“He worked in a small

“He worked in a small shed, at the far edge of the compound, in order, he said, to ‘avoid the conversations’ of the other machines. The whole I time I was in the crater, he was the only person who talked like that about the machines, that recognized their voices as more than an interface. I spent a whole day with him once; I never touched the little machines, only watched as he stroked their sides and muttered at them, in a soft pattering language that I didn’t know.

“And once he’d started his work, he completely ignored me, but I entertained myself trying to understand the structure of this language, the pattern-sounds of the words. I’d become almost hypnotized, and nearly conviced myself that I’d learned it entire as well. Then he tapped on my shoulder, and I startled.

“‘Come, get a drink and have a stretch,’ he said with a sore and trembling voice. We walked all the way around the compound, stopping by the house he shared with Joan and the children for a drink of water. Now I knew why he looked so tired when I saw him on his little walks. For a ‘non-scientist’ (and I knew some there who thought of it that way) his work seemed quite challenging. As he began talking about his work with the machines, and a little bit of how he’d come into working with the communications modules, I began to understand that he loved his work, as well.