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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Missy’s Mission: Secret Knowledge (Part II)

The next morning, Missy and Dar’cy stopped for some coffee, then went on to the library. It was the one of the oldest buildings on the planet. Not only had it survived the original Deathfall back in 2016, but was also a relic from Springfield’s history. It had been updated a few times since it was first built, but not much, and had remained exactly the same since it came here. People didn’t really use the library anymore. Like on Earth, knowledge had become ubiquitous and completely accessible to all residents of the planet. If you needed to know something, you looked it up on your computer. And if it wasn’t somewhere on the network, then it wouldn’t be in the library either. Neither of them grew up with any experience with libraries. They were still around in their more traditional form when Missy was growing up, but they were already on their way to becoming obsolete, and she never personally found use in them.
The librarian was surprised to see them when they walked in, like she hadn’t seen another person in ages. “Hello, welcome to the original branch. How may I help you?”
Missy looked around in paranoia, to check if anyone could hear them, while Dar’cy stepped off and scanned the area more deliberately. “Yes, this might sound strange, but we were hoping to find information on how to...” It was an awkward request.”
“How to...have sex as two women?”
“No,” Missy answered with her own surprise. “I think we could probably figure that out. No, I’m...I’m a paramount, but I don’t want to be.”
“Ooh, I’m sorry,” the librarian said sadly. “There’s no cure.”
“But isn’t there? I came to this planet upon rumors there was some way to get rid of time powers. There’s some...ancient quest, or something?”
“Oh,” she said, suddenly becoming quite serious. “That.”
“So you know what I’m talking about?
“We don’t keep information on that. It’s dangerous, and there’s no real evidence that it has ever worked.”
“Still, I’d at least like to know what to do.”
“You disappear.”
“If you try this, you disappear. Everyone has. In all of history, everyone who’s figured out how to start has gone off, never to be seen again. Are you Earthan?”
“We are,” Dar’cy said, ever ready for a glorious battle.
“You came on that ship. You’re not paramounts. You’re choosing ones.”
“That’s what we call ourselves, yeah. We’ve adapted our language to make others more comfortable.”
“Oh, never do that,” the librarian said, still with that seriousness. “Never apologize for who you are, or hide away, or change for people’s benefit.” She paused in thought. “I cannot, in good conscience, supply any Durune with the tools they would need to try the quest. I also cannot exercise any control over an Earthan. I don’t know how to start the quest, but I know who will.”
“Who’s that?” Dar’cy asked.
“The Librarian,” the librarian answered.
“That’s not you?”
“I am a librarian. I’m talking about The Librarian, of the Secret Library.”
“There’s a secret library? Why is it secret?”
“It’s been here longer than we have. This is the original branch, but the new branch was swallowed up even before the Deathfall.”
Missy was confused. “We were told no one, and no thing, survived those earlier portals. Only a small section survived during that last fall.”
“For the most part, that’s true. But there were exceptions; Purple Rose Lane, the High School, and the Library.”
“And people on this world don’t know about it?”
“A few do. Fewer know how to get there. Even fewer do actually go.”
The Librarian,” Missy repeated. “That sounds like—”
“A chooser nickname?” the librarian interrupted. “It sure does, doesn’t it?”
“I’m assuming this place is located in some other spatial dimension,” Dar’cy guessed.
The lowercase librarian drew a frown on her face. “Temporal-spatial,” she corrected. “That’s one of the reasons so few people go, and it’s the first reason to not even try the quest. For every hour you spend in the Secret Library, a year passes for everyone outside of it.”
Missy and Dar’cy looked at each other, which was the best way to send telepathic messages. Missy shrugged. “Time ain’t nothin’ but a thang. We don’t belong here anyway. Year outside, hour inside won’t be a problem for us.” The world could change quite a bit in such a short time, from their perspective, but their lives were defined by change.
“All right, then,” the lowercase librarian began as she was turning around and walking away, “follow me.”
