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Milla's Story

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From Paragon of Animals:

Garibaldi: My name's Michael Garibaldi-

Byron Gordon: Yes, it is. And the answer is no.

Garibaldi: Wait a second. You didn't hear what I had to say.

Byron Gordon: Yes, I did. I heard your proposition. I heard what you thought I would probably say in response. And I heard the counterarguments you planned to use. I know you're having discomfort with those shoes and that lunch is not sitting well with you just now.

Garibaldi: Not big on privacy, are you?

Byron Gordon: I did nothing.

Garibaldi: Wait a-

Byron Gordon: Do you know what a telepath has to do in order to avoid picking up stray thoughts? We have to kick down our natural abilities. Run rhymes and little songs through our heads, round and round. All that to keep from picking up what you're broadcasting loud enough to be heard halfway down the hall. You're one of those people who rehearses everything, Mr. Garibaldi. You never enter a situation until you've gone over it and over it a hundred times worked out what you will say what the other person will say, how you'll respond. It's quite remarkable. And extremely depressing. That little personality quirk must have cost you more than a few relationships. Mundanes want us to fill our heads with noise and babble so we won't hear what you're shouting at the top of your minds. I didn't need to scan you, Mr. Garibaldi. And even if I did, since you were here to ask us to do the same to others on your behalf you do not exactly have the moral high ground to complain, now, do you?

*****

2203. Geneva. Teeptown.

            Milla Baginski appreciated the privileges of having been raised in Cadre Prime, and chief among them the privilege to leave Teeptown – overnight, even. Most students couldn’t leave campus unsupervised until the Major Academy[1] – but Cadre Primers were special.

            Milla had entered the Corps at three, and she lived with her age cohort in the 3-5 cadre house. Back then there’d only been a dozen of them, all manifested telepaths.[2] Some of her cadremates had been in the Corps since infancy – Al, Milla knew, had practically been born telepathic.[3]

            Cadre Prime was the most prestigious of the cadres. Some kids had parents and grandparents who were important in the Corps, or came from “old families.”[4] Others, like Julia, whose name was pronounced the Mexican way, came from normal homes.[5] Julia had entered the cadre at seven.[6] She was only a P5,[7] but she came from a very wealthy Mexican family, who had arranged for her to have the most elite education possible in the Corps.

            Milla’s own parents were telepaths, who both worked in administration. Somehow, through favors or luck, they’d got her in.

            She looked forward to her off-campus trips. Growing up, she’d been especially close with several of her cadremates, and they’d stayed “together” even after entering the Minor Academy and moving to the dorms.[8] They often played soccer together on the quad, or ate lunch together between classes.[9]

            Well, all except Al. He no longer wanted anything to do with them.[10]

            The rest of the group had gone hiking, fishing, and camping together, even making short visits to the neighboring villages to eat at a café and buy souvenirs.[11] Every time they left Teeptown, crossed the walls and wire into the wide open world, they learned something new about each other, and about themselves.

            This month, they were planning a hike along a pass under Mont Blanc.[12] Brett had picked out the spot, and everyone usually did what Brett said. He’d been their unofficial leader since as far back as anyone could remember.[13] At over six and a half feet tall,[14] with deep, intense eyes, he was ruggedly handsome.[15] Everyone did whatever Brett said, because he was Brett.[16]

            Milla had a crush on him, as did most of the girls in the cadre, but that was as far as it went. The special closeness of the cadre wasn’t exactly like a sibling relationship, nor like the attraction she felt for older boys, all raised in their own age peer groups.[17] The bond between cadremates was, in a sense, “something different,” something unique.[18]

            Cadre Prime was a team. They felt, deep inside, that they had to “prove themselves” in unity compared to others[19]: both the other, “lesser” cadres, and especially to the “laters,” those telepaths who’d entered the Corps at adolescence and never lived in a cadre at all.[20] Cadre Prime knew each other as no one else did, or would.[21] They were tight-knit, they were proud, and they were special; it was them against the world.[22] It always had been that way, and Milla hoped it always would be.

