The Difference

“What is it doing?” Sorley asked. His eyes fell in on the fractally regressive gears smoothly rearranging dumb matter into information.

The lieutenant peered over his daily rag, squint-eyed with incredulity. “It’s calculating,” he said. And–flick!–up went the paper, hiding his face.

Finding an engine like that was rare enough on its own. But here was one in a jail cell, and its keeper so accustomed to his ward that he had become immunized to the wonder of it.

“Calculating what?” Sorley ventured.

The lieutenant drooped his paper again and regarded Sorley. The lieutenant had not considered this question. He opened his mouth to speak, and the engine fell abruptly silent.