The RSC logo, black shield, gold and red lettering, warns off invaders and waves to passersby--a wall that doubles as a billboard.
Punter, disembodied, moves around it unconcerned. It ignores him too. He moves as far as he can into the fort, then disappears.
You know, of course, that when you are in Netspace, what you see there are data structures. You don't see them as data structures. Instead, these structures have a variety of algorithms applied to them, and these algorithms convert the data into the visual syntax of the Netspace interface.
Even a marvel such as Cognito can only hold a limited amount of Net data. No matter the hype, Cognito can't come anywhere close to storing "all" of the Net's data. In order to maximize the amount of data he can access while disconnected from the Net, Punter has not stored the data structures with the algorithms applied--they've been stored separately.
So what he has to do here is search the data for familiar loci. He selects one and then he rezzes all the data corresponding to that locus.
It's a time-consuming process, but Punter's got plenty of time.
He's inside now. This is the fort he meant to run on with Mateo in the Sidekick. He's been here before, so he can see all the way into the fort. The fort is empty. Here he is surrounded by a deep blue-gray, untouched Netspace, waiting for something to store.
Punter doesn't have a face right now, but if he did, it would show puzzlement. All kinds of puzzlement.
In fact, although Punter rarely swears, now he does so unrighteously. The fort is completely empty.
Once he gets his bearings, he looks around for relationships between the structures. There's nothing to interact with, so he can, for instance, walk around the ICE he knows about. On the other hand, he can't just explore unknown data gratuitously. And he can't see secured data either. If his rig doesn't have access to the data, he'll probably just see a generic icon with nothing behind it (which can be very disconcerting to the literalist).
This is the world as you imagined it always was, that feeling common to teenagers, that everyone is fake, or acting, and only you are real. The feeling that everything is a facade, a constructed set that is torn down and taken away as soon as you pass beyond sight. That feeling was the seed of your paranoia, carefully nursed to a fine instinct.
This is that world. There are no buildings, only fronts of buildings. The scene is always played for your benefit, by actors rather than people.
But here, all the actors are inert, paralyzed in the act of deceit.
Punter finds himself in a world that is familiar but flat. If he moves his point-of-view, he can see that the curve of a cone ends just out of sight, that a cube only has three faces.
Now he has maneuvered his way to Roar-Sol's Archives. There is a gigantic dog-like creature sitting here, waiting for anyone to approach. Punter approaches. The dog doesn't move, not will it, and he passes by. He still can't see into the data structures stored there (Cognito only stores encrypted data for which it hold keys), but he can see that there aren't any other installations.
There's nothing in either location that could possibly account for him running on Data Storage when he should have been running on PacSubOne. No reason he can think of.
He had preconfigured the Sidecar for that run, so as not to be caught fumbling around in front of the kids. Someone must have altered the settings on his configuration prior to the run. Only one of the students could have done that.
As far as he knows, none of the students have the wherewithal to make that kind of change. Sure, they could have altered the configuration, but to have it so clearly target another fort had to be something intentional.
So one of his students knows a lot more than he expected. Which one of them has lied to him and set him up?
All of this, of course, has raised another question of almost greater interest. His treacherous apprentice, whoever it may be, must know how compelling the question will be for him:
Why did Roar-Sol respond so vehemently to an intrusion on its Archives? What is it that Roar-Sol is so desperate to hide?