Section 2 - The Aquarium
The Aquarium Bookstore is east of Deep Street. It is a privately-controlled room. It is indoors. The description is "The shop takes its name from the [collection of fish] mounted on every wall: swordfish, bass, other things I don't recogn[ize]. Underneath these dubious tokens, the walls are covered with bookshelves, and there are stacks of books on the floor where the shelves have proven insufficient."
The aquarium-shelving is scenery in the aquarium. Understand "shelves" or "bookshelves" or "shelving" as the aquarium-shelving. The printed name is "shelving". The description is "They're completely crammed with books."
The collection of fish is scenery in the Aquarium. Understand "swordfish" or "bass" as the collection of fish. The description is "None of the fish has been dusted in the last decade. The collection presents a slightly mournful air."
Understand "browse [merchandise]" as searching.
Test merch with "browse / browse merchandise / x merchandise / look at merchandise / g / g / g" in Aquarium bookstore.
Instead of searching the aquarium-shelving:
try searching the merchandise.
A ranking rule for the merchandise:
increase the description-rank of the merchandise by 50.
The merchandise is fixed in place in the aquarium. "The merchandise consists mainly, but not exclusively, of books, and the selection caters to odd tastes."
The introduction is "You once picked up in here a book about a man who R-removed a wrench, and then had his way with it. You and Brock had a good time with that one for the next month and a half."
Understand "books" or "book" or "stack" or "stacks" or "grandfather clock" or "grandfather" or "his gray lover" or "seventy ways to disable an authentication scope" or "ways to disable" or "seventy" or "stack/stacks of books" as the merchandise.
The description is "Our eyes scan over the merchandise and pick out [one of][a random thing which is part of the merchandise][or][a random number between 2 and 7 in words] copies of [a random thing which is part of the merchandise][at random][one of][or] inexplicably filed under '[one-genre]'[as decreasingly likely outcomes]."
Instead of searching the merchandise, try examining the merchandise.
[ The books at the shop exist to partially explain, justify, and lightly hint other aspects of the game world. I don't anticipate that all players will have sufficient interest to look at all of them, but someone who is bored or stuck or just a thorough explorer may do so.
The Ba's Journey hints that the word "ba" is known in Atlantis, so the BALL > BA > BAT chain is possible. Quagmire Manifesto explains a bit of the background for the film reel easter egg. Indian Summer and The Queen's English hint at the almost sexual fascination some Atlanteans have with foreign words.
Pat and Chris drops in a bit of Atlantean sexual politics that there otherwise isn't a great deal of space to explore, namely that people tend to be more open to gender reassignment because it can be done so cheaply and reversibly with Atlantean technology. While Alex personally is uncomfortable being manifested in a female body, the idea is not as culturally alien to him as it might be to many others.
Dyslexic Coalition reflects some of the downside: learning disabilities that might be regarded purely as a misfortune in another culture are more strongly and unsympathetically stigmatized in Atlantis. ]
Ba's Journey is a book. It is part of the merchandise. The description is "This is a bit of popular new age self-help from the early 80s, combining Atlantean mystical ideas about Egypt with modern popular psychology to create an allegory about the formation and development of the person over the course of a lifetime."
Quagmire Manifesto is a book. It is part of the merchandise. The description is "Written by the implausibly-named Lucius Quagmire, the Manifesto suggests film-making, especially wordless or foreign-language film-making, as a route to undermining the Anglophone hegemony and 'restoring Atlantis to the community of the world.' It's full of stuff about 'disrupting the simple significance of words' by building up complex and multivalent metaphorical associations; connotation as more powerful than denotation; thought as triumphant over word."
The Queen's English is a book. It is proper-named. It is part of the merchandise. The description is "It's a history of the subversive community on Atlantis who resisted adopting Webster's reforms and continued to promote traditional British spelling on the island even up to the beginning of the 20th century.
A cursory examination shows that the book's previous owner went through with a highlighter and tinted pink all the British spelling examples."
Pat-Chris is a book. It is part of the merchandise. The printed name is "Pat and Chris and the Homonym Paddle". Understand "Pat" or "Chris" or "and" or "the" or "homonym" or "paddle" as Pat-chris.
The description is "A dog-eared old classic of Atlantean transgender literature, in which the protagonists try out the combinatorics of gender identities. Four decades on, it reads as pure camp, but it speaks (if clumsily) to an era where these things were still surprising."
Dyslexic Coalition is a book. It is part of the merchandise. The description is "It's a handbook and guide for people struggling with dyslexia and their families and friends who may be affected."
[The concept and text of Indian Summer are Graham's; he felt there needed to be a little more linguistic seediness about the dock areas.]
Indian Summer is part of the merchandise. It is a book. The description is "It's one of those risqué novels full of loan words. Example:
[i]Glowing, Jocasta peeled off her jodhpurs, donned pajamas, and strode out onto the verandah for a tiffin. The polo match at the gymkhana, now in full swing, overpowered her, and she mopped her brow with a calico bandanna. 'I am just perfectly doolally this afternoon,' she murmured, licking her lips as she admired the riders forming up for first chukka.
She hardly minded the little bandicoot's chicanery, the jar of chutney upended all over the teapoy. It had gone in the kedgeree, it had gone in the mulligatawny. 'You little thug,' Jocasta whispered, 'now I'll have to shampoo my crimson pashmina,' but she fed him some candy, then fondly watched him crash through the banyan like a juggernaut, dodging an anaconda. There was a crack! as the Earl of Arbroathshire, a captain in the 51st Lancers, swung his mallet. 'Oh my swami, my guru,' sang Jocasta to herself, dreaming of her bungalow up-country where once he...[/i]
Sorry, I have to stop. This is making me a little uncomfortable."
Instead of taking something which is part of the merchandise:
say "This is assuredly not the time for a little light shopping.".
Instead of pushing or pulling or turning the merchandise:
say "[You] nudge one of the nearest stacks until it is more neatly arranged against the shelf. Less likely to fall over that way."
The contraband box is a container. The contraband box contains some modems and some preamps. The description of the contraband box is "It's just a cardboard box in which some items of interest have been stored."
The introduction is "Lena apparently wants our help getting them into a less identifiable format."
The description of the preamps is "They aren't in themselves restricted technology, but Atlantean government slaps a very high tariff on any kind of electronic device not manufactured on the island. This is especially annoying and needless in the case of audio equipment for which there is no local manufacturer."
The description of the modems is "If Brock were here, he would know exactly what made these interesting and valuable. All you can guess is that they're not a form approved by the government."