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"Theories and Observations", part 1

Title: "Theories and Observations", part 1
Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Jenny, David Tennant
Pairing(s): None
Rating: G
Genre: Sci-fi
Word Count: 12926 (in two parts; this is too long for one post)

Summary: One cannot draw accurate conclusions when one does not have all the facts. (AU #2 for "The Actor", story #4)

Author's Notes: This is the fourth story in AU #2 for my story The Actor. This is set after "A Scene from a Texas Diner", probably about month or so later. If it seems familiar, it's because it borrows a few concepts and scenes from "Discovery" (which I retconned from this AU).

These stories are being written out of order, so I apologize for any disconnect between them. Eventually, when they're all written, hopefully they'll feel cohesive and the character development is less jerky.

Spoiler Warning: Requires The Actor and A Choice of a Lifetime; won't make much sense without them.

Barely a day went by in David's life in which he didn't end up in a headlock before two hours had passed. He and Jenny started their daily skirmish on opposite ends of the gym, from which they warily danced closer to each other, waiting for the other to telegraph the wrong move or drop their guard for an instant. Taking advantage of either such opening, one fighter would move in to disable the other, usually in one fluid movement that immobilised their arms and caught their neck in the crook of an elbow. At least that's what David thought the experience might be like from Jenny's point of view; he certainly had no idea what it was like to win one of these contests. Jenny's superior training and fighting ability, brilliance at tactics, and grace and dexterity were more than a match for his greater strength and longer reach. He was learning, however, and only three days ago had managed to fight her off for three minutes. Today, however, he'd ended up in the stranglehold in less than twenty seconds; he hadn't done that badly in weeks. He'd been tripped and flipped over so fast that he had been stunned for a moment, and he coughed out a concession in Gallifreyan, pleased that the language was now so natural to him that it was the first to his lips when he wasn't thinking about it. Laughing, she released her hold on him and let him fall to his hands and knees.

"You weren't even trying that time, Big Brother. Your eyes gave it away, you know." She stepped back, wiping her hands with the satisfaction of a job well-done. "Distraction gives me any opening I want. What were you thinking about?"

"Sevratimonlan's Temporal Mechanics, Grade 3," he explained as he climbed back to his feet. "I've been trying to work through one of the examples in chapter five, and it's just not coming out. I've worked through it seven times, and I'm finding a variance of point five three at the very least, whereas he says it's point four eight. Tracing through his work, he assigns the dilation a factor of three point two and I don't see why. According to Ilitmilanderas, presence of gravitic bodies, however small, should contribute at least point six to it, and I'd argue for one point two due to the..." He trailed off as he looked up to see Jenny smirking at him in boredom. "What? I was hoping you'd tell me how you worked through it."

"Me?" She began stretching, even though they'd both limbered up before their battle. "I've not finished Grade 1 yet."

"Why not?"

"I just don't get temporal mechanics. It's hard to make it make sense." She shrugged. "And I don't speak Gallifreyan as well as you do. I’m spending too much time on looking up words and picking apart every sentence."

"I can understand that. The vocabulary and grammar for temporal phenomena is unusual at best."

"Obtuse." She jumped back to her feet. "Want to go again?"

He shook his head immediately, holding up his hands in a negation that he thought might look more like a surrender to her. "Not the sparring. You showed me that disarm technique yesterday. I'd like to practise that a bit."

"Okay!" She bounded over to the weapons cabinet and selected a practice knife to arm herself with. Turning around, she dropped into a ready stance. "Come at me!"

After about ten minutes of instruction and repeated attacks, David got to the point of being able to disarm Jenny three-quarters of the time. When he wasn't successful, he was rewarded with a stab in the stomach or a slice across an arm and Jenny's delighted laughter. However, he was confident enough with his technique that he began experimenting with variations of the move to catch her off-guard. When he executed a particularly smooth feint which ended with not only disarming the woman but also throwing her and pinning her to the mat, they grinned at each other, him with pride and her with a teacher's approval.

"You're really getting it, Big Brother!"

As she popped her chin up to peck him lightly on the nose, applause erupted from the doorway. "Excellent, David," the Doctor proclaimed, leaning against the jamb. "Perfect feint. You’re getting better.”

David let go of Jenny and as she rolled away and sprang to her feet, he sat back on his heels and studied the Doctor's expression to confirm the hint of condescension he'd detected in his tone. He sighed to himself; the man should know that he'd never had any martial training and couldn't be expected to excel at it this quickly. Determined not to rise to the Doctor's bait, he swallowed his irritation and replied with a flippant phrase. “I have to, or I spend the rest of the day bruised and sore.”

