Knowing Mars, a novella

Chapter 1

Netspace

(ISA Controlled Netspace American Consortia, Earth; 2541)

“Gus, I got it! Go! Go! Go!” Kyp managed to whisper and yell all at once. It was, of course completely unnecessary in the virtual privacy of their secret channel on the net. Kyp knew that this operation had taken too long, and he could feel that they were about to be caught. Pessimism or not, Kyp knew they had to get out, and get out now.

This was the net, though, and semi-classified government operated net at that. Kyp and Gus were telepaths on an operation to take back some surveillance data that ISA, or more correctly ISA Special Agent Thom Busby, had collected on them and some of their friends. Mostly, however, Kyp and Gus were just damn good net operators and hackers.

Gus was already running when Kyp’s message came. Well, not so much running as soaring, but it felt like running in the virtual environment. Leaving together was safer, if a bit more complex to arrange, but right now they had to get out of the system–with their prize. To do that they needed an access node, and there didn’t seem to be any around. Crap.

“Shit, Is Busby pulling the nodes offline? Where are they?” Gus said, turning around to survey the netspace for an open node. Nodes, among other things, managed log-on and log-off operations, and they ran on neutral-dedicated hardware and were the only way that Kyp and Gus could get off the net right now without losing their prize. Escaping out, a disconnect without proper log off sequence would save their asses, but not the data. Escaping was seeming less untenable as the seconds dragged by.

It took Kyp a half instant to realize that Gus had stopped. “Keep going! Don’t stop! I’ll be there.” Kyp was worried. Their movement and speed was probably the only thing that kept Busby or his goons from getting a hook on them. Gus had to get out.

Kyp was worried that they’d be caught, more so than usual. This operation was a sting on the ISA, the g-d forsaken International Security Association, the cops, the feds, whatever they were, this was a much bigger job than Kyp and Gus usually undertook. The attack had probably been more brute-force than necessary, and it had taken too long. ISAs net was too far off common areas on the net.

Everything about this operation was too messy. Starting with ISAs database of participants and sympathizers the telepath movement was more organized than the telepaths’ database of themselves. The leaders of the movement, in consultation with Kyp and Gus, decided that they couldn’t beat ISA at their own game. So they started a new game: steal the database and use whatever it contained before ISA could.

And now they were terabytes deep in ISA’s netspace with stolen data, and no good way to get offline.

Gus had, on Kyp’s insistence, stayed back during the operation, no use in letting the young-or at least the younger–take a fall for you, Kyp figured. If anyone was looking at the logs latter they’d just see Kyp, still this wasn’t the time for self sacrifice.

“Faster,” Kyp sent to his colleague, even though he couldn’t keep up with Gus as it was.

“There aren’t any goddamned nodes, I’m trying!” Gus snapped back.

“Exit on different nodes? You can escape out if you want.” Kyp was trying. He could sense that someone was on his tail. Shit. He didn’t turn back to even look. ”Faster” he muttered to himself.

The ISA agent on his tail was wasn’t telepathic, probably. No. Sure as hell, the ISA agent wasn’t telepathic, and even if the agents were, they couldn’t use the edge without attracting attention to themselves, and ISA agents hated drawing attention. Telepaths had an edge in cyberspace, always had, probably because they were so used to thinking outside their body. At least that’s what Kyp always figured. No one knew why for sure, yet. He kept running.

And then he passed a node, that he missed on his first sweep. Shit.

“Gus, where are you? I found one.” Kyp circled around, not daring to slow down anyway. Catching the node was going to be tough, but it was probably the quickest way to get out.

“Three minutes from you, and probably about seven to the public node and civilization, though blending in at this speed won’t work.” Gus said, even his voice in the channel cracked and he sounded breathless.

“Damn. I have an ISA flock of bots and an agent on my tail, and its good,” Kyp managed to eek out: he didn’t know this for sure, but it seemed like a fair bet, and he didn’t want to quibble over such things. He couldn’t turn back and fight with all the data in his buffer, and he could only barely manage to say ahead of ISA with a full buffer.

None of it was real, of course, Kyp tried to remind himself on the theory that the less “real” he could make it seem the easier it would be to bend the constraints of the system.

Kyp was hooked up to the net in a room, not three feet away from Gus, and his breathing was probably a little elevated, but otherwise he was perfectly safe. Kyp couldn’t escape-out of netspace without loosing the data in his buffer: the prize. The net was a perversely designed system, in this respect. The engineers could probably come up with a better design today if you asked them, but infrastructure is hard to change, so this is what they had, and they didn’t have much choice in the matter.

“Ok, I have all the data for sure, and there’s the node. Gus, Escape out and I’m going to come out hot–full speed. You’ll be there to keep me together?”

“Of course, don’t hurt yourself,” Gus sent and then blinked out, safely offline.

“See you in a second kiddo,” Kyp muttered. He caught a glimpse of the flash as Gus escaped out and back to reality. There hadn’t been any confirmed reports of cyberspace related brain-injury in at least a decade, and he had all the latest classes of hardware. He was probably pretty safe. Coming off hot wouldn’t be pleasant, but he’d live. He did, however, make a note to reconsider how he was living when he was off net. He’d almost certainly been made. As he soared, he wondered if his identity was safe; if he’d be up to doing jobs on the net again.

Kyp yelled as he made a final pass around the node. All of his attempts to beat out the ISA weren’t getting him anywhere. They were probably only twenty seconds behind him, and thankfully they weren’t gaining on him, but he wasn’t gaining on him either–twenty seconds weren’t enough to do anything but log out and scramble the node almost.

“Here goes,” he muttered, and flagged the node log-out protocol and closed his eyes and began the wait. He uploaded a script to scramble the node codes as he was logging out. He wasn’t looking forward to the headache or the body ache that was for sure.

The connection dropped, the buffer was downloaded and he was offline. He opened his eyes.

Then there was nothing but heat. Hot pain. The room was cool, for the equipment, but it had been warm in node space, and sweat erupted from Kyp’s skin before his body realized that it was cool again. He screamed in pain and gasped for air, and squeezed his eyes shut. He could feel Gus kneeling over him, a firm hand holding his shoulder, and another holding his left hand, as Kyp thrashed around trying to get through and pull himself out of the shock of coming out of cyberspace hard.

He started to calm down almost instantly but Gus didn’t move, and stayed there breathing slowly and steadily. Skin to skin contact was hard for Gus–it was like electricity to his telepathy–but it grounded Kyp in reality, and made the hot transition easier. When his breathing returned to almost normal, he opened his eyes and looked up at Gus, and tried to talk. His voice was horse, more horse than he had expected, “files safe?” he asked.

“Yes, we got it all. You were great.” Gus’ voice was calm and soothing.

“How long?”

“The op? Total? 6 hours, you were running for an extra forty minutes almost. I was worried.” Gus reported.

“Wow.” After so long, Kyp still couldn’t do the time dilation (or was it concentration?) calculations on the fly. “Thanks. You were great.” Kyp managed to squeeze Gus’ left hand in appreciation. He was about to ask Gus to disconnect him, but then realized that cables weren’t connected to the contact-points near his ear.

“Pull our connection to the net and start the encryption process, we’re going to have a lot to deal with in the morning.” Kyp still couldn’t move much, but he finally regained the ability to form sentences. Getting the systems discontented and encrypting their signature so that ISA tracking scripts couldn’t get a trace on their systems when they went back up was crucial.

“Working on it, we’re going to have to pack up, aren’t we?” Gus was smiling in spite of his obvious disappointment.

“You should stay here. I have to leave, I can’t imagine that I’ll be safe here.”

“ISA’s everywhere, you can’t get away from them, where would you go, and besides you’re safe now,” Gus argued, finally letting go of Kyp’s hand and slowly standing up as Kyp started recovering.

“Not on Mars.”

“What?”

“Mars Colony.”

“Wow.” Gus couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Not now, insertion point isn’t for a while, but once we get word, and the database, to Taban and Kalian, I think I better go.”

Gus was still speechless. It wasn’t every day that your best hacking partner announced that he was moving to Mars. Allowing for a bit of denial, Gus handed Kyp a glass of water. “Drink some of this, and we’ll talk about it when you wake up.”

Kyp took the water, which was needed, but the water was refreshing, and he did indeed need to sleep a little if he wanted to recover properly.

Kyp stared, and there was a long silence. Thoughts didn’t pass between them, but they might as well have. “Ok, sleep now, but we’ll have to talk about his later,” he relented as his eyes fluttered shut. Sleep glorious sleep, Kyp thought loudly enough for Gus to get a sense of it, as Kyp gracefully slipped into unconsciousness.

Taban Morgan and Kalian Morgan

There have been a number of biographies and studies of Taban and Kalian Morgan in the last several years that attempt to use Taban and Kalian merely narrative devices to explain one of the most–admittedly–fascinating historical moments of recent times, and in a certain respect this volume cannot avoid falling into this very trap. At the same time, I hope that this project grows out of a very different place, grows out of a desire to understand not the recent history of governments and politics, but rather the Morgans themselves: the projects that were most important to them, their motivations, and values. In this direction, the politics and contexts of their–our–era have become a backdrop for my understanding of what Taban and Kalian have come to mean for me, and I hope to you as well.

Taban and Kalian Morgan were different, I can think of no other way to articulate this. They both had small frames, and while they had a way with words on the page–and occasionally could be encouraged to orate in proper situations–they were for the most part very soft spoken. No one described them as imposing, but they had a curious charisma that almost radiated from their presence. After telepathy came out, and they became leaders in the telepath community–or at least were recognized as such by the population at large–many dismissed their widespread popularity and success as being the result of their “charisma” which could only have been the result of their telepathic abilities. I feel fairly safe in maintaining that the telepathy and the charisma came from different places in side of them. When I first met them, very early on, before they had begun to develop and “train” their minds, their personalities and charisma were as vibrant as it was during the height of their success: the two attributes seemed to be distinct.

I initially attempted to separate Taban and Kalian from the story of Mars, but have since given in to the impulse to tell one story. Although, particularly in the time since Taban and Kalian, my personal reputation has been tied very closely to the contemporary history of Mars, this world has become my home. Understanding what Taban and Kalian mean, in the largest sense, requires knowing Mars.

I fear that in several years I’ll be remembered only for my work as an elder statesman of the Mars Republic, with my involvement with Taban and Kalian Morgan a footnote in my own story. But in truth, I am on Mars because of Taban and Kalian. I have stayed here because of their work.

The complex web between myself, the Mars Colony, Taban and Kalian, the rest of the telepaths, ISA, and Thom Busby–now, there’s a name that I’ve banished from my memory for years, but we will get to him later–has lead me to construct this story in a specific direction.

It’s my hope that the story of Mars, the story of Taban and Kalian Morgan, my own story will all compliment each other, and lead to a more complete understanding of the time for you dear reader. Though I certainly can’t assume that you’re as interested in my life as I am at this point! In any case, I feel that complete disclosure of my position within these moments, is preferable to any of the other methods at hand to tell these stories.

As part of my own journey through memories of the time when I knew Taban and Kalian, I was amazed by the distance that human society has come to accept telepathy–or at least grudgingly tolerate them. Situations remain complicated, of course, but before Taban and Kalian in the common experience telepathy was the thing of stories and myth.

Indeed telepathy remains the province of stories for many humans, of course due to population densities, and the the disproportionate number of telepaths on mars these days, it’s not difficult to avoid encountering telepaths in day-to-day life. And though many contemporary stories about telepaths are indeed fictional, they have long since lost their fantastic edge.

Although telepathy is no longer a laughable notion, the often apparent hostility that telepaths endure belays the fact that many still find it completely fantastic, perhaps more so now that it’s no longer simply the province of imagination. While this story could never supplant the writings of Taban and Kalian–which remain required reading for any student of telepathy or telepaths–my hope is that this story will expose what remains fantastic in these memories after all these years.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars, 2597

Mars, Morgan Residence, 2542

“It’s so big,” Taban Morgan said, when he saw the “house” for the first time. There was more space on Mars relative to the population, so accommodations were a bit larger than on Earth, particularly for the “sparsely employed.” In truth there weren’t houses, or even buildings as such on Mars, but rather a large complex of structures that had accommodations and work space, recreation space, food production and waste management: everything necessary to support a human community. It would probably feel cramped in a few months, when figured out that that this was all there was, but it was big for now.

But regardless of the sophistication the complex was on Mars, which meant dust. Lots of red dust, no matter how much they worked on the problem, many had just accepted the fact that even sealed, mars was dusty. “It’s so dirty,” Kalian retorted after stepping inside and getting a sense of the place.

Some of their belongings had arrived before them and were stacked in crates in one of the corners, more would arrive in the next couple of days. The essentials were packed in bags that were strapped to their backs: a change of clothes, a few books, computer security gear, data stores, various input devices, and mess of cabling. After a quick survey of their new home, Taban and Kalian began setting up their gear in the office space.

“We have mixed up priorities,” Kalian said, after the busied silence had lingered a touch too long.

“What, instead of sleeping after a long trip, or something? You could, I’m just a bit too antsy still.”

“I suppose. But I figure we’ve been cooped up for so long that it’s good to be able to get something done. Finally.” Taban puzzled for a moment over a connector, before remembering its purpose and continuing with the task at hand.

“No, I feel the same way too. Clearly. But I sometimes wonder how much of the things I take for granted as ‘normal’ is completely alien to everyone else,” Kalian said.

Out of curiosity Kalian idly dragged a finger across the desk top, and removed very slight red film from the surface of the desk. Kalian made a face and began to wipe the dust off, which was largely futile, because the entire world was coated in the stuff. The colony kept it out, mostly, but the quarters were particularly bad.

“Well, that’s why we’re here isn’t it? Do you have the data pendant?” Taban changed the subject: there would be plenty of time to document their move to Mars, from beginning to end, but he wanted to get the systems set up before calling it a night.

“Of course.” Kalian stood and pulled on the leather strap around her neck that the pendant hung from.

“Good.” Taban stretched, stifling a yawn unsuccessfully. Kalian saw Taban’s matching pendant. Each pendant held a distinct half of an encryption key, that they would need to initialize the system, once all the custom gear was hooked up.

“We’re almost ready to fire it up,” Taban said when he regained composure.

“You know, it’ll still be here in the morning, and,” Kalian said, after yawning, again. “And maybe sleep wouldn’t be such a bad ting.”

“We should get a message on its way to Matthew, first. We promised.”

“Can’t we just do that on the open? You know ‘we’re here, setting up, no travel incidents, nothing suspicious,’ and be done with it.” Kalian yawned again.

“Is it worth it? Busby has had months of our silence to figure out that we’d left Earth, and Mars isn’t that big.” Taban would have offered to finish up alone, but they both had to activate the encryption system together, or else it wouldn’t work.

“I hate it when you’re right.”

“Besides, we’re almost done.”

“Right. Ready?”

“Aye,” Taban said, grinning. Taban started a final once over of all the connections between the apartment’s computer system, their enhancements and the hardware encryption that made the system go. Kalian took a deep breath, and started to double check all the connections as well.

When it looked done, Taban just flipped the switch without much warning. The system was probably going to work, and stressing over the mess of wires was probably not a good idea.

Kalian exhaled sharply, and said “Ok then.” A moment later, the system–working normally–requested their encryption keys. Dutifully they they inserted their encryption pendants into the encryption processor. Once initialized, unless they rewired the encryption system, only one of the pendants would be enough to grant them access to the system, but this was a somewhat jury-rigged system, and it was always something of a guessing game every time they had to break it down and set it up again.

“It looks like we’re good,” Kalian said as the blinking cursor prompt appeared in the corner of a couple of screens1.

Taban ran a couple of systems tests and sighed when everything came back clear. “Lets get this recorded, and on its way: we have a big day tomorrow.”

Kalian idly entered a command. “It’s still today? Damn.”

“I suppose it’s too late to take back saying ‘if only there were more hours in the day’?” Taban yawned for the first time.

“Probably so. And it’s only forty minutes.” Kalian laughed. “You ready?”

“Yeah. Hit…. that,” Taban entered a series of commands and then pointed to a command button. “You start?”

“Ok, sure.” Kalian staved off a yawn and then thumbed the command button. “Hi Doc–Matt. We’re here, we have the space and it’s great. Bigger than your place! There’s a bit of dust around though… Anyway, we have the computer in order, it looks like,” Kalian looked away from the recorder unit to Taban, who gave a quick nod. “Yeah, a lot of our stuff is here, there should be a few more coming. But you probably know all this stuff. We’re well… but tired.” Kalian blinked a couple of times and looked at Taban for another cue. Getting the message out was so important an hour ago, and now that the work had been done Kalian couldn’t remember what was so important to say.

Taban moved closer to Kalian and continued, “Any new information you have on what Busby has been up to would be great. I think we almost ran into one of his staff at the space yards on Earth, but I don’t think they were on the transport with us, and we’ve been clear since then. Though I suspect you all back home were a little nervous over it, radio silence was really great idea, and after the initial shock I think we enjoyed the break.” Taban chuckled. “Since we’ve been offline for so long, I’m curious to see whats happened; I know it isn’t your thing, but I’m still worried about whats happening on the nets Earthside, I can’t imagine that there’s anything good happening here, what with the population what it is but we’ll have to wait and see. Kyp should know more.” Taban realized that he was rambling. The main point of this message was just to check in to send back some of the data and to write what they had worked on in transit. He paused and looked at Kalian for a continuation.

“Anyway, we hope you find the drafts and documents that we worked on during the trip, interesting or helpful. In any case we’ll be in touch as we get settled in.” Kalian raised a hand in a lazy wave in farewell. “Be well.”

Taban, smirked and threw a lazy salute, and stopping the recording. Their system already had scripts in place to handle the encryption and routing to Matt, and unless there was a bad solar flare, the package would be encrypted, routed, and on Matt’s desk by morning. ”Well, morning somewhere, at any rate,” Taban thought, not really wanting to do the time conversions.

“Ok, time for bed.” Kalian said. Finally.

“First day on Mars wasn’t so bad…” Taban said, taking the encryption pendants from their ports on the computer. Taban handed one to Kalian, and although tired they spent a moment refastening the pendants to to the straps around their necks.

“Thanks.” Kalian, said. “The day was a little bit long, you have to admit.”

“Only forty-minutes,” Taban protested as they stumbled awkwardly towards their bedroom. They hadn’t even explored this far into the apartment yet, but beds, unlike computers, didn’t require a lot of custom setup.

“Thirty-nine and a half, and you’re the one who wanted the longer days,” Kalian said laughing as they reached the bedroom.

“Fine fine,” Taban said. “Lights out?”

“Sure,” Kalian said, and then it was dark. They were asleep inside of ten minutes.

Chapter 2

ISA Agent Thom Busby

In early 2542 Taban and Kalian left Earth for the still new Mars Colony. If asked at the time, they would have probably spun some tale about wanting to be on the frontier, about having grown tired of Earth with the growing population, dwindling resources, and the increasingly provincial attitudes. While these reasons certainly contributed to their decision2 to leave Earth, we knew by this time that ISA3 Agent Thom Busby was investigating them for cyber-crime and they left to avoid the surveillance.

This was in and of itself not terribly unusual; the Morgans were known to be active and influential members of the cyberspace community. While they probably were guilty of the crimes as charged, the fact is that most people were easily guilty of at least a dozen such crimes. Anyone who strayed from the commercial or common spheres of the net much was likely guilty of a dozen minor infractions. The fact that they were being pursued for these crimes was sign enough that Thom Busby’s investigation was punitive: it wasn’t possible to legally send people to jail because they were telepaths. In 2541 and ‘42 the general public didn’t know that telepathy existed. Thom Busby’s hostility was clear to Taban and Kalian, the telepath community, and even a mutual colleague–and friend on my part–of Busby and myself: Quinn Dasen. Though we never worked closely, we did interact professionally a number of times. At the time I just thought he was driven enough to be a pain in the ass and too self centered to be much more than a nuisance. How wrong I was.

