Early in Cloverleaf-era
Sometimes, Cya thought her power had a sense of humor.
She’d learned how to craft specific Find requests, because, if she wasn’t looking for something or someone specific (“nearest unbroken Bleach DVD;” “Leo”), her power had a bad habit of leading her on wild goose chases.
Like today. Like “nearest cache of intact, unclaimed books in an accessible-by-me location, with at least two times the number of unique, intact books as the hours I drive to get there.”
Almost every one of those clauses, she’d added on after learning the hard way that her power could be painfully literal.
Today… today she was staring down at a 45-degree incline that had once been the floor of this library. From the looks of things, it had been tolerably sheltered from weather – this area wasn’t as cold or as wet as Cloverleaf, but it still did get precipitation – and peering down and over, she was pretty sure she’d be able to get more than the required 16 books out of here.
But first, she had to get down there, gather the books, and get back up.
She was seriously regretting coming alone, and not just because eight hours in the van with nobody but yourself for company wasn’t the most fun in the world. If Leo knew she was climbing down into a pit alone, without a spotter – hell, if Zita or Howard or even Mags knew – she would be getting her ear scorched from now until next year.
She tied off her rope carefully and made sure her harness was intact, properly on her, and snugged where it needed to be snugged. It seemed like overkill now, but if the apocalypse had taught her anything, it was that there was no such thing as overkill. The monster whose head you chopped off and whose heart you burned might still come back. The hundred pounds of rice you thought was too much was seeming like maybe half of what you needed when snowed into a small cabin with two growing boys and one 22-year-old man. Any plan you’d made for Leo would turn out to be about 50% of what you needed to plan, no matter how complicated you tried to make your contingencies. And if you brought a harness and rope, you were going to end up needing a pulley and some sort of elevator.
That was just courting trouble, however. She rappelled down the side of the building, mostly avoiding a poster where Yoda told people to READ, and skip-hopped onto an old desk that was leaning against the wall. The building inside smelled like old books, but dry old books. This was already looking like a good bet..
She tied off her rope and then did a Working Leo had taught her to hide the whole thing from sight, checked her bags, and let the little mental pull of her Find lead her up the tilted wall.
Books, tables, desks; everything had fallen in one direction or another. She climbed over a table and found herself in a motherlode of reference books. Her Find said here, although it was also suggesting the whole library. Cya pulled a sturdy bag out of her backpack and reached around a chair, going by feel because there was the intense sense of the thing most like what you want, which would be a book she couldn’t find easily anywhere else.
The book refused to come easily into her hand.
She tugged a little more firmly.
The book seemed to tug back.
Cya shifted so that she could see what she was doing and found herself staring at another woman. This one had curly brown hair escaping a bun; she was wearing at least three weapons and carrying three bags that were already full or near to it with books.
“I would like this book,” Cya offered carefully. “I’m willing to make concessions, but I need this one for my library.”
“I need it for my library,” the woman countered. “Do you know how hard it is to find good reference tomes in this day and age? It’s not as if there are that many people just sitting around writing things, even now. So if I want something like this, I have to go clambering into a library-”
Cya had the urge to kiss the woman, but she really wanted this book. “What library?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s one that I’ve been trying to rebuild, down in Salt Lake City. I heard there might be some books here, but I didn’t imagine it would be anything at all like this…” She gestured around. “But this!” She pointed at the book she was still holding. “This!! People might actually start caring about the library if there were things like this in it.”
She sounded so excited and so sad at the same time, Cya didn’t know whether to hug her or be mindful of her weapons.
She was crew with Zita and Leo; she could do both at once. Although hugging strangers was probably not a great idea.
Without releasing the book, she asked “Tell me about your library?”
“Oh, it’s, well, more of a wagon, honestly, but I’m trying. It’s just that there was that cold snap, when anything that could burn, burned, and then we had five years of some really bad sorts come through, and more things burned, and now we still have people who sort of distrust the whole idea. But I’ve wanted a library since I was a little girl, and I’m going to have one.”
Another urge overtook Cya. “How about you and this book – and the rest of your library – come to my library and work for me?
“Work for – what?” She almost loosened her grip on the book. Cya didn’t take advantage of it.
“Forty-some hours a week, paid vacations and holidays, health care, and I’m sure I can find you an intern and a page for weekends. I have a proper library, people who care about it, and we don’t let book-burners into my city. At least, we let them in but we don’t let them burn books or otherwise censor material.”
The woman looked at her with narrowed eyes. “You’re a fae, aren’t you? An old one.”
She wasn’t using any of the slurs Cya knew, but she still didn’t let down her guard. One of those weapons could be hawthorn. “What makes you say that?
The woman raised her eyebrows and smiled. “Well, let me see. Firstly, the way that you use archaic idiom comfortably and non-ironically. You’re offering me ‘paid vacations and holidays’ not only as if you expect me to know what it is but expect me to care. You used ‘intern.’ I don’t think anyone uses intern anymore. Secondly, you used the phrase ‘my city’ with absolute certainty. You have a city. I know a few humans who do that, but when they have a city, they don’t, well, not to put too fine a point on it, they’re proud. They boast.. You just know it’s your city. Thirdly, your body language suggests that you could do this some other way. You’re willing to negotiate but you’re not tying yourself down to negotiation being the only way to handle this.”
“Well done.” Cya let her surprise and exactly how impressed she was show on her face. “It is ‘my city’. I built it. And you – I think it would be a wonderful thing if you come work for me. And -” She put up her free hand, the other still holding the book. “I give you my word that I will not in any way coerce or force you to come with me.”
“But you’re taking the book, no matter what.” The librarian looked more amused than insulted. Cya didn’t really know what to do with that.
“Yes. Yeah, I’m taking the book, sorry. I drove from Montana for this book. But if you’re willing to help me, I bet we could get enough books out of here to fill my van and keep an intern busy for months.”
The librarian slowly smiled. “And that job?”
“That job is yours. Although if you’re not careful, I might hire you for my diplomatic corps instead. Diplomacy? Still not really my thing.”
The woman laughed and held out her hand. “I’m Letitia. And I’m willing to work for you – as long as I get to catalog this book.”
Cya shook the hand. “Cya Dayton, Red Doomsday. Pleasure to meet you. Now.” She looked around the tilted library. “I’ll start in – that looks like History? – and you start in Art? If all else fails, I can probably turn some shelves into boxes.”
“You know,” Letitia mused, as she pulled a bag from her backpack, “I might come to like working with fae.”Want more?