The Doctor eyed Jenny, his pride in his daughter's excellence shining in his eyes. “Glad she’s training you. It’s always good to know how to defend yourself. You'll master it in no time, I'm sure.”

Jenny retrieved the knife and jogged in place. “Want a go, Dad? Come get the dagger!”

The Doctor responded with an embarrassed smile. “Er, no. I prefer to keep my ego intact, thank you.”

If he thought that might appease her, he was wrong. Jenny smiled with the gleam in her eye of a predator spotting easy prey. “Aw, come on! Just once.” She dropped into a crouch and beckoned him with a hand.

Hopping up and stepping out of the way, David crossed his arms with a smirk. “Be careful what you ask for, Jenny. ‘Dad’ is not exactly untrained in martial arts, and he’s seen a lot more combat than you have.”

The Doctor pushed himself off the jamb. “And I didn’t come here to wrestle. I’ve less physical instruction in mind.”

“Oh, what’s that?" Though it had been his own idea to get some combat training from Jenny, David was happy to cut the session short and save himself some pain. Jenny, however, looked disappointed. Whilst she did truly want to learn, book study was not her favourite part of the Doctor's curriculum.

"It occurred to me," the Doctor intoned as he strode into the gym, "that I've neglected an integral part of your education simply because it's a natural thing for Gallifreyan children, whether or not they become Time Lords, and they learn the basics almost before they can speak. I hadn't realised that it's not natural to either of you."

Both students were puzzled. "And that is?" asked Jenny, crossing her arms.

"Your psychic talents."

Whilst David nodded in understanding, Jenny continued to be confused. "What's that?"

"Well," the Doctor began, "even moderate psychic ability is extremely rare among humans and non-existent in the Hath, so the knowledge and training ingrained in you whilst you were in the progenation machine didn't include that subject. However, all Gallifreyans are psychic." That didn't help her understand what he was talking about, so he continued. "You've felt it, I know. Do you feel us, me and David, in your mind? Like you always know we're here, but not when we leave the TARDIS?"

"Yes, of course." Her eyes flicked between the two men. "That's because we're family, isn't it?"

"No, it's because you're psychic." The Doctor tapped his temple and flicked his finger toward hers. "You're able to reach out with your mind and touch other minds. If there were other Gallifreyans, you'd feel them, too."

"Oh." She frowned as she thought. "Humans don't feel this then?"

"Nope, they don't." The Doctor waggled his fingers at the side of his own head. "You can hear them a little, more like background noise than what you feel with us, but humans can't hear you or each other at all."

"Oh.” Her face fell, sad like a child realising for the first time that others are less fortunate than herself. “They must be very lonely, then."

"No," David answered as the expert in this particular subject. "They're not. You can't miss what you've never had. It's not lonely if that's what you're used to. Humans bond through emotional and physical means, not mental ones."

"Like the way we talk and laugh together?"

"Right." David tapped the side of his head. "We just have that extra bit where we can sense each other, too."

Jenny chewed on the tip of her thumb as she thought. "I think I understand."

"Good!" The Doctor strode forward, rubbing his hands in anticipation. "Now, let's learn how to use this. Every Gallifreyan can sense each other, but there is more you can do, depending on your psychic strength and abilities. Most of us are strong enough to read others’ minds and memories, and that's what we'll work on today. Some could move objects with their minds, and the strongest were able to hypnotise others, or even dominate them." Jenny looked horrified, so he hastened to reassure her. "Very good instinct, Jenny. Reading someone else's mind without their permission is already questionable, and forcing someone to do things against their will is far worse."

"Are you able to do that?" she asked, her eyes wide and apprehensive.

The Doctor nodded. "To some extent, yes. Took me a lot of practice. Some are far more talented, whilst others can't do it at all. But using it... Not something I do often, and only with very good reason." He eyed David, who was regarding him with a carefully neutral expression, then glanced away. "All right. Let's get started." He rubbed his hands together as he composed his words. "We do best when we're touching our subject. Some species work well without touch, but not us generally. Now, when I learned this, my tutor described a mind as divided into four layers. Don't think it's a good model to live by, because it's far too simple, but it serves its purpose, so I'm going to use it."

Using his hands to delineate layers, he marked out a flat level in front of himself. "Top layer. That's your existence. That's what you feel when you sense another. Every other layer is hidden behind our mental defenses. Deeper you go, the more you have to defeat the walls we put up." He made a punching motion directed at his flat other hand, to demonstrate breaking through layers. "Gallifreyans and other psychic races have good defenses, so they're difficult to break through. Non-psychic races have little defense, because they don't even comprehend what they're trying to keep out."