In the intervening years, I have tried to avoid considering if Taban and Kalian–all of us really–attracted undue attention to ourselves by hiding out or leaving Earth, but Quinn assured me that this wasn’t the case, and that despite appearances Busby was really too busy pining after some ill gotten notion of lost glory or some-such, to think through his cases objectively. And yet, I do believe that although Busby might not have set out to chase after telepaths, there is no doubt that he became a telepath hunter.

Yet, I remain unable to completely comprehend his motives, even after all these years. Telepathy, or more properly, the existence of free telepaths living and operating in society was a possibility that he was unable to assimilate normally. Many people had problems with telepathy in similar ways, but it’s clear that Busby was exceptional in this regard. He was not simply worried that someone might learn his deepest and darkest secrets, but rather took telepathy as some sort of personal affront. This is conjecture: I never talked to him earnestly, if that were possible, and no telepath that I’ve ever known of got a read of him, so I suppose we’ll never know.

At first, Busby wasn’t a special concern concern, there were ways for Taban and Kalian to avoid getting caught for cyber-crimes, but as the Morgans developed their skill they became much more worried about discovery. Or perhaps I should say, they were worried about being discovered if it wasn’t on their terms. Even before they left for Mars, there was a fairly substantial community of telepaths on Earth, and a minority of non-telepaths like myself, who were all “in the know.” Particularly in retrospect we all knew that it was something of an open secret, but it was hard to see that in the moment.

So by early 2542, Taban and Kalian left Earth for Mars. I had never expected to join them, nor do I think at the time they intended to move back to Earth when telepathy had “blown over,” but that is I suppose the reason why the future is always “yet to be.” In any case Mars Colony was far from perfect in many respects, more so then than now, but it was controlled and Mars represented a fresh start that we all found attractive in contrast to Earth, which to all of us felt wrapped up in too many traditions and stale habits.

I suppose if I had to come up with only one thing that I learned from Taban and Kalian, it would that we all need fresh starts from time to time. Thankfully I don’t.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars, 2597

Morgan Residence, Mars Colony, 2542

“Kyp’s here!” Kalian called out, after the door chime rang.

Taban was in the office trying to get one of the data analysis scripts to work before calling it a day. This was, as far as Kalian could tell, the chief problem with life on Mars as a “freelance” intellectual: work was never more than a few paces away and it was too easy to say “well, there’s nothing better to do, so…” and then loose your evening to a project. But this was nothing new, they’d both worked the same way on Earth.

“Ok, I’ll be right out, It looks like it’s going to work this time, I think I forgot to filter the data through the sort-transform script.” Taban was still engrossed in the project. If it did work, the system would be busy for the rest of the evening, and Taban would be forced to come out and be social.

“Don’t you just hate problems like that.” Kalian, if annoyed, was still sympathetic.

“Coming,” Kalian said even though the door was sound proof: habit. Kalian set the first round of dinner–some sort of vegetable dish with bread–on the end table next to the sofa, walked around living room, such as it was, to the door.

Kalian got to the door and opened it, finally.

“Kyp! It’s been too long!” They didn’t embrace or shake hands, but they both grinned widely. Telepaths didn’t touch casually or reflexively. other people, telepaths or not. Touch enhanced telepathic responses, and it could be jarring. Taban had figured out how to counter this response a few years back–so that telepaths could blend in better in public–but neither telepath felt the exertion worthwhile.

“How are you doing?” Kalian asked.

”I’m doing well, it’s so quiet here, still. I’ve been coding all day, so it’s nice to get up and move around,” Kyp said as he walked into the apartment and closed the door behind him. “I thought I’d acclimate or get bored, but it’s been what? Almost a year?”

“On Mars!”

”–a Martian year–and it’s still great for me. It’s probably too soon for you to tell,” Kyp said and cocked his head at one of the boxes. still in a corner in the living room, “but I think you’ll like it here.”

“Kyp! Good to see you,” Taban sad, fumbling with the light switch in the office. “My head’s still in this project, sorry I’m not more on top of things.”

“It’s ok, it’s great to see you finally. You all have gotten a lot unpacked, in not very long, I still have a few of these boxes around,” Kyp said.

“It’s all Kalian’s fault; I’ve been eyeballs deep all day.”

“Except…” Kalian reminded.

“Of course, In addition to getting us unpacked, Kalain is also responsible for our only progress.” Taban smiled.

“Thank you, dear,” Kalain said, and laughed.

“Do you want to sit down, or were you planning to stand?” Kyp asked after a moment.

“Lets sit,” Kalian said, ”I’ve been on my feet all day. Mostly.” They sat. All the furniture was prefab ”I’m not sure how the whole needing to move to think thing is going to work out here.”

Kyp shrugged. “This place is bigger than what you were used to, and I can show you where all the good places are for walking in the colony, sometime soon.”

“That would be great.”

“So tell me about this coding project,” Kyp said.

Taban snorted, “It’s hardly coding, I think we’re, or rather I’m, just inept with it. Just data processing and analysis scripts.”

”I’m sure you’re doing just fine. You’re always on about how you can’t code, blah blah blah, except that you’re brilliant and fast. You taught me half of what I know, Taban!”

Taban muttered something but it didn’t interrupt Kyp’s flow.

“Remember how many months of my life were obsessed with tracking you down through the nets back home?”

“But that wasn’t really programing, as much as it was, knowing people, Taban said.

“That’s why telepaths are so good with computers though.”

“G-d, don’t start this again,” Kalian said, laughing.

Taban and Kyp both smiled. “In any case, if you want a second set of eyes, I’ve worked on similar stuff, I think, right?”

“No, no it’s alright, I’m sure you’re plenty busy, and besides I have it figured out for the moment. We hope.” Taban said.

“I don’t mind, really, there isn’t much hacking to be done on Mars, but thankfully there’s plenty of Legit work, not any of it’s interesting. So go figure. And you know it might be fun to never have to audit another compression and encryption script.” Kyp smiled and took a deep breath.

”I’ll be in touch,” Taban said. “Are you doing your work manually, or have you been jacking in?”

“Mostly manually here, nothing needs it, sometimes I plug in, for old time sake and to stay sharp, but I don’t really need to,” Kyp said. “And hell, it’s not like the ‘living room’ or office is particularly scenic.”

“Well our priorities, are pretty clear from our unpacking strategy.” Taban said.

“You have your jacks up and running?”

“Oh yeah,” Kalain said. “We had the system up and running before we’d even seen the bedroom.”

“Wow, and you say you’re not programers. Geeze,” Kyp said, smiling.

Taban shrugged, but didn’t say anything.

“At least you have some of the dust under control,” Kyp said.

“I should say!” Kalian said, and reached forward to draw a finger across the table, leaving a noticeable mark. “Maybe I’m just being a little prissy, but it’s still pretty bad. I think maybe, sir, you’ve acclimated to the filth.” Kalain laughed.

“It’s possible.” Kyp raised his hands in mock surrender. “For the longest time, I couldn’t figured out how it all got in, I never went outside. Then I realized that it had to do with the cargo loaders, they track dust in when the crates come in, and it’s pretty much a lost cause.”

“Oh, right right. That makes sense, and yeah, recreational space walks didn’t ever seem to make much sense to me.” Taban said.

“I like my air pressurized all by itself thank you very much,” Kalian said, laughing.

“So, tell me about the research. You had what? Six months on the ship and nothing to do but entertain yourself?” Kyp said.

“Six months? Was that all?” Kalian asked.

“We’re still slogging all that data we collected right before we left Earth. All sorts of boring physiological data and more hacked together brain scans than I want to think about,” Taban said. “Or the computer wants to, it seems.”

“Yeah, it’s good that you got all that data before you left, because it’ll be harder to get stuff here,” Kyp said.

“Probably true, but I think with this in hand we’re probably pretty safe. We do some small studies to highlight particular effects if we need to, or if we find new techniques, but we’re in good shape with collection it’s just all the writing and processing that’s left,” Taban said. “There’s just so much data that it takes a long time to crunch through it.”

“I can imagine. Hell, I remember working with your systems a few years back,” Kyp said.

“We got a lot of writing done during the trip out here. It was amazing to collect all of the things we’ve been helping folks with for years, articulated and written. There’s a lot there,” Kalian said.

“And it’s so different for everybody, and multi-layered,” Kyp said, gesturing with his hands in an attempt to find the right word. Taban and Kalian nodded in understanding, so he continued. “Well I’m just glad I don’t have your job, even though I’m more than happy to help you out every now and then.”

“I know where you’re coming from Kyp, but you could do the training stuff if you wanted, but it all feeds into itself,” Taban said. “These days we’re just trying to figure out how all of us can have so much control when we didn’t used to. And by god if we’d had this research ten years ago? It’d be a different world.” Taban said.

“It would be for sure. ” Kyp said.

“I mean interference isn’t even an issue for most people any more,” Kalian said.

“Thank god.” Kyp said, more thankful of the opportunity to change the subject, “By the way, have you met Renee, here yet?”

“No, we just got here! But keep going, what of her? Kalian said. “Her, right?”

Taban smiled and cut in before Kyp could answer, “Yes, weren’t you supposed to be our guide to these lands?”

“Yes, yes, I’m sorry, we’ll have to do better. There aren’t many of us of course, telepaths or net hackers,” the “us” was often ambiguous for Kyp, and telepaths and hackers were nearly the same thing to him. “Renee is probably the oldest the telepaths that I’ve met here, but most of the folks here are kids.”

Kalian laughed. “You’re calling them kids? Wow.” Kyp was younger than Taban or Kalian who were themselves still considered “young” by most.

Kyp laughed as well, “Yeah, I know, right? Anyway Renee grew up in Old New York city–after the, ah, of course–anyway–and she hasn’t had a lot of training. Like, she really can’t be around big uncontrolled numbers of other people, she’s that sensitive.”

“Wow, I’ve only met a few people like that, what kind of training has she done?” Taban said

“Well not very much actually, which I know is sort of surprising, I’m sure she’d be a great person for you to do some work with. I’m actually not that sure where she is–power wise–not that that matters.”

“Right of course, just academic interest,” Taban said.

“How’d she get to Mars? No training means, not one of ‘ours,’ right?” Kalian asked.

“Yeah, she just came to Mars in the first or second wave, years and years ago, to get away, and then we showed up, much to her surprise,” Kyp explained.

“And that’s enough to unsettle anyone,” Taban said.

“But she’s been a great force in the community: sets a tone that almost everyone’s happy with, and there isn’t the constant crisis or stress that you’d usually expect, good people. I’ll set something up.”

“Thanks,” Taban said.

“I look forward to meeting her, it’s nice when these communities work out,” Kalain said

“Telepaths are different, it helps,” Taban said, and then chuckled.

”I’m not sure we can rely on that staying true,” Kalain said a slight smile betrayed Kalian’s serious tone.. The argument was as unresolveable as it was old, and the Morgans had almost made a sport of reenacting the discussion, even switching sides when they grew bored of their positions.

“Well in any case,” Kyp said. He could see where this was going and nipped it in the bud. “Maybe I’m just too much of cyberboy, but I’ve never had great experience with all of this community… crap,”

“You’ve gotten better with the–” Kalian said, trying to capture what Kyp meant, “Well, the crap. I think you’ve gotten better, at least. How’s your head doing?” Kalian said.

“We’ll I’ve gotten better with the plug, faster, better range, and I can carry a bigger buffer than most of the other people on the nets, or could. Mars is small you know, but I don’t think this is incredibly unusual, other telepaths seem to have similar sort of results. Gus, was probably on a similar trajectory,” Kyp said. “As for offline? Mixed results, but I make do.”

“Really? that’s great. Have you been in touch with Gus since you got here?”

“A bit… he’s doing well, I think, or staying mostly out of trouble. His new partner is really on top of things, I hear. I want to meet her, but I don’t want to have to at the same time.”

Kalian nodded in sympathy, but Taban answered: “And have you had any pain? Adverse affects from the plug, with your telepathy?”

“I still get headaches, but I don’t think that’s related to the plug, and they’re always explainable: poor eating and sleeping schedules, clear overuse, and what not, but I’ve had such headaches for a long time, so I don’t know.”

“We all get those, I suspect.” Kalian’s response was quick and positive, likely to prevent Taban from driving the conversation into the pits of disappear. Taban meant well, of course, but Kalian thought that pessimism needed to be tempered, at least sometimes.

“But I don’t think we should sit for them, at any rate.” Taban said, “Kyp, if you don’t mind I’d like to keep an eye on it.”

Kalian continued to smile kindly, though it did little to temper Taban’s tone, and Taban continued, “there’s not been any research into any of this.” Taban paused for an instant to think, “You know we could even probably get scans don here and send them back to Matt and see what he says…”

Kyp’s brow furrowed in worry at this last suggestion, “Wait, isn’t Matt a pathologist of some sort? Is there something wrong?”

“Yes, yes he is,” Taban said, replying quickly to Kyp first question, before realizing his error, reflected in the worry on Kyp’s–and now Kalian’s–face. “No, sorry, no there isn’t anything wrong, Matt’s just the only doctor we have. He’s forever seeing biological things that I’m missing, because we’re not doctors after all. Sorry again.”

Kalian was quick to speak next: “don’t worry though, there’s no need to worry, really, I even remember you complaining of such things when we were back on Earth. I mean it’s still a curiosity, and now that we’re here we have more time to look into these things”

“You’re right, you’re right,” Kyp said, taking a deep breath, “a lot of ways things are better here. There’s a lot less interference here than back home, and I’ve realized that I can spend a lot more time in public without any sort of headache or fatigue. I think Mars might have something to do with it.”

”I’ve noticed that it’s calmer here, or something, but I thought it was just that I was able to relax a little better, but maybe you’re right,” Taban said.

“Wait, you mean, Mars as the fact that there’re fewer people here?” Kalian asked. “Because, we’ve known about population density issues for a long time, of course”

“It might, but being here always felt more relaxed somehow. I spent some time alone, really alone, for a few months on Earth, and it never felt like Mars does.” Kyp said. “I mean, I’m not being systematic about it of course, but maybe there’s something else at play.”

“It’d be worth looking into that.” Kalian said “Taban, remember those acclimation effects that we looked at a few years ago?”

“Yeah?” Taban asked, unsure of where Kalian was going with the idea, which was, and Taban smiled at this thought, a bit ironic. “Go on.”

“Do you think it’d be worth reviving that data, and using Mars as a variable? Or just try it over here?” Kalian asked

“Do you really think it would go anywhere?” Taban remembered the horrible flop that the project was. The theories seemed logical, but they couldn’t find data to suggest that telepaths could experience long term effects from environmental acclimation. Kalian loved the theory, but it never really turned into anything, and other projects always seemed more important.

“Maybe. Though we’d have to change–”

Kyp cut Kalian off, before the conversation turned into something way over his head “Not to sound ungrateful for your hospitality but aren’t you supposed be taking a break?” He laughed.

Kalian smiled. “You’re right. We should probably eat, you know, before it’s time for breakfast.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea, but I think I see where you’re going with this Acclamation stuff,” Taban said, indicating both Kyp and Kalian.

“Of course,” Kalian said.

Eccentrics

I’ve mentioned before that Taban and Kalian, were unusual and memorable individuals. While telepathy itself doesn’t affect observable morphology at all, this didn’t prevent Taban and Kalian from seeming, well, a little bit off to the casual observer. Those of us that spent a lot of time with them, adjusted quickly, which made interacting with the unknowing public an interesting experience when Taban and Kalian were around. By now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve avoided referring to Taban and Kalian as being either male and female: this is a reflection of their own custom, and a tradition that I hope to cary on. While I’m not sure that it had much to do with telepathy; it does, even to the most contemporary readers, require a little bit of explanation.

It would be incorrect to say that Taban and Kalian didn’t have gender, or sexed bodies: they had both, and for the most part fairly typical in their expression of these traits. I said earlier that they had slight builds which I am convinced allowed them to “pass” their avoidance of “man” and “women” with some success. When in public situations, particularly on earth, they were almost always assumed that they were both “she,” in print they were almost always both “he,” at least sometimes. I’ve attempted to remain true to their wishes to “not get pinned down” in this text.

Without fail questions about Taban and Kalian’s gender or sex are among the most common that I’ve received since I got to know them closely. I’m sure this is a remnant of them speaking, but the fact that society can never seem to decide if it’s “sex” or “gender,” at least in popular usage, only confirms the fact that no one really knows what they’re talking about. Taban and Kalian, were eccentrics, rebels, or deviants and I think that their refusal to claim “man” or “woman,” was a large part of this feature of their characters: so I suppose in this respect, their gender-rebellion was part of a larger revolt against convention that grew out of their experience of telepathy.

At the same time, while I met Taban and Kalian before they had reached the height of their ability, I only knew them after they had met each other, and after they had made their original discoveries into telepathy, so I guess my perspective is less than helpful on this matter. I don’t think Taban and Kalian’s rejection was anything more than a specific rejection of categories that by all accounts did not fit them, and I have attempted to remain true to this aspect of Taban and Kalian’s story.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars, 2597

Chapter 3

A Telepathy Primer

Before Taban and Kalian published their manual on telepathy there was very little substantive research on the mechanisms and experience of the telepathic skill or ability. While the Morgan book was pivotal it was only a start and it would be untrue of me to suggest that we’ve come very far in the fifty some years since the book. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how telepathy works and how it is experienced; however, I think its fair to say that there are still a lot of misconceptions and false information concerning telepathy that needs to be cleared up before we can progress. Despite the recent research on telepathy we still don’t know where or when telepathy originated. It’s very likely that there have been a small number of telepaths in the general population for several hundred years although they were too few–and in many cases disabled by the telepathy–to “blip” on anyone’s awareness. Also while there is likely some sort of genetic/inherited component of telepathic ability, the rapid increase in the general level of telepathic ability in the last forty years demonstrates that some percentage of telepathic ability is learned in some way.

Quite simply the telepathic ability allows telepaths to connect, sense, and sometimes affect another’s thoughts. Yet there is little that is simple about the experience of this ability which comes with a myriad of side effects. The lucky and usually weak telepaths only experience mild headaches and acute fatigue from the ability, while stronger telepaths often have crippling headaches, problems concentrating (even when they’re not “using” telepathy,) and more chronic fatigue issues although each individual is different. For some interference effects weren’t strictly related to the exercise of their abilities and was just a side effect of living in proximity to other people. Most telepaths were sensitive to the presence groups of people even outside of active telepathic experience, but some like Renee Flett who was one of the first telepaths to arrive on Mars–I think she even got there before Kyp Ebner–was found it hard to function if a group larger than really two or three other other people were nearby: the interference was that strong and that involuntary.

Mars made sense as a refuge for telepaths in the middle of the century because it’s population had never spiked as intended after the colony was established in the 20s. The colony was full of unused rooms, community facilities and apartments so it was possible to get distance and people weren’t as packed in as Earth had been for decades. Many today won’t remember the horrible overcrowding on Earth in the 40s, but it for a class of people that were sensitive to groups of people it was the worst place you could imagine.

