Parahumanity: Wild Talents?

“If the powers reflected in Charles Fort’s book are called ‘Wild Talents,’ I suppose what we are seeing now could be called ‘Talents’. Perhaps this is not an example of a whole new array of human capabilities, but simply the honing of some inherent and secret human skill which is just now coming to light.” Stephen J. Whelan, February 14, 1940.

No one knows how Talent powers work. Somehow, the people who possess them just seem able to do the impossible.

Flying Talents don’t require wings, or even a source of propulsion to take to the air. Hyperstrong Talents don’t need to be rippling with muscles to lift a truck. Bulletproof Talents don’t have rock-hard skin, but the bullets bounce off anyway.

In fact, almost every single Talent looks completely human. They have no discernible features, marks or anatomical differences that would set them apart from humanity.

This makes them very effective weapons in guerrilla warfare, espionage, and insurgency campaigns. It’s hard for the enemy to confiscate a weapon if it’s hidden in your mind, and the mind seems to be the crux of the Talent phenomenon.

There seems to be some link between morale, self-will, and the activation of Talent powers. Self-belief seems to fuel a Talent’s paranormal abilities. Disappointment, depression, defeat or bad news can cause Talent powers to fail. Again, no one has any real idea why.

 

THE TERM ‘TALENT’

In the countries of the Allied nations during World War II, the term “Talent” is used to describe anyone with paranormal abilities. In other countries and cultures, parahumans are sometimes called by different names (though Talent remains a popular term, even in non-English speaking countries).

French super-humans are often called Surhomme (“Super-men”). British super-humans are sometimes called “The Few,” in reference to Winston Churchill’s famous speech about the pilots of the Battle of Britain: “Rarely has so much been owed by so many, to so few.” Indian super-humans are called Viddyharas (“Learned Ones”), Jewish super-humansNephilim, and Russian super-humans Severch Loodi (“Super-men”).

In the Axis, German super-humans are Übermenschen (literally “Over-men” or “Super-men”), while the few Japanese super-humans are called Gaki (“Hungry Ghosts”). Italian super-humans are called Custodes (“Guardians”).

Early on, Talents were called super-humans, parahumans or super-men. Sometimes these old phrases are still used, but it is rare. The scientific community still tends to call them parahumans (“para” meaning “other” in Latin), and some newspapers still print headlines using the word “super” just to drum up sales. To the public, however, the amazing people who can do the impossible will always be just “Talents”.

 

BREAKING THE LAW

Talents routinely break laws that no one believed could be broken by anybody or anything. Name a physical constant or law, inertia, mass, gravity, or what have you, and some Talent has already bent, twisted and broken it, and made it look easy.

There are speedsters who move 300 miles per hour on the ground at a jog and don’t muss their hair.

There are strongmen who weigh 98 lbs. soaking wet but can stop an oncoming truck with a single outstretched hand. With no leverage they bring the roaring vehicle to a full stop without even leaving footprints in the dirt.

There are men who fly faster than sound, whose skin is unmarked by the incredible wind pressure and who seem to stay warm and breathe at impossible altitudes.

Bulldog lifts a halftrack.

Lloyd Feit (better known as Bulldog) lifts an 8.5-ton "White" Halftrack over his head during the 1940 Lend-Lease tour of the U.S. by the "British Four."

Talents alternately fascinate and disgust scientists. There is a perverse feeling of wonder and horror that only scientists can feel, in watching everything they thought they knew being ripped to pieces by watching a man fly, lift a truck, or move objects with his mind.

Studies of Talent abilities hint at the mechanics behind these strange occurrences, but no definitive proof is ever found of just how the hell they are doing these things that no one is supposed to be able to do. All the scientists can do is document how much Talents warp reality with their powers.

So far no one, not even the Talents know how they are doing “it.”

 

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING

As far as is known, despite what their powers may seem to enable them to accomplish, Talents never actually cease physically being human beings. There are Talents who appear to transform into animals, both fictional and factual; Talents who seem to become inanimate objects. There’s even a Talent (Baba Yaga) who may be a walking house.

