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"Eyes," from Gray's POV (Part 5)

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            Gray planned to visit the botanical gardens, one of the few "quiet" places on the station both physically and mentally - a perfect place to meditate - but he changed his mind halfway there. As he walked, he re-played the day's events to himself, and decided that whatever damn game the colonel was playing at, something was wrong. He had to put some "distance" between himself and Ben-Zion, and to let the command staff know he was different, that he wasn't just some "lapdog" teep.

            He'd almost been a pilot. His father had fought in the Dilgar War. He loved EarthForce. He wasn't the useful "device" that Ivanova thought he was.

            He'd been in the Corps almost ten years, now, but some things never changed - and it angered him how few people could see past the gloves. "Ran the world?" If Psi Corps "ran the world," as Ivanova had alleged, no one had ever let him in on the goods - like every other telepath he knew, he just went through life meekly doing his job, paying the bills, and trying to survive physically, mentally and emotionally in a world that hated him.

            Ivanova, he decided, needed to know that. Perhaps she'd never met a telepath before, and that was the source of her fear and bias. Usually those who were most afraid of telepaths had never met one. Ivanova had a spotless service record - someone that clean had to be a good person, deep down, Gray decided, even if she had lost her cool when she saw him. Maybe she'd just been surprised to see him there. Maybe if he was honest with her, she'd listen.

            He found a private terminal at which he could do a bit of research. New regulations concerning telepaths had indeed been promulgated, he discovered, but the new rules involved courts martial, not initial investigations. He tucked that information away for later - he would do a more thorough read-through of the regs once he got back to his room. He also did an interweb search of Psi Corps files, looking for anything the Corps might have noted about the station's senior staff. His position as a military specialist for IA gave him access to material most telepaths couldn't see.

             He didn't expect to find anything in Corps records for people on the station but for a basic file with Talia Winters' CV - she was, after all, the station's only resident telepath - so it puzzled him greatly when a short file also came up about Susan Ivanova. There wasn't much to go on, though - the file merely named her as the sole surviving child of Sophie Ivanova, who had been a telepath, and who had died young, apparently by suicide.

            That was interesting.

            After a bit of asking around for the second-in-command's whereabouts, he learned that she was in the observation dome. So that's where he went.

            "Lieutenant commander?" he asked, stepping in.

            "Civilians are not allowed on the observation dome. Please go."

            "As the colonel's liaison I have the right. So relax, I just wanted to look at the stars for a moment. They never lose their beauty."

            "Mr. Gray," she said impatiently, "I am very busy." She looked down at some instruments and panels.

            "I wanted to tell you I'm aware of your loss," he began, "and I sympathize."

            "Nice," she snapped, cold as space. "I'll send you a birthday card."

            "You know, when I was a boy, I dreamed of being a combat pilot. I built models of every space fighter available. I collected squadron patches. It was all I ever wanted. When I was sixteen, I applied to AirDome and I was accepted. And then my talent manifested itself the first month, and telepaths aren't allowed, so I was expelled."

            "I'm so sorry," Ivanova said, and for a moment, Gray thought perhaps she meant it.

            "It's not easy to have your dreams snatched away," he continued. "I didn't take it well. I almost took my own life, in fact. Then the Corps came. They said I could still serve as a Psi Corps liaison."

            "A boyhood dream come true?"

            "In part. It saved my life. Gave me a purpose. It's not the same as your soldiering, but it's part of a dream."

            "Is there a point to this story?" she snapped. "I told you, I'm very busy."

            "I want you to know I love the Force. And respect the people who serve it."

            "Nice speech. The colonel write it?"

            Gray sighed. "Ben-Zion? No. But he insists everyone be scanned. If it's a legal order, then we all have to comply. Just accept that. Now, I give you my word, I'll respect your privacy. The thoughts I'll look for are concerned with your duties. And given your squeaky clean record, I'm certain you have nothing to fear."

            She spun on him with a new ferocity. "I'm grateful Psi Corps has given you a purpose in life," she spat, "but when that includes scanning my mind, it's an invasion of my privacy and my honor. If you enter my mind for any reason, I will twist your head off and use it for a chamber pot!"

            Alarmed, Gray stepped back. She was literally threatening his life. He could barely believe his ears.

            "If you'll excuse me..." she said, and returned to her work, as if Gray had ceased to exist.

            None of the other personnel in the observation dome moved an inch to intervene. They had to have heard the outburst, Gray knew - Ivanova had almost been shouting. They didn't even look up from their work, as if Gray really was entirely nothing.

            Gray escaped, physically shaking. I'll be damned, Gray thought, the colonel was right, after all. Official personnel records don't tell the whole story!

            In her rage, Ivanova had inadvertently "blooped" a lot of memories. Her threat wasn't merely a bluff - she'd actually tried to kill a telepath before. Her first assignment in EarthForce had been to Io station, shortly after the Earth-Minbari War. She'd been at a meeting with some civilian contractors and a business telepath to discuss rebuilding damaged parts of the station. The telepath had struck up a conversation with her afterwards, seeing as they were both from St. Petersburg. Somehow the encounter had ended with her physically lifting the man off his feet and throwing him backwards through a glass window. He'd fallen three stories and almost died.

            Mr. Morozov, that had been his name... Mark Morozov. She'd almost killed him on Io. And her "spotless" service record said nothing about the assault and battery - the attempted murder - because EarthForce had covered it up. Her victim had been "merely" a telepath. Her superiors had known - and made it disappear.

            No no no, Gray told himself. The Force is good. EarthForce would never do that. They would never...

            Still shaking, he made it back to his quarters, and collapsed.