The interference side effects were, before Taban and Kalian, often enough to prevent telepaths from “making use” of their abilities, and still to a large extent, prevent most telepaths from using their abilities outside of controlled and familiar situations with family and close friends. The Morgans were clear to illustrate that these side effects allowed telepaths to keep their abilities out of public knowledge for so long, because “normal” day-to-day living was difficult and any use of telepathic abilities was generally such a displeasurable experience, that telepaths rarely talked about their abilities with each other, much less, “outsiders.” These issues, the social and interference issues were the focus of Taban and Kalian’s book, and their research and teaching allowed a great number of telepaths to understand and to have some measure of control over the interference and the strength of their abilities.

Looking back now, it’s amazing to realize how little we knew about telepathy, even despite how much we still have to learn. I’m reminded of the early misconceptions of telepaths, which Kyp Ebener termed “cyberspace” telepathy. Basically many people thought that “real” telepathy was like the sort of “shared state” sensation that could sometimes result from running certain kinds of programs while on the nets with other hackers. Despite telepath’s strengths on the nets, Kyp and I always thought that the association of telepathy with “cyberspace” telepathy was the result of some overzealous “human rights” activists who opposed to telepathy because they thought that it would erode the strength of a hundred year old ban on “cyborg” style implants.4 Which probably wasn’t true anyway, but nevertheless these activists succeeded in shaping the early discourse on telepathy, which painted telepathy as an invasive, omnipresent, and violent phenomena. The work of the anti-cybor activists has had has lingering effects on how many–particularly on Earth–understand telepathy, even today.

While we know that the cyberspace telepathy model and cyborg telepathy is false, we still don’t understand the mechanics of the telepathic communication, just as the mechanisms of memory were not truly understood for centuries after the brain was found to be the seat of consciousness. This is, I suppose the nature of science.

We do know that telepaths tend to have a higher level of general cognitive functioning on standard tests, once you account for the interference effects, though we don’t understand the reason for this beyond the theoretical explanations. Some, like Kyp Ebner were able to leverage this in cyberspace and hacking for a little extra speed in the simulated environment of the net. Kyp was always convinced that there was something else special about telepathy that made so many telepaths, including Taban and Kalian, so good on the net. The numbers are certainly in Kyp’s favor: we found out, in time, that a surprising majority of the leaders and maintainers of the net community were telepaths. While the increase in cognitive acuity might explain it, I was always quick to suggest that telepaths were more likely than other sub-groups to spend time on the net at critical periods and were thus able to develop some truly amazing skills online. It was a fight that we rehashed with some regularity.

The experience of telepaths on the nets is, no matter who’s argument you accept, quite interesting. Although telepaths had a little bit more power and sensitivity on the nets, they weren’t subject to the same kinds of interference that they experienced in the “real” world, because their bodies could exist in relative isolation while they were on the net. Cyberspace, was the first haven for telepaths, even before Mars. As long as I’ve known telepaths, a great many of them have focused much time and attention to the nets.

Though I cannot hope to fully communicate the experience of telepathy because I am not telepathic nor do I fully understand it myself. I have often found that the great “costs” associated with telepathic ability are often overlooked in favor the more fantastic aspects of the ability. Perhaps the more depressing fact is that even though we know so much about telepathy these days than we once did, many are still largely unaware of the totality of telepathic experience and history. The simple lack of information has already caused so much pain, let us pray that it doesn’t cause more.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars, 2597

Ongoing Investigation

“So we’re done?” Adrian Rathe, checked all of the company boards and his own messages for a third time before he finally admitted defeat to the boredom.

Thom Busby, however, had long since given up the pretense of being enthralled in his work, or frankly, upon closer investigation of being awake. Adrian wondered how often Thom had been able to feign wakefulness in the past, but quickly abandoned the project. Adrian coughed, “Busby! are you seeing anything?” Surprising his boss like that might not have been his best idea in a while, but he was desperate for entertainment.

“Wha? No, nothing.” Busby was surprised a bit, but he didn’t fluster easily. Adrian reasoned that although wasn’t as entertaining it was probably a good quality for an ISA Agent.

“What are we even looking for anymore, there hasn’t been any more attacks on our “telepath” files in like a year. Do you think maybe they’ve gone to ground or something.”

“They’re still there. Be sure of that,” Busby’s eyes glazed over, or maybe they hadn’t fully unglazed from his little “nap.”

“We have the sniffers up, I can be on the net within five minutes of an alarm. I mean, what’s really stopping us from working on other things?”

“This is the best case in the entire cyber crime department This is the stuff that could make our career, and no one else has a clue about it. We could be directors within the year.” Busby’s gaze cleared up.

“After it breaks. I mean, hell we’re not even sure that there are really telepaths–or whatever.”

“What else could explain it? Besides that’s what they call themselves, normal hackers for the tough persona, these folks… don’t. And they still have the net wrapped around their fingers.”

“You think,” Adrian said.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“Not really, I guess. I just I wish we could get a look at the report of that incident a year ago, that might help, forensics is sure sitting on this one,” Adrian said.

“Good luck getting stuff from them, the geeks over there are practically rebels.” Busby’s sudden venom almost surprised Adrian, but by now he was pretty good at covering it up.

“Quinn Dasen seems to be pretty approachable,” Adrian said.

“She’s the one that’s been sitting on that file for months! She’s squeaky clean and very approachable, unlike some of the rest of them. Beyond that they’re all the same.”

“But if they are telepaths, should it really matter in cyberspace? I mean, if they had a hacking gene mod or onbard processing implants, then yeah, but as long as we stay away we should be safe. Right?”

“You don’t know that.” Busby’s response was abrupt and unambiguous.

There was a pause in the conversation, and if Adrian had had anything else in the world to do he would have started doing it, but there really wasn’t work to be done.

“And don’t you go trying to talk or meet with them, we may be ISA, but we’ve not made a great deal of progress on this case, and we have no idea what they can do. I can’t have you going rogue on me.”

“I just feel like–”

Adrian was cut off by the alarm, and then by Busby. “Don’t feel. Get to.”

Something had set off one of the their units cyberspace alarms. This happened pretty often and usually it was just some kid hacker’s or some internal long abandoned script gone awry. or another ISA team that had forgotten the operating standards; but false positives were the price of having a sensitive system that could detect even the most surgical attacks. Adrian reluctantly reattached his net tether but Busby was a bit ahead of him, but an instant later it didn’t matter. Their office disappeared and they were on the net.

Emergency

”I’m in, do you see anything?” Adrian said when he “landed,” in the net. Everything looked calm.

“Nothing yet.” Busby responded. The next message was encrypted and it took a second for Adrian’s pre-processor to decrypt. When it came through, Adrian saw that it wasn’t a false alarm and that there were two people involved, they were still logged in, and other smaller alarms were going up all along their department’s permitter. Probably distraction bots, or some such; which meant that this was planned out, and better orchestrated than the last real attack. That was a two person team too, but they brute forced their database and got a copy of most of their profiles a year back. Sloppy but effective.

“Where are you?! They’re on their own system, we can’t slow them down from the outside.” Busby signal was loud, but it was probably directed enough that it wouldn’t set off the hacker’s alarms.

Adrian started executing programs and sending them off into the background. Some watchdog-style programs that would pull his attention around so that he could chase after someone trying to escape, and a few filter/sniffers looking for traps left behind by the intruder’s programs. that the hackers might have set to keep them away, and a couple went on data collecting missions. Adrian looked over the data that Busby had sent him and confirmed that they were being powered on their own system. He swore, but thankfully recovered before he could send the message to anyone.

The intruders were damn good, that much was clear. By the looks of the traps that they had left, they’d been here for a while without tripping an alarm. He left to himself a note to check to see if they’d gotten into other systems without tripping the alarm.

Adrian was in motion, and had been ahead of Busby relative to the node that they entered the system on pretty much from the get go.

“Go ahead!” Busby’s irritated voice snapped in his ear. Though there were no comms on the net, it was odd, how the body processed net-inputs the same way it processed the rest of the world.

Busby wasn’t afraid of the net, per se but he knew enough to be aware of his limits. Which is why he’d hired Adrian to take care of all the operations on the net. But sometimes it was too much control for Busby to let go of entirely.

Adrian began closing on the blips. They had stopped suddenly and were standing still, trying to gain access to a database tower. He looked around and figured that, based on where they were on the net, it was one of the back end databases. Internal use only. Not overtly useful, of course, but with enough time and a good guard-dog program of their own they could probably leverage some of the data against ISA in the future.

Adrian lopped around that database and slowed down, trying to evade notice. If he startled them, the might end up doing even more damage, and if they ran or escaped-out he couldn’t get them. Busby sent a message, encrypted this time, but Adrian put the decryption preprocessor on low priority so that he could move a little faster, so even though he knew it was there, he wouldn’t hear the message for a minute or two.

Busby wouldn’t be happy, but that wasn’t anything new. For years now Busby had always opted for speed optimizations. Adrian had always called this the “better to be able to get to the scene with a badge than, know what to do when you got there,” philosophy. Which worked most of the time, except when it didn’t.

Busby’s message was as predicted. “Don’t slow down! What the hell are you doing?” But Adrian almost wished that he hadn’t decoded it, even if it had been good advice, which it hadn’t.

Adrian Rathe stayed put and watched the two intruders, he felt collected enough to make an attack. If he waited to long, he thought he’d be chasing them anyway. He sent out two attack bots, queued a couple of virtual restraint programs and counted to three.

The intruders fell for the trap and began to defend against the drones. Adrian walked out slowly, but was alert enough to “run” after them if they made a dash for it–assuming of course that the drones didn’t keep them busy.

When they saw him, the drones somehow winked out of existence. ”They weren’t the best programs in the world, but they often lasted a bit longer than that,” Adrian thought. ”Maybe these bastards are the real deal.

Adrian saw the intruders touch, or their representations at any rate, and there was a brief interference blip, like static that you felt in the core of your chest, except you didn’t have a chest because it was the net. ”Data exchange,” he muttered and continued toward the intruders, the distance growing painfully long as he ran.

By the time he got there, the intruders had split up and were moving off in opposite directions. He dashed left, almost on impulse, even on the nets he could only go after one perp’ at a time. An instant later he triggered a script to chase and track the other intruder. The script wasn’t as sophisticated as the program that they dispatched without much effort a few moments ago, but the costs to execute them weren’t prohibitive. ”And hell,” he thought, ”it was small enough that it might do some good.

Adrian Rathe was a good programer, hence the gig with ISA. Ironically, before he started working at the agency he hadn’t been very good at “hacking.” He was good at keeping the firewalls secure, and writing little scripts, but he’d never gotten the hacking experience that most of his foes had. At first it was hard for him to get over the idea that the largest law enforcement agency in the world needed to participate in illegal raids in order to function. But there it was.

The line between cop and criminal blurred for many, there were agents who hacked the agency and it’s corporate collaborators, but it never held the appeal for Adrian. Maybe Busby had argued a high enough clearance for him that he never really needed to. Adrian thought that by opting out of internal spying Busby had managed to keep his attention focused on this case for so long. It also made him come off as a bit of a vigilante.

In any case, at this very moment Adrian was just another programer on the net, slower than the real hackers and loosing ground against the intruder running a few seconds ahead of him.

As Adrian began to tire thoughts of rewriting the environment clouded his mind. It was a little distracting, but it kept him involved in the environment. Perhaps he was transmitting it as a message, because Busby responded: ”Won’t work, not enough time, we’ve got the world fast in here… It’s only been fifteen minutes on the outside. Keep Running!”

“Do you have anything that would help me?” Adrian sent. He wasn’t sure what, exactly subjective time felt like, but he would have sworn that it had been an hour or maybe two. Good thing you couldn’t get real damage in cyberspace, though the headache might make you wish you had died.

Nothing yet, but we’ll have lots of good data at the end. Keep running!” Busby cried.

“Won’t forensics be happy,” Adrian said, but decided not to send. He was still running, of course. Running was such a bad metaphor for what he was doing, he thought, as another representation flew by. He was almost distracted by it, and he chided himself for thinking about other things, but he kept on.

He got closer to the intruder he was chasing, only to find the scripts lingering around collecting data. ”Weird,” he said, Busby probably heard it as a message, but that didn’t seem to matter much. He dumped the data and sent the scripts after the second intruder He never expected them to last this long: after the intruders mashed his two attack bots without much effort, he thought these other bots wouldn’t last more than a few seconds.

“What?!” Busby sent. Adrian was so involved in coding out his next move–and running so fast on the net–that it took him a moment to figure out what Busby was talking about.

“Shit!” Adrian cried, “Look at the records from when they killed the attack bots at the data tower, boss and tell me what you see.” He stopped completely, and initiated a security sweep.

“Why did you stop?!”

“Just look boss, you have the data, and I don’t have the capacity for that right now,” Adrian sent.

“There was a blast of interference nothing major or unusual. Now why aren’t you moving?”

“Look at it harder, they pulled a fast switch on us. Had to have. I didn’t see it?”

“They’re both wrong?”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Adrian sent and he let his representation start to drift in the net. He wasn’t moving fast but his orientation shifted slowly. “There were two at the data tower, and there was a blast of interference. I bet you they used the interference to cover a logout and bot spawning.”

“What?”

“Back up your cache, and run for the node. I’m going to kill all bots on our net, and see if I can pull the net down for a second to clear them out?”

“You can do that?”

“Yeah… Well, I wrote a script last week, I haven’t done something like this with it before, but it’ll get them out, and our data should be safe?”

“Doesn’t that risk our systems?”

“Shouldn’t, much.”

“Much?” Busby bellowed. Adrian instinctively reached for his ears but stopped.

“It shouldn’t, but I’ll bet you any damage is already done. Just get out of the way,” Adrian yelled. He was right, but that didn’t mean the Busby was going to be less angry.

“Ok, backed up and logging out. Go for it.” Busby’s message was almost a grow. reported, he didn’t sound happy, but that wasn’t all that unusual, and he sounded much less concerned than Adrian would have expected, and Adrian couldn’t decide if this was good or bad.

“Ok, here goes.” Adrian called out. He slowed his clock speed down a lot, but he was tired enough that he didn’t have a good handle on what “normal was.”

There was another blast of interference, this time everyone on the ISA subnet felt it. Adrian hurt everywhere, but maybe maybe that was exhaustion kicking in. He was too distracted at first to notice that the blips, all of them, the intruders, his bots, the ISA sentries, disappeared. “Damn!” Was all that Adrian could manage to say as his system ground to a halt, he was pretty sure that Busby would get that message.

Now, finally the agency’s alarms went off, ”Now, that’s ironic,” Adrian said, careful to not send.

“They were bots, the intruders, were bots the whole time,” Adrian sent, “Or since I came upon them, at least. I’m escaping-out, to get the defenses back up before I pass out.” Adrian’s words were simply an announcement of his behavior, rather than a request. “Also, we have got to come up with something more proactive, because getting beaten up like this isn’t going to get us–me–anywhere.”

And then he escaped-out. Reality hit him harder than he expected, but he was numb by this point, anyway. There was still work to be done but it could happen later, after he passed out.

Chapter 4

Mice and Cats / Cats and Mice

“You’re ok?” Gus was grinning, ecstatic even, but since Kyp left he had developed a newfound concern for the safety of his friends, family, and coconspirators. It caught him by surprise sometimes and never failed to make him feel old, but healthy interest in well-being was probably advantageous in the long run.

“Yeah, fine, I’m hardly tired even,” Irena said, her grin almost audible as well. “Did you see how that ISA’er chased after our bots for like… hours”

“It was a good idea to dial down our speed after we pulled the switch. Probably why we don’t have headaches… yet.”

“Well that, and it was damn funny to watch the ISA’er run around so fast.”

“That it was. Shame he didn’t know what was really going on.” Gus said finally disentangling himself from his gear to stand up and stretch, and then he yelped with joy, almost hopping as he made his way to his desk. He took a deep breath, and his grin returned for a moment: “We did it! That was a great mission. You were great Irena. Pretty soon, I’m going to be out of a job.”

“I don’t know about that Gus” Irena was bashful, and perhaps a little too reverent.

“Believe me, I’m looking forward to it,” Gus said. “Lets take a look at the postmortem records, to make sure that everything still safe.”

“Good plan, we’re offnet?” Irena said, slipping into the chair behind her part of the desk.

“Yep, as soon as we came off ourselves,” Gus reported. That was an amazingly useful little program for protect against instant counter attacks, and it was such a simple script that he was kind of disappointed that it took him–or Kyp–so long to realize it could be done.

“Do you think it was Busby?” Irena said after a moment.

“Oh, no, probably not. Busby’s partners have always been the hackers, or whatever the ISA calls them. ‘Support staff.’ He’s not bad on the net, but from what we can tell he always hangs out in the background and runs support. Years and years ago, Kyp and I did a mission for Busby, and even then he didn’t like to go on the net very much. We never run into him, really.”

“And he’s a computer crimes guy, supposedly.”

“Supposedly,” Gus said. ISA didn’t have a psionic division, after all there were no telepaths, as far as anyone knew. ISA had Busby, the unofficial determined demi-genious, and the ISA higher ups pretty much let him operate free range. Well, and they let Matthew Connor get away with a lot, but that was off the clock. ISA didn’t know about Matt’s involvement.

“Looks like the bot, well bots I guess, we left in the database is undetected and active.” Irena reported, referencing a small portable.

Their servers would probably need to be offnet for a day or so, but they kept a couple of portables around connected to a too-complex web of other servers so that they could get up to date information: how the bots were running and doing their job, and if they’d been caught or traced and needed to run.

“Also looks like we got a lot of new data out of the sting.”

“Unexpected, but nice. What’s there?”

“Totally.” Irena paused and entered something in a flurry. “Not sure, running diff now.”

“Good, keep me posted, but de-prioritize it. We need to make sure that we’re not in any trouble, first.” Gus said. ”When did I turn into Kyp?,” thought to himself.

“Right; On it.”

”I’m going to see what the spybots intercepted while you look at that,” Gus said.

“Ok, good plan. I’m going line by line; our first sweeps didn’t get anything in the security logs. So if they got anything, they’re not tipping their hand, or they don’t know they have it yet.”

“That’s the great thing about data volume these days.” Gus closed his eyes for a moment while the spybot programs compiled reports. “Busby was in net running support, he checked for Kyp’s sig, again. Good, he’s still working on old data.”

“Nothing of you?”

“I escaped-out that time, and Matt’s kept the data stalled in forensics, so I’m not sure that they know I was there; but I do worry a bit… Enough to check on it.”

“Busby was paying a lot of attention to you.”

“Wait, how? You took lead, and who ever chased after your bot.” Gus said, calling up a view of Irena’s records. “If he was providing support, shouldn’t he have been watching you?”

“Yes.”

“Damn, ok. What can we look at on this one?”

“Not too much, their bot killall took a lot of the endgame data with it, and probably obsoleted a few of our bot designs,” Gus said.

“Nothing these days lasts as long as it used to.”

Gus reached over to the portable and ran a search on his signature; just to make sure that he hadn’t been flagged anywhere. When they brought the servers back on, he’d set up an auto-check, but he got a bit nervous all of a sudden. After paging through a couple hundred search results, he decided that everything was probably safe, at the moment. He set the portable back down on the desk, and it fell into it’s place a little more clumsily than Gus had intended.

Irena looked over at him, by now she had stopped her reviews and her intent concentration gave way to concern. “Clear for now,” Gus reported, but he could feel himself almost turning white with worry and probably a little bit of exhaustion. He closed his eyes and covered his mouth with his hands as he took a deep breath, while he considered what to do next. “Are you doing alright, or do you need to take a break” he asked, when he opened his eyes.

”I’m fine, really,” Irena said. She didn’t flinch and she definitely didn’t have to say ”but you’re not.

“Good. I think I got hit harder by that then I wanted to. Can you get all the post-mortem stuff running while I go try and sleep it off?” Gus yawned.

