Désiré led him out the door and into the hallway. There were still people and machines moving about, but it was quieter than it was before. "The Center isn't like a hospital," he explained. "At least, not a hospital as hospitals were in our times. They don't have that mania…that sense of emergencies at every hour."
They walked along, Désiré explaining this or that feature. "Notice the paintings? They love art. Not very much into abstract, I'm afraid. Or conceptional. " He laughed. "Same is true for their other arts. Sculpture, 3D graphics, theater…."
Bobbi nodded. "What is their written literature like?"
"Oh, similar. Some good. Some bad. Some very good."
"And their poetry?"
"They write a good deal of it." Désiré paused. "But, funny thing, they don't write much in Alona. They have regional languages. Europe and the Americas speak something called Pantos. East Asia has Aeflinisa. And that's what they write their poetry in."
"But," Bobbi guessed, "Alona is reserved for communication and legal purposes."
"Why, yes. How did you know?"
Bobbi said. "It has to be. You couldn't write poetry or literature in Alona. It is a constructed language designed to be a lingua franca. An interlingua."
Désiré came a stop and stared at him. "It's an artificial language?"
Bobbi found himself slipping into lecture mode. "Well, just consider the verbs…" Every language, he explained, that is actually used in real life by real people has some verbs that are regular—that is, they obey a common set of rules. "Like the English verb 'Jump.' It is completely regular. I jump. You jump. They jump. Or in the past tense, I jumped. You jumped. They jumped. The same word in each case changed in only minor ways to show differences in time. It always follows the rules."
But, now, he said, "consider another English verb, Be." That wasn't even remotely regular. I am. You are. He is. "The same meaning, the same verb, but expressed by three different words."
"Ah, oui," Désiré agreed. "We have the same thing in French. Je suis. Te es. Il est."
"Nous sommes. Vous etres," Bobbi added, remembering his high school French. "Every language…every human language…has some sort of irregular verbs. And they're usually the verbs that one uses the most often."
"But not Alona," Désiré said, suddenly understanding.
"Exactly. In Alona, all the verbs, all the time, behave in exactly the same way."
Désiré shook his head. "You are absolutely right. I have never noticed it."
"It's so consistent," Bobbi continued, meditatively, "that I wonder if it wasn't designed by a machine of some sort. It is a little too logical."
Désiré shook his head. "Were you a linguist in your first life?"
"Pardon?" Bobbi remembered where and when he was. "Oh, no. I was a continuity editor for video games."
"A what kind a editor?"
"Continuity," he smiled. "Let's just say it was my job to make certain that if something happened at one level of the game then it was the logical outgrowth of what happened in the previous level. Or, to put it another way, I was supposed to find things that didn't make sense. Didn't fit the pattern." He felt a little wistful. "I was good at it. I was always good at seeing things that weren't quite right. I could always spot the Discontinuity."
"I understand…" Désiré was quiet for a moment but took Bobbi by the arm. "Listen to me. Everything you've just said is fascinating. But don’t say it in front of the Women…our Dominas. They don't find that kind of intelligence attractive in a man. They want to believe there isn't a thought in that pretty little head of yours."
"Oh," Bobbi felt embarrassed. "Of course. Of course. Sorry. I got carried away."
"Not a problem. Just remember, no matter how interesting you find it, they probably don't want to hear it. D'accord?"
"Bravo. But," and he gave the other boy a wink, "when we're alone, tell me more. This is most interesting."