The main reason why I have always been ambivalent about Telempath is that there seems to be something slightly “off” about the entire set up. Jacob Stone, a black scientist frames Wendell Morgan Carlson, a white scientist for spreading a plague that destroys human civilization and starts a war with another terrestrial species. The sticking point I think is the way that the elder Stone’s frame involves playing on a presumably white conservative audience’s fear and mistrust of black (and white?) liberal political activism. He even does the thing where the white liberal is awkwardly attempting to join in on a “black only” activity or group and is subsequently rejected on account of being white and presumably clueless. Another reason I have a problem with the setup is because when you consider it, the entire screed he wrote about Carlson is essentially projection. (Meaning that when Stone is talking about Carlson being a wing nut, the actual wing nut being discussed is Stone.)
We open up with Isham coming down from some kind of trance. For some reason, Isham’s “mantra” is the Gettysburg Address re-written as a string of horrible puns. Isham has made some slight inroads into learning how to communicate with the Muskies. We get a few world-building details about the Muskies, but not a lot.
Isham’s teacher Collaci turns up with a number of operatives. They plan on capturing Isham and dragging him back to Fresh Start. (They are also supposed to be capturing Carlson, but Carlson is swift like ninja, and made it to the subway, where the operatives were not willing to pursue, because of the smell. Isham is less than cooperative, and the place where he is holed up is booby trapped. Isham is able to hold off Callaci and his operatives for a while, but eventually, Isham is taken into custody.
There is some cagey conversation between Isham and Colacci, mostly about their relationship, and Isham’s motivations. We learn that in addition to wanting to apprehend Isham because he killed the elder Stone, the leaders of the community would like to have a word with Isham about his claimed ability to communicate with the Muskies. Isham would like to do this in exchange for some diplomatic immunity, but Colacci lets it be known that Isham should not get his hopes up on that front.
While they are heading back to Fresh Start, Isham is able to demonstrate his ability to communicate in some sense with the Muskies when they encounter a “Name.” (It seems that Muskies are an odd sort of gestalt-group mind. The closest they get to individuality are groups of inter-related Muskies referred to as a “Name.”) Isham is able to convince the Muskies that Colacci and his operatives are not a threat.
This chapter is about the building of Fresh Start, an excerpt from Jacob Stone’s The Building of Fresh Start. The elder Stone really likes to talk about himself and everything he’s done. He has some right to boast, since he is one of the founders, along with a chemist named Sarwar Krishnamurti, Helen Phinney a “genius” and expert on alternative energy sources, and an engineer named George Dalhousie. They are able to create a community that produces the materials and tech that can be used by local farmers.
Of course, there is a problem.
Due to the collapse of technological civilization, there is a backlash against the use of technology centered on the “back to nature” conservation movement. That is to say, the conservation movement has become a religion that the elder Stone describes as Dionysiac. (A Christian acquaintance described it as Pagan because they worship “Pan,” but the Agros are more New Age-ish than Pagan. The Agro religion is Gaia theory Pantheism using “Pan” instead of “Gaia.”) The Agros do not like or trust the people in Fresh Start, and as has been mentioned previously, this has resulted in some fairly severe conflicts.
However, the local farming and Agro community will buy Fresh Start’s Musky-killing devices and other necessary tools, so the situation is what amounts to an uneasy truce.
When Isham gets back to Fresh Start he is taken to talk to the members of Fresh Start’s Council. It should be pointed out that this is not a real trial; it’s just an interrogation that’s going to be followed by an execution. Isham pointing out that it is hinky to plan on executing someone without a trial is somewhat ironic!
Despite the hostile audience, Isham attempts to make a pitch for making peace with the Muskies. The pitch does not go over very well–what the Council wants is essentially military intelligence that will enable them to wipe out the Muskies. Isham is not on board with this plan. He does however give them some background information for why the war started, and about Muskies in general. It turns out that Muskies eat pollution and their buffet was completely shut down. This was followed by humans suddenly becoming aware of them which resulted in The Worst First Contact Ever. Isham states that they need to create a diplomatic team that would be able to take a balloon up to communicate with the “High Muskies” who more or less rule the Muskie species.
It is also revealed that the Agro accusation that Muskies tend to gravitate toward Fresh Start is completely true. Fresh Start is the only place that is making new pollution that the Muskies can eat. Isham proposes an alliance! Unfortunately, the Council is not willing to listen to Isham. Krishnamurti states that it is obvious Isham is lying. Isham asks that Colacci be brought in as a witness, but Krishnamurti is less that cooperative!
Isham is forced to raise a ruckus, which brings Colacci into the room. (Isham wants to make sure Colacci hears the transcript.) Isham asks Colacci for his professional opinion on how long the human species has if they can’t win the war. Colacci gives a very brief time frame, but the Council is not persuaded. They declare that Isham will be executed and have Colacci take him to the jail.
Something interesting here, is some of the things that have only been mentioned in passing, in a kind of “Chekov’s Gun” manner. We know that there is a conflict between the Agro and Techno communities. We know the outline of what happened, but not the architects of the conflict except by inference. The situation not being talked about goes something like this:
1. Jacob Stone interviewed a man named Jordan, and allowed him into the community.
2. Fresh Start’s most staunch opponent is a man named Jordan, who claims that Fresh Start is drawing in Muskies.
3. Something happened to Jordan that caused him to believe Fresh Start is drawing in Muskies.
Pretty soon, we’re going to find out what that is.