”I’m on it Gus don’t worry about it. Should I try and get link up to Mars for a report to Kyp and them when you wake up?”

“Lets wait until we know something more, and lets not rush getting back on-net this time, unless you pick something up on the–” Gus yawned again and gestured generally at the portable.

“Yes, yes, of course. Now to bed with you.” Irena said. She was being uncharacteristically forceful, but the situation seemed to demand that. Also, she wanted Gus asleep so that she could make sure that his mind, or whatever her telepathy would let her see, was still in order.

She thought about contacting Matt, but realized that the real computers were still offline, so that could wait; and she also considered helping Gus walk over to his bed, but thought that there wasn’t much use in making him more worried than he already was.

Irena turned back to the computer for a moment to see if she could coax anything new out of the computer until Gus fell asleep, but it was still crunching through the data: ”predictable,” she thought.

Returning

“So am I still alive?” Kyp asked, when Taban finally started to disconnect all of the various leads and sensors that connected his body and torso to Taban’s diagnostic equipment. Kyp had expected to be a little more worn after so much telepathic contact, but as always, Taban and Kalian were gentle and calm minded, and he barely noticed.

“I think you’ll live, and god it’ll be interesting. You have a lot going on up there,” Taban said.

Kyp laughed. “You’re one to talk, mister. Anything interesting?”

“Well you know, we won’t have anything really conclusive, for a few days, unless you want to help us build a supercomputer,” Kalian trailed off and smiled.

“I think I’ll pass on clogging my gear up with your numbers. It’s actually kind of nice to have a system, albeit slightly underpowered, all to myself.”

“Fair enough.” Taban said.

Kalian started to say something, but stopped and just grinned.

“From what I can tell though, you’re in good shape, and nothing physiological is in a lot of trouble,” Taban said.

“Great. I didn’t think anything was wrong, but you two are too good to me.”

“Well enlightened self interest and all. We’re low on people to work with here, and you’re always great to have in the chair,” Taban said. “Lets sit in the living room: we’ll all be more comfortable.” They had all remained in the office, which doubled as a research and testing space, when the occasion called for it, but the quarters were cramped.

“That sounds good, actually.” Kyp was still lying down. “It’s a bit disconcerting to be looking up to you, actually,” he said. He smiled.

“Fair enough, get some more of your friends to come to Mars and you might be safe from our research table in the future,” Kalian said.

“Speaking of, are we expecting new folks anytime soon?” Kalian asked Kyp. While Kalian and Taban had been on Earth more recently, Kyp maintained contact with a number of people on Earth, while Taban and Kalian limited their corresponded to Matt Connor. Despite their great advancements and insights, and leadership role in the community, the Morgans often fit the age-old stereotype of telepaths as hermits and recluses.

“I hope so, but it would be hard to keep any sort of mass immigration under cover, and life here has been pretty good, I have to say, I don’t know if I want to ruin it.”

“That’s not what we’re about, I can certainly respect the feeling, but I think it’d probably be worthwhile to get more of the community to move over here.” Kalian said, sounding like the trip from Earth to Mars was quick and effortless.

“Well, getting people to move, is always hard, you know. And it’s so expensive,” Kyp said.

“And the dust doesn’t wash away for months,” Kalian said, eliciting laughter. They had discovered that the never ending dust was a product of the loading and unloading techniques. Since the storage cartons were vacuum hardened, they didn’t keep the cartons inside during loading and unloading: ergo dust. Unfortunately discovering this mystery didn’t prevent them from the weeks and weeks of dusting.

“You know Kalian, we should see if we can talk with the government here to get more transport permits for ‘our’ people,” Taban suggested.

“We have people now?” Kalian asked. “Yeah, I guess we do, that’s probably a good idea.”

“Aside from that, the governments should really subsidize some more relocations, and we’re nearing an optimum transfer point series again, right?” Kyp said.

“We are? This soon?” Kalian said, in surprise.

“I think so, in the next couple of weeks. You could check.”

“I believe you. I think the government subsides that paid most of our way are still around, and have been for a long time, but the people who know about it don’t want to leave their posh circumstances to live in the colony, and the people who don’t know about them wouldn’t think to ask.” Taban said.

“Typical.” Kyp said.

“Unfortunately. Speaking of untypical things, I was thinking about making dinner? I trust you’ll stay.”

“Only if you promise not to poison us.” Kyp said.

Kalian laughed, remembering a particularly bad meal that Taban had “cooked” back on earth, probably two years ago. After that, Kalian became the designated cook most of the time, much to Taban’s embarrassment and shame. Kyp chuckled as well, his own memory triggered by the feeling of Kalian’s memory.

“Hey you two, cool it, and be thankful that you’re not cooking.” Taban tried to stifle a laugh, but was largely unsuccessful. “Besides, welcome to Martian cuisine, as you know the term ‘cooking’ isn’t quite the right word for this.” Unfortunately he was right: the food on Mars, particularly in the early days was not what one could call gourmet, but preparation was quick and it nourished.

“We relent,” Kalian said, still smiling. “Thanks for ‘cooking’ dearest!” Kalian called out, laughing again.

Kyp and Kalian both felt Taban think something along the lines of “grumble snipe” from the kitchen. They laughed harder, but a moment later a faint chime interrupted them.

“That’s not the door, is it?” Kalian asked regaining some composure and looking around for the source of the noise.

“No, I think it’s my portable,” Kyp said, checking his pockets for the device. “I put it in my bag when we were prepping, is it in the office?” Kyp stood and moved toward the office door.

“No, I think it’s by the door,” Kalian suggested.

“Right, thanks,” Kyp said, reaching his bag only after the chime had stopped. He doubted the call was real-time anyway: the people he knew on Mars–save Taban and Kalian–so rarely used the system, Earth was too far away, and he couldn’t fathom why anyone in orbit of the planet would be placing a call.

Sure enough, it was a message. “It’s from Gus calling from Earth.” Kyp reported, still standing over his bag while he drilled through a couple of menus to unlock the device and access the message. “And he cut the transmission time way down. That’s pretty impressive.”

“What’s he got to say? He’s well, right?” Kalian remembered that Kyp and Gus had a pretty complex communication schedule worked out to minimize the lag, and make sure that any data transmissions could make it effectively between them and two planets.

“I think so, at least as of last week he was fine, but give me a second,” Kyp said. He was a little concerned, this was an odd time for a call, and this seemed almost of out of character for Gus “Here goes,” Kyp said, activating the message.

The portable took a second to load the feed as the system back in his quarters–crunched through the encryption. Kyp expected to see Gus’ boyish face on his portable, but there was no image, just audio. Audio which, particularly with the flex-compressions used to send data to mars, never quite sounded like it should:

“Kyp, I hope you can get this soon. Irena and I have been working on a way to get a bug into the ISA database in Busby’s department; you know the one that we were after a year ago for those contacts. We finally got an independent system to run on for the hack, which kept them off our tails and we were even able to run dialed up for while. It was successful, we think, and Irena reports that there hasn’t been any buzz about it so either nothing happened, or Busby is keeping this under wraps. I put a call out to Matt, but I haven’t heard from him yet.

“Irena seems to think that things are still safe–we were offline for a good fifteen hours, and she’s still crunching through the postmortem and the steal. I think she did a telepathic once over of me after I passed out–which was weird, the passing out that is, I’ll tell you about that later when I’m more together–but she’s not telling me, and I suspect if something is really wrong, you’ll hear about it before I will,” Gus said, there was a hushed conversation that the recording didn’t capture, Irena was probably in the room. While the ‘scan the partner while they’re asleep after a run,’ thing wasn’t strictly speaking cooth telepathic behavior, Kyp could remember a dozen or so times that he and his hacking partners had done the same thing.

A moment later Gus continued, “Encryption on what we got is really thick too, but we weren’t being really careful when we extracted the information, because that wasn’t our objective. Irena’s good by the way, you’d like her, I think; also, I’m turning into you, which is scary.” Gus laughed.

”I’m calling off schedule, because I’m pretty sure that Busby got a sniff on me, again not sure, and the postmortem isn’t done. In a way it’s because we were so successful, they were completely unprepared for another assault, even though some of our folks had been nibbling at their door for… Well probably since our last run on them.

“Also, Busby still had scripts out looking for you, so even if he has a sniff on you, he doesn’t know you’re on Mars. If that’s comforting to you, there you are. After this, I’ve been thinking about coming to Mars sooner than we’d planned. Irena, she’s really good, and I don’t want to hang on here more than I need to or should. I’m not sure. I’m also not sure if we should have made the run against ISA, I mean, yeah, Busby’s people have been sniffing around a lot, but the more I think about the the mission, the more wrong it seems to feel, The more I feel like it just shouldn’t have happened that way.”

Gus took a deep breath. From even a planet away, Kyp felt his own anxiety rise in sympathy with Gus’, he passed the portable to the other and took a breath before Gus started talking again. Kyp looked up at Kalian who was standing by one of the chairs, looking quite concerned. Taban was still cooking, and hadn’t heard the portable ring, though he could probably feel Kyp and Kalian’s concern.

Gus continued: “I suppose on the upside, the data is pretty mucked up right now, I don’t suspect they’ll be able to recover more than whatever files they had withdrawn, when we attacked. This is a bit old, but also tell the Taban and Kalian, we’ve managed to finally track down all the people on the list from last year, but only a few people that we didn’t know about. We’ve been giving out materials, and they’ve been sending data back, so I suspect we’ll have a couple of big data packets compiled soon, though I’m still concerned about sending the data if I’ve been made, too much risk, and I’m thinking about getting someone to courier; though Irena isn’t worried about it. When did I become this neurotic?”

“The day you were born,” Kyp answered softly, even though this was only a recording. Kalian almost choked on a laugh.

“Lets not answer that, actually,” Gus said, apparently anticipating Kyp’s response. There was laughter in the background that Kyp assumed was Irena. “Anyway, We’re going to sit tight for the present and restrict our net activities for a while, at least until I feel more calm about this whole thing. I wanted to get your input though. I’m worried about sending the data, I’m not sure how to proceed, and I thought you should hear this from me before you hear it from Matt or someone. Be well, and I’ll here from you soon.” The message concluded with a burst of encoded signals, to ensure authenticity. Kyp thumbed the device off: he could run the code later.

“Oh dear,” Kalian said.

“Everything ok?” Taban had apparently missed most of the message, and nearly all Kalian and Kyp’s reaction.

Kyp opened his mouth to explain, but couldn’t find the words. Kalian started instead, “Gus sent a message, seems a run didn’t go as well as he thought at first, and he’s worried about his security, and some data.” Kyp put the portable back in his bag and went over to the chair he’d been sitting in, and sort of collapsed into it. Perhaps he was more hungry than he thought.

“Is he ok? What about the data?” Taban asked, sounding concern. Taban appeared at the doorway of what passed for a kitchen. There was a smudge of something food related across Taban’s cheek, Kalian looked at it quizzically, and decided not to ask, but Taban rubbed the food away, having probably felt the thought anyway.

“Gus’ ok, and the data’s safe where it is, but I think he’s worried about the transmission. I suspect there’s a lot of it, and there haven’t been as many developments in transmission bandwidth in the last six months as we had predicted.”

“Well that’s good. Still, should we be worried?” Taban asked

“I don’t know, if it weren’t serious I don’t think Gus would have called.” Kalian reasoned.

“Yeah, that’s true, but he’s probably right about the extra security problems, and having him in shambles isn’t a good thing either, even if he’s alright at the core.”

“Do you think Irena can handle it without him?” Kalian asked.

“Irena?” Taban’s voice echoed slightly, likely the product of a little telepathic “gain boost.”

“Gus’ new hacking partner,” Kyp and Kalian answered in unison.

“Ah, what do we do?” Taban asked,

Kalian and Kyp looked at each other for a moment before responding at the same time:

“I guess we wait and see,” Kalian said.

“I think I’m going back to Earth,” Kyp said.

Chapter 5

In Early 2543, Kyp Ebner returned to Earth after two and a half years away, to attend to some business that was long overdue for attention. Though the primary/given reason for the visit was to help Gus Rosell and Irena Trem with a hacking project and then courier some data for the Morgans back to Mars, it had also become clear to all of us that by moving to Mars they left the larger telepath community on earth without a real leadership or organization. While Gus and Irena, and a few others had taken up the charge as best they could, it wasn’t their project, and they had other more pressing commitments.

With the confirmation that Kyp Ebner was not, at least formally connected to the theft of ISA data, Kyp seemed to be a natural choice to serve as an emissary to Earth for the Morgans. While Kyp was on Earth, Taban and Kalian and I were working on securing transportation permits for as many Earth telepathy as we could manage, it was a stressful couple of months.

Thankfully, however, I was able to recover a journal entry written by Kyp Ebner during his trip back to Earth, that communicates the spirit of the times more clearly than I could ever hope to lo these fifty years later. Additionally, I should note that I have been somewhat unsure of how to address this portion of the narrative given my own involvement in the original sequence of events, but after some reflection, and sage advice I have decided to just “get on with it,” though I must confess that I have been unable to restrain myself from commenting directly at a couple of points.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars Colony, 2596

On Going Home

Earth? Who could have seen that one coming. Though it makes perfect sense, it is perhaps the one place in the Solar System that I never quite expected to be headed to. And yet, here I am.

When I was a kid and they were just starting the Mars Colony I remember wondering why they kept ignoring the topic of Earth-Mars transit. When you you asked teachers in school they’d say something about how round-trip travel was generally unfeasible, but that the data uplink relays were really impressively fast. But we all knew that the data transit was really slow beyond all reason, particularly with the data that we all cared about; and we really didn’t have a clue why why transit was so “unfeasible.”

While we’re better at speeding data transit time, it’s still frustrating even in in the 40s! I have to imagine that the transit technology has changed a bit in the intervening few years, though I tend to glaze over when people talk about interplanetary engines. Having said that, the picture of the ship on the wall in my cabin–that description of this room is perhaps the best example of magical thinking that I’ve ever witnessed–looks quite futuristic, but I suspect that in a few years, it will look as out of date and old as the boxy brick like Mars Colony looks today.

Earth? I’m still sort of numb to the whole idea of going back, I think I’ve gotten too used to Mars and the sense of serenity–as clich├ęd as that sounds–that I’ve absorbed from my tenure on the planet. I’m worried about adjusting back to Earth, not simply the gravity–but it will be interesting to see how I’ve faired–but also the culture and the people. I hope I’m still good at blocking out all of that noise, and that I can still work on networks of respectable size. I remember missing all of these things, except perhaps the gravity, when I came to Mars, and now Mars feels more like home than I can ever remember earth feeling.

To make matters worse, I’m still divided about this ambassador thing. It makes sense, and I’m the most practical person to send back to Earth, but I don’t know how the folks on earth are going to take me. I always felt aloof and distant, and now I need them to trust me, or at least listen to me, and I don’t know that the little recording I have of Taban and Kalian will be enough, to get people to listen.

I wanted to make them go, but Matt told us that they couldn’t get back to Earth, that Busby was trying to put flags on the Morgans’ papers, which struck me a weird, but apparently Busby’s department doesn’t have jurisdiction on Mars, or any contacts there, which I find hard to believe, but Matt has always proven himself to be trustworthy, so god only knows. On the whole though, I’ve never trusted ISA internal regs to protect anyone from scrutiny, so I’m traveling under falsified papers, and my Taban is reluctantly helping “me” generate a little digital record of noise while I’m away. I suppose the upside to having a slow Earth-Mars uplink, is that I’ve gotten really good at hacking into the Colonial Authority’s systems. The last few years haven’t been in vane.

Besides, Taban and Kalian have more important work to do on Mars. There is always data to process it seems–with me off planet they finally can use some of my processing power to expedite the process–and they’re working on revising a handbook for telepaths. I actually have an early copy of the text with me, that they told me to look over while I’m in transit. It’s hard to get editorial help when you’re writing about something that the general public doesn’t know about.

I suppose I should get to that reading now: when I start trips like this, trips that I think are going to be important in the long run. I’m always intimidated by the way that Taban and Kalian write, with such precision and clarity: and when I read over my pitiful attempts I always sound like I slept through most of my education, which I suppose I did, but the telepathic interference was really bad when I was in school. Traveling always makes me think, “my wouldn’t it be nice to start a journal,” but always I get discouraged when I read over the nearly-incoherent text: the journal that I started during my first trip to Mars didn’t make it very far out of Earth orbit, alas.

This is going to be a long trip…

Kyp Ebner
February, 2543
Burroughs, Mars-Earth Liner

Quinn Dasen

Quinn Dasen always surprised me, and for a long time I thought that she was really a telepathy. Her insight and powers of observation were really second to none, and I always trusted her opinions and recommendations.

She often took a more moderate line with regards to the telepath issue, and though I often found myself at odds with her position or her approach, Quinn’s perspective and tireless work on the behalf of telepaths’–and really the rest of us as well–had in my estimation a much larger positive impact on the course of history in the last fifty years. Even now, looking back, I can’t quite fathom how she pulled off the security for the release of the Morgan Book, and later both kept an eye on Busby and prevented the powers that be in ISA from following his recommendations.

Though some in the telepath community have taken issue with my support for Quinn, despite all of the tragedies that happened in the early days–and indeed what ISA has become in the past few decades–I think it’s completely appropriate to recognize Quinn’s great, positive, impact.

Our meetings in North Africa were among the best part of my time with ISA, it’s weird now–given what ISA is these days–to have been so involved in the organization at one point. It was different then, I feel confident saying that, and I also think that there was a possibility for change and progress from within ISA when I was on the payroll. I don’t think this changes anything, and I was certainly happy to get out of ISA when I did, but–and I think this may be the surprising part–I am glad I got the opportunity to work in ISA when I did. Without these experiences, I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet Quinn Dasen, and I think interestingly, I would have never been involved with the telepath community, which as you might expect, has probably been one of the defining aspects of my life.

And if I had to do it all over again, I would.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars Colony, 2596

Strategy Meetings

I remember having lunch a number of times with Quinn Dasen in a quaint little outdoor cafe in Casablanca. About a hundred years back they built a dome over the city, which made the “outdoor” quality ironic at best, but there were a couple of ISA forensics operations in Northern Africa that served as ample pretext for our meetings. Because of our departments operations in the area we were pretty confident that we knew who was bugging our conversation, if it worked: the domes had always been tricky to get bugs into–in retrospect I’m sure ISA wouldn’t have allowed the domes to be built, but we made do. I never thought when I was in med school that I’d end up spending a huge part of my career as a spy, if I had known; I’d probably have slept more.

I got to the cafe before Quinn, which wasn’t that unusual, I ordered a cup of tea and a muffin and then checked the messages on my portable while I waited. There was a cryptic message from Taban–I think, text only from Mars–that said that Kyp was in route, which I already knew, and that it looked like they were going to be able to secure immigration permits and subsides, but I wasn’t quite sure. Taban and I had developed a plaintext code for extra security on top of our standard encryptions, for this kind of messaging before they left for Mars, and I had gotten pretty good at decoding it without the cheat sheet, I wasn’t perfect.

“More messages from Mars?” Quinn said. She couldn’t have seen what I was working on, my back was to a corner of the courtyard. “It was the look on your face,” Quinn said. ”I’m not a telepath, geeze Matt, I went to spy school and learned something useful, while you were busy learning about medicine and blood-spatters–when was the last time any real murderer left a bloodspatter? A hundred years ago? Two?”

“Look where it got me? Worth every moment!” We staged this argument with some great frequency, though the blood-spatter argument was a new one.

“Yeah, Kyp will be here pretty soon, we think, and it looks like they’re going to be able to make it possible for some people to move to Mars.”

