“What was it like, living

“What was it like, living there? Most of the time, it was routine, so much so that I began to think of it as normal. I woke just after the sun slid down into the crater — a little later in winter, a little earlier in summer, folded Marcus’ bunk back into the wall, slipped into the cleaning cubicle, ate a little breakfast. I ran through lesson plans, the ‘le’ voice of the Imperium reciting facts, answering and asking questions. I talked back, recording my essays, then, later my journal entries. I stopped for lunch, an afternoon stroll around the compound or down into the jungle.

“I spent a little time with the few adults who welcomed my presence — Joan, Xersu, Alphonse. Joan was the only one who shared her work with me; the others merely chatted at me, as if I were a child who wouldn’t understand. Joan gave me real work to do, though later it occured to me that I’d done work normally given to machines. Nonetheless, she always welcomed me cheerfully, and I always enjoyed the time with her. (I did notice that her children didn’t visit her there, perhaps only because they were in school.)

“As dusk gathered along the top of the crater and darkness filled its hollows, I made my way back to Marcus’ dwelling, ate a little dinner, then either had the voice read me stories, wrote a little more in my journal, or went back outside. I often spent hours, well into the middle of the night, staring up into the stars. I never quite got over the changed sky, the different and moved constellations.

“More than once, Alphonse found me while on her rounds, but rarely ever managed to startle me.”