Talent – Michael Pryor

Cover blurb
‘Kate Sampson arrives home to find her parents have been murdered by security forces, her house destroyed and her brother is missing. Suddenly Kate is a fugitive, running from the security forces who will stop at nothing to meet the threat of the mysterious Outsiders. But nobody can escape security and Kate is captured and taken to a camp where terrified children are interrogated to find Talents – those with extraordinary gifts far beyond human abilities. Kate finds herself trapped in a hell hole. A place where failure means death and success a living nightmare.’

Michael Pryor says
Talent began with an idea that many skills aren’t valued in society today. We reward only a very narrow definition of intelligence, and undervalue the rest. In Talent I also wanted to explore how the notion of a threat can be exploited. In an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, opportunities are there for the unscrupulous. In this sense, Talent is a political allegory, harking to those times when the ends have been said to justify the means, when the individual has suffered “for the greater good”. But Talent also looks at how the ordinary can survive in extraordinary times. The common needs of company, of family, of friends, all endure in the worst of times. And these can bring out the best in us. Survival can be a triumph.

Talent begins
Kate Sampson trudged home from school, knowing she was going to break her mother’s heart… again.

She’d only taken the snow globe to show her friends what things were like before the Outsiders arrived and the whole world changed. The tacky thing was her Mum’s last relic of her mother, a fragile palm-sized thing inviting people to look at ‘Melbourne, Olympic City 1956’.

But no-one would make the snow fly around Flinders Street Station any more, not since that idiot Greg McClure had jostled Kate’s arm just as she was taking the globe from her battered backpack.

He’d said sorry, of course. And grinned while the 50-year-old water dripped down the school steps, the shattered plastic pieces gleaming dully in the sun.

Kate sighed and kicked at a stone. It wasn’t as if her parents needed any excuse to get stuck into her. For all her 15 years, they’d found fault with everything she’d ever done. If she ever scored 99 per cent on anything, straight away they’d ask about the missing one per cent. And when Rowan smirked in the background, it was usually enough to make her flare up, which naturally made things worse.

So she was expecting the grandmother of all screaming matches when she got home.

Maybe she could play dumb, pretend she didn’t know where the stupid thing was. She snorted and crossed that one out. Rowan had seen her stuffing the globe in her backpack, and he wouldn’t let a juicy bit of dirt like that go unused. He’d drop it in sometime when she was off guard, probably over dinner.

“And how they’d like Mum’s snow globe at school, Kate?” he’d ask, all innocence, then sit back and watch all the fun. Dad would wade in, supporting Mum but mostly getting in her way, and then it’d be on for young and old.

She crossed the road and frowned. A Security squad van cruised across the intersection at the end of the street, its ominous antennae making it look like an oversized bug. Kate hadn’t seen a van around the neighbourhood for days, which was fine by her, and seeing one this close made her nervous. Security officers had been at school that week, asking questions and running a few routine tests – as they put it. It was enough to give anyone the shivers. She strode along the cracked footpath, making every effort to appear like a local citizen going about her normal everyday life, not an unknown who deserved to be taken in for questioning. Curfew wasn’t for a couple of hours, so she should be okay. But she knew nothing could be taken for granted where the Emergency Security Council was concerned.