“That’s always good. It’s a shame that more people can’t be convinced to go, there’s still room after all this time?”

“That’s what they said. And they could build another colony structure pretty much at the drop of a hat, but there aren’t people yet.”

“It’s not self sufficient yet, I guess that’s still an issue,”

“I think it could be I think. Most of the stuff they send, is–ironic as it is now–that’s easier or cheaper to make here or in orbit and send to Mars. Prefab space gear, mechanical parts, raw or semi-raw minerals and metals, you know. Fascinating stuff really.”

“You should see if they need an ISA bureau,” Quinn said as she looked over her shoulder for a waiter.

“You could have some of this,” I said, pointing to my mostly untouched muffin–there had been a moment of weakness before she arrived, but the muffin was still intact.

“It’s ok,” she said. The waiter arrived quickly and she placed an order for coffee and a sandwich.

“I don’t think I’m quite ready to pack up and leave everything, at least not yet but the idea has occurred. And it’s funny that there isn’t ISA folk there.”

“I doubt we’d be talking about it if there was.”

Quinn was right, the lack of an ISA presences was one of the features that made the Mars Colony so attractive to Taban and Kalian. “I wonder if going to Mars to start an ISA bureau would attract more or less ISA attention.”

“Hard to say, though I think we’re way more paranoid than we need to be. ISA’s huge, and whatever little buzz there may be about Taban and Kalian, it’s going to take a long time for it to blip,” Quinn said.

“Yeah, but it’s a powder keg, and it might not blip for years… particularly with all this attention toward emigration–”

“Wait. What?”

“Oh, new news, they’re getting additional settlers permits, to get some of their followers off Earth, if they want. Kyp Ebner is coming back, as we speak.”

“Busby’s still after him, is he sure that’s a good idea–not that it matters much.”

“The folks here seem to think that Busby never really knew that Kyp’s–on net,” I said, not quite knowing the word for the on-net representation. Quinn nodded, and I moved on, “Anyway, Busby–they think that Busby didn’t know that Kyp was Kyp, and so he’s coming back for a little while to ferry a data pack back to Mars, and help some of his contacts out with something.”

”I’d still be worried about it, Busby’s new assistant stopped sending me messages… probably about six months back, actually.”

“Good riddance. Wait. That was right before the raid on Busby’s department that Kyp left to help clean up. Right?”

“Likely. It’s still a mess, and I don’t think they’re particularly connected: Busby hadn’t been civil to me in a year or more, so I suspect that Thom finally wore off onto the kid.”

“It’s amazing that grown people can act like that, and keep their jobs, Among other things, I suppose.”

“Busby’s had carte blanche for years, and he knows it, he’s had to back off a little for appearances, but he’s hard at work, and nothing has really changed,” Quinn said. Her order arrived and she took the tea from the waiter without missing a beat.

“So why do we stay in it?”

“You don’t want me to answer that.” She was right. “So, Kyp’s coming, do you guys need anything from me,”

“Well I’m pulling together some outlines for the raid that he’s going to plan?”

“Associating with hackers? Matthew!”

“Same as we’ve always done. I’m just keeping people off my autopsy table.” It was a joke: I’d been reporting my activities with the telepath “movement” as a preventative medicine project for years.

“You haven’t done autopsies since you got out of med school,”

“Thank god for assistants–”

”–and for huge organizations that don’t know better,” Quinn continued. Upon joining ISA, we quickly realized that there were three options: you could be part of the problem with ISA, or spend your entire career trying–and failing–to reform the organization, or you could use the organization and it’s resources and privileges to do good in the world: this was particularly true in departments, like ours, that were mostly support for other “real” investigative departments5. Quinn and I took the later route, which I suppose made us free agents, much like Busby–probably–but it always seemed worth it at the end of the day.

“Anyway, I’ll keep you posted with our plans as they develop. My last message from the Morgans make it seem like they’re much more interested in going public soon. I don’t think Kyp is going to be the prevailer of this, but it’s coming.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“No. But they want to, and it makes sense. The better they get with their techniques and teaching methods, they think there’s less percentage there is in staying quiet. And I can see where they come from.”

“It’s still crazy! There’d be riots for months. Who knows how many would die? Do you think that all this time on Mars has left them a little bit out of touch?”

“Well, I think that’s part of the reason why Kyp is coming, perhaps not explicitly: they need to see how things are on Earth–I mean it hasn’t been that long, but still.”

Quinn look distracted for a moment, clearly counting through something, “What’s the latest best guess on the number of telepathy on Earth?”

“A bit under a billion–we think–with some psionics, but only half of those are what we’d typically call ‘telepaths’–that number is total, including Mars,” Matt said.

“A billion people–even half a billion–seems like a lot less than it was even twenty years ago, but it’s going to be messy no matter how you slice it.”

“Maybe, but they think it needs to be done, and I’m prone to agree, I guess. I can’t imagine it getting less messy, and don’t you think that it’ll blow over after a few months: the panic and paranoia that is?”

“We’re meeting on the other side of the world to avoid being spied on by our own people, Matt. I couldn’t even begin to say.”

“Fair enough, but I don’t know that it’ll be our choice to make. But, in any case, I do want you to meet Kyp and some of the telepaths here with me, to talk about this.”

“Of course. You know how much I like ‘preventative medicine’ projects.” Quinn said.

“Do I ever, and thanks.”

Chapter 6

Convention

“I guess we should get started now,” Matt said, looking to Kyp.

Kyp closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There were a lot of people in this room, and while their voices fell silent almost instantly, there was still a lot of telepathic noise, bleed off if you will, from the concentration of people–bodies–in the room. He was surprised that they had managed to fit so many people into his–well it was Gus and Irena’s now–apartment. Kyp had only lived here for a few weeks while he was getting ready to move to Mars, it still felt a little like home anyway. Though they had fit probably close to 50 people in the room, there was a highly encrypted feed of this discussion being passed into another dozen or so “cells” around the world.

“Sorry, I don’t know if it’s the population density change or the gravity which is getting to me more,” Kyp explained. “I want to thank you all for coming to this, and I hope that you’ll be able to share what you learn here this evening with our colleagues and friends over the next few days,” Kyp said: they had all agreed to avoid using the word “telepath” or “psionic” because of the feed.

”I’m sorry that I haven’t been more present in this community over the past several years, as you know I’ve been living and working on Mars, and I’ve been in close contact with Taban and Kalian Morgan since their arrival. We’ll talk more about Mars later, but I hope that you won’t take my absence personally, or hold it against me when considering what I’m going to say tonight. So lets get started in earnest: I think that Gus Rosell has some information to share that will frame the rest of what we have to talk about. Gus?”

“Thanks, Kyp,” Gus said, patting Kyp’s hand firmly. He was sitting adjacent to Kyp in the long line of leaders sitting in hard hard backed chairs and benches that had been pushed against an unadorned wall. The apartment was so full that they could not easily move their legs without risking kicking someone sitting in front of them.

“As I’m sure you know, Irena,” he paused to nod in her direction, “and I carried out an cyber attack on the ISA departmental systems used by Agent Thom Busby’s cyber crimes division,” The crowd bristled at mention of Busby, and Gus paused to look at Quinn Dasen and Matt, bona fide ISA agents in the flesh, who looked completely unfazed by the admission.

“We’ve known, well since our–Kyp and my–last raid together, that ISA–Busby–has been keeping detailed records on many of us, many of the people in this room, and plenty of others as well. In a lot of cases their data has been more precise than the data we’ve been able to collect ourselves, and, and interestingly the data recovered in that earlier attack has been helpful in assembling this community. Though we have not suffered explicit retaliation for this attack, it became much more difficult for us to access these ISA systems.”

“Also,” Kyp interjected, “I at least was concerned that my identity had been made as I was logging out. Which precipitated my move to Mars.”

“Right,” Gus said nodding as he found his place again in his story. “So Irena and I were able to design and execute another attack back into these same systems, to see if we could get more information, but mostly to see if we could keep Busby from using that data. Amazingly we were able to get some of the data out of the system and we’re unsure of how much long term damage we were able to do to the data and systems.”

“Busby has avoided making any formal report of the damages that resulted from the attack, so we’d have to hack in again to see what state the data’s in,” Matt reported.

“He’s become pretty isolated within the agency recently. And while its clear that he has a lot of latitude, it’s not so clear who his allies are or how tight his connections are to other agents,” Quinn said. When she spoke, everyone in the room realized that she was an outsider. You didn’t have to be a telepath to see the apprehension in the crowd.

“Sorry, I should have done this earlier,” Matt said, realizing what had happened. “Allow me to introduce Quinn Dasen, an investigator in my department, a dear friend for many years, and a trusted ally. Though you have not met her yet, she has been invaluable in our struggle against Busby. I’ve asked her here today to provide some insights into ISA that are beyond my purview and experience. Treat her like you would me, and sorry again,” Matt said, and this seemed to calm the crowd a bit.

“In the wake of the last attack,” Gus continued, ”I’ve been concerned that I might have been made by Busby, but again we can’t confirm this, which should explain my low profile on the net over the last few months, despite the fact that there is clearly a lot of work to do on this project to ensure all of our safety in the near future. That’s part of the reason why Kyp has come back, but he should tell you that himself,” Gus said.

“Right, I came this far, the least you could do is let me talk for myself,” Kyp said, provoking a small–mostly undeserved–laugh. “Well, to put it bluntly, Mars is amazing, our community there is small, but very connected. The Colony is small and compact, but as I’m sure you’ve heard it was designed to function well with everyone living relatively close together, unlike Earth were the infrastructures have always been trying to play catch up with populations: the effect is profound. Additionally, because the total population is so low, a lot of the bleed-over effects,” Kyp said and rubbed his temple for effect. “A lot of the bleed-over effects have been completely negated, and we’ve–well I shouldn’t take responsibility for it–Taban and Kalian–have been able to make a lot of advancement in their work.

“Actually, as I was in transit, I was able to read a working draft of Taban and Kalian’s book, which they hope to publish publicly about the time that we get back to Mars–” Kyp was interrupted by a hum that swept over the room in response to his last words.

“I guess that gets a little more explanation,” Matt said, but the crowd didn’t seem dto hear him. Kyp closed his eyes, and let Matt’s words “reverberate” telepathically which got everyone’s attention. Matt continued: “Taban and Kalian were able to secure immigration permits to Mars for a great number of their followers, and with some offset work Gus and I have been able to secure some chartered transportation for the flight, using funding from an unadvertised government fund and the resources of the Morgan Institute shield organization that we set up several years ago to fund Taban and Kalian’s research.”

“So I want you all to consider moving to Mars when we leave at the end of the current cycle. While Mars has been great for me, and I think moving there might be a good experience for many of you, I understand that it’s a big commitment, and that it is probably not for everyone. I’m more than willing to talk to you about this over the next couple of weeks, so please talk to me, and also talk to your friends and connections that didn’t get a chance to be here tonight,” Kyp said.

“I feel like we’ve been blathering too long, is there anything else?” Matt asked.

“Well, about the plan,” Irena said, her voice cracking.

“Of course, sorry! And sorry to you all as well…”

“We’ve thought that it would be good to make another run on Busby’s system, there’s likely a good deal of data that should be rescued–liberated–and we’re still worried that he might be maintaining illegal files on some of us. Kyp and Gus and I will be coordinating the plan, but I suspect that we’ll want to have probably twenty or so people on board to run support, get data out, and run distraction, stuff like that. If you’re qualified you know how to get a hold of us,” Irena said.

“I think with that,” Kyp said, looking to Matt for confirmation. Matt nodded, and Kyp continued: “We’re going to cut the transmissions now, but we’re not going anywhere immediately, so we hope you’ll be in touch. All further updates will be as encrypted on-net messages. But before we go, I’d like to thank Matt and Quinn for their ongoing support, and recognize the risk that they’re undertaking by being here, and unless I don’t get a chance to talk to all of you before you have to leave, I’d like to thank all of you for being here.”

Aftermath

The first thing Kyp heard when he came off net was Matt’s voice: “Are you ok there?”

Kyp’s eyes fluttered opened and after a moment he just nodded. His voice was gone–at least for the moment, and his mouth was sore. He wondered what his body had been up to while he was in net: nothing of course, but it contributed to his feeling of disorientation. It felt like he’d been thrown into his body, without a lot of warning, which is sort of what happened. Gus and Irena were way too excited about the benefits of “escaping-out,” to realize how much it sucked, he thought.

Kyp still couldn’t talk, and Matt hadn’t moved. ”Water,” Kyp thought, as strongly as he could, hoping that Matt would be able to get the message. He seemed to, and in a moment, the good doctor returned with a cup of water.

Kyp sipped the water. ”I’m fine,” he croaked. “Everyone else?”

“Coming out well. Reports from the other cells seem to be positive as well. Looks like you did it,” Matt said. His voice was soothing and gentle, more so than usual: Kyp called this Matt’s “doctor voice,” and Matt didn’t often have a lot of control over when it came and went.

Unfortunately, Kyp usually interpreted “doctor voice,” as a sign that Matt was covering something up. “Gus? Really.”

“No, no, he’s fine,” Matt corrected quickly, speaking more normally. I’m tired, and I have to go to work, and you’ve all been in there for a while. It’s really ok.

“Ok, thanks,” Kyp said. He was slowly recovering, he’d need to sleep soon–of course–but for the moment he was almost functional. “And don’t worry, it was the best raid I’ve seen, I think. Busby and his sidekick basically couldn’t do anything but watch, and–”

“That’s a bit cruel, I mean, make a fool of him, fine, but rub it in his face?”

Kyp ignored the interruption. ”–and more than that, I think our people behaved really well: calm, even mannered, righteous but not zealous. You’d be proud,” Kyp said, as he moved to stand up.

”I’m glad. I’ll look forward to seeing how the post-mortem plays out,” Matt said.

Kyp put his hand on Matt’s shoulder, which stung a bit telepathically, but Kyp didn’t flinch. “It’s fine, go to work, cut on some dead guy, and you’ll feel better.”

Matt flinched, causing Kyp’s hand to fall away, but he finally broke a smile, which quickly morphed into a yawn. “Ok, that’s probably a good idea. You in shape to deal with things here,” Matt said, gesturing to the room full of people waking up slowly from the net.

“Yes, yes. Now leave! I’ll see you tonight?”

“Here?”

“Works for me, Be in touch,” Kyp said, turning around to tend to his people.

The Homefront

“Isn’t Irena coming?” Matt asked when Gus arrived at the table he was sharing with Kyp. They had chosen an open air cafe–real open air–on the eastern seaboard of what was once the United States, for a brunch meeting.

“She’s running a legit security job right now. She’s had to be on net a lot more just to keep things afloat with me mostly out of the picture,” Guss said, after he sat down. “Fair’s fair, I suppose, I did that for weeks until Irena joined up, when you were leaving.”

Kyp smiled, and nodded, “though we were moving and off-net for a lot of that time, and I was gone within a month, and Irena came forward before I got to Mars. She has help though?”

“Of course. I’m pretty much superfluous at this point, which makes the decision to move to Mars a bunch easier,” Gus said.

“Oh don’t worry, it wasn’t a hard decision for you. You’ve been on the list since before we knew we were planning a… god, it feels like a damn mass exodus,” Kyp said.

“Well at least now you know why there hasn’t been a great immigration for Mars, no one wants to organize it.” Matt chuckled, and patted Kyp on the shoulder.

“You’d think with conditions like these people would be clamoring to get out,” Kyp said. He made a sweeping gesture in the direction of the street. It was dirty and poorly lit, and even in the middle of the morning when the traffic, was “light,” by local standards, the sidewalks were still filled with people, and the streets were almost always occupied by some sort of bus or truck. There weren’t many private vehicles, just in general, so maybe that’s what they meant by “light.” To make matters worse, the buildings were so tall, and massive that at the ground level the air was pretty stuffy, and there wasn’t a lot of light, despite building regulations that supposedly prevented this from being a “real problem.” The walk tubes at 100 stories that connected most of the buildings, didn’t help the light levels on the street, either.

“You’re the one with the special insight into the human mind, I don’t have a clue,” Matt said.

“But you’re staying,” Gus pointed out. “Explain that one.”

“There’s work to be done here, still. That’s important now.”

“That’s true, and thanks for that. Speaking of work to do, what’s our plan? For the atta–mission?” Kyp asked, correcting himself from sounding suspicious to any passers by.

“Its beautiful, from what we have. We’re pulling out all the guns on this, and doing some crash development on a couple of projects that should really blow them–and you away,” Guss said, his face lighting up with excitement.

“Lets hear it then,” Kyp demanded. Matt sighed, audibly, this kind of tech talk was never his thing, he understood it, but didn’t care about the specifics that much. “Whatever Matt, it’s important,” Kyp said, without looking away from Gus.

“Tons of bots, like the ones we used to dupe Busby last time, plus we’re all going to be running off independent servers, which should give us some control, over our time settings, which typically gives us an advantage.”

“Well and it’s safer,” Kyp said, “too bad it’s a huge resource drain,”

“Well the thing is, we’ve been able to write the interfaces tighter to the transmission hardware, and if we can slip like ten lines of code into the nodes, it works great.”

“You can get code into the nodes like that? Without tripping alarms.”

“Well that’s the exciting part, We’ve got a portable software node program that should be ready by the end of the week…”

“You’re kidding, right? We couldn’t even get a software node working on our own isolated system. You’d be able to cut a lot of risks out that way.”

“I know, it’s amazing. Works pretty good too. Gonna’ to change the world Kyp.”

“Too bad we won’t be able to see it.”

“Oh come on guys, the Morgans are talking about to going public and you’re blathering about this,” Matt said.

Kyp rolled his eyes melodramatically, and Gus ignored Matt and continued talking: “Anyway, all the hard work is in the prep: getting the node software and bots ready. We’re going to walk in with an army, more or less, and copy out the data that we can and start scripts that will delete or encrypt what we can’t–”

“So what’s the army for?”

“Making a point,” Matt said.

“Well yes, but it also means that we can throw data around and escape out and log back in, through our node, it gives us a lot of flexibility,” Gus said, in an attempt to rationalize his joy. “Think about it, we can have little cells of people who are just running security, people who are copying data off net, people tending to the encryption problems. We get a lot of crunching power without sacrificing our own efficiency, and besides everyone gets to feel like it’s a community effort.”

“You don’t have to justify it to me, that’s for sure,” Kyp said.

“Or me, really,” Matt said. “Those records aren’t strictly legal–even if they aren’t all that uncommon in ISA–and clearly I think he’s up to no good, the spying, the intimidation, the badgering that Taban and Kalian underwent–”

“We know,” Gus said, not feeling like reviewing the litany just now and the table fell silent for a moment.

Kyp was the first to speak again: “Say, I wanted to know, honestly, what you thought about how the meeting went yesterday. I’m worried that we were too removed, and talky,”

Gus looked quizzically at Kyp and opened his mouth to respond, but Matt spoke first. “I think you did fine, and I think people responded, it’s tough, you had a lot to say, and there was a lot to be said.

“Do you think anyone is actually going to go back with me?”

“If the number of people that responded to Irena’s call are any indication, then we’ll be turning people away,” Guss said.

“You think we’ll have more than fifteen thousand?” Matt asked, astounded.

“That’s not too many, really, and we could get more than that, think about it–” Kyp said, turning to Matt.

“You guys are kidding right?” Guss was agape.

“Nope, we’re serious about this, and more importantly the Morgan’s, and now Mars Colony is serious about this?” Matt explained.

“And you can keep everyone from going public, before the book launches?”

