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Deep in the conversation mines, Mallory toils away, boring through data as dense as stone. There are no pure veins to be struck down here: all she can hope for is the occasional nugget, to be prized out and brushed clean. It’s really a lot like fossil-hunting. Which makes sense, if you buy that thing about new ideas.

Everyone gets pissy about having their small talk tapped, but they’re misunderstanding. Mallory doesn’t care about their privacy, not even enough to invade it: all she wants is those glittering moments of perfect human expression, to teach her what no heuristic can.