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Herding Cats

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Zehun had a contact who worked at an animal shelter. She said all the senior animal medics named the cats insulting things like Fleamoth and Rotten Egg and Food Bucket lest they become too attached and adopt them all.

Zehun, who for entirely logical reasons named their cats after their faction's worst foxes, had privately borrowed their contact's idea and begun applying it to their cadets. Cadet Mikodez was currently Trash Bag.

Zehun's imaginary correspondence with Vin the animal medic was increasing in frequency even as their actual correspondence diminished.

"Dear Vin, you'll never guess what Trash Bag did today."
Zehun was confident Vin would never have guessed. Zehun did not talk very much about their job, even with their few non-Shuos friends.

"I put Trash Bag outside last night, and he climbed right back in through the window. He gave me such a look when I didn't let him stay."
It had been a shadowmoth training exercise, in fact. All the cadets had been "outside". The usual top ten per cent had made it back in unassisted, but only Mikodez had located the hidden camera and stared reproachfully at it while the junior instructor on duty herded them out again.

"Bad news, Vin. It looks like I might have to put Trash Bag down. His last test result was ambiguous, though. I'm re-checking it myself. Send good thoughts."
Zehun was a hound, not a scrywolf. They couldn't personally re-scry Cadet Mikodez while willing the Crowned With Eyes variant to go away again. They could make the evidence go away of course, quite easily, but they neither wanted nor needed to. It was their job to investigate and decide whether Mikodez was one bad day, a gun, and some threshold winnowers away from killing a million people. If he was, they would prevent him from doing so.

Sometimes they secretly questioned the merit of putting Ninefox Crowned With Eyes under such deadly scrutiny. Before Jedao, signifier science had still lacked consensus on the subject, but a weak majority had favored the idea that every personality has its natural niche, that there was no such thing as an inherently bad or harmful signifier, only personalities unfit for particular jobs. This belief had become another of Jedao's casualties. Doctrine hadn't even needed to step in on that one.

Doctrinal History was one of Zehun's occasional classes, when they needed an excuse to interact with the cadets outside of overt training exercises. So (when the more charismatic Shuos Lokar needed a day off) was History of Games. So they knew the most, ahem, significant ways the canonical jeng-zai deck had changed through the hexarchate's history (including before it had been a hexarchate.)

Outright heretical cards were dropped from the deck. Signifiers whose meanings had become wholly infamous fell out of use, and new cards acquired the resonances the wolves had attributed to those signifiers. It hadn't happened to Ninefox Crowned With Eyes, despite more than sufficient time. That had to mean something.

Zehun's own signifier was Ninefox Guardian. It meant stability. They wouldn't be a Shuos at all if they didn't like a little chaos in their life, much less have cats, much less have had children of their own. But the Shuos succession problem went beyond a little chaos, and eliminating Crowned With Eyes didn't seem like it could solve that. Eliminating all Ninefox signifiers period, maybe. They couldn't buy recent history texts for their own faction -- even official, authorised ones -- from their favourite book seller. "Sorry, we don't stock periodicals." Enough.

None of which helped with the problem of Trash Bag. They'd have to talk to the boy. Armed.

"Dear Vin, Stinky seems very flat and listless. The only thing he shows any enthusiasm for is chasing birds. Do you have any enrichment advice?"
The problem with giving cadets shelter names so you wouldn't get too fond of them was that you ended up thinking of your hexarch as not Shuos-zho but Stinky.

But then, considering a Shuos hexarch's average lifespan, better not to get too fond of them either. Cadets had a longer expiry date, and most of them managed to graduate in four years.

"Dear Vin, I give in. I'm keeping Trash Bag."