Species: Uncursed Human (Psi)
Allegiance: Psi Collective
Religion: Meraist (psi-only chapter)
Social Status: 4 (average income M1,250,000/yr, nearly all distributed to Collective)
Age: 19 as of 06/13/1999
Eyes: Dark brown
Hair: Brown and gold streaked
Height: 167 cm (5'6")
Physical Notes: Average appearance; heart-shaped face; slightly pudgy cheeks that make her look younger than she is; not overweight, but not slender either.
Behavioral Notes: Avoids touching mundanes; quiet and thoughtful; compassionate; often seems withdrawn or distracted in public.
Supernatural Abilities: Strong telepathy (equivalent to master wizard), weak ESP (equivalent to minor adept)
Abbey Preston is a paranormal consultant -- in essence, a ghost hunter. Those who contact the Psi Collective with problems relating to hauntings and other, related phenomena will often be referred to Abbey. Making contact with the Collective isn't easy, and Abbey's services don't come cheap, but she has an excellent track record that speaks for itself.
When Abbey is called in on an assignment, it usually means that the client wants the problem investigated, identified and eliminated without drawing the attention of others. Janus Starson and the Lothanasi particularly value her discretion, as they do not want it to become known that there are some problems with which they need the help of a telepath.
Abbey investigates most of her cases under a cover story, so as to avoid drawing attention to the problem. She will investigate and observe any paranormal phenomena that may be occurring, then attempt to identify the cause and determine what sort of threat it poses. When possible, she will seek to make contact with the entity and find out what it wants.
Ghosts and revenants are often the easiest entities to deal with; if Abbey can help acheive the spirit's objective, it will move on to the afterlife and the haunting will end. If the spirit's objective is impossible or morally repugnant, however, Abbey will confront it and dispel it psychically. The danger associated with psychic confrontation is the primary reason for Abbey's high fees.
Abbey handles inhuman hauntings more delicately, until she can verify exactly what she's up against. Outsiders and creatures from the Dreamlands will be bargained with when possible, destroyed when necessary. If Abbey encounters one of the Fallen, she will immediately withdraw from the scene, notify her employers and call in one or more exorcists, usually from the Meraist Church.
Once the direct cause of a haunting is dispelled, Abbey will check the area for any strong residual hauntings that may have been left behind, which could draw the attention of mundanes. She will then drain off enough of the energy from these shades to render them visible only to other psis. Abbey doesn't like to eliminate shades completely, as she sees them as the earth "remembering" the people who have died there.
After the site has been "cleaned" in this way, Abbey will alter the memories of anyone on-site who found out about the haunting but wasn't supposed to. She generally tries to change as little as possible, since she knows this is an invasion of privacy, but she also knows that the privacy of her client needs to be protected. In cases where she is unable to erase a person's memories -- either because the person is a telepath or because Abbey engaged in an extended psychic link with them -- she takes the person aside and explains that they must keep the haunting a secret. The possibility of the Lothanasi or some other powerful organization showing up to silence them is usually enough to compel people to cooperate.
Like all members of the Collective, Abbey has her personal income deposited into a numbered account, which can then be accessed by any member of the Collective who knows the account number and password. She draws a small monthly stipend of about 500 marks from this account, which she uses for entertainment, personal items, and the occasional evening out. All of her other material needs are met by the Collective.
Abbey's closest allies are, of course, the other members of the Psi Collective, though most of the time she cannot call on their help when she's on an assignment. Abbey is particularly close to the four other members of her cell -- Fiona, Rebecca, Danni and Brian -- and she will quickly reconnect with them as soon as an assignment is finished.
Despite her barrenness (see below), which makes her unable to perform one of the key duties of a cell member, Abbey is accepted and embraced without hesistation by her cell-mates. Those in the Psi Collective who have had contact with Abbey appreciate her kind heart and keen mind, as well as her abilities (which are very strong for a telepath). When she is not on assignment Abbey spends most of her time with her cell-mates, helping to care for the children and assisting in the other mundane chores of maintaining a home. If she goes out on the town -- to see a movie, go to dinner, etc. -- she will invariably bring at least one of her cell-mates along with her.
Abbey is a member of a chapter of the Meraist Church composed entirely of psis, though they keep this secret from the rest of the church. Abbey's faith is important to her, though not the all-consuming focus of her life, and she attends services regularly. Most of her chapter's members are fairly weak psis, and wouldn't be much use in a fight unless they all pooled their efforts. Abbey could, however, draw on the church as a source of volunteers for charity work.