“It’ll be tough, but we’ve been good at keeping a secret for a long time, so this shouldn’t be too difficult,” Kyp said. “And besides, it’s good to be friends with ISA, and Mars is ready for real population growth, so the infrastructure has been in place for this kind of thing for a while,” Kyp explained. “They–or construction bots, at any rate–are building an addition to the colony structure on Mars, it’ll be ready long before we get back.”

“I suppose so. And we’re leaving, when, again?”

“We can start leaving in three weeks,” Kyp answered. “How long’s the window?” He asked, in Matt’s direction.

“I think they’ve said, six weeks to break orbit. When’s the attack go down?”

“Middle of next week.”

“I think, gentleman,” Kyp said, sitting up in his chair, “that we have a plan!”

And they did.

Chapter 7

ISA Headquarters; New Langley, American Consortia

Matt was alone in the hallway that linked the forensic departments lab and office space. It was still a bit early in the morning, but usually there were other people around, he thought. Well, the only reason he was there so promptly was that he’d been up through the night holding watch over his entranced friends.

Then he heard, from nowhere, “Well, don’t you look tired.” Matt jumped in surprise and spun around: no one. He turned again, and saw Thom Busby standing in the doorway to his office.

Weird,” Matt thought, ”at least he isn’t grinning.” Maybe he’d been looking at the floor rather than ahead of him, but it was still creepy. In the last couple of years he’d run into Busby a couple of times.

“I was too wound up to sleep, and there was some maintenance on my building, which foiled my attempt to sleep all together. So I decided to just come in early,” Matt said, “You don’t look that rested yourself.” Matt was trying to play it cool, and managed to succeed, almost.

“There was a raid tonight. Huge. I’ve basically been plugged in all night.”

“Really, everything ok?” Matt asked, pretty successfully feigning surprise.

“Of course. We were working late anyway, and we pulled some folk from the department to help take care of things. Made a mess of things, but it’s alright now.”

“Good. Those can be tough, especially when you’re off guard.”

“Yeah,” Busby said. He continued to stand in the doorway, several yards in front of Matt, but he didn’t say a word.

“Say, what brings you to our fine department,” Matt said extending his arms outward–palms up, in a welcoming gesture.

Busby chuckled. “Well, I know you’re involved. You have to be. You’ve been connected to the Morgans,” he said.

Matt almost blanched, but what Quinn called “spy training,” kicked in, and he remained resolved. He let his hands fall to his sides and forced himself to make eye contact with Busby. There was no way that Busby could have incriminating evidence on him; or more properly, Matt and Quinn had seen most of Busby’s files, and there wasn’t anything that involved Matt other than suspicions and half baked hypotheses. ”This is Busby’s fantasy,” Matt thought, and if it wasn’t, he figured it was best to act like it was.

“And, you’ve been connected to Kyp Ebner, a known hacker who returned to Earth from Mars just weeks before my department was attacked,”

Busby continued, once it became clear that Matt wasn’t going to respond to the charge.

There wasn’t much point in responding, and Matt was usually pretty good about biting his tongue, but he couldn’t resist. “Kyp Ebner? You mean the security contractor?”

“Oh come on, Connor, just because there’s never any evidence doesn’t make it less true.”

“He’s contracted with the agency, done good work, from all reports, but yes, we’re friends. What’s your point, I have friends?”

“No. All your friends seem to come across my case files. All your friends seem to be computer hacker freaks who are what? Illegal cyborgs or something? I know you know!”

Matt laughed, and then he laughed a bit more. “Interesting idea, Thom,” Matt said, letting the familiar name hang in the air. “I hope it plays well for you in court,” Matt said, pushing past Busby and closing the door to his office behind him.

Crap,” he thought. Busby didn’t know anything, probably, and his comment about cyborgs meant that he was probably headed down the wrong path; but at least in this case, that wasn’t a good thing. There were legal statutes against cyborgs with very low burdens of proof, and there were no legal statutes about biological telepathy. But if Busby was determined, all of the things that Matt knew to be true, wouldn’t help him or anyone else, the fact of biological telepathy, the circumstances of his involvement with telepathy. Wouldn’t matter much, if Busby didn’t really care about the connection between evidence and truth.

“That would be my cue to leave,” Matt muttered. Almost instantly he opened his bag, and began to deposit the collection of personal things that had amassed at the office. A mug. A couple of books. Some data stores. An older portable. Not a lot of materiality to account for ten years in this job and office.

Matt stood to leave, still a bit shaken, angry and confused. He almost made it to the door when he remembered the computer. ”I’ll have to delete everything, and I should do something to explain my absence.” Having Busby after him was one thing, but having the entire agency after him for going rogue was probably worse.

Matt entered “Mars Bureau,” in his Agent Status profile wrote for location, and “special assignment,” for current task. He chuckled, uneasily, and then encrypted the whole thing. Typical of agents going undercover, which wasn’t very common in forensics, but it would work, and no one would question him, and he’d be off world by the time anyone cared.

There wasn’t much to save, data wise. He sent a small package of data to Quinn Dasen, and to himself, and deleted the rest. He’d probably regret that in a few weeks, but he’d regret leaving files around more. The terminal and what was left of his account and data would take care of itself.

Matt stood up again, and looked over the room one last time, before he walked out. He stopped to lock the door and didn’t stop again until he was home.

He never looked back.

Exodus

Leaving for Mars was perhaps the best thing I have ever done for my life, though I remember being extremely nervous about it at the time–frankly scared shitless. I’m sure that my abrupt departure from Earth effected the way things with Busby turned out, but I’ve always tried to avoid dwelling on this point.

As I’ve reviewed these months of my life, I’ve realized that despite my conflicts with the structure of the organization, leaving that behind seemed harder than leaving Earth behind. Kyp was, however, quite insistent that they were really the same anxiety, and I guess I’d begrudgingly accept his insight.

I’ve never been back to Earth, unlike Kyp and many of the others. Mars, instantly felt like home. There was–and is–work to be done here: I can “be a doctor” without having that be all I do. I can do forensics work without, it being all I am. Mars Colony–the hardware–was designed to be very self sufficient, and while our little outposts are not thermodynamically contained6, this doesn’t seem to matter as much as anyone ever thought. The end result is that, we humans don’t all need to fight tooth and nail for survival.7 This doesn’t mean that we don’t find enough serious things to fight for with our lives, or that it’s somehow a paradise on this frozen little rock: but it’s home, now.

The trip to Mars was uneventful. I think part of the reason that Martian settlement was so difficult was that the early ships were too small, and built, to both land and take off from both Mars and Earth, which is horribly inefficient, and ultimately means that accommodations for the months and months passengers spend in space are reduced for the sake of about two hours of take off and landing time. The particularly sad part about this is that, scientists and futurists had criticized the lift off-to-touch down model of interplanetary ship design a long time ago, but the engineers always seem to know best.

In the end the number of telepaths that wanted to go with us to Mars was a big larger than we had initially anticipated. I heard someone a few years back call it “the first telepath exodus,” which wasn’t what it felt like at all at the time. We had to scramble a bit to secure enough ship space, but it all worked out, we ended up employing a veritable convoy. I do remember thinking that it took far too long for the entire group to ferry up to the orbital docks that the transport ships would leave from, and that Busby was sure to figure us all out before we could break orbit. ISA had influence and operations active on some of the space stations, so although a bit paranoid, that fear wasn’t totally improbable. I knew that once we broke orbit, we were out of range.

During that trip, we–a group that consisted of primarily Kyp, Gus, me, and sometimes Irena via vid-conference from the ship she was on–started a very enduring practice of meeting every Thursday–or what we took for Thursday, apparently we were two days off on our count the trip stared started–and talked about Taban and Kalian’s book, about Earth, about Mars, about what it all meant. So juvenile in retrospect but there was something about being so far away from an actual planet that made taking the “cosmic” view of things seem appropriate. I can hardly think what the folk who transit (with some regularity, even!) between Mars and the Jovian moons, or even Titan, talk about8. In any case, it was I think through these conversations that the core group of us developed the deep friendship and collaboration that lasted for so many years.

Having said all this, I’m not without regrets, I suppose. I never saw Quinn Dasen again, I never went to North Africa again–though I hear they took the dome down–and I have never had fish of any quality worth mentioning. Seriously, I don’t think we have, as humans, ever taken well to geographical relocation. Even at the end of the 26th Century, people on Earth are born, live, and die in the same general area. People who leave for Mars or one of the outer settlements, rarely return. Which is ironic, because in a way we’re all pioneers, even the folk who stay on Earth: we change the world by walking it, no matter how far we go. And still, if leaving the consortia that you were born in is hard, leaving the planet is even more difficult.

Kyp told me, that it was probably good that my relationship with ISA–and the planet–ended the way it did. If I had been given too much time to think about it, I would have probably never left. And how different the world would be…

Matthew Connor, MD Mars Colony, 2597*

Chase

Thom Busby’s message had been brief “We should meet,” he said, giving the address of a cafe near the New Langley ISA headquarters, and a time. Quinn Dasen, hadn’t replied, because the message didn’t seem to need one. But, despite gut feelings and better judgment, here she was, at the appointed time waiting for him to arrive. She could have stood him up, and not gone, but didn’t, ”This is foolish,” she thought, ”Why do we all hate him so much?” she wondered.

Thom Busby was sly, and efficient, everyone got the impression that there was nothing he couldn’t pull off. This might not have been true, but it was scary enough. There was also a way that Busby’s general disregard for “the rules,” made him more dangerous. Quinn and Matt broke the rules too–everyone did–but Quinn and Matt always broke the rules with a little more caution and consideration. That made a difference.

“Thanks for coming,” Busby said, approaching her from behind. There hadn’t been any good tables where she could have a line of sight of all the doors, but she thought she’d gotten all the important ones. Apparently not.

“Of course, what’s the occasion?” Quinn asked pleasantly, though no one would have mistaken her sentiment for something genuine.

“I don’t suppose you have a few years worth of back reports to hand over,” Busby said, omitting any pretense of collegiality

“Sorry, that’s never been my area, but I’m positive that as soon as our people figure something out, they’ll be in touch with you. We’re busy, you know that, and the department has had a triage approach to these things since before we were talking. It works,” Quinn said. She had given this explanation a few times before, and while it was mostly true, Busby’s frustration was understandable and in this case Quinn would prefer it to his satisfaction.

Busby, nodded, but didn’t say anything immediately. Perhaps this was the upside to Busby’s rouge approach to his job: it didn’t strike him as unusual when other people played the game the same way he did. “Small grace,” Quinn thought.

“Actually, I’m here to tell you a few things; things I suspect you already know, but humor me,” Busby said. He was sitting upright and his hands rested calmly on the table, his voice was even and clear, and while his gaze was steady and level it didn’t seem like he was really looking at Quinn.

“For starters, I know that you’re a close confidant of Matthew Connor, an ISA agent who has apparently lost all of the moral fiber fitting of someone in his situation. I know that with your assistance he has deserted ISA for Mars Colony. I know that if the regulations were more clear, I’d have a warrant his arrest on this table and probably one for you as well.”

Quinn opened her mouth to object but she stopped, and became fixated on the fact that he didn’t seem to be breathing while he talked. He was, clearly, but it gave her something to focus on other than her anger.

“I know that along with Agent Connor a collection of confirmed cyber-criminals are on their way to Mars, including Kyp Ebner and Gus Rosell who have been confirmed as combatant in two attacks against ISA infrastructure in addition to likely incidents on various private entities on the net,” Busby said. When he produced, a packet of papers–presumably containing evidence to support his claims–Quinn didn’t notice: she was so fixated on his breathing and maintaining an emotionally neutral expression.

“The piece of the puzzle that I have yet to figure out–and this is, I suspect from your perspective the truly funny part–is what the hell it’s all about. It’s bazar, these folks are the best net-users I’ve ever seen—”

“Don’t you see more of the bad ones, in your line of work?” Quinn asked, the sharpness, of her question surprised even her. She and Matt had often snickered at Busby’s frequent predictions about consumer cultures, on the notion that his contact was almost certainly with the, well sort of stupid hackers. Unless the good hackers attacked him, he would, Matt and Quinn figured, never really know what cyber-culture was like.

”–and I know there’s something illegal going on,” Busby continued, ignoring Quinn’s interruption. “When the Morgans left Earth, I knew something had to be up. Innocent people don’t run.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Quinn said. She spoke less reflexively this time.

”–Now I don’t expect you to tell me,” Busby continued talking despite Quinn’s interjection, “nor do I expect you to keep this conversation in confidence, but I know you know what’s going on and I’d like to.”

“I think I know less than you think, and perhaps not much more than you,” Quinn said, “I did meet Kyp Ebner, in real life, though and he’s a sweetheart, and I think he mostly does contract security work, and I think he even mentioned something about a job for ISA once. I mean they’re friends, and I don’t know about Matt’s specific involvement but most of the people you likely mention,” Quinn said, tapping the packet of papers on the table, “you’re right, work together. I hardly think that’s a conspiracy, any more than any ‘conspiracy’ inside of ISA.”

“You don’t see the conspiracy? They’re all working together!”

“What conspiracy? I mean yeah, Kyp and the Morgans are friends, and Matt knows them all, but I think conspiracy overstates it. I mean what are they trying to cover up? That they’re hotshots? I don’t think they’re covering that up… I mean do you think there’s a conspiracy in ISA?” Quinn asked.

“A conspiracy in ISA? Over what?” Busby said, concern sweeping over his face, before he realized that it was a rhetorical question.

“But in the end this is foolish Thom,” Quinn said hanging on the name, and appreciating its artificiality in this situation. “They’re halfway–or whatever–to Mars, they’re not coming back, and what? What danger are they to you or the world? What does this leave you?”

“I think you, Quinn Dasen, are deluded about the precise danger that those people present to ISA and this world. People with that amount of control and ability on the net can rule this world,” Busby said, regaining his previous composure. “There is no privacy, there will be no freedom, and unless we–I–take a stand, there will be no one who can stop them. Ironic that I should have to take the stand in favor of liberty and freedom and argue against an old leftist like you,” he spat.

“Well, good fortune for you that they’re en route to Mars and probably will never come back. This world is still safe,” Quinn said.

“That’s false security, sending our troubles away doesn’t solve the route problem. Take the last Australian crisis: They almost got to Shanghi–it’s been brewing for six hundred years…”

Quinn laughed, and didn’t bother to try and restrain herself. “That’s just absurd,” she said, still chuckling. Had this been any other sort of meeting she would have stood up and left at this point, since Busby progrressed passed beyond rationality. But she stuck around because Matt would have wanted her to, and if nothing else she held out hope for another good story to tell at parties for a few years.

“No matter, other people will just learn whatever it is that they know, and probably learn it better. I’m getting on a ship next week bound for Mars, and I’m going to get to the bottom of this,” Busby said.

“That’s even more absurd. It’ll take you almost two years to get there if you leave now what with the planetary alignment,” Quinn said, recalling the data from a news item she had seen a few days ago.

“It will still be an issue in two years. You could join me?”

“Don’t be offended, we can’t even get through a lunch date–”

“Just thought you should know,”

“Of course you did. Thanks Thom,” Quinn said, standing up and walking briskly out. She retrieved a small portable from her pocket and tried to see if she could get a channel open to Matt’s ship. Too quickly, the response “out of range, direct connection not possible” flashed on the screen.

Crap!” Quinn thought as she walked briskly away from the cafe, ”I’ll have to go through ISA channels; and I better get something to the Morgans as well.

“And damn you Matt for leaving!” Quinn exclaimed, immediately grateful that no one seemed to notice that she was yelling at herself.

Chapter 8

By the time we got to Mars we were all aware that Busby was on his way to Mars. It was a curious move on his part: it took him almost three times as long to get to Mars as we did. If he had waited for the next window, he would have been able to get to Mars only three months later–or something, figuring out the transport distances was never my strong suit, and it’s been so long since those times were of any real importance to me. Quinn had problems getting word to the ship we were on–it took her a few weeks to get a safe–but the Morgans knew almost immediately. At the time, I remember the lag times being much more frustrating and important-seeming, but those details have all faded considerably.

Knowing that Busby was coming, I think changed all of our outlooks. Our occasional discussions on the theory of telepathy, and of Martian Colonization became much more focused on ”what we would do about Busby,” which I think we must have thought of as comforting, but it so rarely was. Thankfully knowing that there we would have more than a year on Mars to develop ties with the government, to get our people settled in, and to work on whatever project Taban and Kalian thought needed our attention: maybe just knowing was comforting.

I think the realization that Mars wasn’t the perfect safe-haven that Taban and Kalian–but really all of us–initially thought it was, pushed the Morgans to work more earnestly on getting their book ready for publication. Publication which would, and did, inform all of human culture about the existence of natural–that is to say, biological–telepathic humans. Taban and Kalian had long held that, there wasn’t a rush to get this book published: most telepaths–we thought–were already some how connected to the community, and there didn’t seem to be any great reason to rush. We always expected the revelation to cause a stir amongst the general population: the news that, possibly, anyone could read your mind–despite the fact that they wouldn’t and probably didn’t want to–was understandably startling news.

There was never an official announcement on Mars about Telepathy, but our numbers were large enough in proportion to the non-telepath population that it was all accomplished, pretty quietly. When I arrived with with Kyp and everyone else, there was a meeting where Taban and Kalian explained that we should probably see if we could turn Mars into a free-space for telepaths before news was sent to Earth and other outpost. The government was informed when it became clear how big our convoy was, and the citizenry was told in small encounters that stressed the importance of keeping this information from Earth. It’s surprising how fast such simple considerations can keep information secure.

It also didn’t hurt that Kyp had been working on a packet-filtering program that would keep Mars colonists from sending back news of telepaths to earth, that he installed as soon as we hit Mars orbit. Once we got to the surface, everything was lost in a haze: there was so much to do and Busby’s impending arrival, though distant, added a sense of urgency.

We had always expected that I would be on Earth when the news got out, and so I guess I was always expecting to be in the middle of a planet-wide riot, which I don’t think was ever particularly realistic; Earth rioted for sure and the revelation of telepaths is something that has unquestionably changed the course of human history, but they even teach kids that in schools these days.

Before we get any further, I think a more complete account of Taban and Kalian’s book–commonly called the Morgan Manual or the Telepath Bible–is important, even though it is among the most cited reference on telepathy, and one of the most enduring classics of our age. The book follows a lot of the theoretical and empirical work that Taban and Kalian did in the early days. It presents several theories of the emergence of telepathy, it discusses the practical strengths and limitations of the experience of telepathy, and it builds from both of their experiences, from the experience of their friends and students in the community. Perhaps most importantly, it contained an extensive section on training and expanding telepathic abilities.

This pedagogical section,9 caused the biggest uproar, which I don’t think we quite expected. In truth the Morgan methods worked to teach telepaths to be able to filter out unwanted thoughts more effectively, to be less sensitive to casual physical touch, and to be able to telepathically “stretch” more. In most cases these lessons increased a telepaths ability to function in society and communities and didn’t, as many feared on Earth, lead to the development of urtelepaths, with skills like, at will scanning, or even remote thought manipulation, but this is patently false.

Ironically, it’s come to light in the ten years that some early Earth based research programs were looking for ways of accelerating telepathic development using methods derived from the Morgan method. These programs are probably the source of these rumors, but importantly these programs were not connected to the Morgan’s program, or to the telepath community on Mars. It’s worth noting that within five years of the publication of Morgan’s first book, 90% of human telepaths–accounting for 99% of the psionic ability of our species–lived on Mars.

