"And it's glitching again," Deccan muttered. They said a brief chant over the stacked glass discs of the hierarchical sieve, one of the dozens of abtrusely complex devices hooked up to this trunk of the main Dish feed. Of the glyphs that materialized briefly over it, more were orange than healthy green. The instrument was badly out of tune. "I don't get it. Working fine all week."
"Other Side's riled up," you said. "Excited, even. We're pushing in deeper. You hear they brought another C-machine online for a few minutes yesterday?"
"No bullshit. Feedback burned out a conduit but I hear it's just a matter of dropping the phase lag a little."
"Where'd you hear that? Since when do you get briefed on C-machine projects?" they asked. "I've been here six years, all of it working with the Dish, they don't tell me jack about the other groups."
You've said too much. You're still new to keeping this kind of secret. "Around. Lunchroom chatter." You'd heard it, but… not in the lunchroom.
You wanted to get your colleague of four years off the topic. Dec was good people, but Dec's boyfriend was political. So you made a quick gesture behind your back. There was a high-pitched whine and pop, and a hairline crack crawled across the topmost of the sieve's disks.
"Aw, hell!" Deccan said. They repeated the chant; the glyph constellation mostly orange and red this time. "Gonna need a new one from supply." They looked at you, inquiring.
"Get it yourself, Dec," you said, smiling apologetically. "I gotta get a good baseline with the shadowscope this shift and my window starts in a few minutes."
"Fine," they said, "but next time you want kafi, you're brewing your own." They stuck their tongue out at you as they headed for the door.
Once they left, you muttered a little chant of your own over the sieve. The crack healed. The machine was in tune again. You still needed the station's equipment to hear the voice you'd heard that one night running another long solo shift on the shadowscope, the one that left images in your head glowing in colors on the far side of darkness, and a newfound ability to carefully twist space without saying a syllable to the swarm.
The same voice that'd complained about the dissonant spikes of a badly tuned C-machine last night. But it? (they? she?) said you, personally, weren't at fault. There were more elegant ways to talk, and soon, once you learned how to listen, you wouldn't need anything at all. A few minutes alone with the sieve, and you'd have the last piece.
Dec and the others of your group might understand. Maybe. Not all of them. But the bosses didn't pay you anywhere near enough to let them know one of their contact projects had already worked.