Chapter 5: Earth

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 departments1. 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.”

  1. 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.

tycho garen

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