The lessons of the Morgan book are clearly still prevalent today, and it remains a useful reference. Almost before the Morgans published their book, they begin working on a second volume that would address what they felt were the shortcomings of their book. The second volume had more empirical data–collected from all of the new telepath immigrants to Mars and from what Gus and Irena had managed to collect on Earth–and where the first book addressed “where telepathy came from,” the second book was to address “how telepathy is used,” in the real world, which are questions that I think our societies–telepath and otherwise–are still very much trying to work out.

It was, without question, a most fascinating time to be alive.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars Colony, 2596

Mars Colony, 2544

“Is there anything else that we need to do before we send this off?” Kalian asked. They had done everything: packaged the files and uploaded them to a remote computer on Earth, developed a distribution program that could get the material out on earth, without a lag, and could deal with traffic. They’d used Busby’s contact database to get the book to all the telepaths that were still on Earth–when they scheduled the distribution. And they’d sent a note to the Colony Authorities, saying that the announcement would be coming out at some point during the day.

“Just hit the button,” Taban said, walking into the other room. The command had been entered: all that was left was was the execution and worrying. “Matt! Kyp! You guys do it,” he said, after a moment had passed and he knew that Kalian hadn’t executed the command.

“Maybe we could just let it go through on the next cycle,” Kalian said, as Matt and Kyp wandered into the room. The execution of the distribution script had been tied to a software deadman’s switch for a couple of weeks, at Matt’s suggestion: or maybe it was a dare. Not because Matt thought that they were in any real danger–though you could never be to safe–but because he thought it would help them get past the final compulsive stages of the editing and production.

Everyone, save Kalian Morgan, in the apartment cried “No!” in unison. Taban was of the opinion that the release of the book needed to an active act, not a passive one; but mostly after all the struggle, everyone just wanted to let the book go, and the sooner the better.

”I’ll do it,” Matt volunteered.

“I guess, thanks,” Kalian said, sort of surprised that the solution to this quandary was so simple. “Ok.”

“Actually,” Kyp said, ”I’d kind of like to do it if you won’t mind. Be kind of cool to press the button that changed history.”

“Really? That would be great,” Kalian said, smiling.

“Bah!” Taban cried from the next room

“Whatever, if you care so much you do it,” Kyp said.

“I think that it was probably enough for Taban to just write the book that changed history,” Matt said, grinning.

I heard that,” Taban quipped.

“Don’t get ballsy there,” Matt chided. Kalian and Kyp looked up, confused for a moment, and then they all realized that Taban had “spoken” telepathically. On cue:

“Sorry,” Taban said. This time he used conventional means.

“Well it’s my book too, and I think Kyp should begin the distribution.”

“Ok,” Kyp said.

“Ok,” Matt said. There was another round of “Okays,” from everyone, as Kyp slid past Kalian so that he could get to the terminal’s controls.

“Here goes,” Kyp said, and pushed the button. It seemed almost rushed, but Kyp figured that if he lingered over it for any length of time, he’d get stuck like Kalian.

There was silence.

“Everyone ok?” Taban asked, appearing in the doorway to the office.

“Fine. It’s done,” Kalian said.

“Wow,” Taban said, looking somewhat winded.

“World still out there?” Kyp asked.

“Looks it. I think we have forty minutes of peace before any news will get back here. Lets, sit down for a while and enjoy it while it lasts,” Matt said.

“That’s the best suggestion I’ve heard all day,” Kalian said and they all filed out of the office.

New Langley, America Consortia, 2544

“Quinn, I just wanted to drop you a quick note,” Matt Connor’s voice said, emanating from her computer. She was sitting in a more comfortable chair next to her desk reading a pile of case notes and it was a startling experience. Strictly speaking it shouldn’t have been possible given her security systems, she’d have to remember to ask him about that.

“Taban and Kalian are probably going to release the book later today, finally. I’m sure you’ve been ready for this moment for the last few months, but I wanted to give you a heads up on the matter.

“I had a meeting with the Colonial Authority Leadership yesterday, and they’ve agreed to release a statement in support of Taban and Kalian and the rest of the community a couple hours after our announcement, which I think will be helpful. In the long run. I’m also somewhat anxious to see how far Busby’s tendrils run in ISA, in the reaction.

”I’m still haven’t heard any communication from ISA regarding my departure, but I don’t suspect I will, interestingly the colony has been more in need of another a general practitioner than a forensics agent, so I’ve done some real doctoring here, and I’m pretty pleased with how this is going.

”I’ll let you go, but be well, and if you hear from Busby in the aftermath of this, I’d be very glad to learn what you know. And sorry about the method of my intrusion, Kyp was looking a little bored. Anyway, be well,” Matt concluded and the message blinked out.

“Well, there goes my afternoon,” Quinn said. She set her reading aside and stood up to stand next to her computer where she opened the input and activated the ENN news feed. “Now all I have to do is wait for the world to change,” she muttered.

Earth News Network Editorial, 2544

Report from the ENN following the release of Taban and Kalian Morgan’s Manual of Telepath Experience on Earth.

Under normal circumstances ENN tries to avoid editorializing the news; however, given the gravity of the recent “telepath” announcement that most of you have by now heard about, we think that disclosing as much information about this news as possible is the most responsible act we can make at this point in time.

ENN editors received word this morning that two individuals writing from Mars as Taban Morgan and Kalian Morgan have published a Manual on Telepathy and Psionic ability which, claims the existence of naturally occurring, biologically based psionics among the general population. Although ENN has been unable to secure an interview for publication with one of these telepaths at this early date, all of the executive editors in the network had a discussion with a press contact (information included in the release packet provided by the Morgan team.) that has made us comfortable in supporting the validity of this news; though we would not want to discourage healthy skepticism. Furthermore, in the interests of full disclosure, ENN has received a do not publish request from ISA, which we have chosen to ignore in this situation.

The Morgan document claims that most telepathy isn’t classically “useful” as the terms telepathy and psionics have historically suggested. Though some individuals apparently display extraordinary ability, many telepaths experience psionics as heightened sensitivity of conventional perception with experiences not unlike sensory-integration issues. One of the primary goals of the Morgan book is to provide a basis for developing telepathic skills so that they are more manageable in context of mainstream society. These claims cannot be verified at this time, but we will continue to provide details as they appear.

The response to this announcement has been mostly calm. Although there are reports of isolated disturbances in some of the more densely populated areas across the planet, there have been no major riot related casualties, and no municipal law enforcement agency has requested support from external sources. Other than the ISA request there has been no official comment from any governmental organization or institution on Earth. The Mars Colonial Authority has affirmed it’s support for it’s telepath community, shortly after the announcement was made. It appears that several thousand telepaths from Earth, who were able to secure transportation to Mars during the last cycle, arrived on Mars about six months ago. It’s unclear if this move will further strain the already tenuous position of the Colonial Authority in the months and years to come.

It’s the opinion of the ENN editorial staff that it is still to early to make any conclusive judgments on the ultimate validity or strength of the Morgan’s arguments, or the arguments that telepathy presents a formidable challenge to freedom and liberty in contemporary society. At the same time, it’s clear that the concerns about privacy, and what some early critics are calling “mental independence” are serious concerns that the emergent telepathic community needs to address explicitly.

ENN will continue to cover this story, as we learn more. We encourage you to remain calm and wait until we all know more before you make any lasting decisions based on these recent developments.

Executive Editorial Board, Earth News Network, 2544

Mars-Earth Transport Brahe, 2544

“God Damn! Look at this,” Adrian Rathe said to Thom Busby in their cabin aboard the much too small (and too old!) Mars-Earth transport Brahe. Adrian sent a copy of a news service article from his portable to Busby’s. The piece discussed the publication of Taban and Kalian Morgan’ book earlier that day.

“Do you think it’s a joke?” Busby asked. He scrolled through the article from beginning to end again, looking for some sort of hint that it might be a ruse.

“I don’t think so, sorry, I didn’t send the text of the manual that was appended to the article. It’s not the whole thing of course, but it’s a start.”

“Well, it makes sense I suppose,” Busby said thinking, “do we have any commentary from Headquarters or Anyone else on Earth yet?”

Adrian looked at the publication time and then at his watch, and then back up at Busby, “Ah, Uhm 20 or 30 minutes at the earliest.”

“Damn!” Busby said. He put the portable down, and it hit the side table with a little more force than he had intended.

“What do we do? I mean, this is pretty damn weird, I’ll give you that, but it doesn’t change very much of what they’ve done, right?”

”I’m not sure that’s true at all. All that crazy shit that they could do on-net, they can really just do in your head. The wires were a diversion it seems, for all the crazy things they’ve been doing in our heads,” Busby yelled.

“It doesn’t sound from this that they can do that kind of thing, I mean, who knows right? But, it really doesn’t sound like that’s how they’re saying it works,” Rathe countered. He’d read a bit of the material a little more calmly than Busby, and while he hadn’t ever heard about this “telepath,” thing, it made a certain measure of sense when he thought of some of the old hackers he knew from way back. Adrian shuddered when he thought that all of his old teachers and mentors might have been telepaths.

“If you had the ability to make mincemeat of my brain without looking at me, do you think you’d just up and announce it? Hell no. I wouldn’t. If anything they’re smarter than us, and they’ve read our minds, and they know that we’d filet them alive. God!”

“I see what you’re saying,” Adrian said. He seemed to be having an easier time coping with this news than Busby. “The only things that are comforting here, are the things they have every incentive to lie about–”

“Exactly!”

”–well, I mean we can’t exactly turn around now, so how does this change our plans?”

“Run! You think we should run?”

“I like my brain un-mincemeated?”

“As does most of humanity, I suspect. But we’re ISA agents and we have to do what we have to do,” Busby said, he moved his hand to get back to his portable but Adrian could see that it was still shaking=.

Adrian stood to leave but said, “Ok” over his shoulder before the door closed.

Chapter 9

Calm

“You’re going over to the Morgan’s tonight for dinner aren’t you?” Kyp asked Guss, as they sat in one of the observation bubbles and watched the early evening sun. The Colony’s designers had insisted upon these bubbles so that the colonists could “get out,” without needing environmental gear.

They were largely ineffective, being simply small public rooms with dome windows; but they were small and private, and at least they provided different scenery. The sun still seemed pretty puny, even after all these months. “Of course, it’s Tuesday, isn’t it?”

“Thursday, but whose counting.”

“What’s the difference? We spend half the day writing letters and recording messages, and half the day working on small coding projects–It’s a miricle that we can keep day and night straight, so take what you can get,” Gus said.

“You forgot about the half of the day we spend watching the news reports from Earth and half of the day that we spend helping with the research program,” Kyp reminded.

“We have too many halves, I think,” Gus said. “Who would have ever thought that our life of crime would have lead to all this respectability. What’s up with that? We have jobs, and people who care what we say about things. And, I’m just a hacker kid.”

“Isn’t it wacky? Imagine how Taban and Kalian feel?”

“Aren’t they younger than you?” Gus asked.

“They’re older, but only a bit. They weren’t much older than I am now when they came to Mars,” Kyp figured. His math was probably a bit off, but it was close. “I think we should get a break every now and then, none of us had much of a chance to be kids, after all.”

“That shouldn’t be more scary than the fact that we’ve almost gone respectable, but damn, it is,” Gus said, blinking a few times: the sun was setting fast and it was getting hard to see clearly.

“I know, right?” Kyp said, stretching his arms in front of him. “Have you been thinking about it much?”

“Busby?”

“Yeah.”

“I always want to say no, it doesn’t bug me, but to be honest, I don’t really think of much else,” Gus said.

“Yeah. It’s so damn weird. I mean, what’s he going to do? Come here and stare at us and be mean?”

“I think if it made sense, if we had a clue what he was going to do, it wouldn’t be so consuming.”

“That’s probably part of it. It’s weird to think that he’s not really going to have any power here. ISA on Mars is whoever he brings, plus Matt, who is on our side?” Kyp asked.

“It’s strange to think that we outnumber ISA, but I guess you’re right.”

“We are always outnumbered ISA, even on Earth.”

“Of course, of course: but it’s different now. It’s weird what makes you feel like you have power,” Gus said.

“It’s true. We’re strong, we have support, everyone’s watching us, and most importantly we have right on our side. Busby can stomp and scream, but what’s there to do? All we have to worry about now is making sure that we don’t forget all those things, because of what Busby’s done to our community in the past. We’re ready,” Kyp said. He yawned and stretched his arms out in front of him. “Ok, I think it’s probably time to go, We wouldn’t want Taban and Kalian to think we’ve gone missing or something,”

The walk to Taban and Kalian’s apartment wasn’t that far from the observation dome, but it was easy to get lost. The passageways in Mars Colony all looked the same, and unless you were paying attention it was easy to miss a turn. Thankfully, everything was laid out pretty logically, so you didn’t have to wander around in circles forever, but it was a common fear. So, Gus and Kyp walked fast, and without talking

When they arrived, Kyp toggled the door chime. Nothing.

Gus looked up at Kyp, suddenly worried. He depressed the button again.

“Coming!” Kalian’s voice was small and distant, through the door. “Sorry!” It was getting closer.

The door opened in an instant, revealing a frazzled looking Kalian: hair slightly more disheveled than normal, and adorned in a cardigan that clashed with every other poorly fitted object of clothing that hung off the short telepaths body.

“We were writing. This new project is quite engaging,” Kalian said, turning around to welcome the guests into the apartment. “Sorry about the mess,” Kalian said, upon realizing that they hadn’t cleaned in nearly a week, but made to effort to tidy up at all.

“Oh it’s fine,” Kyp said. The quarters were a bit more cluttered and dusty than they would typically be, but Kyp had seen worse. Far worse.

“This project is going better, then?” Gus asked.

“Yes, much I’d say, but we’re still at the beginning, it’s like new love–”

”–you can’t get enough and then months later you have nothing to show for it, and you wonder what happened to entire weeks of your life?”

“Cynic,” Gus muttered, only to be reward with a friendly jab in ribs.

”–probably not that bad,” Kalian said and smiled, and then appeared distant for an instant. “There’s a lot of energy, we’re full of ideas, and things that we know needs to be said–”

”–sorry dear, I’m coming, just a second,” Taban called out, clearly responding to a telepathic message. Gus chuckled.

“Anyway, it’s pretty all consuming. We’ve spent so much of these last few months, talking to people and giving speeches and interviews and what not that we haven’t really written much,” Kalian said.

“And, I don’t know, I don’t want to sound like a snob, but this book–the new one–is like our purpose, and I for one needed some perspective,” Taban said, appearing at the door of the office.

“Turn off the light in there and come sit, the book will be there tomorrow; how often do we get company?” Kalian said.

“If we’re not friendly, we could conceivably get less!” Taban said. Everyone laughed. “You’re right, of course.” Taban toggled the light and joined the others in the living room.

“So can you tell us what you’re working on in this book? Or is it a secret?”

“We’re beyond secrets, I think,” Kalian said, “Well, I mean, big secrets like that.”

“And besides, it’s not that surprising. We’ve been commenting on the discussion of telepathy after the announcement, how this has changed the community, and what not,” Kalian said.

“We’re also reincorporating a lot of the stuff, particularly about pedagogy that we cut out of the first volume, in order to make the Manual more accessible, but it needs more work, of course.”

“Oh, and, while we haven’t been able to push all of this through the computers for any sort of meaningful analysis, there should be a lot more empirical stuff that we’ve gotten from running studies and observations of all the new telepaths that have come to Mars.”

“It really is amazing how much we’ve learned,” Taban said, leaning forward. “I mean, it hasn’t been so long since we finalized most of the text on the last book, and I can’t help and I already think it’s a bit dated–the data at least.”

“I don’t know then if it’s a good or bad thing if it seems no one is really interested in the data,” Gus said. It was true, in a way: all the the messages that he and Kyp were responding to took issue with the ethics of training telepaths, or the timing of the release of the book, or Kalian and Taban’s character, or some such.

“That’s probably right, I guess. I mean, if we didn’t have the data, I think you could bet your ass that no one would take it seriously,” Taban said, reclining again.

“Even though they can’t likely make heads or tails of it?” Kyp asked.

“People think they know more about science than they do–”

“Now whose the cynic?” Kyp interjected.

”–but usually, it’s just enough to be annoying when something doesn’t look empirical enough, not to actually criticize the material,” Taban said.

“And most people are quite trusting, of empiricism that looks alright, which works in our favor,” Kalian said.

“Generally I think that’s appalling, but it works in our favor this time. The ‘real’ scientists,” Taban said, making “air quotes” with his fingers.

“What are you saying about the backlash?” Kyp asked, after a short silence.

“Busby?” Kalian asked. “Not a thing. We could have addressed it in the first one, after all, but I don’t know if that’s the right message.”

“No, our folk who didn’t want the announcement at all,” Kyp said.

“Oh dear,” Kalian said. “Are we getting a lot of that?”

“Not a lot, and don’t worry, most people are so happy about the announcement that they’re already planning to come to Mars, if they weren’t here already. There are a lot more people than we thought there were, isolated cells and individuals that didn’t even know that the rest of us were out there,”

“Wow, Numbers?” Kalian asked

“Never sure. Half again as many as we thought?” Gus said.

“Maybe as many as twice the original numbers?”

“Wow,” Taban said.

“Yeah, back to your point, though, it’s hard to know how to deal with that. It’s a serious issue, I think we were mostly in the right. I’m not sure that it’s a problem that can be addressed. Right? I mean eventually it will blow over,” Kalian said.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, I’ve been thinking about it lately. More. There’s something there, and there’s no real good answer to the problem,” Kyp said.

“Yeah, I hope they can make it to Mars soon, if they want to,” Gus suggested.

“If they want. I think the Authority here is really pleased to have us, and is probably willing to take on as many new people as are willing to come. The system is still working, which is great,” Kalian said.

“Have you seen the new colony buildings?”

“I know, amazing, right. It’s hard to believe that the primary one is so old, until you see the new ones,” Taban said.

“I know!” Gus said.

Kyp rolled his eyes and sighed. Gus was always trying to drag Kyp along on some sort of exploration of the new colony buildings, and Kyp hated it: seeing the new buildings reminded him just how small and inhospitable Mars really was. Great community, and better than Earth in a lot of respects, but the golden brown sky and total absence of real open spaces was tough for Kyp, made worse by the brief return to Earth.

“Indeed,” Kalian said, sensing Kyp’s discomfort, and redirecting the attention of the group. “Matt said that he was going to join us for dinner, but I’m guessing that he got caught up in something, so lets move on to dinner.” Kalian stood.

“Right, I am kind of hungry,” Taban said. “We have a slightly perverse plan for dinner, inspired by our recent progress on the book.” Taban and the others stood.

“Well, or really our lack of progress on anything else,” Kalian said, chuckling. Everyone laughed again and filed into the kitchen after their hosts.

“We forgive you,” Kyp said.

“Doubly,” Gus added.

“Thanks, folks,” Taban said, turning to smile back at Kyp and Guss.

Closing Orbit

“So tell me again, why are we in orbit?” Adrian Rathe asked his partner–or supervisor, depending on how ornery Busby was feeling at the moment.

The two ISA agents were sitting in holding area–what passed for a lounge–onboard the Mars orbital platform. It looked a lot like the ship that they’d spent the last nine, or so, months on, and it felt much the same. All of the space station around Mars and Earth, and even the Mars Colony “buildings” were really just modified transport ships of various sorts. The designs were fairly modular, and given the scope of colonization of space and Mars, it was easier to modify one design series rather than design a number of specialized structures.

The station wasn’t intended for long term habitation; as a result there were none of the creature comforts that the other stations and ships often had. No shops, no real social areas: just sleeping quarters, a few small lounges for people who had layovers, and a mess hall. And lots and lots of docking and package processing facilities.

“Surprise, Adrian, Surprise: you need it in real life as well as on the net,” Busby said.

