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metal. She noticed then that the shades of gray on the back of the mouse were shifting. She put her hand under the desk light. The surface of the mouse was changing shades in block segments, one small rectangle of skin now a light gray, then a charcoal, then a medium gray. Overall the pattern gave the sense of lines of charcoal proceeding slowly down the mouse's back. The device seemed activated.

It was so beautiful, so elegant. Neurons fired, circuits responded, patterns emerged. And to this beat it carried out its function, living, breathing, its functioning a song, a march in lockstep, unified in purpose, focused, uplifting. It was the machine, and the machine was the universe. It towered dark in the vault of the sky, ageless, mighty, a perfect mechanism, never tiring, never slowing. Perfect grace, perfect control, form and function integrated into the circuitry of the unbroken loop, the iteration, the closed universe, in which was written on the neural pathways and in the dark microscopic voids its purpose, circulating like a shadow through the heart of the machine. Her life belonged to the machine. She loved the machine.

Anna dropped the mouse onto her desk and jumped out of her chair. Something had happened. The shifting of the gray blocks slowed, stopped. What had she been thinking? Alien thoughts. The mouse's thoughts. The mouse had been communicating its thoughts to her. The mouse, the loyal tool, had been communicating its love of its job. And it had nearly overwhelmed her in the process. Anna backed away from the desk, her heart pounding. The mouse sat quietly in the circle of light from her desk lamp. Holding the mouse and concentrating on it had somehow activated it. How could she have lost herself so easily? For a few moments, she had forgotten who she
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