I am writing these notes, which I am certain that you will dispute, because I don’t want to replay the video conversation multiple times. That is all. If you want my perspective, you can have it here; if not, please skip this entry entirely because you know what you experienced, Liga, and you know what I want.
Let’s start at the beginning. The indicator lights from your computer equipment bathed you in surreal green and sky-scattered light. It was afternoon, so you must have drawn those shades over the balcony doors that I saw hanging partially open the last time we spoke. You unmuted the conversation channel, routed my image to a wall screen in your room, and I saw myself. You were sitting at your desk, only partially turned towards me. I saw the dry eyes solvent on the desk, the remains of a meal on a cart, and an unmade bed. I heard nothing but the faint sounds of the street.
You sat back in the chair and made eye contact with the camera. “I turned on the feed recorder. Sorry about that,” you said quickly and formally. Your voice had a flatness to it that tensed it and moved it forward in your mouth. “Clients have priority.”
The way you said it made me think of those short action adventure films about ghostly secret lairs and illicit High Wilds technology that they screen after hours in the cinemas. Your face softened suddenly. You can be kind-eyed and docile when you don’t have that intensity.
“There has been suspicious chatter in some Daybreak circles since we last spoke,” you said. You dimmed the video feed and began typing, and what you next said was broken into bursts. “Some of my associates noticed it. It’s not just in Shija, but in Narahja and Iturja — no word in Nasja. We are still developing infiltration strategies for Nasja, and it’s taken us decades thus far.”
“We?” Our eyes locked. You did not mean to say it like that, Liga, but I held you to those words then, and I will hold you to what you said until the answer becomes satisfactory. What if you are in some rival group to Daybreak? What if you are in Daybreak itself and this is a tightly-wound nest of lies?
Liga, this is what you said: “I am affiliated with a clandestine organization that looks into matters. Technically, I am an employee. I don’t — this is more high-profile than what I usually do. They are giving me more attention than usual, and it’s not particularly thrilling to always have those pressing eyes. I find it hard to focus.”
What does that even mean?
Something happened in the chat on the screen, and you frowned. I saw an image. “Shit,” you said.
“Was that lim?” I took off my shoes and gyena and moved into a more comfortable position on my bed.
You barely looked away from your computer, and you dug your teeth into your lower lip, breathing out softly all the while. “Who?”
“Yes and no. I’m not entirely sure how to field this, Salus. This might not be the best time for a discussion.” Your diction did not sound like yours.
“Just tell me: Have you been reading my entries?”
“Of course. You’ve read my comments?” That sounded like you.
In the kitchen, Kati swore and turned on loud music. Le started singing along. “Do you have anything to say? What do you mean by that ‘chatter,’ and how am I supposed to navigate Aneti? Sehutañi. Sehutañi.”
You paused again, and your eyes shifted to the side as if you could hear something that I couldn’t. “How much do you know about the Daybreak Movement, Salus Niksubvya?”
“Only what you told me, what we learned in school — I have plans to do research in the library later this week because I don’t want those searches tied to my Net account.”
You bit your lower lip and said, “We have the staffing schedules for the library in Galasu. You will visit at the time we state and request a specific person. It’s for your own safety.” And then you said, “I can give you some information to help you get started. The Daybreak Movement doesn’t operate like most political movements. It has no center at all. They create small cells and communicate via word-of-mouth. You keep transcripts of audiovisual recordings — don’t snicker, Salus, this is really important — and you have a smart paper journal. If someone wanted to hack into your information streams, they could have. I’ve pushed code to your devices to deter monitoring crawlers. Members of the Daybreak Movement do not have someone with my experience. They prefer to meet in person without voice recordings, and they hold their meetings in public places. They covered their mouths on the security feeds from the Skyrail, for example, but they otherwise looked quite normal. They use old paper, and they burn it. There is a courier system that we are trying to infiltrate right now.”
I closed my eyes and considered Aneti’s workstation at the office. I keep personal items on my desk, but le has nothing that would acquaint others with ler personality — not even sacred texts and inspirational quotations, and everyone keeps those out.
Now that I remember it, Aneti has taken me to a stationery store. Le chose the old-fashioned paper, bleached indigo, almost purple, with visible paper fibers. While le made ler selections, I searched through the racks of smart paper for audio stickers, image slide show inserts, and colorful inks. I don’t remember it completely, but I think le rolled ler eyes and said something about the sophistication of classic paper. Le must use paper for Daybreak. Does le use any smart paper? How will this complicate finding documents?
“You meant to say that spying on them creates more problems than it solves, correct? If you’re hearing something from them at all, that must mean something significant. Something is about to happen.”
I licked my lips. “Liga, does that mean that this will be significant? I have so many unanswered questions for you. I have doubts that we can find the information before something happens. Do you know about the rank of the official?”
You looked away from the camera and said, “We know nothing.”
“Are you lying?”
“We have a list of officials whom the surveillance equipment ignores. The list keeps growing longer. The list currently contains about 1,000 people. Seventeen of them are world leaders. Two hundred of them live in small towns across the globe. The remainder are somewhere in the middle. You cannot say that none of them is important. Great families rise from ordinary fields like vines climbing up cliff-rocks, like yours.”
I won’t call you out on what you just said because I accidentally mentioned something yesterday that should have been left unsaid, and I’ve censored it. Please do not say anything about that again.
“You want me to trust you. Why do you consort with nuamua?”
“I will annotate your journal with some information. I can type something up for you to search on, a second entry to yesterday. I would tell you now, but — I really — there’s something that I have to sort out.”
“You haven’t answered any of my more serious questions.”
“I know.” You glanced at your computer screen. “I will have something to say soon.”
“No.” You paused and bit your lower lip.
“You can’t keep doing this to me, Liga. How can I refrain from suspecting you of wrongdoing in a situation like this?”
You opened and closed your mouth. You glanced at the camera, your eyes went out of focus, and you looked away. Your hands trembled into fists, and you squeezed your eyes shut, brow furrowed. Your body froze like that. I mentally counted to thirty.
“I —” — and you sighed —
The feed stopped. How could you have cut it when you could hardly move? I sat for a full five minutes in complete denial of what had just happened. If you have read my entries, why won’t you act? Why do you deflect my more serious questions? Why did you cut me off?
If you want my loyalty for this project, Liga! If you want my loyalty!
The search is more complicated than I thought. The query has been redirected to our librarian contact by someone within my organization. Please don’t ask about what happened. Go to the Galasu Knowledge Foundation tomorrow at 10h.45. Ask the attendant for Deohårañi’s office and say that you have an appointment.