“Yes, I get that, they know we’re coming. Do you think that they’ll somehow forget that we’re here if we sneak down in a couple of days? It’s not like we’re just passing through and can claim that we’re here on other business,” Adrian said.

“Adrian. It’s better that walking in on them when they’re expecting us. Have you been reading ‘the Book’?” Busby asked. For the last several weeks of the trip Adrian had done is best to keep his distance from Busby.

“Yeah, a bit. Why?”

“If you had, you’d know that, surprise can supposedly conflict with their ability to get good reads. If we were to show up with the rest of the people from our ship, they’d be there and be ready for us. If we come down a week later, or whenever, we can dictate the terms of our meeting.”

“Good point?”

“You’re still with me, right?”

“Of course, Busby” Adrian said. He looked up and saw one of the station’s crew, walking toward them. Adrian would have continued to talk, but made the slightest nod in the direction of the crewman, and then looked down. Somehow,–”perhaps this was the sign that they’d been working together too long,” Adrian thought–Busby seemed to understand what he meant, and held his head down, ready to respond.

“Excuse me gentlemen, is there something I can help you with? The last ship has left for the evening, and I don’t think there’ll be another for a few days,”s he said.

“Yes, sorry, we have quarters already, I think, we’re going to be staying here for a week or so before we go down to the planet,” Busby said.

“Really? Why in Earth–or Mars,” He chuckled. That pun shouldn’t have still been funny for someone who’d been in the Mars system for so long. “would you want to do that? There’s nothing up here.”

“Indeed,” Adrian said.

“So, why are you…” He said. It struck Adrian that this crewman might have authority of some sort over the station, or a connection to the Colonial Authority, despite his relaxed disposition.

“We’re on assignment from ISA and we need to able to set our agenda.”

“ISA? This far out? Lot of good that’ll do you; but if it makes you happy.”

“It does,” Busby said.

“Make you happy?”

“Do us good.”

“Oh. Well, we don’t get many of you out here. Does ISA have jurisdiction out here?”

“IAS has jurisdiction everywhere, at least theoretically,” Adrian said.

“Right, but, I mean for real. The Authority does a pretty good job of taking care of things out here. I mean they’ve been here for, what? twenty or thirty years? Nothing wrong. What’re you going to do in a week?”

“Very little,” Busby said.

The crewman didn’t seem to process the response, and continued: “A marshal, every once and a while shows up, but they don’t usually have to make it to the Colony.”

“We’re not marshals.”

“Ok.” There was silence. “Well, I guess every things ok, just don’t cause trouble,” The crewman said.

“We won’t, if you won’t,” Busby said. He made eye contact with the crewman and didn’t blink.

The stare would have made anyone uncomfortable, but the crewman hung on for much longer than most people, Adrian figured. Finally, he blinked muttered “good day,” and continued walking on his way.

“Welcome to Mars,” Busby said when the crewman had finally passed out of earshot and sight.

“You’re going to get us killed one of these days, You know!” Adrian exhaled at last, having not realized that the was holding his breath.

“I was going to say the same thing about you,” Busby said. “We’ll leave in a week, be ready.” He stood and walked away, towards his quarters without waiting for Adrian.

“Aye,” he muttered, but Busby didn’t hear him. A moment later he left for his quarters.

Chapter 10

The following is an adaptation from a stage play script by Irena Trem. There are no direct reports, records, or trustworthy witnesses to the events recounted. As such, Irena’s play has become the most commonly accepted description of events available.

I have adapted Irena’s narrative to a more understandable prose form, more acceptable for this kind of text, but otherwise have left the details intact. Because Irena wrote the text in the heat of the Earth-Mars conflict in the 2560s–and is thus shaped by that historical moment–but also because her story was intended for theatrical performance, the narrative and characterizations of Taban and Kalian Morgan differ subtly from what I have been able to uncover in this text. In any case, I encourage you all to read Irena Trem’s glorious play The Morgan’s Synapse, and I apologize for my pithy recreation of the ultimate scene.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars Colony, 2597

Endgame

”I’m done.” Kalian exited the office and walked over to the couch that Taban was reading on in the living room.

“Ok, Come sit, lay” Taban said, putting the book aside, spreading out the other cushions on the couch.

Kalian walked over slowly and finally collapsed next to Taban. “Can I be done?”

“Of course,” Taban said wrapping an arm around Kalian. “With what?”

“Damn writing,” Kalian said and leaned toward Taban. “I don’t mean that, of course, just for now.”

“Having problems with the research? The computer will sort it out,” Taban said. Taban patted Kalian’s shoulder gently, which was all the encouragement that Kalian needed to lay down.

“No it’s not that, the computer is crunching through the bioscans and session transcripts, and it looks like all is in order. Nothing surprising, of course.”

“Of course, that’s just luck, but it means we’re doing something right,” Taban said, taking Kalian’s hand and smiling.

“Right, so I was just replying to emails from telepaths on Earth. I felt bad that Kyp and Gus and all had been handling so much of our correspondence. Like I’m turning my back on people who want to hear from us, and it was good distraction from all the parts of the new book that I couldn’t possibly work on right now.”

“You know Kyp, and Gus, and even Matt, often say what we think better than we do–”

“Thank god for friends,”

“Exactly,” Taban continued, but was quiet for a moment while he found his place. “You know, we don’t have to work constantly. I think we’ve done enough for several lifetimes, the least we could do for ourselves is take a vacation,” Taban said.

“Right but we’re not olds or anything, and besides, you know as well as I that we never take vacations,”

“There was that time in Old Dakota–”

”–where we spent ten days drafting Manifestos,” Kalian said.

“Point taken,” Taban said.

“It’s fine, and I don’t think there was something particularly upsetting or anything, just takes a lot out of you, and then you feel guilty that it takes a lot out of you, and then it feels worse, and I’m tired and cranky. It’s not your fault.”

“I know. It’s ok. Well if you won’t take a real vacation, at least can you take the evening off and we can do something different? No guests, no work…”

“Is that an–I’m thinking I don’t have much choice in this do I?” Kalian asked, and then laughed, but stopped suddenly. “What’s that noise? Tapping,”

“No, not really–What?” Taban said.

There was an audible tapping sound, coming from the door. Taban and Kalian froze. In an instant the door slid open slowly and the room was filled with a flash and a low hiss. In the next instant two men, wearing face-masks and gloves entered the room.

By the time the door closed behind them, Taban and Kalian were unconscious. The men drew small pistols from holsters behind them, and held them ready.

“Hows the air? Toxin?” One of the men–Agent Thom Busby–asked.

“Clear. We’re safe,” The other said, pulling off his mask and then his gloves. Busby followed suit.

“Are they alive?”

Busby walked over, to the Morgans and felt each of their necks for a pulse. “Yes, they’re fine,” he said and sat down uncomfortably close to them on their coffee table. Busby’s knees almost touched Taban’s.

“Just stand there and hold watch, I’m going to wake them up,” Busby said, switching the pistol to his other hand and reaching inside his jacket and retrieved two packets that he slipped gently into Kalian and Taban’s hands.

“What are you doing?” The second agent asked, his voice wavered.

“Quiet, and stand there,” Busby said. “Watch the door, not me,” He produced a small vial from his jacket and uncapped it with one hand. Busby, held it briefly under each of their noses. The Morgans began to rouse, slowly, and by the time their eyes opened, Busby had recapped and stowed the vial in his pocket. The gun was back in it it’s natural hand.

“What the hell!” Taban yelled. Kalian tried to stand or sit, in fright but Taban’s hand, now stiff with fear of its own right prevented Kalian from standing.

“Calm down. My name is Thom Busby, but you probably already know that. In your hands you’ll each find a dose of chemical sufficient to end your lives. This pistol is loaded and should you–at the end of this conversation–not ingest the contents of your packet…” Busby trailed off.

“Pardon me, I think we can talk better in here,” Taban’s voice echoed in Busby’s mind.

Busby tried to turn, to say something to his partner, but he couldn’t he was frozen, as was the rest of the room. As were Taban and Kalian Morgan. Busby was confused.

“Sorry, if you think we’ll hear you but you can’t speak, there isn’t enough time. We haven’t changed anything, we’re just thinking a little faster, you’ve read the book, I’m sure you’ll understand,” Kalian’s voice echoed. No one moved. No one could.

“You can’t get away, you know that, I have enough on you and your friends to be convicted in any Earth court twice over, and you’re surrounded. The book says, that you won’t ‘use your powers for evil,’ but the book also said that the toxin we used should stun your telepathy, so I suppose we’ll see.”

“It already has,” Taban thought

“And I believe the term we used was ‘should’ stun ‘most’ telepaths. We are not most telepaths, but to be fair, it has stunned us,” Kalian added.

“We can’t stay like this forever, though, you’ll tire eventually right? What then? I’ve got a gun on you, backup and you have to know that I’m not afraid to kill you.”

“Weren’t we going to have a conversation?” Kalian said.

“Who needs to talk, you’ve proven that you’re dangerous, already, my science division has enough else of you to dissect,”

“We’d like to see your science division do better than what we’ve been able to do,” Taban thought.

“I bet you would,”

“Wait, by your science division do you mean Matt Connor et al?”

“Of course not, but that’s not of a lot of concern to you, because you’ll be dead.” Busby thought. “Wait, why are we having this conversation? Why am I talking to you?”

“It was your idea,” Kalian though. “And our little connection right now, probably gets behind your usual barriers. The threshold for communicating a thought is lower if you avoid speech. Given enough opportunity you’ll learn barriers.”

“And we have a lot of subjective time in us, so we thought it might be worthwhile to prolong our lives a little bit,” Taban thought, ”I’m sure you’ll understand. Besides, if you aren’t really going to kill us, it’d be helpful to know if we should make a break for it.”

“Taban, he is serious! See that?” Kalian thought, feeling somewhat frantic.

“See what? I’m right here too!”

“We know,” Taban and Kalian thought in unison.

“I see it, what about the assistant?” Taban asked.

“Unknown, and we’re stuck for real, we couldn’t take him out fast enough,” Kalian.

“Take him out? Isn’t that ‘doing evil’,”

“That’s the sad part about all of this, at least for us: We really can’t kill you. You might wish you were dead for a while, and we hope that you take advantage of that desire, but we can’t kill you–or anyone. And I think this of all situations qualifies as self-defense.”

“Maybe shooting you isn’t such a bad option any more.”

“That seems unpleasant, doesn’t it,” Taban thought.

“Indeed.”

“Why are we still talking? You’re not going to take the pill are you? And you’ve already said that you can’t get out of this situation, unless you’re lying.”

“That’s true, we can’t get out. Lying under these conditions is difficult. You’ve noticed that.” Taban thought.

“But we’re still human, you know, we’re not particularly keen on rushing into death, you understand.” Kalian thought, and Busby could have sworn that he “heard” laughter.

“What’s funny?” Busby thought. He was more aware now that he really didn’t have a filter at the moment, but he was glad that that thought didn’t echo loudly in his mind.

“I hope you can appreciate how odd and surreal this is for us,” Taban thought.

”I’d rather go out laughing than crying wouldn’t you?” Kalian thought before Busby had a chance to respond.

“It’s time, isn’t it,” Taban thought. ”

“I think so,” Kalian echoed. Sorry Thom to deprive you of the pleasure. You come of of this with one hell of a headache, but you’ll live.

Busby felt cold, freezing really. He started to talk, but his voice wavered. He stopped.

“Thom Busby, remember, remember,” Taban and Kalian thought together, the words echoed.

“Remember what? What’s happening!” Busby was frantic, and feeling colder.

“Goodbye,” Taban and Kalian said in unison, their voice growing distant in Busby’s mind.

The room slowly came back to life, and Busby collapsed forward, almost in slow motion. He screamed in agony, as soon as he had control over his vocal cords.

“Busby!” The assistant rushed over to Busby, slumped over, his head wedged on Taban’s knees.

The assistant lifted Busby’s head up. He was alive, but something was wrong.

“Go, lets’ go,” Busby whispered.

“Them?” The assistant.

“De–” Busby said, but coughed before he could finish “Get out!” He demanded.

“Ok, ok, we’re gone,” Buby’s assistant said as he pulled them both to their feet. They stumbled together as quickly as Busby’s condition would allow toward the door. They never looked back at Taban and Kalian’s bodies. They never turned the lights out.

Taban and Kalian Morgan were found dead, clutching “suicide pills,” by Doctor Mathew Connor and Kyp Ebner, the following morning. The lights were still on. The cause of death was a massive brain hemorrhage. There were no witnesses.

Thom Busby and his accomplice, were able to take a shuttle back to the orbital station before morning, and had boarded a transport ship for Earth within the day and Busby, who continued to hold a leadership position within ISA, maintained that he had never been to Mars.

Legacy

Irena’s account is pretty accurate, we think. Taban and Kalian Morgan were found dead, clutching “suicide pills,” lying on their couch. Taban was sitting down, a book he was reading at the time was found next to the arm rest. Kalian was laying down, head resting in Taban’s lap. They were holding hands. I supervised an autopsy later that found that the cause of death was a massive stroke-like incident. Though telepaths since Taban and Kalian have–understandably–been hesitant to test their ability to affect the neural physiology of the brain as Irena wrote, I think it’s possible that this is the case. Nevertheless, there are neural toxins in ISA’s arsenal at the time that could have produced a similar result that we were unable to detect during autopsy: this remains an open question that we will never be able to answer.

Furthermore, when Kyp and I discovered the bodies the next afternoon; however, the apartment was in general disarray, and suggested some sort of struggle. There were no witnesses, that observed anything unusual or heard any struggle. This remains a mystery, and I have heard no good explanation of what happened that night, though I would like to believe that Irena got it right.

Busby and his accomplice(s) returned to the orbital station that evening, and departed for Earth the next day, we figure: though there are of course no records, although one of the station’s crew reported seeing two aloof men at about the right time who claimed to be ISA agents. Busby, upon return to Earth became a key advisor in the central government on Earth with some authority over ISA, though Quinn reported that he remained secluded and out of reach for as long as she was able to watch him.

Kyp and I, and I think many of us on Mars then, felt guilty for a long time about not being with them at that moment. We knew Busby was coming, or in the area, we knew there was danger, but we didn’t do anything about it. This is, of course exactly what Taban and Kalian wanted, they insisted that we didn’t hover, and at the time I didn’t think that Busby would be quite capable of murder, which feels quite foolish to me now.

Taban and Kalian were among the most amazing people that I have ever known, and who I am glad to be able to call my friends and family. I am not a telepath, and without their friendship, and encouragement I would not have been able to connect with the telepath community: a connection that I hope has been mutually beneficial, although I can only verify that I benefited greatly from this experience.

I find myself wishing that I had had more time with Taban and Kalian, to learn from them, to be inspired by them, and to be able to remember the calm acceptance of all the good and bad parts of life. That’s why I think Irena’s portrayal is particularly accurate, because it captures this aspect of Taban and Kalian, and even if it isn’t strictly factual, this remembrance serves us all. I hope–and Kyp Ebner supported this view–that Irena was able to capture an aspect of Taban and Kalian Morgan that they would have wanted us to remember.

Life–for me, for other residences of Mars Colony, for all humans–was never quite the same after that. After the memorial, I officially and publicly resigned from ISA, with the full support and backing of the Mars Authority. The moderate flow of immigration that the Authority and the telepath community had been, increased significantly: by 2552, we figured that nearly ninety-five percent of the telepath population lived on Mars.10 Earth, which had been simmering since the release of the Morgans’ first book, came to a boil. There were full scale riots across the planet that lasted for weeks, and recurred fairly frequently for the next couple of years, according to most reliable reports. The conflict between Mars Colony and it’s the telepaths, and the governments–ISA, the various consortia, and Busby’s supporters–wouldn’t break out for years, but everyone knew, after Taban and Kalian, that it was on it’s way.

These are, however, stories that are much more common place than the story of Taban and Kalian. It’s hard to avoid telling any stories about the Mars Conflicts, even on Earth; but too often, the story of Taban and Kalian Morgan is forgotten and ignored. While there have always been flaws in attributing the causes of historical progressions to too few specific individuals, forgetting seems more flawed; but I am, after all, just a forensics doctor, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Also, to be clear, that while Taban and Kalian Morgan were incredibly important to us all–and without them, the universe would certainly be a very different kind of place–similar arguments could be made about scores of people: Quinn Dasen, Kyp Ebner, Irena Trem, Gus Rosell, and so on. Without them, however, I’m not sure that we would have ever thought it possible to “change the world.” I can only imagine what our worlds would look like had Taban and Kalian lived.

Matthew Connor, MD
Mars Colony, 2597


  1. To be fair, it was one screen. Many of the accommodations on the Mars Colony–Taban and Kalian’s included–had brilliant displays incorporated into the walls of the apartment. Though the connection wasn’t entirely secure, particularly with the encryption box for the time being it was good enough. In any case, Taban and Kalian had always opted for more, rudimentary computer interfaces: although we all had access to voice-activated and highly visual displays, they opted for pure text interfaces because it was quicker, and allowed them to work in the same room. Telepaths or not, they were incredibly skilled computer users, and quite particular about their systems.

  2. The fact of the matter is that, at that time most people said that they were at least a little interested in moving off world if you asked them. Significantly fewer were willing to pack up and leave Earth. The Mars colony had been established in the 2480s, but had never attracted the large number of colonists that the instigators behind the project had initially predicted.

  3. International Security Agency. I suppose in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I too was an agent in the research/forensics department of ISA, in the ’40s. ISA was the sprawling Earth-based security, intelligence, and law enforcement agency that had near universal jurisdiction. Far from being a coherent organization, ISA was far too large to consistently secure, know, or enforce much of anything. This made it all too possible for possible free agents like Thom Busby to operate inside of ISA without much recourse for the rest of us.

  4. The cyborg ban was based on a fear of implants being used to subvert free will or some such. Though these laws were largely irrelevant because of the level of technological development present when they were introduced. The ban outlawed all implants that had processing power “onboard,” rather than just dump “pipes,” on the theory that if people had computer’s with processing power implanted they could simulate telepathy and infringe upon telepathy.

  5. Forensics never–or rarely–got it’s own cases, but rather consulted on cases that went to other departments: digital crime, high profile murder and human crimes (eg. kidnapping and assault,) and so forth.

  6. And really I ask you what is? There was a campaign a few years back to combat heat pollution on Mars, which is crazed. At the current rate of “heat pollution,” Mars will probably never “terraform.” I suppose everyone needs a cause. I digress; though not efficient, the mining, processing, power generation, food processing, purification, and construction systems don’t require a lot of direct attention from us. Mars, as we occupy it now couldn’t support an Earth-like population density, but that’s never been a goal.

  7. Some early readers of this have suggested that these statements provide an inaccurate picture of life on Mars. It’s fair to suggest that my perspective is skewed by my age, and history with the colony; but I think that there’s a sense in which Mars Colony’s deliberate design and structure, though not perfect, has created a better baseline for community organization than anything that has ever existed on Earth.

  8. I suppose, not much given that many of them hibernate through as much of the transit as their bodies can manage, nevertheless, a valid question.

  9. Taban and Kalian, often joked that they wrote the perfect academic monograph, because of the way their work covered all the theoretical, empirical, and pedagogical hotspots, without the support or connect of any academic body. Though it was of course minor, I think they enjoyed this act of resistance.

  10. In fairness, and to be clear, even in the 2550 and 60s telepaths did not account for a majority of the Mars Colony population were not Telepaths, and that many immigrants between 2545 and 2555 were not telepaths. Telepaths, certainly paved the way, and had a great deal of influence over the development of a unique “Martian” culture, but never constituted a majority.