            And that was why she found it so sad, and perplexing, that Al had taken such little interest in them since graduation. He didn’t want to eat with them, or play sports with them, or even chat with them after class or in the halls. As a child, he’d played the same games as everyone else,[23] but sometimes played too competitively,[24] or otherwise separated himself from the group.[25] Now, he shunned all social activities,[26] and spent every afternoon – rain or shine – in the West End MetaPol station, obsessed with the Corps’ lists of rogues, and progress with tracking them.[27]

            She wondered if perhaps his asocial behavior had something to do with being an orphan – his parents had been murdered by rogues when he was an infant.[28] Milla’s own parents used to visit often when she was little.[29] She imagined it must have been very hard for him to see his cadremates’ biological parents, but never to have any of his own. For some reason, he couldn’t trust anyone, even the members of his own cadre.

            Al had always been the brightest, the hardest-working student in the class.[30] Everyone respected him for that.[31] Why did he want so little to do with his peers?

            The Wednesday before the hiking trip, Milla and her former cadremates sat together in the quad eating lunch. Julia spoke up.

            “I invited Al to come hiking with us,” she said.[32]

            “Really?” Milla asked.

            “Dr. Bey suggested it.[33] I figured if an idea came from Dr. Bey, it must be a good one.”

            Dr. Sandoval Bey, a teacher of advanced criminology in the Major Academy, was one of the most respected adults in the school.[34] He’d once been the chief of all of MetaPol, before “retiring” two years later to become the station chief of Geneva.[35] Now he spent most of his time teaching future Psi Cops, though he was still one himself, and occasionally worked in the field on special assignments.[36]

            Milla found it interesting that Dr. Bey had taken an interest in Al, who wasn’t one of his students yet. It must be a Psi Cop thing, she decided. Al was a P12, and was clearly heading along that career path, so the criminology teachers were keeping a close eye on him.

            The Corps was Mother and Father. If one student was struggling socially or academically, the whole community made efforts to help.

            The more Milla thought about it, it didn’t seem strange that Dr. Bey would have been looking out for him. It wasn’t as if anyone could miss Al, after all. He’d won the Karges Award the year before,[37] for the highest marks in his class.[38]

            “What did Al say?” Milla asked.

            Julia nodded, taking a bite of her sandwich. He said it might be fun, she ‘cast, chewing. I told him to meet us Saturday morning at seven, at the Grabber.[39]

            A statue of William Karges, the secret telepath who had saved the life of EA President Elizabeth Robinson about fifty years earlier, stood in the center of the quad. Everyone in their cadre had nicknamed the statue “the Grabber” since they were little, because of Karges' position.[40] No one else called the statue that, just them. They had lots of words like that, that only they shared – like how they’d called the monitors “Grins” when they were small[41] – little “secrets” only they, or at least only other Cadre Primers, knew.

            “You think he’ll come?” Milla asked. That was so unlike Al.

            Julia shrugged.

            “Maybe if it’s a slow rogue day,” quipped Brett.

            As they sat eating the last of their lunch, a girl came over to their table. She was short, with red hair and freckles. Milla recognized her as Annie, one of the “laters” in her classes.

            “You really think you’re something,” Annie said, her face in a bitter sneer. “Cadre Prime this, Cadre Prime that. We can’t leave campus for three years, we’re stuck in here like a jail, and you’re going on another camping trip. You think that’s fair? I think you’re gross.”

            “It is fair!” Milla snapped. “We can leave campus because we grew up in the Corps, we know the rules, we know how to control our powers around normals!”

            “I hate you,” Annie grumbled, and walked away.

            Let her go.

            It was Brett. He held out a hand, and looked at Milla sternly.

            She sighed and finished her lunch.

 

NOTES:

[1] See Deadly Relations, p. 132-133, where Bester and his then-girlfriend Liz Montoya are out on a date in Geneva, going to a restaurant, churches and bars, and “Teeptown wasn’t even visible” from the top of the hill. They are nineteen, in their final year at the Academy, and "they had passes for the whole night - hard to get." I assume they were able to get the passes because of a combination of factors: their age, the fact that Al is former Cadre Prime, and the fact that they're both soon-to-be Psi Cops.

