Ioan sat, startled, as Dear quit abruptly, leaving em sitting alone at the cafe table. There was a certain peculiarity to that fox’s sense of humor, and while ey was slowly picking up on it, the occasional bafflement remained.
Ey took eir time finishing eir coffee, enjoying the view. A thoroughfare. Small crowds — some doubtless generated for effect. Enjoyed a moment’s downtime before getting back into the puzzle at hand, then stood and straightened eir slacks.
Well, at least ey had more information to work with.
“Welcome back,” #tracker said when ey arrived at home. “You have some mail.”
Ey frowned, tugged the cream-colored envelope from the edge of the desk and turned it over in eir hands. Blank except eir signifier on the front, flap sealed on the back. Perhaps something about what ey’d been working on recently had piqued some interest on the reputation exchange. Another offer? And yet directly to this instance.
Making eir way out to the deck, ey popped the seal on the envelope, savoring the subtle tearing of the paper where the adhesive held fast. The paper was quite nice, the handwriting cramped and awkward, but legible in its green-tinged blue ink. Someone had put real effort into this.
Dear has mentioned your aversion to sensorium messages, and I gather from your taste in clothing and our brief meeting that you have a certain aesthetic you enjoy. I hope that this scrap of note suits you well. The paper seemed up your alley, at least.
You’ll have to forgive Dear. It really is stretched quite thin with its gallery show, and with the increased intraclade communication, it is feeling the pressure to keep forks to a minimum, as apparently there are no further names available. (It hasn’t told the rest of the clade how many illicit forks it has. I suspect they all do.)
There is more to this that I think it is not sharing explicitly, but we’ve been together for a few years now, and I have my guesses. I think the intraclade attention is not precisely welcome. Having met some of its cocladists, I’m inclined to think that some more conservative types are being less than generous with their treatment of the subject at hand. Perhaps with their information as well.
All this to say that there is a reason for the fox acting the way it is. I will not apologize on Dear’s behalf, it knows me better than that, but I hope an increase in transparency as to what all is going on in the family politic will help.
Ioan smiled, re-folded the letter, and replaced it within its envelope. It joined the small pile ey kept.
Dear’s partner had a good heart, and it was indeed a relief to learn that some of the fox’s erratic behavior was attributable to stress. None of eir family had uploaded, and, by eir very nature, ey did not create eir own as the Odists had.
Ey did not envy it now.
The archive itself was a free-form database stored in the perisystem. It could hold essentially unlimited data in truly unlimited formats. Everything from text and structured data to full-sensorium recordings. Each blob of data was stored in a node, and nodes could be tagged and linked.
Unfashionable and difficult to work with, not to mention expensive to maintain, Ioan wasn’t entirely clear why they had been added to the system. Exocortices had been around before the system itself. More personal, easier to interface with. Harder to share, granted.
Some remnant from its construction, perhaps?
Luckily, as an historian, ey had some experience working with them, even if that experience was decades old at this point. Ey pulled out a fresh sheet of foolscap and began to write, and by writing, interacted with the archive.
If archives were difficult to work with, this one doubly so. Nodes that weren’t tagged, listed publicly, or linked to from other nodes were essentially inaccessible unless one had access to the index. Ey did not. That was something usually kept within an exocortex.
And here, few nodes were listed publicly, fewer still were linked to by others, and none were tagged. While traversing a well-pruned archive might still be akin to rifling through a card catalog to dig out books, this was no more than a file box stuffed full of loose papers.
Ioan’s heart fell.
Of the nodes that were publicly listed, at least four were encrypted by something stronger than the original AES block. Ioan set those aside to knock against later. Another was a simple text blob with twenty-three blocks of five letters each. Further encryption? A different type? Ey could not guess which. Dear had mentioned one involving playing cards.
That left only three public nodes, one of which was an error. The other two…
Ioan’s muscles went rigid. The first appeared to be a deleted blob of audiovisual data which referred to the second. A transcript of the conversation Ioan had had with Dear earlier that day.
They were being watched. Followed.
Ey read through the transcript once, then again, more thoroughly. There were a few notes made by this Qoheleth. They spoke of a familiarity that had only been hinted at with the previous letter. Our Dear. What did that mean?
Perhaps this individual was part of the clade itself?
Ioan frowned. The vehemence with which Dear — whom ey suspected was one of the more liberal of the Odists — had reacted when ey had asked about the author of the ode itself seemed to rule that out. If Dear, willing to bring on an amanuensis, was that protective, ey found it dubious that one of its cocladists was Qoheleth.
A friend, then? Mutual with the poet?
That was something ey would have to ask Dear about. Ey could speculate all ey wanted, but there was little ey could divine about that aspect.
The rest, then. Qoheleth seemed to be expecting that things were accelerating toward some sort of conclusion. I may have less time than I had thought.
And Ioan was being guided, somehow.
“How? Guide me how?” ey growled down at the paper. “It’s all fucking encrypted.”
#Tracker looked up, frowned.
Ioan#c1494bf shook eir head and apologized. Perhaps ey should take Dear up on the offer to stay with it and its partner.