To most people, espers are almost mythical beings. They are capable of incredible feats of telekinesis and are thus feared, and in some cases shunned. Conversely, espers are highly sought after by many different corporations, all of whom desire to try and harness the incredible powers displayed by the average esper. They are the nuclear weapons of the future, and the current espers "arms race" has disturbing implications of the future of the world.
In the first edition of the Kazei 5 worldbook, a distinction was made between those characters with telekinetic powers and those with telepathic powers. The former were known as psychokinetics, the latter, espers. In this second edition, that distinction has dropped in favor of using "esper" as an all-encompassing term for any character with powers of either type. For those that wish to take this naming convention a step further, powerful telekinetic characters should be referred to as "esper weapons."
History of Espers
In 1950 the Central Intelligence Agency (i.e. the CIA) started to conduct experiments in drug-induced mind control and interrogation. This was known as Project BLUEBIRD, and although the results were inconclusive, it led to Project ARTICHOKE, which investigated methods for inducing amnesia, implanting posthypnotic suggestions, or extracting confessions. This in turn led to Project MKULTRA which secretly studied the use of LSD and Mescaline as truth serums on an unsuspecting American pubic.
Along with these experiments, the CIA was also researching a far more exotic field; that of psychic powers. Experiments conducted during the 1930s by Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University resulted in fairly concrete evidence for the existence of what was commonly refereed to as "extrasensory perception" or ESP. The CIA decided to further explore this avenue of science, as the idea of agents able to read minds was a possibility the intelligence agency couldn't pass up.
At the same time, the Soviet Committee for State Security (i.e. the KGB) was conducting their own research. Initially, both groups did little than confirm the existence of psychic powers. In America, the experiments were conducted covertly, under the guise of psychological research, and most participants had no idea who the researchers really were. The press reported some of the findings, but news of people able to move matchsticks with their minds or guess the information on an unseen card roughly sixty percent of the time elicited only minor interest among the reading public As the news came at the height of the Red Scare, more people are concerned with the threat of the atomic bomb than anything else.
Emboldened by their initial successes, CIA researchers looked for ways to increase the power levels of promising subjects through chemical means. A wide variety of treatments were used, up to and including assorted psychoactive drugs. The results were mixed. In many cases there was little or no improvement, other than the creation of another drug addict. But in a select few cases, the treatments had a positive effect, and the research subjects exhibited a greater level of power. Encouraged, the CIA concentrated on these individuals and the drugs used to increase their power, seeking to refine the process.
In the latter half of the 60's, the CIA developed a drug which could both unlock and improve the psychic potential of the recipient. Using the same methods as MKULTRA, the CIA then secretly tested the drug on a mixture of fellow agents, prison inmates, and college psychology students. Once again the results were mixed. Some people developed psychic powers they never knew they had, others found theirs to be more powerful than ever before, while others are apparently unaffected. The CIA collected as many of these new "espers" (derived from the ESP acronym) for future testing, inducting some as new agents.
Meanwhile, the KGB was conducting their own tests, using both chemical and surgical means to attempt to activate the latent powers of the mind. They were far more ruthless in their research then their American counterparts, and numerous test subjects were culled from prisons, gulags, the military, and the general populace.
As both groups began to isolate ways to active a person's psychic potential, methods on increasing the power of an activated individual were examined. Research indicated that applications of certain chemicals was the answer, and these drugs were administered to many of the CIA and KGB's esper agents. It quickly became apparent to both groups that esper research was not an exact science, as some test subjects suffered fatal brain hemorrhages, others went insane—destroying themselves and others, and some were totally unaffected. Those that survived, however, began to exhibit previous unheard of levels of psychokinetic power. Where former subjects could, perhaps, move a television set, these new espers could lift cars. Others went from being able to levitate in place to being able to actually fly.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world was beginning to realize that people with highly unusual paranormal powers existed. No longer were psychics and mind readers relegated to the realm of "crackpots." Universities conducted their own investigations into psychic phenomena, while the governments of a number of nations, and Great Britain in particular, began to research methods to create their own esper agents.
