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Andy's Story (2)

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November 2262. Chicago. Psi Corps school, Minor Academy.

            Andy arrived at his new school with only a small suitcase and the clothes on his back. He’d been told not to pack much – the Corps would provide everything he needed. So he arrived only with mementos of home – family photos and vids, pieces of his old life.

            The first changes were external. He was given a set of gold and umber long-sleeved school uniforms,[1] each with a psi insignia on the front. For outdoor wear, he received a matching windbreaker, coat, jogging pants and sneakers,[2] along with shiny black dress shoes for formal affairs.

            “You are thirteen, right?” asked Teacher Jovanović, a stern, older man with salt and pepper hair and gray, colorless eyes, but who nonetheless radiated with the same sort of presence Andy had felt around Tess, a subtle bending of the mental space around him.[3] He wore a shiny badge like Tess had.

            Andy nodded.

            “You are no longer a child, so you must dress modestly.”[4]

            He handed Andy a pair of thin black leather gloves, and Andy obediently put them on. It felt odd to wear gloves indoors.

            The teacher gestured. “They are special. Do you know why we wear them, Mr. Mora?”

            He didn’t know. They seemed like ordinary gloves, similar to those worn in winter, except these had only a thin silk lining.

            “Telepaths have worn gloves since the beginning of the Corps, even earlier – for one hundred and fifty years. Normals passed laws to distinguish us on sight,[5] laws that are still in effect today. That is also why we wear this insignia.” He gestured to the badge on his chest.

            Andy felt queasy. He’d be marked and separated for the rest of his life? That couldn’t be right. He had to have misunderstood.

            The older man didn’t seem angry about his fate, just matter-of-fact. “But we are not our ancestors,” he continued. “They may have resented it, but we do not. We adapt. We are proud. Gloves mark boundaries – between childhood and adulthood, between public and private, between the inner and the outer, clean and dirty.[6] Between us and them.”

            “Them,” Andy could tell, meant normals.

            “We always wear gloves in public.[7] And we do not touch one another without them… unless we’re married, of course.”[8]

            He led Andy to a separate room. When Andy emerged, clad in his new uniform, the teacher smiled proudly, and led him to a full-length mirror.

            The clothes were the right size, but they didn’t feel right. Andy didn’t know the boy staring back at him. He looked like the one in the public service announcement, except for the different style uniform, and without his hair slicked. He looked foreign.

            No one wore uniforms in his normal school. The only people who wore uniforms were soldiers in EarthForce. His dad had spent twenty years in the service.

            Who am I in this place? he wondered. Will I ever fit in here? Will I ever be able to go home?

            The teacher adjusted Andy’s collar slightly, and nodded approvingly. “You look sharp now, don’t you think?”

            The boy in the mirror nodded back, uncertainly.

            “How does the saying go, Andy… when in Rome?”

            “Do as the Romans.”

            “Nonsense. You’re in the Corps.” The teacher grinned knowingly. “All telepaths are brothers and sisters, whether we live in Rome, or here, or on Mars. No matter where you live, the Corps is still your Mother and Father, and always will be.”

*****

            The new wardrobe wasn’t so bad in the winter, Andy decided, but he dreaded the summer. No one on campus wore short pants or sleeves. Even when swimming, he heard, students had to remain modestly covered, especially their hands.

            Andy was assigned to a dorm with students his age, a long, low, concrete building whose corridors were decorated with Psi Corps motivational posters, urging him to eat healthy foods, dress modestly, and study hard. His room was equally spartan – two simple beds sat against the far wall, each under a window that over looked the campus quad. The bed on the right had been neatly made, and stood next to a desk covered with books, writing implements and digital devices. His desk, on the left wall, was empty, and the cubby over it contained only two books: a thin one called the Psi Corps Student Handbook, and a thicker one entitled the Minor Academy Course Reader, Volume 1.

            Andy thumbed through the books – the reader looked especially interesting, as it contained stories from history and literature – and then inspected the rest of the room. The small closet had been partitioned in two – even if Andy had wanted to bring all his clothes, there wouldn’t have been space. Two posters hung over his roommate’s bed: one of a Psi Cop, and another of a group of smiling telepath teens standing in front of a large Psi Corps insignia, under which was written:

COOPERATION

We are all stronger together!

Matri nostrae ac Patri semper fidelis![9]

            Andy made his bed, listening to the flap of the flags outside in the courtyard. He heard someone enter the room from behind.

            “Hey!” said a high voice. “You must be my new roommate! I’m Hideo.”

            Andy turned, and did a double-take – everyone he’d seen since he stepped off the transport had had that same “three-dimensional” presence, but this boy “looked” like the normals back in Andy’s school, even though he wore the same Psi Corps school uniform.

            “You’re not telepathic,” Andy said, and then realized how terrible that sounded.

            That’s the best you could do for a hello? he chided himself. You’re never going to have any friends.

            “I’m only thirteen!” the boy replied, bristling. “I am a telepath!”

            “Sorry. I’m new here.”

            “So what that I haven’t got it yet?[10] You going to be a snob about it?”

            “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be. I just thought everyone here was a telepath.”

            “I told you, I am a telepath! My parents are both telepaths!”[11]

            Andy felt like a jerk, but not for long, because soon the whole floor had come to meet him, boys and girls alike. The small dorm room wouldn’t hold everybody, so they went out into a lounge at the end of the hall, where the walls were covered in large art projects. The students surrounded him and bombarded him with questions, from the mundane to the very personal.

            “What’s your name?”

            “Where are you from?”

            “Is that the city, or the country?”

            “Are there other telepaths in your family?”

            “Do you like boys, or girls, or both or neither?”

            Andy turned to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy who had asked him that. “I like Narn,” he shot back, sarcastically.

