There is a small room, originally intended to be a supply closet of some kind, currently serving as the apartment of last resort for this human teenager. There's no furniture; all his possessions are sitting either on or beneath the folded quilt on the floor. In one corner is a pile of necklaces of coins whose colors change constantly by magic. The one tall, narrow window looks out on a city of mostly four- and five-story buildings painted to look vaguely reminiscent of a forest.
They're just a convenient thing to attach command magic to. You know, to keep the baby safe. Safe for other people; he's thinking about how many horrific accidents he's personally seen averted by small children not being free to use their magic. He assumes aliens either use different jewelry or put the spells directly on the kids. I'm sure it's fine but it'd reassure people.
She doesn't have any magic till she's old enough to sing. She might not even like to sing, a lot of orcs don't.
There's probably a way he could keep someone from singing but he's not thinking of it yet. Not that he has any immediate plans to! Wow, this is tremendously awkward.
That sounds very convenient. And... safe. And reassuring. If he just keeps coming up with more adjectives he will not think about anything else, right?
You were maybe going to give me a job? That seems important in case the wilderness doesn't have enough to eat, I don't know how hard it is to live out there like Elves do.
I have no clue what an elf is or what your species can eat (and he probably shouldn't start thinking about local plants and their nutritional value and he definitely shouldn't start free-associating on the topic of things he doesn't want to think about right now) but yeah, I'm wondering if I have a good use for a mind-reader. If nothing else, I could find a way to use you to win bets or something. And eventually when he has an entire city to rule he could really use help with law enforcement but that's a problem for the future.
Why shouldn't you think about plants?
Well, it might be useful to sell you information about them later. I mean, just about anyone else could think about them where you can hear, but you'd probably rather I put everything I know together in some kind of order and answer questions. Or maybe plants aren't what you eat, the species you look most like is herbivorous but maybe that's misleading.
He feels vaguely homesick for the land of herbivorous pointy-eared humanoids now, actually.
I don't have a lot of the rings.
Not yet you don't. She could barter, or she could wind up in debt. Is her species one of the ones where they care about paying people back? No easy way to tell, other than by asking and then she could just lie. Either way he really needs to figure out what he can do with telepathy that could possibly be useful, there just has to be something. Maybe blackmail. Maybe helping his current boss talk people into funding their research. Once she's doing something useful she can pay in rings or in kind.
I'm not really a species.
He doesn't even have a guess as to what that means.
Um, Elves are a species, and my parents were those, and orcs are a species, and my baby's that, and I'm in between, not a species.
Some kind of genetic engineering project or something. That sounds inconvenient for you.
It's not great.
Maybe she'll know something about how it's done and it'll be useful for different biology, though. That might be a long shot but... I think I know what you should do while you're here. You should help with the research I'm doing, by talking about what you know about genetic engineering or by reading the minds of people who are considering whether to invest in our work and letting me know how to convince them.
I don't know what genetic engineering is.
Well, that'll limit how much she can usefully tell them about it. He tries to think the whole concept at her, though, maybe she'll recognize it. But you can still help convince investors, I think?
I'm pretty sure they didn't do that thing to make me.
What did they do? And is it something she can do that might be useful? Or it might be relevant to her health, that could also matter, who knows what her lifespan is going to be or whether she's sick somehow...
What's a lifespan?
He can think about this concept for her in great detail and with lots of technical specifics. Getting rid of that is what the research I'm helping with is for. And it's not going that well and he kind of expects to be fired at some point.
I don't know if I'm very good at convincing people of things even though I can read their minds.
You can tell me about their thoughts and I can figure out how to convince them. Or we can target, uh, people with trade secrets instead?
He has by this point stopped visibly watching her and is thinking vaguely about lunch but only vaguely since the conversation is taking up most of his attention.
And you'd give me rings for that?
Might make sense to arrange it so she gets a cut of the profits, rather than a flat fee, which wouldn't guarantee her anything, but he expects that if this works out he will end up paying her. And if he has to pay her some in advance so she doesn't starve before she can do anything, he's willing to consider that. He's trying not to think about how much he's willing to offer but he has a feeling he won't be able to haggle her down past the highest amount he can accept. Telepathy sucks.