Abbey also has an ally, of sorts, in Janus, her most frequent customer. She has performed enough missions for him that she could call in a favor from the Lothanasi if she needed their help. In exchange, Janus would probably request a discount on her next job -- or even a freebie, if the favor was large enough. Trying to get Janus's help in seeing Akkala (see below) would probably be asking too much at this time.
Abbey's background story is told in Troubled Minds. After this story she takes a break from her job in order to rest, relax, and rediscover joy in her life.
Because of the injuries she sustained when she was attacked by Victor three years ago, Abbey is barren -- physically unable to have children. The Collective was unable to send psychic healers to the scene of the crime fast enough, and the mundane healing techniques used at the hospital resulted in heavy scarring across her uterus. At this point only Akkala could heal her completely, and getting her help isn't an easy thing to do -- after all, the former goddess is responsible for the health of the entire Empire of Metamor. Abbey is currently waiting for someone to offer her a job big enough and desperate enough that she can insist on Akkala's healing as the price for her assistance.
Brian: Age 24. The cell's "stud", Brian has fairly handsome features but an unimpressive build -- he's only about 5'9", and while he has decent muscle tone in his arms and legs, he has a persistent paunch on his stomach that he can't seem to get rid of. He enjoys running but not weightlifting, and he doesn't look particularly strong (though he has above-average endurance from his morning runs). Looks can be deceiving, though: Brian is only moderately skillful as a telepath (equivalent to a major adept), but he's a powerful psychokinetic. Brian has brown hair, fair skin and hazel eyes.
Brian is generally cheerful and has a relaxed, easy sense of humor. He treats all of the women in the cell with care and respect, and does a fairly good job of giving each of them love in the way that they need it most. Brian may not be a strong telepath, but he's quite empathic and has a ready sense of the feelings of others. This is highly important in a breeding cell, and even moreso for the male than for the females.
Brian primarily makes his money as a computer programmer, building and maintaining domains and security systems on the WorldNet; however, he has enough field training that the Collective will sometimes call him in to assist its runners on infiltration and espionage missions. In these situations, his abilities as a psychokinetic are just as important as his programming skills, though the Collective is careful not to risk him unnecessarily -- powerful psychokinetics are rare enough that breeding more of them is more important than the success of any single mission.
Fiona: Age 24. Probably the most mature and intelligent of the cell members, Fiona is calm, rational, and analytical, particularly by teep standards. She is more able than most teeps to step back from her feelings and look at a situation logically, and she has the powerful intellect necessary to use that detachment to its best advantage.
Fiona is only a weak telepath (equivalent to a minor adept) and has no talent for ESP, but she is a skilled egoist: using psychometabolism, she can enhance her own strength, speed, agility, or rate of healing for limited periods of time. She excelled in track and field as a teenager, but stopped competing when she was assigned to join a breeding cell.
Fiona is 5'6", slender and gracefully built, but her face is even plainer than Abbey's, and can appear downright homely when she is frowning (as she tends to do when she is thinking hard). Her hair is red and frizzy, and she keeps it short to keep it under control; her skin is very pale and smattered with freckles, and her nose turns up in a slightly puggish look. Her best facial feature is her eyes, which are a striking shade of green and extremely expressive. Her breasts are small, but firm and well-shaped.
Fiona has one child by Brian, a son named Dane who is 11 months old; at the time of Troubled Minds, she is also two months pregnant with their second child. Normally she would have been able to wait another six months before getting pregnant again, but the fact that Abbey is unable to conceive required Fiona take her spot in the breeding cycle. Abbey feels somewhat guilty about this, since it means that Dane has less time to bond with her before she begins focusing her attentions on the new little one.
Fiona works as an investment manager for the Psi Collective. Fiona is uncommonly good at her job -- her ability to distance herself from her emotions is important when she has to make coldly rational decisions about investments in which other teeps might become too emotionally involved. The Collective recognizes the value of her perspective and allows her to manage a large chunk of its accounts without heavy oversight, trusting her logical analysis more than the emotional reactions of thousands of members working in concert.
Rebecca: Age 23. In some ways, Rebecca is Fiona's polar opposite. While she is bright and thoughful, her mental energies run far more toward the creative than the analytical. Rebecca is a "big idea" person, and quite impulsive; she'll voice an idea as soon as it occurs to her, without thinking through all of its ramifications. She's excellent at brainstorming, but not so skilled at picking out good ideas from the bad ones. She is also highly expressive, venting her creative energies in painting, drawing, sculpture, or whatever other medium has currently captured her attention. She'll devote herself wholeheartedly to a new hobby for a few months, perhaps a year at most, and then set it aside for a while as she tries something else.
