Michael Darnby was really feeling the pinch. The forces of inflation were overtaking him relentlessly and there was very little that he could do to improve his position in life. He had just about enough money coming in for bare survival, but none for luxuries and reckless living - the frills that make life really worth living.
The problem of replacements was looming darkly on the horizon. He had been wearing the same clothes for years. They were starting to wear out. Everything had become thin, patched and frayed. He needed a new pair of shoes and two pairs of jeans right away. But he would be lucky if his budget could be stretched to one new item.
His main leisure activity was now reading a pastime with the unbeatable advantage of costing nothing. He had acquired a respectable library during long-gone affluent days. Overflowing from assorted bookcases and improvised shelves around the house were more than two thousand paperbacks and five yards of hardbacks. He had reached the happy position of being able to dip into his library and produce something that time had wiped from his memory. In fact, he had no real need ever to buy another book.
He did, however, buy a glossy fortnightly magazine and pass it off as an essential aid to sanity rather than a luxury. Futures came out on the second Friday of every month and reviewed new developments in science and technology. It was while scanning a new issue after an unexciting dinner at the end of an unexciting week that he found the article on psionic amplifiers. The light-hearted piece offered an alternative to treasure-hunting with an expensive metal-detector.
This method's main advantage was that the exploration phase could be carried out in the comfort of the treasure hunter's own home. It was also cheap and energy-saving. The device in the article needed no batteries and the operator did not have to waste money on petrol or train fares to transport it to a likely treasure site.
Psionics, as Darnby knew, and as the introduction to the article reminded him, is a para-science that deals with the use of mental powers. The field includes such phenomena as telepathy (thought-reading), telekinesis (moving objects without using physical contact, magnetism, electricity, etc.) and clairvoyance.
The author maintained that these talents are latent in most people, as dowsing is claimed to be, but too underdeveloped to be of any actual use. The purpose of his amplifier was to boost mental energies to a practical level, thus creating a power source for a Treasure Trawler.
Darnby interrupted his reading to look at a diagram of the psionic amplifier. He recognized conventional electronic bits - resistors, capacitors, transistors - set out in a baffling array.
The author had not thought fit to include one of the mighty microchips, the latest bright idea in the electronics industry for cramming more and more into less and less space, but he did have a very fine line in pseudo-scientific jargon to lend an air of spurious authenticity to his piece.
Michael Darnby read through the rest of the article and concluded that the general idea was interesting as well as amusing. He turned the page and he was just about to begin yet another article on what NASA's Space Shuttle would do when it eventually got off the ground when he was interrupted...
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