He then indicated levels beneath the one he had started with. "So, just below the top layer are the surface thoughts, what the person is thinking right now. Below that are the memories, and below that, at the very core of the person, is the person himself, his personality, his moral construction, his wants and needs." He demonstrated the last concept with his balled fist below all of the other layers. "Get there, and bam! You control the person."

The Doctor glanced at each of his students to make sure they understood so far and they nodded, Jenny more tentatively than David. "To read a person's surface thoughts, you aren't going too deep, but to see their memories takes more strength and skill. Then, to manipulate who they are and what they do takes more than most of us have." He grinned. "Which I suppose is a good thing. Anyway, there are two ways to do that. One is to subtly convince them to do it, and that's hypnosis, and it’s a bit easier, if not reliable. The other is to force them, and that's domination. The second is far harder, because the person will be fighting you all the way, whether or not they know that they're fighting. Only the most powerful psychics can completely dominate another person, and even then, it's not easy.

"Today, we'll work on getting to that second layer, the surface thoughts. Best to start slow and easy. Jenny, you'll go first." She bounced with excitement. "Come stand in front of me." Taking her by the shoulders, he positioned her squarely in front of himself. "Now, you need to touch me, skin to skin. Anywhere is fine, but closer to the brain helps. Go ahead and do that." He closed his eyes.

Jenny reached up with both hands and placed them on the Doctor's cheeks, her fingers slightly spread. "You're too tall. Like this?"

"A good start. You'll decide for yourself if you like that placement. Now." He opened his eyes and gazed down at her. "You should feel a bit of a stronger connection with me." He waited for her to nod. "Follow that connection and push into my mind. I'm not going to let my guard down, so you'll feel resistance and you'll need to push through, and find the concept that I'm thinking of. Ready?"

She closed her eyes. "Yes."

"Go." He closed his eyes again.

After a few seconds of silence, Jenny grimaced, concentrating hard. The Doctor nodded, though not enough to interrupt Jenny’s touch. "Push harder. Don't worry. It doesn't hurt."

"There's a... there's a... a line, like a trail. A trail of thought."

"Yes, that's it," the Doctor replied with gentle encouragement. "Follow it in, and forge ahead when you feel you're being blocked off."

She grunted. "I can't. It's too hard to push through."

"You can do it. Try harder. Don't be afraid that you're going to hurt me."

"Okay..." Another few seconds later, Jenny's eyes popped open. "Hot fudge sundae?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Well, I thought we might go out for sundaes after. There's this fantastic ice cream parlour in Chicago, in 1960..." Catching himself from going on his tangent, he grinned at her. "A brilliant first try!"

Her smile bright and proud, she shifted her hands into a hug. "Thanks, Dad!"

"We'll practise more, but first, let's let David have a go." With a sudden frown, he glanced at David. "If you want."

David had been quietly standing off to the side, apprehensive about trying this new thing. Though he'd abandoned identifying himself as human for over half a year now and he'd been studying Gallifreyan language and Time Lord technologies, this was the first innately alien thing he was going to attempt to do, and the mere thought of it made him a bit nauseous. It didn't help that he realised, whilst the Doctor was talking, that he'd known that the Doctor had used his power of hypnotism and suggestion on occasion but had not made the connection that he might be able to do the same thing. And finally, it sickened him to think that he was about to learn to do what that Polthite, Ana, had done to him, that had left him helpless and violated. He knew the Doctor's methods were far gentler and kinder, but they still felt like the same outcome.

He peered back at the Doctor, one eyebrow cocked, trying to decipher the man's cryptic expression. Was the Doctor somehow aware of David's apprehensions? Or did he suspect that David might not be able to do this at all? After all, he was part human and humans weren't psychic; that might just be enough to weaken his mind, limiting his abilities. Or perhaps the Doctor's hesitation was indicative of what David had guessed all along, that he didn't truly want David here at all and was training him out of some sense of obligation to the creature he’d created, and that this was just another onerous task he had to undertake. However, there was no way to tell, and David knew that he needed to learn how to utilise his now-natural abilities.

"Yeah. We need to. All right. Let's do this," he heard himself say with more enthusiasm than he felt.

"Quite." The Doctor set his jaw with determination. "I think you know what to do." David nodded.