One area where Rebecca's attentions have remained constant has been in her role as a mother. Rebecca's first child, Lila, is currently 5 months old, and Rebecca is as completely in love with her now as the day she was born.
Rebecca is pretty but a little overweight; she has a round face, large breasts, wide hips, and a substantial potbelly. She's not obese by any means, but she's carrying at least 20 pounds above her ideal weight. She is 5'9", and has golden-tan skin, long and silky dark brown hair, and large, dark eyes that radiate whatever she's feeling at the moment.
In terms of her psychic abilities, Rebecca is a moderately weak telepath (equivalent to major adept) but a strong esper. (This sensitivity to outside stimuli has a lot to do with her personality, in truth.) Rebecca is particularly good at retrocognition, and decent at clairvoyance. She doesn't try to see the future, but she sometimes has dreams that come true with uncanny accuracy. The cell depends on Rebecca as their "early warning system" to help guard against impending threats, though the biggest danger they usually face is the possibility of exposure to the mundanes around them.
Rebecca works as a graphic designer, bringing her creative vision and familiarity with diverse artistic media into the worlds of business and advertising. She does most of her work from home, using her domain on the WorldNet to showcase past work and communicate with potential buyers. Only a handful of her clients know that she is a psi, and sometimes these individuals will seek her out when they need to make contact with the Collective about more esoteric forms of work.
Danni: Age 25. Danni used to be Daniel. A male psi with only weak powers in telepathy and healing, he was assigned to a bachelor cell upon leaving the creche. This was a heavy blow; he was physically strong and attractive, and had been popular in the creche, but the local hive determined that his psychic abilities were too weak to justify putting him in a breeding cell when there were so many other, more qualified candidates who could sire children for the Collective. He was welcomed in the bachelor cell, and provided for like any member of the Collective, but he was largely miserable there. After some adventures that I intend to write about someday, during which Daniel has close contact with androgynes for the first time, he eventually decided that the best way for him to find a place of belonging in a breeding cell was to accept the Curse and become a woman. It was the hardest decision he ever made -- to give up his identity for the sake of belonging, for a chance to have children -- but it turned out to be the right choice.
Even seven months pregnant, as she is at the time of Troubled Minds, Danni is still extraordinarily beautiful. She has glossy black hair, mocha skin, and blue eyes that give her an exotic look. She is tall -- taller than Brian, at 5'10" -- and while her belly is swollen huge with her late-term child, the rest of her body is still fit and attractive. She helps care for Dane and Lila, embracing them as being "her" children as much as any of the others', but she is still very excited about the coming birth of her own little one.
Danni is perhaps the "girliest" of the women in the cell, overtly feminine in everything she does. This is partly due to the natural tendencies of the androgyne variant of the Curse, and partly due to the personality re-channeling that the hive Elders performed on her prior to her joining the breeding cell. At Danni's own request, they gradually dampened or removed virtually all of Dan's masculine self-identity, replacing it with instinctively feminine identity and behavior patterns. They also made her fully bisexual and increased her libido, so as to make the transition to the breeding cell easier for her. The process was slow, enacted over a series of treatment sessions that lasted nearly a year, but in the end Danni was enthusiastic about her new identity and eager to become a mother.
Danni retains the shapeshifting abilities common to all androgynes. While she will never willingly return to a fully male form -- she views the male Dan-identity as dead and gone, not something she ever wants to return to -- she will sometimes assume a hermaphrodite form when making love to Fiona, Rebecca or Abbey. She hasn't been doing this for the last couple of months, due to the need for a gentler sort of love-making to protect her unborn baby, but she is looking forward to it again once the child is born.
Most of the time, Danni's overriding personality trait is that of abundant joy. All her life she wanted to be part of a breeding cell; now, at last, she has a home where she is loved, accepted, and cherished, and where she can contribute to bringing life into the world and raising new little telepaths to carry on the Collective. She has an optimistic, "always look on the bright side" sort of outlook, and is a relentless cheerleader and encourager of the other cell members. Her undying hope for the future, and her faith that things will be even better tomorrow than they are today, are essential ingredients in the psychological makeup of the breeding cell. Through their gestalts, Danni shares that optimism with the rest of her cell-mates, and it helps drive all of them to excel and reach greater heights.