Tak and Herschel Wallaby still love to tell the story of how their firstborn child hacked the television at age four.
"We always thought she might be gifted," Herschel will say. (They both use "she" now, no matter who they're talking to.) "But we didn't want to let parental pride get the best of us when she might only be doing things by rote, you know? Anyway, I was rewiring a secondhand microwave in the office — I still remember the model — while Tak was sweeping up in the kitchen, when the TV comes on."
"No big deal, right?" Tak will add. "Of course we had all the usual controls, blocking anything violent, anything sexual, plus most of the Capitol programming — especially during Games week. So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden we hear Cecil Palmer's voice coming from the living room."
"We both dropped everything. I still don't know why. He announces so many things, any one of them could've been in reruns. But no, the holo was playing the opening ceremonies — and there was our baby sitting next to the projector, with its back popped off and wires sticking out every which way, totally enthralled."
"We end up letting her watch until the procession is over. Easier than trying to explain why 'parade day' isn't a good thing." Tak always gets a little wistful at this point. "At the end, she turns to me and says, Daddy, can I get a sparkly dress like the girl from Five had?"
And Herschel will sigh. "There was so much about her we didn't know."
Megan was six and a half when second grade began, which means she must have been about six-and-three-quarters the day she sat next to Janice Carlsberg in art class and said, "How come you can't walk?"
"Because my legs don't work," said Janice. "Do you have a green crayon? I need green."
"No. And I mean, how come you still can't walk? You're rich. You could visit the Capitol and have them make your legs work if you wanted."
Most people from Three never even got to visit the Capitol, but Janice's stepdad was one of their Victors, so as far as Megan could tell that meant he got to go anywhere he wanted. And obviously nothing was beyond the reach of the doctors in the big city. They could make you see in the dark, or give you a tail like a tiger. They could make your body heal the worst scars, or totally change its shape if you were born with the wrong one. If you had a limb that was totally missing, they could grow you a whole new one from scratch! Megan's parents couldn't even afford a cheap claw to put over the stump of her left forearm.
It would be a while before she understood that bodies were slipperier things than machines, and couldn't necessarily be made to do whatever you want if you just attached the right circuits and programmed the right code.
"Daddy says the Capitol destroys everything it touches," said Janice matter-of-factly. "Do you have blue? I have yellow, so I could just mix that with the blue if you had blue."
"Okay." Megan handed her the crayon in question.
"I don't understand why yellow and blue don't make green on the computer," added Janice. "They should just make it work like crayons do. It would be easier."
"It's because the values on the computer describe the amounts of light output by the pixels in the LCD screen," said Megan. Wasn't that obvious?