As Jenny stepped to the sidelines, David positioned himself in front of the Doctor. Being a clone of the man came in handy: they were the same height and he didn't need to reach high like Jenny had. As the Doctor closed his eyes, David placed his fingers carefully on his temples, the same way he had done it when he'd played a similar scene out with Sophia Myles' Reinette.

Immediately, he felt a tighter connection with the Doctor, and he sensed, in addition to the mental barrier in front of him, some amount of reluctance, maybe even a fear of mental contact. This further evidence of the Doctor's indifference to himself grieved David, but he pushed that thought out of his mind; from the episode with Reinette, he was well aware that though he'd be the one searching the Doctor's mind, the Doctor would be perfectly capable of viewing his as well, and he didn't need his host and teacher knowing that he was aware he wasn't wanted here. From a distance, he heard the Doctor say, "I doubt I need to give you any instruction. Push firmly and tell me what concept I'm thinking of." David took a deep breath, focused his mind through the link between himself and the Doctor, and pushed.

The sensation of forcing his way into another mind for the first time ever almost made David recoil. He'd always assumed that mind-reading was like bursting through a door and walking into a room, that once there, he see the person's thoughts on the walls, or hear them as voices, but it was nothing like that. Instead of a direct insertion, a lance of thought punching a hole through the Doctor's defenses, it felt more like... he supposed it must be like what water would feel like being forced through a fine sponge: his mind was pushing into and blending with the Doctor's, and he had to concentrate to focus, to fight a sensation of his self dispersing, dissolving into that of the man in front of him. Once he felt he was back in control, he allowed himself a moment to get his bearings. Though, with his eyes open, he could see his own fingers splayed on the Doctor's temples, he could also feel his own fingertips on his face - the Doctor's, not his own - disorientating him. He concentrated, and yes, he could distinguish between the Doctor's sensory input and his own. He suspected he’d need to practise to do that naturally.

Oh, right, what's he thinking? A maelstrom of stray thoughts - both his and the Doctor's - whirled through his mind, but one shone brighter than the rest. "Tenor saxophone?" he asked as he frowned at the Doctor in disbelief.

One eye creaked open. "There were too many things you'd just be able to guess. Had to choose something you weren't expecting." The Doctor stepped back, out of David's grasp. The younger Time Lord shook his head, trying to dispel the the lingering sensation of being in the Doctor's head. "Are you all right, David?" Concerned, the Doctor stepped forward again, one hand stretched toward his student, though with a glance at David's face, he snatched it back behind his back. "You look a bit disconcerted."

"I'm fine." With one hand, David rubbed at the side of his head. "It's not at all what I expected. I -" He had been about to comment that the Polthite's telepathy had felt completely different but stopped himself. The Doctor, who had turned to look over at Jenny, wouldn't be interested in hearing about his experience.

"I suspect not. It's not quite like anything else, is it? You're feeling okay?" The second question was directed at Jenny.

"Just fine, Dad," she responded with a cheery smile.

"Good." Jamming his hands in his pockets, the Doctor turned back toward David. "Excellent work. I don't know if you're stronger than Jenny, but you're certainly much more confident, and that helps quite a bit." Spinning on his heel, he called, "Come on!" as he strode toward the door.

"We're not going to practise more?" Jenny frowned her disappointment.

The Doctor spun back in the doorway. "Not now. You've homework to do. You should both think about what it felt like and what you'd do differently, before we try again. And think about how you'd sort through all those extra thoughts and emotions to get what you're looking for, because it's not easy. And besides," he grinned, "there's ice cream to be had."

Jenny's wide, excited smile matched his and she bounded forward to take her place by her father. Turning back, she called, "Come on, Big Brother!"

"Nah. You go on." David forced an affectionate smile at them; he knew how to pretend to appear sincerely happy. "I've things I want to do, and I'm really not hungry." He saw the Doctor's eyebrow shoot up as a hint of suspicion flitted across his face. "Enjoy yourselves."

"You sure?" she coaxed once more as she slipped her hand into the Doctor's.

"Yeah. Enjoy, you two." He felt a bit foolish standing alone in the center of the empty practice room.

"Come on." The Doctor tugged at Jenny's hand. "Don't work too hard, David," he advised as they strolled out.

"Yeah," David murmured to himself as he swung his arms around. He waited a moment before heading out himself.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

With his study tablet and his leather-bound copy of Sevratimonlan's Temporal Mechanics, Grade 3 clutched to his chest, David strode down the corridor toward the library. He smiled as he eyed the coppery walls illuminated by a soft, warm light; the TARDIS interior he had seen on the telly had always felt a bit stark, bright white and impersonal, but this was much more inviting and comfortable. He was confident that his interpretation of the atmosphere was not coloured by his ability to feel the capsule's ambient breath.

