Lighthouse: Bigger than Us


With each new person I saw Sept with, I discovered something about him. Xirra brought out his passion for the cause. She came to see us a few days after Whisper and Emmanuel’s visit.

We heard a whirring noise as lights shone in the front yard.

“Xirra’s here!” Sept said and ran outside.

She wore a gravity suit much like Sept’s. She didn’t look much like him, though, aside from the pointed ears. She wasn’t moon blue and lithe.  She was indigo, like Octy, and she had a full body like mine. Somehow, that helped me warm up to her more quickly.


“Come, byu!” she said when she saw me, and she wrapped me in warm hug. “So you are the Mallory!”

“And you’re the Xirra!” I said. “Are you really Situ’s sister? And Octy’s mom?”

“I am, indeed!” she said. “And I’ll be your friend, if you’ll let me.”

She wrapped me a warm hug, and I felt that we’d been friends forever.


Xirra has always been impossible for me to resist. Anything she asks, I’ll do for her. It’s her smile. She fills me with confidence that I am stronger than I know, more capable than I realize, and braver than I ever thought possible–all because she is all of those things and she not only makes it look easy, she makes it look natural.

We went inside and I dished us up some of Sept’s chili for supper.

“I’ll take two bowls,” Xirra said. “And don’t skimp on the grated cheddar and sour cream! The dairy products on this planet make every trip worthwhile!”


“Sept tells me you’re engaged” Xirra said. “It’s a quaint custom, marriage. We don’t have anything like it, of course. But we approve, as long as it’s based on love.”

“Oh, this is based on love, all right,” Sept said.


“I know,” said Xirra. “I can feel it. Your home is drenched in the chemicals of love!”

We’d progressed by then to the cozy cocktail of oxytocin, and I, for one, felt glad to take a temporary break from the heady buzz of dopamine, norepeninephrine, and serotonin.


“We’ve been kind of high on love,” Sept admitted. “In fact, I’m craving another fix now!”

I giggled. “Easy does it, love-junkie! We’re going to need our own 12-Step program if we’re not careful!”


“When is the wedding?” Xirra asked.

“We haven’t set a date yet,” I admitted. We’d identified a few obstacles. When we drew up the guest list, everyone, except for my room-mate in college, who wouldn’t be able to attend anyway, since she was getting a doctorate oversees, was friend or family of Sept. I didn’t mind. The marriage would escort me into his family, and I pretended that it didn’t bother me that, in doing so, my own family rejected me. But it bothered Sept. “There must be someone,” he said. “It feels so inequitable this way.”

My main obstacle was Sebastion’s reaction to expressions of romance. “It’s my wedding!” I explained to Sept. “I want to be able to kiss my own groom at my wedding! How can I not?”

“Then do!” he said. “Pops will deal.”

But I didn’t want his father to feel anxious or uncomfortable, and I certainly didn’t want to suffer the humiliation of a public reprimand again, especially in a wedding dress.

“You had better not wait!” Xirra said. “We’ve got things happening soon. The best course of action is to get married straight away!”

“What’s the timing?” Sept asked her.

“It all depends. Look. There’s so much to transmit. Let me just upload it to you. It will be quicker.”

She began to concentrate, and Sept jerked as if he’d been plugged into a socket. I asked him later what he felt like.


“Overload,” he said. “Too much input. It comes in so fast, and I don’t have a chance to process it all. It will take days, maybe weeks, before I get it all sorted, collated, and stored away. Forgive me if I’m a bit distracted or absent-minded until then.”

The data he was able to process immediately pleased him.

“Xirra,” he said. “It’s really happening then! You’ve set the plan in motion!”


“What is this, Sept?” I asked him.

“Xirra’s in command. It’s part of the resistance, for slaves and refugees who need sanctuary. That’s where you and I come in.”


“Sept!” I said. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be part of this!”

The idea of being part of whatever this was terrified me. This was supposed to be our “getting-to-know-each-other” stage of our romantic life, not our “comrades-in-the-resistance” stage. I was in no way ready to begin making sacrifices for something I, at that time, knew basically nothing about.

