On his first day as Senator Crawford’s new aide, Kevin Vacit knew he had a lot to learn.
Kevin's whole life had led up to this point - from his humble beginnings as a Zuni orphan in New Mexico, to his two degrees in neurophysics, his career shift into law (Harvard, top of the class), to his prestigious position with the Houston special attorney for metasensory evidence. Now here he stood in the office of the most powerful man on the planet.
Kevin had met Crawford earlier in the day. Crawford could hardly believe Kevin wasn't yet twenty-four years old. The old man didn't want to let on, but Kevin could feel he was more than a little jealous. It was a bit like a high profile clerkship, Kevin decided - were Crawford applying to be his own aide, especially with his resume at twenty-four, he'd never even get an interview.
Now, however, the Senator was attending to other business. Tom Nguyen, who had served as Crawford’s aide for nineteen years, and who had interviewed Kevin for the position, stood from his desk to greet the third member of their party, a lean fellow the color of dark coffee.
“Kevin Vacit,” said Tom, “may I introduce Akimba Ironheart.”
Kevin shook the man’s black-gloved hand.
“I hope you don’t mind, but it’s standard operating procedure to have a teep along for these sorts of things.”
“A ‘teep’?” asked Kevin, pretending he didn’t know the slang for telepath. He made a mental note of Tom's usage of the word; he had only heard the term used by telepaths themselves, never by normals.
That was interesting.
“Our office isn’t always as formal as you might suppose, at least not behind closed doors,” Tom said with grin. Then he got back to business. “To be candid, Mr. Vacit, assisting Lee is an extremely sensitive position. Even the vice president doesn’t have higher clearance.”
“I understand completely,” Kevin said, making another mental note - the president and Sen. Crawford knew more about telepath policy than the VP. Damn. “And I’m aware of Mr. Ironheart’s reputation as a court telepath," Kevin continued, turning to the African man, "you worked on the Knorozov trial, didn't you?”
Ironheart seemed pleased. “I did.”
“That was good work.”
Kevin had done his homework on every "teep" who worked in Crawford's office. His efforts were paying off.
Tom drummed his fingers on his desk. “Another reason for Mr. Ironheart’s joining us has to do with security above and beyond you. Some of the things I’m going to tell you can’t be overheard, and there are a lot of people who would like to overhear, teep and normal alike.”
“The first thing I want to stress is that this job carries some risk. While it’s not well known, there have been four attempts on the senator’s life in the past nineteen years. None succeeded, and in each case after the first, teeps were able to identify the assassin before his attempt.”
“I haven't heard about these.” Kevin mentally ticked off the list of countries who could have sent assassins – The Russian Consortium, Amazonia, China, India… the senator’s list of enemies was long. Perhaps some of the assassins had even been telepaths themselves.
“You wouldn’t have heard,” said Tom. “We keep these things out of the news. Many things, in fact.” He walked around to the front of his desk and looked his potential replacement square in the eye. “Cards on the table, Kevin – you’ve signed a nondisclosure document, an oath even. That’s to be taken seriously, and it starts now. I ask you again, for the record – do you swear to keep the things I tell you confidential?”
“Do you swear on your life?”
He felt Akimba paying intense attention to him, and a faint presence in his mind.
“He’s telling the truth,” said the former court telepath.
Tom smiled thinly.
Kevin smiled, too, at the ease at which he had outfoxed even the best foxes. There would be no more tests. He was in.
“Good,” said Tom. “Let’s go have a look at Teeptown, then.”
Kevin, Tom and Akimba climbed into a government groundcar and headed off. When they approached the "village," they passed the security guards, drove past the concertina wire and stunfence, and entered "Teeptown." They exited the vehicle, and Kevin took in the broad avenue, the carefully sculpted landscape. In the middle distance, he could see a mass of scaffolding and lifters busily at work, and beyond that the sharp peaks of the Alps.
“Is that EarthDome?” he asked, pointing toward the distant construction.
Tom nodded. “It will be. What else could it be? It should be a wonder when it’s done. All lit up in blue, I'm told.” For a moment, a brief regret seemed to flash across his face, then he turned in a slow circle. “This is the metasensory compound.”
“It looks more like a village.” The buildings were mostly new and fresh, unpretentious ceramic brick, a hue removed from natural earth tones, topped with high, pitched roofs. More than anything, the complex resembled some of the self-towns that had sprung up in rural areas over the last few decades – homages to an earlier time. Simulated small towns, as it were.
