(click individual photos above for captions)
James blinked first. He’d been a formidable opponent in the staring contests of his youth; as an adult, however, he was unaccustomed to battling a cranky workstation.
“It’s nothing…uh, personal,” he muttered by way of apology, sprinkling a smidgen of sympathy into his voice. “I just—how can I be sure where my words go after I type them? Do they even belong to me any longer?”
THE WORDS YOU TYPE ARE CONVERTED INTO ONES AND ZEROES. THEY ARE THEN SHIPPED TO THEIR NEW MAGNETIC DOMICILE, the screen replied, its letters swimming in a perfectly-aligned timestream. YOU DESIGN SYSTEMS, JAMES. YOU ARE ACTUTELY AWARE OF THIS INFORMATION. HAS YOUR FAITH ABANDONED YOU?
A dozy sigh slipped out as the engineer rubbed his temples and tried to ignore the light piercing sting chewing up his back. “I know that. Obviously. I do know that. But if you don’t have any independent functioning…then how are we having this conversation?”
At the opposite end of the hall, one of the overnight cleaning staffers delivered a pun. Her colleague chortled loudly as they attacked the breakroom kitchen with Swiffers. James concentrated, attempting to attenuate the noise. He glared at the monitor, waiting for the cursor to reappear.
But the cursor would not blink.