Septemus 32


Dear Sept,

I have rarely seen you this angry since you were a toddler. Something happened today that got you steamed for action. I’ve got to admit: I’m proud of you, both of your response and how you handled it.

Bella stopped by today. She’s become a friend of mine. She knows a few other families in the project, too.

While I worked on a painting, we conversed on the porch, our friend Jack, Bella, and I. You were playing at the dollhouse.

“Of course you don’t have to comply,” Bella was saying, “But it’s for the best. Morty has the best intentions, you know that. And the university, they have the highest ethical standards. They have to, or their funding would be cut.”


I heard you singing softly, to the dolls or to your siblings, so I didn’t think you listened in.

“I’m sure they’ve got their research project agenda,” I told Bella. “And I’m sure they’ve got all sorts of justifications for what they do, ethical and otherwise, but I am not sure that what they’re doing is in our best interest.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Bella said. “There are so many reasons that understanding telepathy–and being able to replicate it or even teach it–will help everyone! It’s for World Peace.”

I had to chuckle at the naiveté of her argument. I half-way suspected she believed it, so I couldn’t really get angry with her.


Jack said it all. “Right! World Peace! Like, as in, ‘Our military and surveillance capacities are so superior that this, of course, supports world peace.’ In other words, your husband’s project is using these kids to learn about telepathy in order to maintain the Dominance of the Empire. That’s what you mean by ‘best interest,’ right, Bella?”

Ouch. I’m not sure I would have been so pointed, but Jack’s never been one to sugar-coat his insights. Especially when it comes to politics.


I noticed you were pacing in front of the porch. That’s when I realized you’d overheard everything.

Thisisnotforanyoneelse,” you were muttering under your breath. “I’mnotbeingtested!


Bella and Jack left shortly after, and Akira stopped by.

“You look upset, Septemus,” I heard Akira say to you. “What’s wrong, little bud?”


I came out to join the two of you.

“Bella says that they want to know how to use talk-inside, and Jack says they’ll use it for World Domination, and Idon’twanttobetested!” you said in one breath.

“You won’t be, son,” I assured you. “Remember? I talked this over with Geoffrey, and he says it’s in my rights to refuse. Of course, it’s really your rights we’re talking about, but my job as a dad is to make sure your rights are respected.”

“Aw,” said Akira. “You’re such a good dad.”

I blushed a bit at the distraction. That wasn’t the point.

“It’s not about me!” you said. “What about my brothers and sisters? What if Bella goes to them and they think, ‘Oooh, pretty!’ and they like the color red so they say, ‘yes, please! Anything you say?'”

I had to laugh. “Your brothers and sisters won’t really think that, will they?”

“No,” you said. “But their moms or dads might. I don’t want her or Dr. Goth to bully my brothers and sisters into getting tested. It’s not right! And inside-talk is just for us. It’s only to be used for good.”

“You know,” said Akira, “when you feel that impassioned, you gotta speak out.”

“How?” you asked. “I know! I’ll get on the forum! OK, Pops?”


“I’ll post the message for you, son,” I suggested.

“No,” you insisted. “It’s got to come from me. Will you make an account for me?”

The forum has a strict over-18 rule. I considered making a Kids’ Korner, but I wasn’t sure my admin rights extended to over-riding the 18+ policy.

While I was washing up dishes, I noticed you on the computer.

“What are you doing, son?” I asked.

“I’m logged in on your account, OK?” you said. “Can I please use it to message everybody? Here’s a place called ‘Telepathy.’ That’s the word you use for talk-inside, right, Pops?”


“Go ahead,” I said. I figured if it was that important to you, I shouldn’t get in the way of you doing what you felt you had to. I could always get on later and explain. “Just identify yourself so they know the message is from you, using my account, all right, son?”

“OK.” You took a deep breath.


Then I heard the clattering of keys on the keyboard. I had no idea you knew how to use the computer like this. I guess you’re on it at school a lot.

“Want to see what I wrote?” you asked. I read over your shoulder.


“That should do it,” you said.