[2] Deadly Relations, p. 7

[3] Dark Genesis, p. 239-250, 267 (the Corps has him rated as a P12 when he's only a week old), Deadly Relations, p. 21.

[4] Lyta’s family is an example. See Deadly Relations, p. 215:

"You were in Cadre Prime?"

She nodded affirmatively. "My mother was the only woman in our line in the last four generations who wasn't. She was only a P2, so she was in the Basement at first, but when she was still pretty young, Grandma arranged for some relatives to raise her outside Teeptown. She was monitored, of course, but never actively attached to the Corps."

"Four generations?"

"Six, really - all the way back to Desa Alexander, back before it was even Psi Corps."

"Yes, I guessed you were from one of the old families, since you kept your mitochondrial name. I was a Cadre Primer myself, you know."

[5] Deadly Relations, p. 17-18 (Julia is from a normal home, and is just developing telepathy (slowly)):

There were only four new kids, a girl and three boys. The girl was pretty, with dark hair and green eyes.

Brett was already talking to her, though, as they watched the play.

"They aren't saying anything," she noted.

"They won't," Brett said. "You have to p'hear."

She shut her eyes. "I can almost hear..."

"P'hear," Brett corrected.

"I've never met another mind reader until a few days ago," she said, softly - apologetically.

See also Deadly Relations, p. 20 (the pronunciation of Julia's name).

[6] Id., p. 7, ("They wound their way past the 3-5 cadre house, where he had lived the year before, and it struck Al how small it was, compared to the 6-10 house where he lived now"), and Julia enters the Corps shortly after, on the next Birthday.

[7] Inference. Canon never explains how Julia got into Cadre Prime, so I speculate that her family is very wealthy, and her parents "bought" her slot. She is canonically a much weaker telepath than Bester and Brett (p. 17-18), and then later, she is shown making the decision to enter the Business track (p. 41), which is usually for weaker telepaths. See Deadly Relations, p. 8-9 ("P'squinting, Al could make them out - Keefa, anyway. Keefa was a weak blocker - she'd probably end up a busybody or a boot, but never a cop."). Some other children in Cadre Prime are weaker, too, though whether they come from normal homes or were born into the Corps isn't clear.

[8] Deadly Relations, p. 20 (cadres are broken up in the Minor Academy, so it's implied that students live in dorms). Later, we see Bester living in dormitory housing when he's dating Liz, in the Major Academy.

[9] Deadly Relations, p. 41. ("We were wondering about you the other day..." She trailed off, probably just realizing that she had said "we." He knew, of course. The Minor Academy was large, but not that large. He had often noticed Julia, Milla, Brett, Azmun, Ekko, and most of the others from the cadre having lunch or playing soccer on the quads.")

[10] Deadly Relations, p. 54 (“I – Al, we were worried about you. … Your professors are worried about you. They don’t think you have any friends. And you didn’t stay in touch with us-” "You didn't stay in touch with me," he corrected. "Al, you never liked us. We never thought you did. We thought you were happy to be away from us."). See also p. 87 ("“You have no friends. You run, you practice martial arts, and you drill unsupervised in your ‘spare’ time. All solitary activities. And this is how you’ve lived, as far as I can tell, for your entire short life.” "I don't really get along with others very well, sir." "No, you don't. That's exactly the problem.")

[11] Deadly Relations, p. 47-54

[12] Deadly Relations, p. 46-47

[13] Inference. See Deadly Relations, p. 2, 11, 17-20, 32-33 (“Brett was only sucking up to him because he did want the cadre to win [the intracadre tournament]. That was Brett, always thinking about his position as leader. Not that anyone had ever elected him, or anything. They just accepted it, which was all wrong. Brett was neither the smartest nor psionically the strongest. Why should he be the one everyone paid attention to? But that was the way it was, wasn’t it? For now, anyway. When they got to the academy, where positions were officially awarded by merit and ability, he would come into his own.”)

