Rada, but not with Joschka or other “normal” telepaths.

Energy use and manipulation come at a physical cost, as Rada well knows. Because Master Thomas pounded on her for draining herself into comas twice, she in turn hammers her mentees and students about it. In contrast, most species that develop the abilities over time don’t notice the expenditure any more than a human notices the energy used for walking, breathing, and other functions. Humans are a little different, but as Rada sighs and swears, humans are always different. Zabet just rolls her eyes and mutters, <<Mammals.>>

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