The difficulties he was having with his studies had been preoccupying him all day, through the sparring and the telepathy lesson, and though he might have been doing other things, one of the problems in the chapter churned through his mind over and over again. Up until this topic, he'd had no problems with temporal mechanics and had been rather enjoying his studies, feeling for the first time that his not-quite-Time-Lord brain was keeping up with the curriculum. In fact, he had enjoyed the subject so much that he'd gone beyond the Doctor's recommendation, which had been mastering Sevratimonlan's texts for grades one through five, and searched the library for supplemental material that he could understand at his novice level. Then, in the last few chapters, it had stopped making sense. As he wrestled with the theory, data, and calculations, he became more and more frustrated: no matter what he did, he couldn't reconcile the three and produce the answers that the author expected, and the problem currently looping through his mind was only one of the many examples he couldn't work through. Just what am I doing wrong? he berated himself.

He'd spent twenty hours - well, nineteen hours, forty-three minutes to be exact… - working through this one problem over and over again to no avail, and it was time to seek help. Of course, the smart thing to do would be to ask the Doctor, but David was not quite ready to swallow his pride. He didn't need to demonstrate yet again how much less of a Time Lord he was than either the Doctor or Jenny, how much his humanity limited what he could achieve, and he certainly didn't want to make the Doctor regret even more that he'd agreed to train him. Besides, it was always good to do your own research and exhaust all of the available resources before begging for help. Perhaps he wasn't clever enough, but at least he was hard-working and self-reliant.

He prided himself that those attributes came from his human side, from the personality of the man he used to be. He'd always pursued his interests - Doctor Who, acting, music, to name a few - with zeal bordering on obsession, and this had translated through his transformation into a Time Lord. He did wonder, though, if this trait of his hadn't been magnified in the process. Spending twenty hours on a single homework problem might be a bit excessive - and he was about to spend more - and even the Doctor complained that he never raised his nose out of his books except to eat and sleep, and those not often. David clenched his fists around his study materials as he walked. The problem was time, something that, ironically, he didn't have. Training at the Academy on Gallifrey spanned a hundred years; how much time did he have to learn all of that? The Doctor never mentioned a schedule, but David doubted it would be long: a couple of years, maybe. He clapped a hand to his chest to calm the panicked fluttering of his hearts whenever he consciously thought about it. He, a strange Time Lord/human hybrid, had to learn fifty times faster than a real Time Lord, and this was assuming the Doctor didn't suddenly decide that he'd fulfilled the letter of his promise to train him and dump him on a curb in Aberdeen. Every moment he spent studying just never felt like it would be enough.

Shouldering the thick mahogany door open, David stepped into the TARDIS library. He'd spent enough time in here - first as a human devouring every new play he could find and then as a Time Lord supplementing his education - that even though its appearance and layout changed every few sleep cycles, it felt more like home than his own bedroom and he never got lost in it, even though it was larger than he'd had a chance to explore and was sure to have secrets hidden away. Today it appeared like it had the last time he'd been here, with rows and rows of walnut shelves with alcoves of cushy chairs and coffee tables tucked away here and there. Selecting a study area, David dropped his things on a table and set off for the science and engineering section.

Over three hours later, David flopped back in his chair, ready to fling his books out of the TARDIS doors into deep space. He'd found two tomes that dealt with the subject matter in chapter five and after working through them, he was now even more confused: applying the concepts in these books made the calculations produce even worse results than he'd gotten before. It didn't help that the new material seemed so easy, so intuitive. Nothing fit. Growling under his breath, he shook his fists impotently at the papers in front of him. There had to be something he was missing, something he hadn't learnt yet that would settle everything into place.

Jumping up, he stomped off among the shelves, looking for that fabled text that would solve all of his problems, but he'd been through all of this before and had combed through the catalogue, and there just weren't other applicable books he hadn't seen yet. There were a few advanced texts that he'd glanced through, but the topic he was working on, spatio-temporal variances from grade three of a thirty-four-year curriculum, was so basic, they made no mention of the theory behind a subject in which a reader would be expected to be an expert. He began wandering other sections of the library, hoping that the right book would be hidden among the travel guides, historical romances, cookbooks, and other miscellany from all over the known galaxies. He soon discovered rooms that opened off the main library, housing special collections, such as an array of originals of works by human authors starting from Murasaki Shikibu; he could tell from the way his senses hitched and buzzed as he entered the room that it was held in temporal stasis when unused, to preserve the works from aging. There were many such rooms, but he found nothing in them that could help him with his studies.

