Remote Possibilities

on November 15, 2010 in Science Fiction

“Here it is, Mrs. Smith,” the man said. He opened up the manila envelope and let the enlarged photos, all aerial reconnaissance shots of an industrial complex in the eastern bloc, slip out onto the desk. He did not touch it. “Go ahead. Look at them. Pick them up, if you want to.”

Frowning, the housewife picked up the first photograph. There were many things she didn’t like about the arrangement, but she especially didn’t like being called “Mrs. Smith”. If they were going to call her by somebody else’s name, they could have made her a Miss. It wasn’t that she wasn’t proud to be a married woman… she was, and that was part of the problem. They weren’t just giving her an alias, they were giving her a fictitious husband. She felt like she’d been married off against her will. It seemed disrespectful to Harold, as well as her.

“I’m still not sure exactly what it is that you fellows want from me,” she said. “I’ve tried to explain…”

“Mrs. Smith, of everyone our department has tested, you’re the most consistent, the most reliable… I’m not supposed to put it quite this way, but it’s the truth… the most provable talent we’ve seen,” he said. “Everyone else, things are sort of murky. Hit or miss. Some of them seem to produce some sort of results, but there’s a certain amount of turning your head and squinting. You’ve shown none of that. You have a clear and unambiguous psychic talent.”

“But… spying on…”

“I know, I know, it probably seems a little underhanded,” the man said. “Unworthy of your powers. In the future, a greater understanding of your gift may open up new frontiers for all of humanity. It could lead to scientific breakthroughs that eclipse everything that came before… but to get to that point, we have to ensure that there is a future for humanity, and one where we have the freedom to conduct peaceful scientific research for the benefit of mankind. That’s not going to happen if the Russkies win, or… God help us… we all lose. I trust I don’t have to paint you a picture.”

“No, I understand what you mean,” she said. “It’s just… I’m not sure I can see over there.”

“You told our interviewer that you had episodes while you were vacationing in Hawaii concerning locations in Bethpage, New York; Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Petersburg, Florida,” the man said.

“Yes,” the woman being called Mrs. Smith said, nodding. “My first grandson was born in Bethpage while Harold and I were on our anniversary trip, and my little niece went missing… they found her, God be praised… and…”

“The point is that all of that covers greater distances than would be involved with this operation,” the man said.

“I don’t think distance is what my little ‘gift’ is concerned with,” the woman said.

“Our scientists don’t believe it should be an issue, either,” the man said. “So please. Just focus on the photographs and tell me what you see.”

“Oh, very well,” she said. She looked down at the photo and tried to concentrate on it. When that produced nothing more than a headache, she kept her eyes pointed at it and let her mind wander. Slowly, shapes began to come into focus. “I see something…”

“What? What do you see?” the man asked. He checked to make sure the tape recorder was running, and also picked up his pen.

“A crane,” she said. “Cranes. Three… no, four of them. There seems to be a lot of activity.”

“Yes!” the man said under his breath. “Keep looking, Mrs. Smith. What are they doing? Building something? Unloading something?”

“Building…? No, they’re landing. On the lake.”

“What lake? There’s no lake at…”

“It’s more of a pond,” she said. “By the river, where my sister lives. Four sandhill cranes. Gorgeous. She’s walking the dogs, and…”

“Mrs. Smith, I told you to focus on the site in the photos,” he said.

“And you told me to tell you what I see,” she said. “And I told you I didn’t think I’d be able to see your silly old site.”

“Mrs. Smith, I don’t think you realize the seriousness of what I’m asking from you.”

“Serious or not, I can’t help you,” she said. “I’m sorry to say, no one in my family is a Soviet agent.”

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