"I'm trying to find someone who's got space in your server farm."
"Sure," she said, starting back towards the counter. "What's the name? You can leave a note in their box. But why come all the way here just to do that?"
"Well, that's the problem. I don't know the name. What I do know is the ID of the virtual server, and that gave me the code for the post office."
She shook her head. "Well that's too bad for you, I guess. Protocols won't let me give out the owner's name. Sorry."
He squeezed his eyes shut in frustration.
"There is a chance, though""
"Well, since we only get deliveries here one day a week, all my regulars tend to come down to visit for a bit and check their boxes. That's tomorrow, by the way. Why else do you think I'd be fixing that box door? So anyway, if you were to keep an eye on which box each person opens, you might be able to meet whoever it is you're looking for."
He looked over at the wall of boxes for a second. "Wouldn't that be considered stalking? I mean this is a federal office, isn't it?"
She nodded. "I won't tell if you won't. Besides, all my regulars tend to come in armed. So I figure if you're trouble, the worst that'll happen is I'll have to call the county coroner to pick up a corpse. Well, and maybe clean up a bit."
Alphon felt weak. He didn't even own a knife, let alone a handgun. Too much trouble when he was taking classes, and with all the police surveillance where he lived, there didn't seem much of a point. "All right," he said shakily. "I, uh, I guess I'll be back in the morning, then. Thanks for your help."
"Don't" mention it," she said. "I mean that."
He was nearly to the door when he had an idea, so he turned back. "There's another way to do this. Could you put a note in the box for me? This way, you don't have to reveal the owner's name, I don't have to risk accosting them, and they can decide whether they want to speak with me. I think it'll be safer for everyone."
She stood for a while, considering the ramifications. Then, without saying a word, she pulled out a one-sided form from behind the counter, and set it down in front of him, blank-side-up. He took a pen from the cup, and wrote:
Missing info you have may explain the destruction of the Golden State Barrage.
I'll be in the rental airboat.
He folded the paper and handed it back to her, then returned to his rental. The tension, which had masked his hunger until now, dispersed a bit, so he cast off in search of something to eat. On his return, he secured the airboat and settled in for the night, or at least he tried to. Looking around at the permanently flooded streets, and down the line of abandoned storefronts with water over the windowsills reminded him of home, and of what the area around his apartment must look like now. He awoke several times from nightmares, one of which put him in the drowned intern's stead, and decided to just stay awake when a passing seabird's shriek startled him just after first light.