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Dylan's Story (5)

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2237. EarthDome, Geneva.

When Dylan wasn’t in meetings, or running errands for Rosaki – pick up my dry cleaning, Dylan, would you? And bring me some coffee, too, would you?[1] – Dylan spent his days and nights doing research and drafting papers – work similar to what Rosaki assigned her other aides, the normals – and enough to keep him permanently in a state of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. It helped with the expectation on him not to notice others’ thoughts unless explicitly asked.

Dylan’s research usually had little to do with telepaths directly – Rosaki sat on several committees, and Dylan spent most of his time researching topics in science and technology and briefing Rosaki on developments in those areas. Most of the political action of the day involved the raging debate over the use of the so-called “mindwipe” or “brainwipe” devices on normal prisoners, to replace the death penalty.[2] The public was sharply divided over the device’s ethics and effectiveness. What if the device didn’t work, and serial killers recovered their memories, or otherwise discovered who they used to be?[3] What if they returned to their lives of crime? Rosaki and the other members of the Committee on Metasensory Abilities sought to ease public concern by mandating that telepathic scans – before and after – be required before a prisoner could be released, to demonstrate that the mindwipe had been successful.[4]

It was interesting work, but not what he had hoped to do. The normal aides, it seemed, got the projects directly related to telepaths, such as the edits to the latest edition of the Psi Corps student handbook. Dylan knew that the handbook had been written by normals – most telepaths over thirteen knew that – but to see Rosaki intentionally giving the project to her normal aides made him uncomfortable. How was he supposed to help his people if all the relevant work went to others – to normals who had never spent a day in the Corps?

He obediently did his research on science and technology, but as the days passed, he became frustrated. This wasn’t why he had come to EarthDome.

“Ma’am,” Dylan began one day, figuring he would start relatively cautiously, with a different topic, one he hoped would be less controversial, “I’d like to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind… do you have a moment?”

“What is it, Mr. Valle?”

“Well, as you know, telepaths who choose to take sleepers rather than join the Corps still face considerable discrimination. They want to live and work as normals, they take sleepers injections weekly, but the law doesn’t protect them. Their registration status is still public, easily available to potential landlords and employers in routine background checks.”

A scowl. “What are you proposing, Mr. Valle?”

“Well, is there anyone who is perhaps working on statutory reform-?”

“That would be political suicide, Dylan,” she said, cutting him off.

“Is there anyone here who has even considered it?”

“No.”

“None?”

“Dylan, this is a waste of your time. You know how bad it would get if any senator came out in favor of legislation that forced landlords to rent to teeps – let alone if I myself took that position.”

Dylan shifted uncomfortably. “Teeps” were what telepaths called each other in the Corps. He didn’t like Rosaki using the slang, as if she was pretending to be a member of the community she supposedly served.[5]

“Besides,” she continued, “I think it’s foolish. If landlords don’t want to rent to telepaths, then it’s better for telepaths not to live there, don’t you think?”

“Yes ma’am, but under the threat of eviction, some telepaths are forced to join the Corps who would otherwise stay with their families, in their communities…” He knew of several people who had had to move long distances, away from their families, to attend the nearest Corps school or training center.[6]

“And there’s something wrong with joining the Corps, is that what you’re saying?”

“No, of course not Senator!”

“Play this one out, Dylan – you’re a bright young man.” She said it as a semi-insult. “If I hinted at a change in the law forcing landlords to rent to telepaths, even those on sleepers, or proposed a legislative change that allowed telepaths who aren’t in the Corps to hide their registration status, there would be a panic. My constituents would ask, what’s next? Will landlords some day have to rent to telepaths in the Corps, as well? What about their normal tenants, and their privacy rights? And where does it end? What about hotels? Will travelers no longer be able to feel secure that there are no telepaths nearby?”

“I was only talking about those of us on sleepers, ma’am…” Dylan offered, trying to back the conversation up, and get off the senator’s slippery slope.

“Hotels are especially important. After all, isn’t that what telepathy already is like, staying in a hotel and being able to hear the people in the next room?”[7]

Dylan blinked, trying to figure out if the senator actually believed that, or if she was goading him. He didn’t take the bait. “I’m only talking about telepaths who have no functional telepathy,” he said. “Not about us in the Corps. And not even about P1s and P2s.”

Rosaki ignored him. “I ask again, where does it end? Will we force schools to accept telepaths? Force employers to hire them?[8] No offense to your naive good intentions, Mr. Valle, but you do not appreciate complexity of the situation. It’s political suicide, and bad policy for normals as well as for telepaths. Surely you are bright enough to understand why.”

“Yes ma’am,” Dylan lied.

“Can you imagine the ads next election? Can you imagine the scare tactics my opponents would use?”

“Yes ma’am…”

“My opponents would kill me. On top of that, some radical nutjob might literally try! Mr. Valle, you know history – you know how many politicians have been targeted over the telepath question.”

Dylan nodded, uncomfortable.

