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William Karges: Hero of the Psi Corps

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            All the little children, from all of the cadres, file silently into the auditorium. It is Birthday, and the children, by tradition, are watching a vid about how the Corps was formed.[1]

            On screen, Elizabeth Robinson, the first Black woman president of the Earth Alliance,[2] stands waving to her supporters at the rally in Geneva. Short in stature, she nonetheless radiates power and confidence in every step she takes, and her steel-grey eyes hold a presence matched by none.[3]

            “Thank you, thank you,” she begins, graciously. “It is my honor and pleasure to address you today, and to share with you my vision for the future of our great planet…”

            Suddenly, there is motion in the crowd, as a man pushes his way to the front. Robinson’s guards, clad in their white uniforms with yellow visors,[4] begin to turn – in slow motion – but with a shout, one has already acted: William Karges, the captain of the guards,[5] who has already seized hold of the president to pull her out of harm’s way.[6] The bullet whizzes toward its target – also in slow motion – but misses her by merely an inch, hitting Karges squarely in the chest instead. Security pounces on the would-be assassin, and the president is rushed off to safety as Karges lies bleeding on the platform…

            …And later, back at the hospital, when the president asked him how he knew what was about to occur, he confesses to being a telepath, before breathing his last breath.[7] Robinson, so moved by his sacrifice, immediately assembles all her advisors and announces her plans for a universal Psi Corps across the EA,[8] so that telepaths can come out of the shadows of fear, and can all be registered.[9] In the Corps, she announces, they will have a place to live and work in peace, and develop their powers to their fullest for the good of humankind.[10] She quickly signs equal opportunity laws to improve the lives of telepaths everywhere.[11]

*****

            It is impossible to have grown up in the Corps and not know by heart the story of William Karges, the Corps' first hero. In the quad of the Corps' flagship school in Geneva stood a large, bronze statue in his likeness; similar statues stood in Corps facilities across the Earth Alliance. The Corps produced several children's vids about Karges' life and sacrifice, films all children in the Corps would watch on Birthday. Songs and poems were composed in his honor - children's choirs would sing his praises for school community. Plays were composed about his life, both by children and adult playwrights; these plays were also traditionally performed on Birthday alongside other short plays designed to teach children good values. Awards were named for Karges; for example, in the Corps' flagship school, this prestigious honor would be conferred on the the student with the best grades at the end of his/her last year in the cadres (age 13).

            But who really was William Karges? Certain facts are not in dispute: He was the captain of President Robinson's personal guard in 2156, and secretly a telepath. He grew up in the days of the MRA, before the Corps, and when his talents manifested in middle school, he kept it a secret rather than tell trusted adults. Children are taught that this decision was wrong, but he redeemed himself later through his sacrifice. He cannot be entirely blamed for his secrecy, they are taught, because in those days, telepaths "had nowhere to go." They weren't allowed to have jobs, and everyone hated them. (Children are never taught about a time when telepaths and normals had equal rights - according to the story, once telepaths "appeared," they were denied rights, simply for being telepaths. Telepaths were forced to hide, just to survive. Something had to be done!)

            William Karges became a master of martial arts, a presidential bodyguard, and eventually, the captain of that guard. President Robinson, as the story goes, was a bold and forward-thinking leader, a Globalist who believed in a sort of 22nd century "manifest destiny" of a unified Earth government. She opposed the "backwards" and "dangerous" forces of nationalism and regionalism, but her enemies were gaining power, and threatening to tear apart the Earth Alliance and return Earth to the dark ages of world wars.

            According to the story as taught to children, President Robinson was speaking at a large rally in 2156 when an assassin jumped out of the crowd, pulled out a gun and tried to shoot her. Karges, because he was a telepath, sensed the attacker's intent moments before he pulled the gun - and in truly dramatic fashion, he grabbed the president and pulled her to safety. The assassin fired his weapon - but struck Karges instead, and was immediately arrested. Karges was rushed to the hospital - as he lay dying, he confessed to Robinson that he had been a telepath all along, and it was through use of his telepathic powers that he was able to save her life. She weeps and decides that something must be done to help the telepaths. Thus she founds the Corps, in honor of his sacrifice, in a broad announcement across the Earth Alliance.

            She passes equal opportunity laws, so telepaths can reach their full potential in a safe, productive environment, and serve the Earth Alliance with pride.

