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Dylan's Story (2)

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Week 1.

           The senator's expectations took some getting used to. Dylan worked to build up an ability to consciously ignore the blatantly obvious in others' thoughts; and life in the Business Division had already taught him how to keep his mouth shut. Dylan developed personal routines, little rhymes to mentally recite to distract himself.[1] When it proved too difficult, he would invent an excuse and go for a short walk, and usually by the time he returned, the sensitive topic was no longer being discussed.

           He began to realize with dismay that life at a senator’s beck and call wasn't exactly what it was cracked up to be. He hoped it would improve. It was true that he was now supposedly in the middle of the action, but usually, he followed the senator from meeting to meeting, saying little – seen but not heard. It was like the Business Division, all over again, but unlike in the business world, where telepaths were routinely present at business negotiations,[2] his presence by Rosaki’s side was unique. Before key meetings, she would tell Dylan to make careful observations of the surface thoughts of everyone present, and to report back to her – a request that didn’t explicitly cross lines of legality, but which nonetheless put Dylan ill at ease. He wanted to earn her trust. He wanted to prove himself loyal and devoted, but he felt more like a useful device than a strategic partner.

           Some lobbyists especially resented him. This was no longer the business world, where no one gave telepaths a second thought unless there was a problem. In EarthDome, he was always unwelcome. The rudest ones worked for a corporation that served as one of EarthGov's major suppliers of sleeper drugs.[3] These folks had been in the "telepath business" for years, and had every intention of keeping that lucrative contract with EarthGov.

           “What is this?” the lobbyist said, gesturing, seeing Dylan’s gloves and psi insignia badge. He could feel the man’s heart rate accelerating, as if Rosaki had entered the meeting with a firearm. “Marianna, this is not a meeting for telepaths.”

           Dylan could only imagine why.

           “Dylan Valle is my aide, Roger.”

           “I don’t care what title you give him, he’s a telepath. Do you not trust me? Is this a threat?”[4]

           “If my presence is a problem, I’ll be glad to leave…” Dylan offered. Life since manifesting telepathy had taught him to frequently apologize for his presence in order to diffuse tensions between normals, and somehow it had become a reflex.[5] He hoped the senator would allow him to escape.

           But Rosaki was proud of her weapon. “That’s quite all right,” she said, “I appreciate your offer, but your place is here by my side. You will stay.”

           Walk softly and carry a teep, Dylan mused.

           “Marianna, what will the others think when you walk in with… with this?” The man gestured at Dylan.

           “They will think, Roger, it would be unwise to cross me. I keep my telepaths close. Mr. Valle stays.”

           “No one else is bringing a telepath to the meeting. This will be resented.”

           “Let them resent.”

           And resent they did. Dylan was glad to get back to his small office when the meeting was over, away from lobbyists who saw telepathy suppression as just another market for big business.

           He did, however, still have to report back to the senator later on the surface thoughts of everyone in the room, as she had instructed him to do. He omitted the more unsavory things they had thought about him and his kind.

*****

Week 2.

           “Where the hell is that interpreter? And would someone please make that man stop yammering in front of my office?”

            Senator Marianna Rosaki pointed angrily in the direction of the waiting area outside her office door. Dylan looked at her blankly – he’d already paged for an interpreter. Did she expect him to act as one? He was the only one standing in her office. The old man continued his angry rant, yelling at several staff members who stood outside the door with him. Dylan looked over at the senator, confused. He didn't want to call security unless the man posed a threat, and he didn’t seem to be dangerous, just very angry about something.

            “I already paged for the interpreter, ma’am… someone is on their way…”

            She ignored him and walked out into the waiting room, where the man was carrying on emphatically, waving his hands for emphasis.

            “I am Senator Marianna Rosaki,” she said, slowly and loudly, as if this would help the man better understand her when he didn’t speak a word of English (or, apparently, any other language the staff had tried). “What is your name?”

           He kept talking and gesturing.

           Again, louder, and very slowly, as if that would help him to understand. “What is your name?”

           He talked right over her.

           She tossed up her hands. “What the hell is that man saying?!”

           Dylan stopped mentally reciting rhymes to himself, and paid attention to the man's surface thoughts. Back at school, telepaths could always talk to each other, even when they spoke different languages, because they could all see what each other were thinking. With normals, though, it was different. “Water rights, ma’am,” Dylan offered. “He is saying that his people have had no access to the water that they’ve been promised by treaty, and that there is a large construction project in the works which would dam up the river and divert it, and destroy his people’s ability to fish. I think he got confused which office this is, that he was looking for a different senator, and maybe got separated from the rest of his cohort.”

           She turned to Dylan, dumbfounded. “I thought you didn't speak his language!"

           “I don't. I don’t even know which language he’s speaking.”

           “But you just said-”

           “-I told you what he’s thinking, ma’am. Someone’s surface thoughts usually correlate pretty closely with what they’re saying. You asked me to tell you-”

           "Tell him he has the wrong office. And you are never, never to listen in on anyone's thoughts again, am I clear? You signed an oath, Mr. Valle. You ever do this again and you're fired!"

           "Yes ma'am..."

           She turned and stormed back into her office.

           “Can’t win…” Dylan muttered to himself, and looked back at the old man with pity. He had no idea how to speak the man's language, so he waited with the other aides for the interpreter to arrive, until a shout from the senator summoned him back to her side. Bah bah black sheep, have you any wool...

           By the time he returned, the man was gone.

 

[1] Paragon of Animals (“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.”)

[2] Each side can hire their own telepath, or can agree to split the cost of just one. See JMSNews, 4/19/1995: “Both sides can hire their own teeps (telepaths), or jointly hire the same one, who is adjudged neutral.”

[3] Waters Corporation is one of the manufacturers of sleeper drugs in the late 2180s. See Dark Genesis, p. 227-231. Edgars Pharmaceutical doesn’t become the leading manufacturer of sleeper drugs until the mid 2250s. Deadly Relations, p. 196-197. The names of major producers of the drugs in the late 2230s are not given in canon.

[4] Normals (and aliens) sometimes react with hostility when a telepath shows up unexpectedly, even if no one is asking the telepath to scan them. See Soul Hunter (“Ambassador G'Kar?” “A great pleasure.” “This is Ms. Winters, our resident telepath.” “Telepath? You said nothing about this.” “lt’s standard procedure.” “l don’t like anyone playing in my head.”) See also, Face of the Enemy (“And you, are you out of your mind? What are you doing, bringing a teep here, when we're ready to move? Are you trying to compromise my security?”)

[5] A Race Through Dark Places (“…unless my being here offends you”), Final Reckoning, p. 18 (“Telepaths don’t make you uncomfortable, do they? I won’t take offense if you want me to sit elsewhere.”)