[14] Deadly Relations, p. 47 (Brett is “two heads” taller than Al).

[15] Id. (“with the sort of ruggedly handsome face one saw on Psi Corps recruitment posters”)

[16] Deadly Relations, p. 32-33

[17] The social relationships between children raised in cohesive group structures have been studied in the context of kibbutzim. See Shor, Eran and Dalit Simchai. 2009. “Incest Avoidance, the Incest Taboo, and Social Cohesion: Revisiting Westermarck and the Case of the Israeli Kibbutzim.” American Journal of Sociology 114:1803-42

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Deadly Relations, p. 7 (“Ms. Chastain said that was because some teeps didn’t join cadres until they were older. They were late bloomers and had to stay in the latents’ dorm. The other kids called the latents’ dorm the “Basement,” and nobody ever went there unless they had to. Al couldn't imagine not having any psi. How could you have a real cadre without psi? The kids from the Basement were good at playing normals in the games, but everyone made fun of them. Mostly they kept to themselves until they got their psi and could join a real cadre. Some got really old before that happened.”),

[21] Shor, Eran and Dalit Simchai. 2009. “Incest Avoidance, the Incest Taboo, and Social Cohesion: Revisiting Westermarck and the Case of the Israeli Kibbutzim.” American Journal of Sociology 114:1803-42

[22] Id.

[23] Deadly Relations, p. 2-11 (for example, “Cops and Blips”)

[24] Deadly Relations, p. 9-10 (betraying Brett in the game of Cops and Blips, so he could “win”)

[25] Deadly Relations, p. 8 (“You’re always playing alone, always have, even when we were little.”)

[26] Deadly Relations, p. 43 ("Anyway, it's good to see a youngster taking such an active interest. You're a good example. Still-" [Van Ark] widened his hands expressively "-you're in here every day, rain or shine! Don't you ever just take a day off? Fly a kite, take a girl on a picnic? When you get to be my age, you'll regret it.") See also p. 87 (“You have no friends. You run, you practice martial arts, and you drill unsupervised in your ‘spare’ time. All solitary activities. And this is how you’ve lived, as far as I can tell, for your entire short life.”)

[27] Deadly Relations, p. 42-45

[28] Deadly Relations, p. 37 ("He had asked about his own [parents], once, and was told they had been killed when rogues bombed Teeptown.")

[29] Id.

[30] Inference. See Deadly Relations, p. 33, 41 (“I heard that you won the Karges Award last year.” “Yes, I guess I did.” “I’m not really surprised. You were always the best in the cadre.”), Deadly Relations, p. 35-36 (“All telepaths are special, but you are the most special. The powers of most children do not bloom until they are eleven, twelve, older. Most of you manifested almost as you were born. Only five percent manifest before puberty. You are all rare.” See also Legacies (puberty can trigger the development of psi))

[31] Inference.

[32] Deadly Relations, p. 42, 46-47

[33] Deadly Relations, p. 54 ("[B]ut the teachers were worried, and-" "-and they asked you to do something with me. You bumped into me on purpose, didn't you?" She nodded.), p. 88 (Bey told them to invite Al along).

[34] Deadly Relations, p. 94-95

[35] Inference. Id. (“He had once been an executive officer in MetaPol – maybe the chief – but had retired from the position after only two years, to become station chief of Geneva. He was an instructor at the Major Academy, teaching advanced criminology.”) There is no indication given of why he left such a high position so quickly, although the dates are consistent with the timing of the Dexter raid.

[36] Id.

[37] Deadly Relations, p. 41, 47, 52

[38] Inference.

[39] Deadly Relations, p. 42

[40] Deadly Relations, p. 5, 10-11, 137, 185, Final Reckoning, p. 246-247 (“the statue of William Karges, which he and his friends had called the ‘Grabber’”).

[41] Deadly Relations, p. 25. See also p. 215, where Lyta, who was also raised in Cadre Prime, calls the monitors "Grins."