As he prowled the shelves, another door caught his eye and he went to investigate. The chamber behind the door was like nothing he'd seen before in the library. Instead of the leather-bound books and tightly-wound scrolls stuffed on the shelves like in all of the other rooms, he found thousands of translucent cubes, a bit less than a centimetre on a side, packed together on racks that stretched from floor to ceiling, mounted on sliders, so that he could page between them easily. There were no labels or instructions, nothing else except a single cube sitting in a ceramic bowl on a table near the door. He stepped up to one of the shelves and peered closely at its contents, but could discern no difference between one cube and its identical neighbour; they seemed perfectly formed and meticulously aligned with each other.

David was loathe to leave his fingerprints on the shiny, dustless cubes, but he wanted a closer look, so he reached out to pick one up and almost tumbled backwards off his feet as the meta information about it coalesced in his mind. A psychic library! Designed by touch-telepathic Time Lords, each cube seemed to contain one book. Closing his eyes, David concentrated to explore the book, a treatise on Matrix manipulation, and was pleased to find that though the subject matter was far beyond his comprehension, it was intuitive to search through and read its contents.

Placing the cube back on the shelf, he returned to the door and touched the cube in the bowl. It was exactly what he suspected: a catalogue of the contents of the room. His mind filled with an expanding cloud of titles, topics, and synopses through which he flew with ease, identifying individual motes with the information he was searching for. Selecting six promising tomes, he fixed their locations in his mind, then strode to the shelves to pick out the crystal books. It was a little disorientating to have the meta information from the cubes in his hand floating around in his head and he practised shutting away the psychic impressions as he returned to the centre of the room and sat down on the floor.

Arranging the cubes in a row in front of himself, David laid a fingertip on the first book and focused his attention on it. Riffling through the information contained within, he recognised it as being within his comprehension level and nodded with satisfaction. The second book he touched was obviously far too advanced for him: not only were the concepts beyond anything he'd seen before, but many of the Gallifreyan words were unfamiliar. He flicked that book out of the row with a finger.

The third book was much more in line with what he was looking for. A particularly interesting chapter caught his attention, and he was soon engrossed in it. He found that studying in this manner was far easier than with a physical book or a tablet: data retrieval was instantaneous and he could rearrange the subject manner in any way he needed to help himself learn. It was simply natural to connect different parts of the book together in any way he saw fit.

One particular concept piqued his interest and, remembering that it had been mentioned in the first crystal book he'd looked at, without thinking, he reached out with his other hand to touch that cube. The book opened in his mind, and he found himself perusing both at the same time. He could combine the two, creating links between otherwise disparate material, comparing and contrasting different opinions, analyzing data in one using the theory in the other. On impulse, he reached a finger out to touch a third book, and that opened as well, adding its contents to the controlled maelstrom of information whirling through his mind. The potential of this method of learning was limitless! Of course, comprehension proceeded at the same pace as it had when he'd been reading only one book at a time, but the ability to arrange the subject matter in any way he wanted made everything so much easier, so much more interesting. Smiling eagerly, he lost himself in his favourite subject.

Thus, he was still perturbed when he realised that after reading and studying for half an hour, a consideration of the problem he'd originally come to the library for revealed that he'd found nothing to help him with it. The calculations still didn't come out, and he couldn't figure out what was wrong. He reviewed the original theory and data, then compared it to that in the three books in his head and... No. Wait. That. There was an anomaly... No, it wasn’t an anomaly in the subject matter. It was more like something that didn't belong. He could tell, perhaps by the way it felt, which information came from which of the three books, but that bit there didn't belong to any of them. Upon closer inspection, the mote of information expanded in his mind. A fourth book? Opening eyes that he hadn't realised had closed a long time ago, he looked down to verify that his fingers were only touching three cubes. But there was definitely a fourth book open in his mind, and it felt like it might just be too much for his untrained psyche to handle at the moment. But where is a fourth book coming from? Somehow, he knew it wasn't one of the others on the floor in front of him. Then where? He tried to feel for it, and immediately regretted it. Information - garbled streams of words, images, and sounds - flooded his mind, and grabbing his head, he tried to shut it out, to no avail. Blazing golden light burst from his eyes as he grunted at the sudden crushing pain, and he crumpled to the floor.

On to part 2