"Everything good that I did was down to him; his influence, his creativity - his telepathy. I was his greatest experiment."
Oliver Trent, a young traveller, fires a gun in the deserted city of old Pompeii. Thomas Kealy, the man he met only days before, waits in the gloom, confident that he will not be hurt. He has persuaded Oliver to shoot him, as an experiment in influence. Oliver is sceptical, but plays along; he pretends. Then anger overcomes him...then happiness, then fear. He is confused. He pulls the trigger.
Thomas reels - but he is triumphant. In situations of intensity he really can change the way people feel. He is telepathic.
So begins an unequal friendship – Oliver, the awestruck traveller, who devotes himself to recording a life of great significance…and Thomas, the Pioneer. As Thomas ages prematurely, wasted by his talent, he seeks to prove that he is not alone.
The traces of pioneers past and present are revealed, across centuries and continents. But Thomas cannot find the community of telepaths that he knows must exist. The one constant in his life is Oliver…but he too has a history, and his mind is unquiet.