We walked through the Never-born as they made camp. He circulated always among them, with a kind word here and there. The scout-captains came up to him, bringing reports of other herds. The first flames of cooking fires lit the falling dark. When we had circled through all the camp, we sat. Julius brought the evening’s wine and left, going about the silent business of the Never-born.
I thought for a moment. “Are the hearts of the Never-born linked, like the mastodons?”
“Their heart stands beside itself. The Never-born have centers of consciousness and memory.”
I thought of the men I knew most well. “Grim Marcus and laughing Julius,” I said.
“Among others. But those are deep and true.”
“If I asked them about the Profusion, they would remember it?”
He rubbed his hands together. “You would think they did not remember enough.” Nearer the woods, the matriarch sighed sleepily. My own mastodon stood sentinel, wary as the first stars appeared.
“The dream I had that was not dream, but memory,” I said. “That was the White Swarm speaking to me. Is that how they speak to you, through dreams?”
He closed his eyes. “With me, the dreaming never ends,” he said.
For a while I listened to the sounds of poles and canvas being raised. It reminded me of the day the blizzard fell, and Meno and Cratyus died.
“You have said that the White Swarm overwrites the minds of other machines,” I said at last, “but the White Swarm healed my arm and ribs, the ones the smilodon shattered. In Ariel, the Well of Faith’s Healing said that it had healed the first Faith from injuries of that kind. Tell me, then: will the Swarm gain the abilities of the machines the mastodons carry, and attribute them to us?”
He closed his eyes. “We will not succeed in any other way.”