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“Well,” said C. W. slowly, “I reckon it’s possible.”

“Possible! Come on, Cecil, there’s no other explanation.” Caroline grinned – she couldn’t help but grin. It was an exciting prospect. “They’ve got to be intelligent!”

“Lightning bugs flash in patterns. They ain’t intelligent.”

“Lightning bugs flash in patterns according to their species,” said Caroline. “I mean, that’s what you told me, when you were telling me about lightning bugs.” Maybe she’d be better at this if she’d actually grown up on Earth – if she remembered growing up on Earth. But maybe it was because she hadn’t grown up on Earth, that Hunrath was nearly all she remembered, that she could see that the Arai had to be intelligent. “Besides, why would a Kaptar cell be swapped out if there weren’t intelligent creatures there to save?”

C. W. scoffed. “Saved. You been talking to the Villein too much. Things just happen. Good things, bad things. No karffin’ sense to any of it. Just saying, don’t get your hopes up so high they might be smashed. Maybe they’re smart, and maybe they’re just bugs. You’ve been spending a lot of time in Kaptar and they ain’t talked to you yet.”

“I don’t know. Maybe they’ve been talking all along. I just don’t know how to listen.” She couldn’t keep the frustration out of her voice. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I shouldn’t bother.”

“Now, I never said that. After all, that everyone’s problem, ain’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Take a look.” He led her out of the workshop to the catwalk, gestured around the tiny downtown. “There’s Yune, working in the garden with Werner. When she arrived she didn’t speak one word of English.”

“So if you understand why I want to do this, why are you coming up with reasons I shouldn’t?”

He shrugged. “Not saying you shouldn’t. But we-all knew Yune was a person, even if we didn’t understand what she was saying. I just don’t want you settin’ yourself up for disappointment.”

“I’ll be more disappointed if I don’t try.”

He looked down at the dusty landscape, then back up at her. “Yeah, that’s you, all right. I know full well there ain’t no sense in trying to change your mind. Did you talk to Sims?”

“Of course. And yes, he was skeptical too, but he agreed it’s worth giving a shot.”

“You goin’ now, then?”

She nodded. “I wanted to let you know, so you wouldn’t worry about me. I’ve packed a bedroll, and food for a week.”

“If you don’t come back in a week, I’ll come looking for you. And I’m gonna worry about you anyways, you know that.”

“I do,” she said, giving his arm a squeeze. “You take care while I’m gone.”

Her heart felt light as she headed back down the steps. After all, even with their differences, the two of them had learned to communicate with each other, and even become friends. How much harder could it be to learn to communicate with the Arai?