Goldring stood again. “Ladies and Gentlemen. You’ve seen some of the useful things Conduits can do. We have a problem, however. There are now twenty‑one of us, including four who are about to graduate. A few who wear the medallions of Conduits have made good livings for themselves. But most have not fared so well. Some have moved back with their parents, some live in little shacks. ‘Why?’ you ask, when they are the most highly educated and intelligent people around[WS1] . The answer is simple, really. Money. People are afraid of us, and don’t want us to have it. I’m an exception, of course, I had money to start with. I keep up with the birding business, and have a full-time[WS2] job as an instructor – but I’ve seen Conduits doing petty tricks in shows for a bit of cash. It’s degrading to all of us. We must use our Powers for the good of society, which limits what we can do. We deserve good lives in return. We need you, the educated and intelligent lords and ladies to give us a place in society. To let Conduits waste themselves is to waste one of our greatest resources. We can change the world if you’ll only let us.” During a pensive silence Goldring passed around some pamphlets. “This is a complete list of Conduits, and their particular talents. If you won’t hire one full time to have at your side, please consider making use of their services from time to time. Also have a look at our catalogue of Power items for sale. We have things to beautify your garden, aid you on camping trips, or even help you in battle. Best you see for yourselves, however. We’ll be demonstrating gadgets and weapons outside. Come watch, and bring the wine.”
There were nods of approval.
“Does anyone else have any business to cover?” Sandford asked.
When only `nays’ were heard, the whole lot of lords gravitated outside to watch the Power display. No one mentioned politics again as the corks were popped out of the bottles. While Goldring laid out new inventions for inspection, Niles put on an impressive display of weaponry. He released a flock of geese, then with a rapid string of missiles shot down each one. While hotel staff retrieved the birds for the kitchen, Niles showed curious Lords small shiny spheres.
“Anyone can use them,” he said. “They have Particles stored in them and are attracted to heat and motion for a sure aim.”
“Do they work on people?” Someone asked.
Oh certainly, any land creature. They’ll also head for fire, though. Here’s something for fishing.” He unfolded a net from a compact little packet. “Simply secure this in the body of water. In no time at all, it will be full of fish.” He pointed at the opening. “This opening looks and smells like enticing food is just inside. When you’ve used the net three times you can have it recharged by a Conduit.” Lince drifted over to see what Goldring was showing off. He admired a crystal ornament that shot coloured rays into the air like water.
“What happens if you get in the way of the rays?” he asked. “Oh nothing, Lince. The Particle rays are all being converted to visible radiation. A tiny bit of heat is the only other thing that’s produced.”
Curiously, Lince pulled the lever on a small oak box. The lid popped opened and a sweet tune played while a holographic dancer twirled around.
“That has twenty charges,” Goldring said proudly. “It’s for storing jewellery.” He flipped it over. “Look, you can Power lock it. Just press this in. Only the same finger can unlock it.”
“Amazing,” Lince said.
As evening drew near people started paying more attention to the wine. A four-course dinner staved off drunkenness, but the lords were feeling good. Sighing with satisfaction Lince lifted a glass of good wine to his lips. Half talking to himself[WS3] , he said “Now this, Rejinal, is what being a lord is all about.”
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