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tinker thinker

The door opened, and Jowi sighed with disappointment as again, it was not his father. Instead, a stranger entered the cafeteria wearing shades although it was almost dark outside. He went to the counter and ordered, took his tray, paid his bill, then went to a table facing the door and sat down.

He was tall, cocoa colored, and of medium built. Not handsome, yet with a sort of distinctive look that caught attention. He put Jowi in mind of people who are especially brilliant and know it. He suggested a loftier wisdom - those gifted folks who casually understand all sorts of complex matters. They hold their heads high on the neck, their viewpoint slanted well above the commonplace.

This man's strangeness, though, wasn't a bad one. His manner, Jowi decided, was sort of noble; which prompted his thoughts towards whirligig imaginings concerning the cocoa brown fellow. Nearing his twelfth year, these days this was Jowi's most practiced skill; assessing whatever, who ever he encountered. Had he choice, he would have lived entirely through his mind's eye, contentedly exploring the fabulous rambles of his daydreaming.

After a while, Jowi refocused on the striking, brown-skinned man. A moment of concentrating and now he had reassessed him. The man was faking! he decided firmly. Those dark lenses were really much more than sunshades. They were actually a fantastic computer link to his brain. Of course, the eyes they camouflaged weren't human. They were fugitive eyes, alien to this earth. Where they could go naked was very far away - like maybe, ten thousand light years far. Although, for him, distance worked by totally different scales.

Despite all that, this brown stranger was highly intelligent and decent. He was also mighty with power. His people had realized the magical potential of their minds. By just thinking it, they could control their health, their environment, and even time and space. Despite all that, Jowi also knew the man was despondent, far away from home, in flight, and very lonely.

The man now looked at the watch on his wrist.

"Ah ha," thought Jowi, "bet that's not even a real watch. Bet it's some kinda thought radar checking out if he's been busted."

Jowi ceased his thinking of the stranger. He concentrated instead, on a homework problem about Mercator projection maps that was due tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the brown fellow leaned back in his chair and began picking his teeth, while casually looking over the other diners in the cafeteria.

Jowi sneaked a thought at him and found a new notion: "Bet he's sensed me checking him out. That toothpick must be a sort of memory eraser. He's trying to blank everyone's mind about him being here. 'Cept me. He can't fool me with that. He should know by now that if I felt like, I could conquer him. Make him surrender to me."

The idea of challenging the noble fellow began growing in Jowi. Very quickly it firmed into resolution; except, for fair play, he would allow the stranger a chance to think it over. He looked at the clock on the wall to set a time limit. "Five minutes is fair enough," he decided. "Then it's WHAMMO time for him. Five minutes and counting. That's it. Not a skinny second more!"

As Jowi thought this, the brown man again glanced at his watch. Jowi closed his eyes tight. He would now take a minute to form his mind mean and fighting hard. Dream-battling was no joke.

Exactly three minutes later, the brown man made a move. He rolled the toothpick daintily between long fingers, placed it carefully in his garments. He adjusted the frames at his eyes and put his fingertips to his temples for a minute or so. Then he rose abruptly and looked straight at Jowi, who was now regarding him with a frowning, fixed-purpose stare.

Their gazes clashed and probed for a long instant before the stranger made a brief nod to Jowi. Then he turned and went outside, closing the cafeteria's door firmly behind him. As the fellow disappeared into the night's darkness, a smug smile relaxed Jowi's fighting face as he noted that the brown man's thoughts were full of relief, and thrilling with amazement at the miracle of mutations.