“It is, Mr. Vacit, hence its name, 'Teeptown.' That’s the square, there – bars, restaurants, a few shops. Those larger buildings on the hill there are the dormitories for the children and singles. Married housing is down that way.” He gestured.
“I thought, from what you told me, that it would be more like a military base.”
“We try to minimize that feel. Teeps are not ordinary enlistees, as I’m sure you know. Most come from civilian backgrounds, and though they find themselves more comfortable here, with other teeps, than they did out in the ‘mundane’ world, we want them to have some of the comforts of the lives they’ve left behind. If you know the military, you know the people on military bases are always trying to get off base. Most teeps would rather stay here, though, where they are safe. But given that factor of isolation, we try to make life as – you’ll excuse me, Akimba – ‘normal’ as possible.”
Tom laughed a little at his own joke, though neither Akimba nor Kevin said anything. They walked along the paths of the “village.” Kevin saw a lot of children, fewer adults, the occasional uniformed cop or functionary.
“Metasensory has four legs, as it were: Business, judiciary, law enforcement and verbal arts. First and foremost, metasensory’s function is education. Teeps are taught how to use their powers and how to control them. The younger we get them, the better.”
“What about the parents of the children?”
“What about them?” asked Tom. “This is a boarding school. A pilot program, of sorts. The parents can visit, the children can go home on holidays – if they’re deemed able to control their powers. It’s not perfect, but it works. Eventually, most kids end up feeling more at home here than with their parents – I suppose that's inevitable.”
“But what about the parents?”
“Again, what about them? Most teep kids have at least one teep parent, so we have whole families here. Many of the children were born here. In fact, we’ll be having our first secondary school graduating class in just three years. An exciting day.”
“I look forward to it.”
Kevin knew that nothing Tom had shown him so far was actually confidential. Everyone knew the Authority had built this “village” in the shadow of what would some day be EarthDome, and that any children identified as being telepaths had to attend the Authority’s school.
His eyes drifted off into the distance, to the barbed wire fencing.
“Education goes beyond teep abilities, of course,” Tom was saying. “All of the usual courses are offered, but we try to steer people toward careers for which they are best suited. Here, for instance, we have the school of law enforcement, and there the verbal arts college. And, of course we have a military prep academy. The Authority acts as a clearinghouse. We hire teeps out to private business, where they monitor deals – on a mutual-consent basis, and for a fee. We also hire them out to EarthForce, where they mostly serve in Alliance security, and to the courts, which I know you are already familiar with.”
Again, Tom had told him nothing even remotely confidential – anyone who did even the most cursory search on the ‘nets, or who had ever read a newspaper, knew as much. And though few outsiders got past the Teeptown gates, Kevin was far from unique in that regard. If classified activity took place here, Tom had given him no indication.
Kevin watched as people walked to and from class, or went shopping. A few telepath children climbed on monkey bars. Two men walked together into a bar. All the telepath adults wore black leather gloves, but that was to be expected. If this place held secrets, Kevin knew, they lay under the surface.
“And Senator Crawford oversees all of this?” he asked.
Tom nodded. “Very little happens here without his knowing about it – which means you have to be up on it all. You understand the precautions we are lavishing on you.”
“I do. I hope I’m found worthy. It’s exciting.”
“Some of our detractors don’t think so,” said Tom, darkly. Kevin remembered reading about the bitter battles in the Senate, and now, he also knew there had been attempts on Crawford’s life.
“I’ve heard some complain that the senator has too much influence.”
It was an understatement. Tom smiled sardonically. “I don't doubt he is the most powerful man on the planet. I think you’re bright enough that I don’t have to explain why.”
Kevin didn’t like Tom’s evasive answers. He had read everything public about the Authority, but there was much more he still didn’t know. Lee apparently had telepath bodyguards protecting him around the clock, and Authority had covered up four assassination attempts.
There was more. Kevin was sure of it. But what?
“Can I ask another question? One perhaps more sensitive?”
“The stunfence. The concertina wire.”
“Ah. Ostensibly, it’s for the protection of the teeps. In reality, too – we’ve had many threats and a few isolated attacks on the complex. The local normals don’t much like the teeps. But as with any boarding school, we also have our share of would-be runaways.” He paused. “It’s not a perfect world, and this isn’t the perfect solution.”
Kevin inwardly shook his head at Tom’s evasive answer. If he was going to take over Tom’s position, he needed to know everything.
“I wasn’t criticizing, just asking. If I’m to do this job, I need all the information.”
“In due time, Mr. Vacit.”
 Dark Genesis says fifteen years here, not nineteen - I have changed it because the first assassination attempt is shown in 2115, nineteen years earlier (on the Moon).