FROM MY BOOK IN PROGRESS, ISLE OF DOGS
The first letter came unexpectedly. He had never received one before. They each had a mailbox for communications from the school and home. They were expected to check their mailbox and keep it clean. They received electronic mail all the time but print mail was rare and usually important. Rulers preferred it, but they also seemed to prefer not to have contact with their Scions at all, except during holidays.
It was from her. He held the battered white envelope and examined the handwriting. They had learned to write with both hands (like him she was ambidextrous) and each line of the address was written in the opposite hand so the slant alternated. He opened the letter and she had cross written it. In one direction, written with the right hand, it read:
I write to you with Vesta on the horizon and enemy ships both fore and aft. So far there has been no action and our little one is safe. She spends the day playing in the engine room and it’s a real job scrubbing the grease and solvent from her face and hands but whatever makes her happy is important as I’m sure you will agree. There is an impossible governess on board. She is constantly harrassing poor Little Sara Istar and the other children to clean their rooms, to be orderly and polite, even once hitting our dear, for which I severely reprimanded her. Apparently she doesn’t like the adventurous scamps when they treat her as one of their own. Remember our own childhood aboard these beastly ships, adrift for 3 or 4 months sometimes, the view monotonous. She’s still too small for a space walk or I would take her out on repairs. I have commanded the missiles to be readied and by the time this missive reaches you we may be dust in the long reaches of time and evolution. Imagine how long it will take, the eons before our dust rains again to sweet Green earth and is taken up by some living creature. Until then we are breathed in and out by the mighty lungs of stars and galaxies. But enough philosophy! How are you my dear? I hope you are enjoying your time alone with Phil and perhaps the pleasure he gives has caused you to forget your Consort and little scion!
Then, at a 90 degree angle, and written with the left hand, it continued:
Soon enough we will dock and go down to Vesta to prepare for the space elevator landing. Ocba’s welcome is in doubt and we go down heavily armed with both weapons and skepticism. Still, I think you will agree that we must exert every effort to contain Vesuvius and counter his influence. Their grip on the Isle of Dogs is such that the dependents dare not rebel but rather suffer appalling abuse. You would think they were convicts, not noble mutants who had made the ultimate sacrifice of the comforts of home to Rule over alien lands. That they are virtual prisoners is a pity. I hope Little Sara will withstand the space elevator. So far she has shown no signs of space distress, perhaps because she was born between the stars. How does Little Iocle? I worry he won’t get enough sleep without his little consort by his side. Is there any gossip at court? We get so little news here. I wonder if the P— is still prosecuting his wars in the west? Surely America’s greatest days lay ahead of it in the Space territories, not that benighted, fractured land of the old Republic. Others dream but we must be realistic. S— and his faction have dangerous ideas though with no hope of realizing them I worry more about the utopia imagined by Everest, speciated Rulers separated as a class, a project Ocba and Vesuvius are apparently doing all in their power to further. Honestly, if we can’t persuade them to curtail their experiments we will need to consider a blockade and even quarantine of Mars. I know S—and B— would support us, but that will have to be in another letter. Oh, Little Sara Istar arrives to read, she has reduced the governess to tears, leading a troop of Ruler children against her! Even if we fail I feel the future is safe in her tiny hands. Much Love and Missing You, Your Ever Loving Consort, Sara.
He had become absorbed in his work and status, which he had never before experienced. Despite the blind attack after the pool game, which Chris Bell attributed to Lug, not Ocktomann, Sargon continued to beat everyone regularly at pool. He had learned his lesson though. He kept his winnings, yes, but he didn’t naively return to his rooms but rather, as his Scion had taught him, he learned to recognize the feeling of an impending attack and slapped before being bitten. That only had to happen once. There were two consequences: the Tutor, Dr. Butt, made him stand naked in the cold hall for an hour for bloodying the nose of the second thief to accost him, and, because he had bloodied the nose and retained his money he was left alone in future. But he learned also to spend it on items he could share with others. He remained aloof. He was the President’s Scion and was expected to act that way. He even came to believe it. But he read the letter and trembled, feeling the breath of Phaedra on the page. He remembered the day they hid in the cave, how they grasped each other in horror knowing what was to come. The ache opened up as if it had never closed and his mind raced thinking of all they used to do, and how meaningless and monotonous his days had become.
He turned the letter over and replied, not in the character of Iocle, but as himself.
My Dearest Sister,
You would not believe this place. They call it a school and it is a school I guess but Papa called it a prison run by children and was he ever right. Ocba’s dungeons are crueler and darker but not as cold. I am always cold. I have to chop my own wood and all day there are classes. The teachers are called tutors and professors. Professors wear long gowns that would be fashionable on Mars but here look like the transvestite wizards of Lower Manhattan (remember them? Please tell me if you do. Also we should maybe write in code, what do you think?). Tutors dress as we do in silly uniforms. I must wash my own clothes and everyone looks the same. They shaved my head! (Here he drew a crude caricature of himself with a bald head, and then of a man in wizard gowns with garish make up and torpedo tits). When you told me about B— J—s I didn’t really understand but the big boys here make the young boys do that. So far no one dares make me and I keep winning at pool. You don’t want to get into debt though. Also sex seems to be all anyone talks about. They curse a lot but not as well as Baby Sip. I was alone for my birthday but Christmas is soon. I think school is horrible. I want to run away and live with you forever in Canada. They say Rulers are free in Canada. Is this true? Please tell me about Castelul Banffy. Is it as cool as I remember? What is the Ruler Banffy like? I remember he dressed like Santa Claus and sat at the end of that long table by himself. What do you do all day? Is it very boring? Do you miss me? Your Loving Brother, Sargon
He was even more surprised when three days later another letter lay in the box, this from his Sire, sealed with red wax, embossed with the Eagle Seal of the President of the United States. He broke the seal and read the typewritten text:
My Dear Sargon,
I hope this brief missive finds you well and adjusting to your new life. Doubtless you are met daily with challenges you never before anticipated. There may be times when you will curse me and your fate but I assure you your trials are but dress rehearsals for the indignities and assaults of life. I realize things change and that the experiences of one generation don’t always serve as accurate maps for those of the succeeding one, but there are verities that derive from human nature, a nature that we share. This last point is one I wish you to bear in mind as you will be exposed to a chorus of self-aggrandizing nonsense that can only serve you ill in future. This we have been over many times but forebear the concerns of your Sire, who writes out of the profound isolation of the White House and a storehouse of experience that has of late surged into immediate consciousness as I contemplate your situation. Gambling I assume remains a passion among the Young Rulers as it is a habit of privilege and boredom. The poor have their lotteries but the wealthy orphan themselves at roulette and immiserate their families with blackjack and games of hillbilly poker, games of chance and no skill. If you must game do so on your own turf, either at pool or one-on-one basketball, at which I used to excel and have good reason to believe you will too as we share of course identical resources of body and mind. It is wise to let others win occasionally and not to be niggardly with the fortune you take off of fools. Always withhold your own emotions and feign rather an affable and bluff exterior; admit no error of consequence but own those that will have little impact; and above all do not be seen as a toady, fag or dependent. The wages of inferiority are low and the expenses high. So long as I maintain my present office your status is assured but understand that life is fleeting and only strong character, a stoic nature and inscrutable mien will see you through times of trouble. Also, I would remind you to always punch first and hard and go for the biggest member of a gang. You will likely lose and receive a terrible beating, but if you don’t all will fear you and if you do all will respect you.
Your Very True and Loving Sire, Sargon III