Price, stripped to the waist, with a towel around his neck, sat on his cot in his tiny cabin and wondered just what the hell was next. First he is captured by an alien space craft, manages to escape, and then he is presented with an officer whose claim to fame seemed to be a psychic ability. An ability apparently endorsed by higher headquarters. If they hadn't believed the skill was real or that the information was accurate, she'd still be on Earth. Her orders attested to the faith placed in her by the officers at headquarters.
There was a quiet chime and Price glanced at the hatch. He stood up and touched a button so that the hatch irised open. "Come on in."
Coollege did as told and said, "I can come back later if you're busy."
Price rubbed the towel over his head, almost as if his hair was wet. He tossed the towel to his cot and asked, "What can I do for you?"
"What's the real story on this Monier?"
"I thought we had covered that."
"There are rumors floating around the ship. There are a lot of very worried people."
Price grabbed a shirt and put it on but didn't bother to button it. "What are they worried about?"
Coollege turned her back and stared down into the tiny sink as if there was something fascinating trapped in it. Without looking at Price, she said, "It's that mind reading thing. I think I understand it. Hell, Tree, we all have secrets, fantasies, things we've done that we're afraid others will learn. They're afraid that all their dirty little secrets will be exposed."
Grinning boardly, Price said, "What could you possibly have hidden in your past that you don't want anyone to know, Jackknife?"
"It's all relative, isn't it. Things that might not embarrass you could embarrass me."
"I spent most of the day with her and she didn't read my mind."
"How do you know?"
Price sat down on his cot and thought about it. "I don't know. But then, she explained all this to us."
"And you believe it?"
"For the moment, yes. But even if she can read deeply, there isn't anything that I can do about it. She's assigned to our office and I don't have the authority to get rid of her unless she violates security."
"Tree, this really scares me."
Price studied her. "Why?"
"I've tried to explain it. Hell, do you want someone else looking into your brain? The Colonel says something stupid and you know it's stupid but do you want that thought available to him.
Or maybe you don't like someone because of his color. You want that out. That you have a racist bend to your nature. Or that you don't like working with women because you think they get their positions with their bodies. Or..."
"I get the picture," he said holding up his hand to stop her. "I still don't see the problem."
"I don't want someone around who has that ability."
Price hung his head and stared at the deck under his feet. He'd just watched Monier come up with a picture of life on another planet based solely on her impressions from a scrap of cloth. What he didn't know was if that picture was accurate. If it was, that meant her ability was probably real. If not, it meant the whole thing was a parlor trick that had no relevance to his operation or to his life.
"We don't know that she can read minds," repeated Price.
"But if she can?"
"I don't know," he said. "You're basing everything on speculation."
"So you're going to let it go."
"Let's just say that I'm going to wait and see. There's nothing else to do. At the moment."
Coollege stood there silently and then said, "We going to get something to eat?"
Price rubbed his neck and looked up at her. "You sure you want to eat?"
"At the moment, yes. I want to eat."
"Okay, we can go eat." Price buttoned his shirt and tucked it in. He glanced around the cabin to make sure that everything was secure and that he was leaving nothing out that had to be put away. Satisfied, he said, "Let's go."