Xirra just sat there, smiling, while Sept and I launched into our first argument.


Sept and I have had one argument during our entire life together, and we’ve had that argument hundreds of times. We still have it, on occasion, but we’ve learned to navigate our way through it.

The argument hinges on our different ideas about commitment and what we’re willing to be committed to. I’ve always been willing to commit to Septemus, our family, any critters that live with us, and our home. But this commitment is conditional: My first commitment has always been to myself and my freedom–and if any other commitment gets in the way of that, I’m willing to let it go.

Septemus’s first and main commitment has been to the rebellion. Every other commitment must support that, and if it doesn’t, he’s willing to let it go.

That night, the first time we faced this together, it felt like the end.

“Mallory!” he said tensely, “the rebellion does not wait on you! You need to be ready whenever you are asked to step in!”

“I don’t even know what the rebellion is for!” I said. “How can I support something I know nothing about?”

Xirra just smiled as if we were exchanging endearments.


“You know me,” Sept said. “If you trust me, that should be enough.”

“I’m not sure I do know you, Sept,” I said.


Xirra chuckled. “There are all sorts of ways of knowing!” she said.

I left. I went upstairs to see if I could lose myself in a book. I don’t remember what I did upstairs that night, but if it was anything like the other times we had that argument the first year, I threw the book aside, flung myself on the bed, and cried.

Sept’s frustration always dissipated quickly. Like I said, his commitment to the rebellion was first and foremost to him, so why would he waste emotional energy at every ripple that happened in our relationship?

From our loft, I heard him and Xirra chatting cheerfully, enthusiastically. I couldn’t understand a word they said. They were speaking Vingihoplo, and I felt very much alone.


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Septemus 69

Discovering My Source


“Baxin’ivre is your source,” Xirra told me the next time we sat together.

“And Pabatuotuo?”

“Came from Baxini’vre’s brother, Batuotuo.”

The Kfvico’kyastorr created me, she told me, but the rebels created Pabatuotuo.

“When we found out they were keeping Batuotuo’s tissue sample, we knew we had to get it. Situ’s man is amazing–he could get into anywhere, and recover anything. He brought Batuotuo’s sample back to us, and we created him.”


“What for?” I asked. “I know–or at least I think I do–why I was created by the Kfvico’kyastorr. But why Pabatuotuo? What purpose did you have for him?”

She looked at Octavius. “We wanted you to have a brother,” she said.


“I the brother,” said Octy.

“Indeed you are!” she said. Then she looked back at me. “We also wanted your brother to have you.”

She told me that Situ had been a rebel plant in the Kfvico’kyastorr lab. Once they’d found out about the acquisition of Baxin’ivre’s sample and the plans to clone him for harvesting, the rebels knew they had to prevent this.

Situ had training as a bizaapgotojo, and she and Xirra came from an influential, privileged family, who had kept their liberal leanings to themselves. It was easy for Situ to get the job.

They thought they’d have more time. The original plan was to carefully orchestrate the escape and then to reunite Pabatuotuo and me on the rebel base on Doxnivre. But it went wrong. They had to rush when Situ learned that my scheduled harvest date was just a few months out.

It feels so odd to write this. I use euphemisms because the truth is harsh: “Harvest” means murder. I was created so that my brain would be surgically removed and planted into the skull of the Premier’s daughter. He wanted an intelligent daughter. These eyes were to go to the highest bidder. Those whom the Premier owed favors were to get these hearts, livers, and lungs.

I know why I shudder. The fate I escaped lingers like a shadow you see even after your eyes are closed.

“We wanted you and Pabatuotuo to play in the meadows, like you did a thousand years ago, when your originals were but boys,” she said. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “That’s why he was on the ship with you. If we had to abandon our careful plans and rush the escape, we wanted him to come, too. And Whisper. Situ needed her daughter with her. We were all to join you at Haven. Shésti and I manned the escort ship. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”


We sat quietly.

The Freezer Bunny movie repeated for the tenth time. Xirra wept softly while the harmonium played.

“Don’t cry, Mommy,” Octy said. “Sept good brother! Mommy good mommy. Everybody happy, Mommy.”

