The designated meeting point was the prairie in front of Dear’s house. Ioan was confused as to why they didn’t just meet in Qoheleth’s sim, until ey realized that many members of the clade had not met in years or decades, or, in the case of up-tree instances, ever.
For a family reunion, it was quite stiff. Formal and tense. Probably not the best of circumstances, Ioan thought.
Ey focused on eir job as amanuensis.
Ey was surprised at the variety of the cladists. It made sense, of course, for a dispersionista clade, but it was the direction in which the differences headed which intrigued em. The most notable difference was the species presentation ratio. Many of the cladists were still human, mostly short woman with dark hair.
“Fewer foxes than I had imagined,” Ioan observed.
“Hmm? There is me and Serene, yes." Dear dragged Ioan over to meet her. Serene was quite similar to Dear, though with natural coloration rather than the iridescent white fur that Dear maintained. Dear gave her a tight hug and introduced her to Ioan as the one who had designed the landscape of its property. Ioan liked her at once.
Dear also introduced Ioan to That Which Lives Is Forever Praiseworthy, its immediate down-tree instance, also eminently likeable.
“Why only you two? Why are you the only foxes?”
Dear shrugged. Serene looked away. Praiseworthy gave Ioan a sharp look, and ey dropped the subject.
Of those that bore forms other than fox and human, Ioan could not tell. Ey supposed that ey would do some research after the fact to try and place name to species and species to line in the Ode. Perhaps there was a pattern, and perhaps not.
“You must understand that while uploading was attractive early on to those with an interest in explroing the differen shapes a body could take," Dear had explained. “Few were able to accomplish that on initial upload. Many furries uploaded, few wound up looking like their avatars in the sims of the past. You wind up looking like how your brain pictures itself on some level more fundamental than merely preference."
Ey nodded. “I look much how I did before, yes, though I’ve made a few changes.”
“Changes require forking, though, yes? And if forking is expensive…" The fox trailed off, shrugged.
Ey supposed it was due to the individual preferences that each long-lived fork had gained in its time away from the root of the clade once forking became cheaper. The remaining Odists who had not changed — or who had changed very little — even after the cost had come down were the ones who Ioan suspected Dear referred to as “conservatives”.
And yet they were only similar. No two were identical. Each had picked up some of their own distinguishing characteristics, whether through intentional mutation or through accident and acquired experience. It was an interesting artifact of the dissolution strategy: fork, fork often and be deliberate about it, but do not let the self dissolve completely.
Michelle herself was notably absent, though Dear assured the historian that she was still very much alive. “She said that, if anyone should remain behind, it was her, as she had started this whole damn thing."
“And how do you feel about that choice?”
Dear shrugged, unsmiling. “Her choice is her own. I would have preferred that she be here, but then I would have preferred everyone be as invested in this as I am, and we know that not to be the case."
There were a few tag-alongs aside from Ioan, as well. Folks immediately identified as out-clade. A few friends. A few partners, singular and plural. Some who ey suspected were like emself: historians and helpers, here to witness and record. The ‘catalogers, feelers, and experiencers’ Dear had mentioned. One of the conservatives (at Ioan’s guess, at least) had even brought a reputation analyst along with her, a slight Asian gentleman who introduced himself as Qián Guōwēi.
It was an interesting move, bringing along someone whose job was that of market analysis to perhaps the strangest family reunion in history. This Guōwēi did not speak much to anyone at all, and few spoke to him in return. It seemed to be some unspoken agreement that the reputation expert remain aloof, somehow above those whose reputations were at stake.
And then it was time. Dear announced that the party would be leaving in five minutes.