EAR took hours to assemble. It was a preposterously complex device in a package small enough to fit inside the human ear canal. Since this was still just the prototype, the manufacturing was being done in-house on machines that performed processes even Robert couldn’t fully follow along with, layering thin filaments of plastic, assembling miniature logic boards from platinum and gold and copper, carefully sliding microprocessors into their appointed places.
The other workers came to the office. They nattered about. There was a party. Someone set a plastic cup full of eggnog before Robert, but he didn’t glance at it or at the person who’d brought it to him. He watched the manufacturer with unblinking impatience, utterly unable to control the processes he had set into motion (just as he would be once he presented the device to Trina Kurtz,) but utterly unwilling to look away all the same. The other workers left, Robert only dimly aware of their presence and grunting acknowledgments to their wishes for him to have a happy holiday. Given the emptiness and the absence of sound, he assumed it was night. Some time later, the manufacturer announced that EAR was finished with a pleasing chime.
Trina stepped into his office a few minutes later, as if she’d been waiting for this moment all along. It occurred to Robert that she might have a camera in his office somewhere, or else employee monitoring software on his computer, but this didn’t really bother him.
Nothing really bothered him anymore.
“Is it ready?” she asked, knowing full well that it was.
Robert ran his tongue across his lips, took a deep breath. He’d rehearsed this moment in his mind, thought carefully about what he was going to say. He’d committed it to paper months ago, dreamed about it, ran through it over and over as he’d watched EAR slowly come together over the course of the day. “Yes, but Trina, you–”
“Give it here.”
Robert turned around in his seat. That he might not get more than a few words out had occurred to him, but it was still frustrating to see things deviating from how he had imagined they would go. But then, his life had deviated from how he’d imagined it would go months past. What did Trina’s impatience matter now? “Of course, Trina,” he said, turning back to his desk, carefully opening the manufacturer, pulling out EAR in all its silicone and titanium glory.