However, as far as these abilities are understood, no actual transformation occurs outside the minds of those observing the Talent. All see what the Talent’s power wants them to see.

This ability (called “Projected Hallucination” by Allied scientists) seems to enable the Talent to implant ideas or perceptions in observer’s heads to make them believe that such a transformation has taken place. In some cases, this ability even seems to work on the Talent himself, making him believe that a transformation has taken place as well. In other cases this Projected Hallucination is a conscious tool controlled by the Talent, who can place any idea, picture, smell, texture or sound in another’s’ head.

That is not to say that some Talents do not actually alter local physical effects. Many Talents do actually change the physical world with their mind—or they appear to. Certain Talents who turn invisible may actually turn invisible, while others might only make others believe they have. As you can imagine, it is very difficult to determine which is which.

In any case, when a Talent dies, despite what his power may dictate his appearance to be, his body is always that of a normal human. When Talents cancel each other’s power out, such illusions vanish instantly, and when their power wanes, they tend to have trouble maintaining consistent illusions or transformations—even unconscious ones.

But insane Talents are another matter altogether.

 

THE EDGE OF SANITY

The power of Talents is always based on the same idea: the ability to bend and warp local reality with the power of the mind.

What happens when the mind that controls such changes becomes warped too? I’ll tell you: nothing good.

Talents who slip over the edge of sanity somehow seem to be even more powerful than normal Talents. No one really knows why, but some theories exist.

One is that the Talent has lost all self-image due to mental strain and no longer requires a “self” to dictate the use of his powers. The Talent’s subconscious is let loose to control the powers without being subject to any clear morals, ideas or rules.

The second theory is that somehow the “control,” some type of inherent floodgate built into the Talent ability, is ripped away, allowing the full power of the Talent’s mind free despite any danger it might pose to the Talent or reality itself.

Such mad parahumans are extremely dangerous. The most significant example is Baba Yaga, the Russian monstrosity who, since his madness and powers manifested at the same time, transformed into a small walking house (recreating an image from a Russian fairy tale) and wreaked havoc all over Russia, killing Germans and Russians alike. Baba Yaga proved invulnerable to both normal and Talent attacks. Somehow, other Talents cannot interfere with his ability.

No one knows whether this makes him a Talent or something more.

 

TALENT AGAINST TALENT

In combat, Talents are quite effective against normal humans: Many powerful Talents can sweep through dozens, even hundreds of heavily armed humans before falling in combat. But when two Talents clash, things get very interesting.

First of all, when Talents attempt to use their powers directly on other Talents, they report a feeling of “resistance” or “interference,” lessening or preventing the use of their ability. Sometimes during one of these struggles, one Talent will suddenly overwhelm the other, while the other’s power fails, almost as if strength were transferred between them by some unknown process.

The Talent power in question must be used in a direct assault on another Talent to be affected by this defensive struggle. For instance, a Talent could try to prevent another Talent from shooting him with heat rays from his eyes, but could not prevent another Talent from hefting and throwing a tank at him.

The heart of the matter seems to be what is affected. In one instance, the heat-rays affect the Talent himself so his inherent ability “defends” him. In the other, only the tank is affected by the attacking Talent — the power is being used on the tank, not on the other Talent.

Second, when two Talents see each other, and one or more is using their powers, each automatically knows the other is a Talent. Sight and the attempt to activate a power are the necessary elements here. This ability is unconscious and automatic.

Third, surprise negates the struggle between powers. If you are unaware of a Talent attack, then your will cannot work against it. An ambush with Talent powers is just as deadly to a Talent (at least initially) as it is to a normal human being.

About Arc Dream Publishing

Arc Dream Publishing creates roleplaying games and fiction including Delta Green, Godlike, Wild Talents, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Better Angels, The Kerberos Club, The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man, and the award-winning magazine of Cthulhu Mythos gaming, The Unspeakable Oath.