The main topic, as usual, was girls.
“Geez,” Joe said, “ever since that key club opened up and Audrey started working as a bunny, it’s been terrible.
She’s always nagging about how she makes more working two nights a week than I make in four hours a day at the garage.
The idea had come to him one day as he worked on his PhD thesis. He was working on a double doctorate, Cognitive Science and Electronics. His thesis had to do with 'coupling' to brain signals. Originally, he'd expected the work to lead to better EEG machines. But a breakthrough had happened. Jerry had realized that there were two sides to communicating with the brain. And the new superconductors...He had been working like a fiend for two months. He hadn't mentioned it to his thesis advisors--the implications were too huge. So he'd had to pretend to be working on his original thesis. This amounted to two full-time jobs, and the effort was beginning to tell on him. He shut everything down and went to his apartment to crash.
He slept for 48 hours straight, then returned to the lab. In the light of day, the Amplifier looked even less imposing. His calculations and tests said it should work. But would it? He placed the Amp into a small plastic box and put the unit in his pocket. In the other pocket went the heavy battery pack which would power it. Grunting, he made a note to work on minimizing the power requirements. A fine wire ran under his shirt, up his neck, and to a small adhesive patch on his temple. He covered the patch with a cap. Inspecting himself in the mirror, he decided the set-up was unobtrusive enough. Only the thin wire was visible. He strolled outside onto the campus. It was a sunny, bright day, and the green quadrangle was filled with students.
Jerry switched on the Amplifier. He staggered, almost fell to his knees. A wave of thoughts and emotions surged through his mind. Frantically, he fumbled for the gain control. At last, he had adjusted the Amp so that he could deal with the input. He explored the gain and other controls. He discovered that he could control the range of the Amp, from a few feet to hundreds of yards. As a mere novice, he decided to keep the range short for now. More confident, Jerry wandered the campus, feeling a secret exaltation at being able to literally read minds. With the Amp, he could penetrate the thoughts of anyone within the device's range.
Surface thoughts, deep thoughts, emotions, everything. He had considered himself to be a cynic; thought that nothing he could possibly encounter would shock or surprise him. He was wrong. After a few hours, he switched off the Amp and returned to his apartment, shaking his head at the primordial swamp of lust which surrounded him. Tomorrow, he would experiment with the second function of the Amplifier. He plugged the battery pack into a charger and switched on his computer. He had some ideas for reducing the size and power needs of the device.
The following day, Jerry again attached the electrode to his temple and put the device in his jacket pocket. He paused, briefly feeling butterflies. "Calm down, Jer," he told himself. "What can happen? If it doesn't work, nobody will know. And if it does...if it does..."
His first subject had been selected long before. Bonnie Tsunishi, his department secretary. She was a beautiful oriental, about 20 years old. She treated Jerry with a combination of amusement and barely-concealed contempt. To Bonnie, Jerry was just another unattractive nerd, his work inexplicable, uninteresting, and impenetrable--a giant bore. He knew she usually arrived at her desk at 7:30 A.M., an hour and a half before most others were due to arrive. So at 7:32 Jerry entered the building and walked to Bonnie's office. He strolled past her door, just to make sure she was there. He continued a few feet down the corridor and paused to switch on the Amp. He adjusted the gain. Reading her mind was easy since there were no others nearby to generate 'background noise'.
Jerry stood for a few minutes, rummaging through her thoughts and desires without her knowledge. Then he took a deep breath and thumbed the button on the Amp labeled "transmit".
Carefully, delicately, he projected a tiny tendril of thought towards Bonnie's mind. Now he was in her mind. Jerry was shocked and elated at how easy it had been. The girl still showed no sign of knowing anything was happening to her. A test. Jerry wanted to influence her thoughts without her being aware of it. He grinned. Stepping into a shadowed office, he formed the thought, projected it.
Bonnie came running out of her office, rushing towards the ladies room. Jerry had transmitted the feeling of severe bladder pressure.
And she had responded! Jerry was elated. He had, in a sense, controlled Bonnie--made her obey his will instead of her own. True, it was only by projecting a sense impression...but it had worked--and it was a start. When she returned, Jerry tried a few other experiments. With each test, his ability and technique improved. Finally, he decided to try a really big test. He walked directly into her office, but she did not see him. He had commanded her mind to ignore his presence.
As far as Bonnie was concerned, he was invisible. Grinning, he projected another thought. The lovely girl stood up and removed her clothes. She believed that she was in her bedroom, preparing for bed. Now he had her turn around, slowly, as he admired her.
Finally, fearing that others would soon arrive, he had her dress once again and return to her office routine. She recalled nothing of this bizzare interlude; Jerry had wiped her memory of the entire episode.
He went to his lab, heart pounding. It worked! With the Amp, he could read the mind of anyone he wished, and control the mind of anyone as well! His experiments on Bonnie had shown that the Amp's power was virtually unlimited. He could control thoughts, behavior, beliefs, and memories. When he remembered to switch the device off, his hand was shaking.
“Yeah, Bobbi, too,” said Eddie. “Not only that, but she keeps goin’ on about what a glamorous job it is and how could anybody stand to work 1n a machine shop.” “It doesn’t matter where you work,” I said. “Leshe keeps rubbing it in about how little I make at the bookstore. I tell her I have to stay in school somehow, but then she just comes back at me with how dull it must be and how she saw this or that celebrity at the club last night. I know she doesn’t mean to make me feel bad, but ....”
“Ah, they’re all a bunch a dumb broads,” grunted Floyd, our resident jock.
“It’s like Howard says,” sighed Eddie, pointing in my direction, “it really makes a guy feel small. I mean, whatta they got that we haven’t got?”
“Tits,” said Floyd.
“Shut up, Floyd,” Joe said.