The "First" Espers
In attempting to follow the progress of test subjects that had failed to exhibit any psychic powers after being dosed with activation drugs, the CIA made a startling and somewhat foreboding discovery. An initial failure of a subject to manifest psychic powers didn't mean that they had no esper potential. Some of these people exhibited various degrees of psychic powers later in life, while others bore children that were psychically active. Without realizing it, the CIA had created an uncontrollable monster.
To make matters worse, evidence began to mount that a active esper could unlock the latent psychic potential of someone else simply by coming in contact with them. The implications were staggering. The potential existed for numerous "rogue" espers to be let lose on the world; their actions and activities free from government influence.
If things weren't bad enough, these new espers were exhibiting powers far in excess of their predecessors. They were becoming active at a far earlier age (such as childhood), it was easier for them to use their powers, and they were exhibiting powers that no one had seen before (such as teleportation).
The CIA's attempt to contact and control these new individuals was hampered by the growing turmoil within the United States itself. Trust in the government was at an all-time low, and few people were willing to cooperate. Attempts to contain espers by force led to the CIA discovering that in many cases these new "natural" espers are far more powerful than the CIA's own esper agents.
The 1995 breakup of the Soviet Union leads to a similar problem in Russia. With the KGB dissolved many of the organization's esper agents are released into civilian life. Some rejoin other agencies, some join the Russian mafia, and some flee the country. A number of former Soviet scientists flee as well, taking their research with them.
Other countries soon found that attempting to control espers was easier said than done. Although few espers were truly powerful enough to pose much of a treat to anyone, those that did were often more than capable of defending themselves from most conventional weaponry.
By the year 2000, it was obvious that the problem was out of control. Force was not the answer then it came to dealing with espers. The multinational corporations were the first to realize this, and were quick to offer espers lucrative employment contracts, which considering the turbulent economic situation of the time, most were eager to accept. The esper weapon arms race had begun.
Espers in Society Today
For a modern esper, life can be quite cushy indeed. Multinational corporations are always on the lookout for new esper talent, and those that exhibit promising levels of power at a young age can expect to be enticed with lucrative job offers. On a darker note, if a potential esper weapon is too young to fully comprehend what is being asked of them, then the multinational will deal with the candidate's parents, who are often quite willing to say yes to whatever corporation offers.
The children of corporate employees who test positive for esper potential are usually placed in specific training classes, designed to fully unlock the subject's esper powers. This can have mixed results, however, and even after 80 years of experimentation and testing, some subjects have been known to manifest their powers with incredibly destructive results. The most well-known example of this occurred in the early 2020s, when an entire psychokinetic research center in Japan virtually vanished.
Life as a corporate esper can range from highly exciting to monumentally boring. The majority of an espers time is spent acting as a deterrent. They remain in a corporate facility and no attempt is made to hide their presence (usually by showing them off at corporate functions). By simply existing, they scare off some strike attempts, while others have to take the consideration of the esper into their plans. If a facility is actually attacked, then the esper is there to act in the corporation's defense.
Conversely, espers may also be used in an offensive manner, to strike at corporations that either don't have an esper of their own (and thus are ripe for exploitation), or to neutralize a known esper so that a separate strike team can complete a mission objective.
Corporate espers are acommonly the subject of continuing research on behalf of the parent corporation. Most major corporations have some sort of research facility, even if it is to handle any medical problems the esper may have.
Due to their status, very few espers are allowed free reign with regards to their life style. As teleportation is a fairly rare talent, most espers cannot simply vanish from their quarters when ever they wish to go somewhere. Tracking devices are commonly used to keep tabs on an esper, usually in the form of a company ID card. Espers who attempt to run away are usually (if the corporation has the resources) tracked down by another corporate esper. In extreme cases, espers who go rogue in such a manner are eliminated (usually with biological weapons) to avoid their being picked up by a rival corporation. Even those espers that exhibit acceptable levels of company loyalty will have all their movements tracked carefully.
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