He wasn't that old, for an old man.
In fact, he wasn't that old at all, despite the layers of wool that wrapped his skinny limbs, the half-moon glasses either propped on the end of his slightly bulbous nose or being fussily polished on the end of his scarf , the endless supply of cough lozenges tucked away in a waist-coat pocket, and the hunch-shouldered posture that spoke of decades hunched over books and terminals.
That Micha Krenshaw, they used to say when he was a gangly child, already so short-sighted he had to hold a book right at the end of his nose to read it, born fifty years old.
Which, Micha reckoned to himself as he hoisted his satchel a little higher on his shoulder and pushed through the crowd at the Interbus terminal, made him nearly eighty now.
"Watch where'ya goin', grandpa!" snapped a girl with this year's fashion of lime-green eye-shades and hair a brilliant chartreuse as the jostling crowd pushed them together.
"Sorry, terribly sorry," Micha said hastily, clutching his bag more tightly. Not that a petty thief would find anything in it worth their time and trouble - the data pad was one of the cheapest, the information stored on the dozens of memory sticks worth nothing to any corporate spy, the personal belongings stuffed down the bottom the sort sold at stalls at every Interbus hub.
If only they knew, Micha thought to himself.
To those who understood, the contents of that bag were priceless.
He pushed his way through the crowd until it spat him out at the front of the terminal. Although he'd memorized the directions he'd been given word-for-word, they had been less than precise, and it was forty minutes and several wrong turns later that Micha found himself outside the red door with the green crescent that he'd been told was his destination.
His satchel held protectively against his chest, Micha pressed the buzzer by the door.
The door hissed open almost immediately and Micha found himself looking down at a woman so short he thought for a second he'd stumbled into one of the old stories about the little people.
When she spoke, though, the flat twang of her pure Ohkunun accent put paid to any fanciful thoughts. "Mr Krenshaw?" Her gaze settled on the bag he held. "Is that it? You brought it?"
"Yes," Micha said, trying to sound matter-of-fact,but unable to keep a note of pride out of his voice.
"Come in! Come in!" She took his arm, urging him over the threshold, raising her voice to call out, "He's here! Mr Krenshaw is here! Everyone, he's here! And he brought it!"
The house was small, even by local standards, small and crowded. Micha stood motionless in the middle of the front room, trying not to knock over any of the piles of papers and datachips stacked on tables, chairs, shelves, even on the floor in places, as the room rapidly filled with people. Introductions were hastily made, Micha filing the names away with the ease of long practice. Luisa is Little, Das is Dark haired, Khoratay looks Choleric ...
He knew they didn't care if he remembered their names, of course. The introductions were a necessary formality, a brief nod to social expectations, as were the inquiries about his journey, his health, and whether he'd like a cup of tea. No-one in the room could keep their gaze from his satchel, not for very long, even if they were too polite to ask.
Finally, he interrupted them. "Do you want to see it?"
"Yes!" Das cleared room on the table, shoving books and papers aside recklessly, as Luisa hastily pulled a chair over.
Micha opened his satchel and took out his data pad, setting it on the table. Everyone crowded around him, peering over his shoulder, as he flicked the power-on button and tapped keys to bring up the file.
The display glowed to life, the image slowly forming as the data pad's old and well-worn circuitry struggled to initialize.
The woman in the picture was clearly very old, her eyes a pale, milky blue and her skin papery thin. Micha touched another key and her faded, crackly voice whispered out of the speakers.
"Are you sure you want to waste your time with this?" she asked.
Micha mouthed yes as, off-screen, his recorded voice gave the same response.
"Well, all right then. This story was told to me by my grandmother, who heard it from her grandfather. It's about a girl who had a brother, and, being a man, he was the sort to have his head turned by every pretty face he saw. Probably just like you, huh? Anyway, one day he was out walking and he saw ..."
It took an effort to look away from the screen, even after the tenth viewing, but Micha turned in his chair. No-one noticed - everyone else in the room was staring at the data pad with rapt attention.
"It's the Golden Cow!" Das said in awe. "You found the story of the Golden Cow! In Domain!"
The other members of the New Eden Folkloric Society murmured amazed agreement.
Micha smiled, permitting himself just a moment of smugness.
He had been right.