            Everyone laughed. “You can’t like Narn!” said the freckle-faced kid. “They have no telepaths.[12] You have to like humans.”

            “No I don’t, the president of the Interstellar Alliance married a Minbari, didn’t he?”

            “Yeah but that’s just weird.”

            Andy noticed that there weren’t any adults in sight – the students were very independent, at least as a group. They reminded Andy of a school of fish in the way they fit together, a seamless, flowing entity with its own subtle internal structure. He was the new, shiny pebble in their tank, the novelty that everyone wanted to swim up and touch.

            “Were you all raised in the Corps?” he asked the group, sensing the answer.

            The sea of heads nodded. “The ten of us are from Cadre 1.”

            “And we’re Cadre 2.”

            “Three!” Hands went up gleefully. “You’re sitting next to the project we did last year.”

            Andy turned and saw the small plaque identifying the installment and its creators. Several girls ran over and pointed to the parts of it that they’d worked on, telling Andy what they were especially proud of.

            “What’s it supposed to be?” Art had never been Andy’s strong suit – all he could see was paint, paper, a network of string, gloves and abstract interconnected shapes, all together within a huge red border. Words were scattered throughout, handwritten onto the background, or hanging on small cards from the string – “mother,” “father,” “cadre,” “Corps,” “strength,” “sacrifice,” “family,” “no other.”

            “It represents family,” one of the girls said, like this was intuitively obvious. “Every cadre did a project. They’re in all the dorms, in the cafeteria, in the classrooms.”

            Andy shrugged. He didn’t see “family” in that pattern of shapes at all.

            “And you?” he asked. “You were all raised in the Corps?”

            ”Yes,” said a Black boy named Kit, who Andy could tell was very strong telepathically and someone all the other students looked up to. He explained that they had grown up in cadres, groups of about a dozen children who all ate, slept and even, when they were younger, bathed together under the care of nannies.

            “But now that we’re all in the Minor Academy,” Hideo told him, “we’ll finally get to leave campus, and see the city.” None had left school grounds since they’d arrived, most around the age of three.

            “You’ve never seen normals?!”

            “Some of the support staff here aren’t rated highly enough to be in the Corps,” offered Deepa, a girl with coffee skin and dark brown eyes, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her voice held a trace of pity. “But they’re not normals, they’re P1s and P2s. They were raised in the Corps, so they choose to wear gloves like we do. Only Mr. Kahn, the head gardener, was raised as a normal. He wears gloves here, of course, like all adults do in the Corps, but there’s a rumor he takes them off when he leaves campus.”

            The students giggled.

            “He’s sort of a normal,” Henry offered. “I mean, not a dangerous normal, obviously…”

            “He said that normals think of him as a telepath, and that’s why he prefers to be here.”

            “It’s safer to be in the Corps,” offered another boy, definitively, and all the other children nodded. “The outside world is a scary place.”

            Andy remembered Patrick. Some normals were dangerous, certainly, but the whole world? Most normals weren’t like that.

 

[1] Gregory Keyes, Deadly Relations, p. 41, 47

[2] Id., p. 47

[3] Gregory Keyes, Final Reckoning, p. 212-213

[4] Telepaths get their gloves at twelve or thirteen (canon is unclear), and have to wear them in public from then on. Wearing gloves is a mark of adulthood, which comes with additional responsibility. See Deadly Relations, p. 37 (Bester and his cadre receiving their gloves), Final Reckoning, p. 68 (“In the Corps, you always wore gloves, except when you were alone – or intimate.”)

[5] Gregory Keyes, Dark Genesis, inference

[6] Being in public without gloves is equivalent to being naked. See Final Reckoning, p. 15 (“His face seemed to have more lines each time he looked at it, but all in all he looked pretty good for a man of eighty-two. Except for his hands, which jarred him every time. Pink, gloveless - naked. He flexed his right hand, the good one. When he was a teenager, he’d had nightmares now and then that he was out in public, without his gloves. Telepaths didn’t wear gloves anymore, so he couldn’t either, not without being noticed. It made him feel dirty.”)

[7] A Race Through Dark Places (telepaths must wear a psi insignia badge and gloves when out in public).

[8] Deadly Relations, inference. See Final Reckoning, p. 68. Telepaths do, of course, sometimes have sex outside of marriage, though teachers would not teach children of this age that this was appropriate behavior. See Deadly Relations, p. 136. Bester and his girlfriend have a sexual relationship when they are both nineteen: "He went, a little after nine. Liaisons like this were ambiguous territory - essentially everyone knew that students went to each other's rooms, and ostensibly it was forbidden. As long as you were careful, as long as appearances were maintained, no one really cared. Like a good parent, the Corps knew that sometimes it was best to be a little blind in one eye.

"So sneaking in was just a ritual, though there were penalties for being caught. He might be forbidden to associate with Liz for a time; leave, always difficult to get, might be entirely restricted."

See also A Race Through Dark Places; Talia taking off her gloves in Susan Ivanova’s apartment signals intimacy (implied also to be sexual).

[9] “To our Mother and Father, always faithful” in Latin. Canon gives the Corps motto as “Maternis, Paternis,” except this isn’t grammatically correct in Latin. I do not know how this error came to be, but I decided to fix it.

[10] Deadly Relations, p. 7, 36. Most telepaths develop their abilities in their teens. Children of telepath parents attend Psi Corps schools, no matter when their abilities develop. In Geneva, they live in a separate dorm.

[11] See Deadly Relations, p. 215. (“Lyta nodded affirmatively. “My mother was the only woman in our line in the last four generations who wasn’t [in Cadre Prime]. 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.””) Children of two telepath parents almost certainly grow up to be telepaths, though a small percentage do not rate highly enough to join the Corps.

[12] Pilot (The Gathering) and elsewhere