2267. Syria Planum, Mars. Two years after the Telepath War.
Senator Rosaki’s face appeared on the screen in Morgan’s Mars office, her dark red hair now faded mostly to silver, her brown eyes undimmed of their steel and fire.
An encrypted channel, priority gold. This was important.
“I need your help,” she said flatly. “And off the record.”
“I’m at your service.”
He despised that it was true.
“Ever since EarthForce made that bone-headed decision to let telepaths become officers,” the senator began, “the public’s been killing me. Have you seen the coverage on ISN?”
The question was rhetorical – the “telepath question” had been on the EA news almost every single night since the Senate had disbanded the Corps two years before. Rosaki’s committee – the Committee on Metasensory Abilities, which had once overseen the Corps – had been taking a beating on all sides for its handling of telepath “integration.” The only bigger story was, of course, the Drakh Plague, killing millions back on Earth every month. A strict quarantine had been set up around the planet.
“A narrow majority supports telepaths enlisting, and that I can see,” the senator continued. “But officers? The public is terrified, and rightly so. If this isn’t stopped immediately, normals will have to take orders from teeps. Do you hear me?”
The senator continued. “EarthForce may be run by idiots, but the public doesn’t care who fucked up, they still expect me to fix it, because the buck stops with me – or at least it should.”
“What are the Joint Chiefs saying?” Morgan asked.
She sighed. “They’re split. Half cautiously support this little experiment, and the other half are silent in public, and furious behind closed doors. I’m with them. This move will only harm unit cohesion. There have already been attacks on enlisted telepaths – if teeps ever get in command, we might see a mutiny. We already fought one goddamn war to take military power out of the hands of telepaths-” Morgan winced inside, “-and now we give it back, with the EarthForce stamp of approval? Over my dead body we will.”
Morgan began to suspect the reason for the gold channel. And he didn’t expect to have the good fortune of watching Rosaki drop dead of the Drakh Plague.
“That’s where you come in.”
“This is about Lt. Matheson, isn’t it?”
Many telepaths had enlisted in EarthForce in the last two years – in no small part because most other jobs were still closed to them – but John Matheson alone had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
“Damn right it is,” Rosaki spat. “Captain Gideon’s a fool. I’ve met chimpanzees with more brains than him, but he’s a persistent son of a bitch. He insisted on Matheson for his second in command, and talked Senator McQuate into letting him have the teep as a little feather in his cap… such a good boy, that Gideon, embracing integration with open arms. I could throw up. So now what do we have? A telepath who’s only a heartbeat away from command of an EarthForce ship, a teep who, only two years ago, was a mid-level bureaucrat in Psi Corps. The public knows it, and they’re killing me, Morgan.”
Morgan nodded. He wished they would literally do it.
“Matheson’s biannual compliance scan is coming up this week,” the senator continued, “and I want you to do it, personally, not the dumb kid they sent out last time. I can arrange things with the Bureau. Whatever dirt he’s got on him, I want you to find it. I want Matheson recalled to Earth and court-martialed. I want a big public spectacle. The voters will see I’m being proactive about the problem, they’ll have confidence in my committee again. And EarthForce will have no choice but to revoke their absurd policy.”
It would also be a death sentence for Matheson, Morgan knew, unless a cure for the plague was found.
Morgan nodded. “I know you’re confident on what I’ll discover in his mind, senator, but… consider for a moment… what if he’s clean?”
She looked at him with annoyance and disbelief. “No teep is clean,” she snapped. “Not possible. I wrote the new regulations myself. I’m not stupid.”
“But what if-”
“-if he’s clean, then plant it. You were a Psi Cop, I know what you can do. I know what you did, during the war. And I want his ass back on Earth. Don’t get smart with me, Morgan Butely, I arranged your plea bargain. You owe me your life.”
Morgan swallowed a lump in this throat. “Yes senator.”
“Matheson. Get me Matheson.”
 Actual canon name of the Senator who Gideon talked into letting him keep Matheson as a pet – er, as “first officer.”