She pointed upward at the smirking portrait. “Senator Lee Crawford held this job – my job. Sat in this very office, this very chair. There were four assassination attempts on him before he was finally murdered.[9] And then there was Senator Lai – a rogue teep tried to off him, too, and he supported the rogues![10] And let’s not forget the assassination attempt on President Robinson herself.[11] Every telepath over the age of five knows about that.[12] Need I go on?”

Dylan shook his head. Robinson had also been one of the key architects of Psi Corps – she had been president when Crawford designed it.[13] But Dylan did have to admit that Rosaki was right about one thing – every telepath did know the story of William Karges, the president’s bodyguard (and secret telepath), and how he had been fatally shot pulling the president to safety when an assassin tried to kill her during a rally.[14] There was a statue dedicated to him in the quad of the Corps’ flagship school.[15] The story was taught to all little children in the Corps – to honor Karges’ sacrifice, Robinson had created the Corps to give telepaths a safe place to live and work.[16] He was, according to the Corps handbook, the model telepath: hard-working, disciplined, loyal, selfless, and willing to die for King and Country.

The story was only half-true – Karges had been a telepath and saved Robinson’s life, but he’d been shot while questioning the suspect several blocks away, and radioed for backup. No one at the rally itself had ever seen a shot fired. Nor had the Corps been invented by Robinson – Crawford’s MRA had existed for decades. Robinson had made it universal, and independently-chartered. Her so-called “equal opportunity” laws, Dylan knew, had achieved their true purpose, and evened the playing field for normals, without “unfair” telepath competition. Only with telepaths oppressed could normals have so-called "equal opportunity."

“So the answer has to be no,” the senator continued, “I will not support any such policy. Unless, of course, when the assassins come for me, you’re volunteering to jump in front of the bullet.” Like any good telepath should do.

“…No ma’am.”

“I didn’t think so.”

Dylan left her office. Somehow a modest plea for basic civil rights had turned into an expectation that he commit suicide on Rosaki’s behalf, like William Karges - and even earlier, Desa Alexander, the MRA agent who had jumped in front of a bullet for Senator Lai.[17] Dylan wasn’t quite sure what had just happened. He was too tired to think clearly.

Like any good telepath should do? Had he heard that correctly?

Had Mr. Bester been trying to warn him about something?

 

[1] Dark Genesis, p. 117. (A telepath aide to Senator Crawford (Shell Alexander, Lyta's great-grandmother) is bringing the senator his dry cleaned suits, in his office... and this is literally her only on-screen appearance in canon.)

[2] Passing Through Gethsemane, Quality of Mercy, Visitors from Down The Street (Crusade). Approximate date as to when the device was first approved (late 2230s) from post by JMS on Usenet - interview (apparently) not available online.

[3] Passing through Gethsemane

[4] Babylon Squared

[5] Divided Loyalties (“Oh, teeps. It’s sort of an in-joke around the Corps. Teeps for telepaths, ‘teeks’ for telekinetics”). The slang is almost exclusively used by telepaths themselves, but yet, Senator Crawford uses the term (e.g. Dark Genesis, e.g. p. 79, 93-94, 116). Elsewhere, Tom Nguyen, Crawford's aide before Kevin Vacit, also uses the term.

[6] This is the most plausible explanation why Ivanova’s mother couldn’t simultaneously be in training with the Corps and with her family.

[7] Unfortunately, this notion is perpetuated by Talia in Mind War. (“It’s like staying in a hotel room where you can hear the people next door. You can try and shut it out, but it’s there. Just don’t listen unless you’re invited.”) It’s not difficult to go from Talia’s less-than-artful analogy for ambient surface thoughts to justification for discrimination.

[8] See Eyes for telepaths not allowed to serve in EarthForce, until after the Crisis. See p. 135 explicit legal ban on telepaths being politicians, lawyers or stockbrokers. See also Dark Genesis, p. 32 (Crawford immediately getting telepaths banned from being lawyers, stockbrokers and Olympic fencers (and possibly from more careers) as ten thousand people are killed within two weeks because they are, or are suspected of being, telepaths). Canon as a whole only shows telepaths serving in a small number of narrowly circumscribed roles/professions.

[9] Dark Genesis, p. 81, also referred to on p. 118. One of these assassination attempts is shown on p. 35-41. Crawford is assassinated on p. 121-122.

[10] Dark Genesis, p. 96-98

[11] Dark Genesis, p. 119, Deadly Relations, p. 10-11, 199, Final Reckoning, p. 246-247, Tim Dehass. “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/

[12] Deadly Relations, p. 10-11 (when Bester is six by telepath age reckoning)

[13] Dark Genesis, p. 119-120

[14] Dark Genesis, p. 119, Deadly Relations, p. 162-163, 199, Final Reckoning, p. 246-247

[15] Deadly Relations, p. 10-11, 56, 77, 137, 185, Final Reckoning, p. 246-247

[16] “The Psi Corps and You!” /Babylon 5 #11/. (See Deadly Relations, p. 10-11. Bester, age almost 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.”)

[17] Dark Genesis, p. 96-98. Desa Alexander is Lyta's great-great-great grandmother.