            A home for telepaths - a family, even.

            Were it not for the brave sacrifice of William Karges, little children are taught, there would be no Corps for them, and telepaths would still be stuck in the dark days of fear and "homelessness."

            At some point, however, all children grow up and begin to see cracks in the Karges myth. If he pulled her to safety, not pushed her, how did he get struck? Where are the eyewitnesses to this so-called act of heroism - one that happened in front of thousands? And didn't the MRA already exist for generations before the Corps?

            Video evidence is even more damning - recordings of the rally at which Robinson was supposedly attacked show no sign of an assassin, let alone a heroic rescue. Robinson gives her speech without interruption. William Karges is not present. The real William Karges indeed wasn't on stage for the speech - he did encounter an assassin, but several blocks away. He confronted the man, was shot close-range, and called on his radio to warn the other presidential guards before passing out from shock. The assassin was arrested before he ever got close to Robinson.

            William Karges did die of his wounds, and somehow it did become known that he had been a telepath. Robinson had already decided to use her position to realize Sen. Crawford's dream of a universal, independently-charted MRA - in a universal, global Earth Alliance - but she needed a good opportunity to make this announcement.

            Suddenly, on April 6, the world was turned upside down with the arrival of the Centauri. A new wave of fear of "the other" broke out, and telepaths were the primary victims, facing levels of violence unseen since 2115.[12] Once again they were accused of being spies, saboteurs, and agents of cultural subversion.[13] Several Earth Alliance countries were already threatening to pull out of the "globalist" experiment if Robinson pushed for a universal MRA,[14] and the chaos made matters worse. Opponents of telepath registration were already propagandizing "martyrs" of their own - the news had run constant coverage about the "Chiapas Incident," wherein a hundred telepaths allegedly locked the doors of a church, set themselves on fire, and died singing in protest of registration, while MRA officers stood helplessly outside.[15]

            Robinson herself needed a good story to justify her globalist MRA - the Corps. If her opponents had martyrs, she needed them, too.

            Karges' death provided that story. Robinson announced the Psi Corps on April 12.

            Political "martyrdom" remains a recurring theme in telepath history, regardless of political affiliation.[16] Indeed, it was this same very powerful set of narratives that influenced Byron Gordon to self-immolate in 2262, setting off an escalation in telepath-on-telepath violence that spiraled into the Crisis.

 

[1] Gregory Keyes, Deadly Relations, p. 11

[2] Gregory Keyes, Dark Genesis, p. 119, Tim Dehass. “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/ (Robinson is described/drawn as Black in both sources, and she is implied also to be American in Dark Genesis. The EA is still relatively new (and not universal) at this point, so it is speculation that she is the first African-American female president of the EA.)

[3] Dark Genesis, p. 119

[4] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/

[5] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/ (See also Deadly Relations, p. 10-11, wherein Bester (age six) is telling the story, mentions that he was “the bodyguard” for president Robinson, not that he was the captain of the guards.)

[6] Deadly Relations, p. 10-11. The statue in the quad of the Corps’ school in Geneva is known to the children as “The Grabber,” because Karges is positioned so as to be “grabbing” Robinson to safety (even though Robinson herself is not in the statue). For mentions of the statue, see Deadly Relations, p. 5, 10-11, 42, 56, 81, Gregory Keyes, Final Reckoning, p. 246-247, 249.

[7] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/

[8] Dark Genesis, p. 119

[9] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/. (See Deadly Relations, p. 10-11. Bester, age six, says, “Nobody liked teeps - I mean telepaths - back then, and they weren’t supposed to have jobs or rights or anything. But because of what Mr. Karges did, President Robinson made Psi Corps, to reward us, so teeps would have a place they could be safe and productive.”)

[10] Id.

[11] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/

[12] Dark Genesis, p. 118-119

[13] Dark Genesis, p. 119

[14] Dark Genesis, p. 115-116

[15] Id.

[16] Some rogue telepaths hold the Underground leaders Matthew and Fiona Dexters as "martyrs" for their cause. On the Corps side, with the declassification of certain documents around 2258, Lt. Andrew Denmark was hailed as a hero. He was a telepath who gave his life in the Earth-Minbari War (even though telepaths were not technically allowed to serve). <em>Behind the Gloves</em> returns to his story later.