I’m really going to have to teach my brother about verbs.

Xirra heard me think that and she started laughing.

“Don’t worry!” she said, inside. “Teach him Vingihoplo! No verb ‘to be!'”

We both cracked up.

“See?” said Octy. “Freezer Bunny IS very good bunny!”

“And no articles!” Xirra said inside, and we laughed some more.


Octy toddled off, repeating, “The, a, an, the, a, an–the bunny, a bunny, an bunny.”

Xirra told me she’d had her seasons of grief. “Years and more!” she said. “Really, I keep thinking I’m healed.”

“I am not so sure that such a thing requires healing,” I said. “It isn’t a wound–it’s a part of us. My life, and my brother’s, will always be entwined with Situ and the crash. That is part of the fabric of who we are.”

I pulled out my list. “Remember when you asked me to write down all-the-good-things?” I asked.

Of course she did.

I started reading:

Grilled cheese.

Blue skies and white clouds.

One silver moon.

One golden sun.

Smiles that light up from the inside and make eyes shine.

To know what it is we share, whether we are blue or purple or brown. 

To love, even if that love is not returned.

She handed me a book. “You aren’t the first one to make a list. You have list-making in your cells.”

I took her gift into the bedroom and began to read. It was Baxin’ivre’s Book of Lists, and the first list in the book was “Naa  Bairadekakir,” literally, “all big beautiful” which translates into “all-the-good-things.”

Byu jisu – sweet food

Ti kiya – one sun

Fi karika – seven moons

Tharistei shésti – purple wind

What is good, what is beautiful, now is the same as what was good, what was beautiful, then.

In bringing us answers, my Xirra brought us joy.


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Septemus 68


Dear Sept,

I know you and Xirra have been wondering why I’ve been sleeping so much. It isn’t just to give the two of you time alone to talk. That’s a welcome side-effect.

It’s because I’m tired so much. I’m tired until I wake up full of energy. So full of energy that it shines from inside.

Yes, I think something’s going to come of my last visit with your folks.

I asked Octavius if he wanted another brother.

“Septy good brother,” he said. “Nother brother like him?”


“Like him. Or maybe like you. Only little! How would you like a baby brother?”

“But I the baby!” he protested.


Maybe you can help me, son. You and Xirra. Do you think the two of you can persuade him that a new addition to our family will be a good thing?

I know he wants a puppy, but a baby brother should be just as cute, and almost as much fun.

It’s been gratifying to see you talk with Xirra. All these questions I’ve never known how to even consider, she’s got answers for them all.

You asked me if I minded that you were “hogging her,” as you put it. No, son. I am glad. I’m glad for every moment you have with her, the sister of your bizaabgotojo. I’m happy for you to expand your family.

And frankly, Sept, I am more than a little relieved not to have a lot of time alone with her.

I just don’t really know what to say.


That time we spent together on the ship, when Octy was conceived, that was like nothing I even have words for. It was–well, I didn’t know it was so possible to get so close to someone.

Now, here we are, and… that closeness is there between us, like the elephant in the room.

I am not too sure how to proceed.

“I understand congratulations are in order!” she said this morning.

“Does it show?” I asked.

She laughed. “No, no! Shésti has been singing to me. You made quite an impression on her!”

Where is the rock I can hide under? Please?


She wasn’t jealous. She was happy for us.

“Octy will be such a good big brother!” she said.

Xirra has been so cheerful, I hardly know what to make of it. She even smiles and hums happy songs when she’s cleaning the bathroom.

“You don’t need to clean!” I keep telling her.

“Oh, but I do!” she replies.


I love to watch her with your brother, Sept. The two of them are so peaceful. Octy is nearly always a happy baby. But with his mom. I have seen nothing like it.


I wish you could have had that when you were a little guy, Sept. I know I tried to do my best for you. We had Miko and you loved her, but that wasn’t the same. You and I, son, we’re both motherless boys.

I think of the man that Octy will grow into. It must be something to be a man who has had a mother watching over him.


Our little family is growing again, Sept. And it’s a good thing, my son.