After I tucked you into bed, I came back and left a follow-up message, explaining to the parents what had you so upset. I let them know that I’d spoken to Geoffrey Landgraab about this, and that Dr. Goth and the university project had no jurisdiction over the agency and couldn’t supersede our rights as parents. I shared Geoffrey’s email address, since he’d told me before that I was welcome to, in case any of the parents needed to reach him for support.

It’s interesting to me that this is so important to you. You seem to understand the power of what you kids can do, and it seems vital to you that your power be kept from those who might use it for harm. I wonder how you got that sense of ethical protection–it seems like it’s in your genes. What perversions of power are recorded in your ancestral memory? What’s happened in the world you’re from?

I may never know.

I am so glad you are safe here. And I’m sworn to keep it that way.

Your pops.

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Forgotten Art: Giuliana – Mathilda 3

A reply to: A letter from Mathilda


Dear Mathilda:

I thought maybe I should practice writing formal, so here I am. Formal.

Jasper–you remember him, he’s my magical helper–he says that it’s good to talk and write in all sorts of ways: Low-down, hip-cool, fancy, regular, regimentaltudinally, and formal. Because you never know when you might need to write like this.

So much has happened.

You know how we went to the reading room? We went back.


Then me and my brother my brother and I went to the park all the way at the desert. It was a really long ways. We took the train and it took all of two hours and more, and then we had to walk and my brother was so tired that he said he was never walking to the State Park with me again, but then he saw this girl he likes and he forgot all about being tired.

He also forgot all about me.


But that was OK because I was on a mission.  Your mission.


I’ve started looking for stuff!


I looked everywhere. In nooks and crannies and in an old pump that smelled like the stuff the dentist puts in your mouth after he gives you the shot. You know. That metal smell.

And my dad let me take his special chisel-thing that he used to use when he would look for artifacts and crystals and stuff.


(Oops. I forgot about the formal part. You don’t mind if I write regular when I’m telling the story, do you?)

At first I was just thinking about how it was hard work. Because it was really hard work.

But then I started noticing things. Like in this one rock, there were all sorts of other little tiny rocks, and some looked sort of like marshmallows, and some like marbles, and some like the tips of candy corn. I got really curious about how they got inside the bigger rock and how I might get them out.


I kept looking and looking and I found some really neat stuff!

When I got back to the park building, my brother was there, talking to one of the park gardener ladies.


She was nice. I asked her about how little rocks get inside of bigger rocks and she told me all about geologic flow and gneiss and sedimentary and metamorphic and foliation. Now I know all sorts more about rocks!

Then we ate burgers that somebody grilled. They were so delicious!


Do you know the feeling of when you’ve been running through the desert, looking for rocks and finding them, too, and digging and collecting and collecting questions, also, and then getting all hot and sweaty and really hungry, also, so then you keep running and you come inside where it’s cool, and there’s your brother, and the nice gardener person tells you the answers to the questions you were wondering, and then there are hamburgers, too? With relish and katsup and pickles?

Well, that’s how I felt when I got your letter!

I felt like I had been adventuring forever and all the questions were piling up and it was hot and sticky and I was hungry and even a little sad, because a lot has happened since last time I wrote to you. Then I got your letter, and it was like, Ahhhh!


It was the best.

So I am happy that you wrote and that your daughter was brave and rescued. And of course she was, because she’s YOUR daughter!

And also: I have started my test that you set for me!

Here’s what I have so far: A giant red crystal; a little tiny baconlike rock; a big ice crystal rock; and fossil paw prints.


I know I have to get a lot more stuff. I will, too! This is just the start.

Jasper says he believes I can do anything I set my mind to that is humanly possible to do.

I say, “What if I’m not really human?”

He says, “Then you can do that, too!”


Next time I write, I will have found even more!

And if I start to feel sad, because, you know, I read that that is something that all people do now and then, especially when people they have loved have died–and yeah, that happened to me–anyway, if I start to feel sad, I will read your letter.

Because like I said: hot day, hungry tummy, question head –> cool room, hamburger, answers = YOUR letter.

Thank you, Oh Great Mathilda! 🙂

Your hero-in-training,


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