"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, it's your unmonitored mutie kid, the one you did all that extra paperwork to get."
"What about her? Isn't she doing well?"
"More than well. But we're not getting psych data on her anymore."
"She gave us less than four hours of play with the mind game before she quit, and when she went back, she bypassed the Giant's Drink with a loophole that's supposed to be impossible to reach with her copper thing, you remember? And now it's turned itself into some kind of civilization-building simulation and we have nothing."
"...She's not building a civilization, then?"
"Oh, no, she loves it, she's in there every day teaching animal-people to underwater basket-weave, and the other mutie -"
"There are four known mutants in Battle School, and more who'll manifest after they reach puberty. Sir."
"The telepath kid, the one she rescued from the older children, you got the report about that since you're listed as interested in her."
"The other mutie got into her game. They share a play environment. It's not supposed to happen."
"She did briefly play his login, didn't she? The game would have recognized the speed at the controls as hers. It's clever enough."
"She played six others in her launch group too. The game spat them back into the normal spaces and they've been operating normally since. It put her and the telepath in their own unique, unprecedented environments, and then it fused them together."
"So you don't know how to interpret the results anymore because it's made itself multiplayer and put her in a civ-building sim, that's the problem? I'm not impressed with our psych people anymore if they can't tell anything about her from how she runs a civilization."
"We can make guesses, but they aren't derived from past data the way our usual results are."
"I still don't see why this warrants a meeting, sir. Doesn't she write her notes anymore?"
"She's started doing them in gibberish - don't laugh. We break codes all the time, kiddy ciphers that they sometimes start journaling in are just automatically cracked by computer. This one isn't. Every analysis we run on it shows that she might as well be typing random letters and numbers rhythmically and drawing dots by poking randomly at her screen. There's no consistency day to day or from one ten-minute block to the next."
"I thought something like this might happen eventually. Something happened to her that she's not willing to take the risk of someone reading. Or she knows now that she's getting read, one of the two."
"We know that. We don't understand how to crack it. She's one of yours, figure it out."
"I'm not going to be able to -"
"We'll give you a cryptanalyst of your very own tied up in ribbon."
"Sir, that won't help. It's not going to be a cipher. She doesn't take notes so that you can read them. She doesn't take notes so that anyone can read them. Their primary purpose is to put her thoughts somewhere outside of her brain, and they only need to make sense to her in that format long enough for her to inspect them. If she types an asterisk, it means something to her, and she can hold that correspondence in working memory long enough to serve her purposes, and it will never, ever yield to cryptanalysis. I'm sure it's more comfortable for her to work in English or Stark, easier for her to refer back to past work, but she's apparently decided that - for reasons of content or risk assessment - it's no longer worth the hazard to her mental privacy."
"If we can't get psych data out of her from the game and we can't use her journal -"
"You can get psych data from the game. I don't see how you could fail to get psych data from the game. It gave her a civ-builder. What did she do with it?"
"She built a civilization. I told you."
"What's her friend doing?"
"He's not your concern."
"He's interacting with her game."
"He builds arbitrary things. Sets stuff on fire. Watches procedurally-generated landscape scroll by. Teaches her subjects to dance. Follows her around to see what she does, when they're on a the same time, he helped her make a crown to put on her avatar. We've got other people figuring him out. It's her I'm talking to you about."
"So she didn't, say, slaughter the inhabitants of the civ sim, like half the little psychopaths you collect up here would, she didn't ignore it until the game offered her something else, she spends lots of her free time teaching virtual creatures to make and do things."
"Which is uninformative, which was no problem until she started typing nonsense into her journal."
"Well, if you can't figure out who she is by watching her play princess with game critters, and if she hasn't convinced you that she is who she is in the two years and change you've had her, you could always do something ludicrously old-fashioned."
"Talk to her."
"We'll consider it. What's your advice on how to approach her?"
"Don't give her any bullshit."
"You think she's a lie-detector as well as an untelepath?"
"Not especially. I think in the event that she finds out that you're willing to lie to her, she'll become so paranoid that you will never learn anything from her again. She might become unusable."
"Self-possessed. She respects herself more than eight-year-olds normally do. Did you read what the psych boys generated from her notes?"
"The what do I want, what do I -"
"I remember that, yes."
"If you make it clear that she does not have reliable information, at least from you, the answers to her questions won't be ones you'll like. She's not intrinsically contrary or uncooperative. She doesn't even have an objection to being understood, as long as she knows what's going on. But she's not suited for being a blinkered pawn, either, not in any context that matters to her."
"I don't know why you pretend you work for us. We ask you for pawns and you hand us a queen."
"Someone has to fetch up a few children who aren't sociopaths in training. A little balance."
"She's fallen in with the craziest kid we've ever launched."
"Maybe she'll build him a civilization, too."