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Septemus 50


Dear son,

The fog is starting to lift, and I remember everything.

Xirra, she’s the one I spent most of the time with, had asked me, “Do you want to remember, or forget?”

“Remember!” I said. “I want to remember everything.”

And I do.


They all greeted me, all twelve.

“Do you know the history of abductions?” they asked.

I didn’t. Do you? They told me everything. Abductions, not just of people of our planet, but from many planets, have been going on for generations, for centuries. The intentions haven’t been benevolent, traditionally. They’ve been mercenary.

Women were used to provide gene samples–through swabs of skin or locks of hair, mostly, so that they never knew–and the genes were spliced to create new stock.

Males were forcibly, without consent, impregnated. Most of the time, the experience was so traumatic, that the men ended up returning the child to the home planet soon after birth, and these children provided the slave labor that created the wealth of the Mainstreamers.

It’s a practice that the rebels abhor, just as much as they abhor the treatment of bizoobi.

“This is why we fight,” said Xirra. “We cannot support a culture, a society, an economy that rests on rape, slavery, and murder.”

Gotukoda in’i EO!” They all shouted.

“We want to do things another way,” Xirra said. We weren’t on the ship during this conversation–I remember this now. We were–where were we? We were someplace dark, with glowing plants. Someplace purple, with ultraviolet light. It felt like the inside of a flower.

“We are safe here,” Xirra told me. She led me to an inner room. We sat on large plants, purple, soft, like giant mushrooms, only clearly, they were not a fungus. They smelled like cotton candy.

“We want to do things differently,” she said. “That is what we are all about. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I nodded. So much information, emotional as well as historical, was passing telepathically that I felt that I knew much more than had been said. It was difficult to find words to talk, processing all that was coming in.

She took my hand. “We have been feeling the bonds within your home,” she said. “We know something of love. Do you know, for us, the love of family, of father and pagoto, mother and pagoto, the love that makes a gotukoda–a home–is as close to sacred as anything we know?”

Again, I nodded. I could believe it. It’s sacred to me, too, I tried to say, though I could only think it.

“We want to do things differently,” she said again. “Do you?”

I knew then what she meant.


I found my voice. “Yes,” I said. “I want this very much.”

It was beautiful, son. It was everything that the creation of a new life should be.


You are such a romantic at heart, with your crushes and your Big Loves. I know that you have wondered about me and why I have never had much to do with any of that.

I haven’t felt I’ve been missing out. I’ve had no interest. Why should I bother with something that I’m simply uninterested in, especially when that bother could lead to misunderstanding, broken hearts, and misery?

But now I know. There is something in a touch, an exchange, a breath of love that creates a new life–this is more than romance. This is love. This is what makes a family.

What Xirra and I shared during that exchange, I hope you share that with someone sometime!

The way I feel inside–the petals of the blue rose open, and what’s inside? More petals, more opening, on and on, until the edge of me dissolves and the edge of her dissolves and the rose keeps blooming, on and again.

This is what creates a new life.


I am going to be a father, again.


When Xirra led me out to the main room, we weren’t bashful. There was nothing secret, nothing shameful, everything sacred.

The others were sitting around low round tables, sipping tart, sweet tea that smelled like green apples, though it was deep red. They made room for us, and without talking, we sat with them.

They all began to sing then, only not out loud: inside, the way you sing to your pagotogo. I could hear them. Xirra looked at me, and I began to sing with them.


What gift have I been given? I am in awe.

How is it that I came to be your father? What have you taught me? So much! You have taught me love and more. And now. This experience. This is something that I never thought that I would experience. Me, solitary me. I am solitary no more. I am surrounded with gotugo. We are all kin. I never knew this. But now I do.


I’m going to have a baby!


I’m going to have a baby, and this new life is the result of the most amazing, reality-altering experience I have ever had. This new life is the result of love.


You are going to be an amazing big brother.

And I am…

steeped in gratitude,

Your pops

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Author’s note: Sebastion came back from his “abduction” (it felt more like a “visitation”) knowing that he was pregnant. He had all the nooboo-related thought bubbles since he arrived back home.