1. Through the Eyes of a Child
At first glance Tony appeared to be a typical four-year-old boy. He was of more or less average size for his age, with silky blond hair that tended to stand on end and bright green eyes that inquisitively took in the world around him. But appearances can be deceiving; nobody who spent more than a few minutes in his presence ever mistook him for average. Tony had some special gifts. Some of these were just a matter of having a leg up-things that would develop eventually in almost every healthy child; he spoke clearly and articulately in full sentences on an adult level, albeit in a tiny, four-year-old voice. He was a voracious reader, but Dr. Seuss and Richard Scarry held no interest for him. He could read Shakespeare and Tolstoy by the age of two, and had worked his way through most of the great Greek philosophers not long after. At three he'd figured out how to speed read, and his consumption of literature really started to take off. Around this time he also began to display an interest in the sciences, particularly astrophysics and cosmology.
It would have been next to impossible to keep him a complete secret, of course. Slivers of the story had managed to get around, to the point where he was seen as a minor wonder in the small town where he lived and much of the surrounding area. In the intellectual world rumors of his prowess had even further-reaching celebrity. A number of the world's most accredited and influential schools for gifted children had actually asked for permission to speak with and test him, with an eye toward interesting his parents in placing him within their respective institutions. Schools from all over America, Canada and most of Europe had come calling, which was certainly not the standard procedure for these establishments. Instead of the usual routine, in which hopeful parents pine away on waiting lists of staggering scope, rather some very high profile schools wanted a shot at adding him to their ranks. Most were given permission to have a chat with him, but in every instance it was made abundantly clear there was to be no evaluating beyond what could be gleaned by simple interaction. In almost every case, this brief encounter was more than enough. Recruiters would show up at semi-regular intervals-by special invitation and appointment only-and would invariably find the young prodigy sitting on the couch with a good-sized book propped open in front of him. They would have a conversation, during which Tony would do his best not to embarrass his guest, and would send them on their way shaking their head, feeling as though they had just been in the presence of greatness, marveling at the possibilities.
Of course, there was more than mere precociousness to Tony. In addition to being highly intelligent, he was also incredibly astute-he picked up on things quickly and seemed to know things that nobody has any business knowing, especially a toddler. On top of that he was a very intuitive child, and had the uncanny ability to sense moods and emotions. He seemed to possess certain abilities that, while unimpressive to him, were astounding to the average (or, for that matter, above average) person.
All of this was irrefutably remarkable for a child his age, and clearly placed him in a category nearly without peer. But these were just the things he allowed other people to see. Tony had other abilities, things that most children never grow into no matter how old they got. A wisdom that belied his years kept him from revealing too much of these other abilities to just anyone; even at four he had an idea of what might happen to him if his special talents became known to the wrong people-certain government agencies, for example-or others who would certainly wish to exploit the things he could do. As a result, nobody knew the breadth of his capabilities.
His mother, Wendy, was the lone exception. She had much greater insight into what Tony could do than anyone other than the boy himself, and even she was occasionally caught off guard by the things he could do. Far from frightened by the things she saw, rather she was amazed and thrilled. Though far from the level of genius herself, she was sharp enough to recognize something special, indeed almost certainly unique, when she saw it. In her mind, Tony was an evolutionary miracle, perhaps centuries or millennia ahead of his time. He was, she figured, where the human race was ultimately headed. And she felt privileged to have played a part in bringing him into the world.
Which is not to say that she didn't find some of the things Tony came up with disconcerting, or in some cases, downright creepy. Sometimes his abilities drifted from intellectual to the arcane, well beyond her conceivable notions of his capability. She once asked him what he thought about the work of Stephen Hawking, during a period not long after he'd first taken an intense interest in physics.