She lead them to the card catalogs, which she told them had all been emptied before the Deathfall pulled the town to this world. She opened one of the drawers, took a bobby pin from her hair, and reached deep into it, then she pulled her arm back out. “Yeah, I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you get through this. Not with my arthritis. I don’t suppose either one of you knows how to pick a lock.”
Dar’cy kind of smirked, but in a sad way, but with feigned sadness. “My father taught me, much to my mother’s disapproval. Sometimes an object I need to thread is on the other side of a locked door.” She accepted the pin from the lowercase librarian, and stuck her own arm in the drawer. “Yeah, there’s a hidden lock in here.” Within but a few seconds, she was clearly successful.
The lowercase librarian had casually stepped back away from the catalogs, leaving them to transport to the ceiling of a dark cave alone. Once Dar’cy removed her arm from the drawer, they both fell to floor, slowly and safely.
“Hello?” Missy asked the aether.
“Hello,” someone answered from a nook in the rock.
Dar’cy held her arm out to prevent Missy from getting too close, and cautiously walked towards the voice herself. “Who’s there?”
“My name is Porter. The Constructor, The Weaver, and I collaborated on this place as a refuge for the needy. It is a prototype, however...a proof of concept, as it were. Congratulations, you have been chosen as a beta tester for the program. Here you will find anything you need. If you would like something, within reason, simply request it out loud. We’re not mind readers, you know,” she added with a smirk. “If the program is successful, we will be creating more—more advanced—places like this. Go ahead and try it out. Ask for anything.”
“I would like the cure for time powers,” Missy requested.
“I’m sorry, that item is not in my inventory.”
“I would like to speak with the real Porter,” Dar’cy said.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”
Dar’cy stood there for a few seconds, working something out in her head. This was clearly some kind of magical recording, programmed into an avatar. Missy didn’t know anything about it, but Dar’cy seemed to. “I would like a paradox.”
“What?” the Porter’s avatar asked.
“Give me a paradox.”
That seemed to stump her, but why would it? She could easily just give them some canned response about that not being possible, or not in her inventory, which she already had. The question itself seemed to be putting her into some kind of does not compute error mode, like she was having an existential crisis. Her eyes and head were twitching as she was trying to figure this all out. Then she stopped and relaxed. “I am the real Porter.” She stepped out of her nook.
“My mother told me about you.”
“I met her only in a corrupted reality,” Porter said. “How does she remember that?”
“What do you think meditation’s for?”
“What are you doing here?” Porter asked.
“We’re on a quest.” Dar’cy gestured towards Missy. “She’s looking to get rid of her powers.”
“The Cleanser is after her.”
Porter stood up straighter. “You think he won’t kill you if you’re not a chooser anymore?”
“That’s what he said.”
“If you go back in time, to when dictionaries existed, and had pictures, and looked up the word liar, you wouldn’t see a picture of him, because that would be ridiculously specific, but he is a liar. I’m sure you misinterpreted his meaning anyway. Choosers never choose to strip themselves of powers, and the rumor that it’s possible on this world is just that, a rumor. It’s never been verified beyond anecdotal evidence. He’s not planning on letting you live, powers or no. I suggest you turn around.”
“I’m not giving up,” Missy said firmly. “We only came here because we were told it’s the way to the Secret Springfield Library.”
“It can be,” Porter said. “I can provide you with a door, if that’s what you want.”
“That’s what we want,” Dar’cy confirmed.
“Uhhhh, where the hell am I?” Saga’s  voice echoed through the small cave.
Porter smiled, and lightly ushered them towards Saga. “As you wished.” She stepped back into her nook and returned to her blank avatar state.
“Thank you,” Missy said.
The two of them went over to Saga.
“Oh, it’s you two,” Saga said with relief. “How have you been. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Not yet,” Missy replied. “I think it’s there.” She nodded towards the door that had appeared out of nowhere.
“Right, I’m just you’re ride.”
“What year is it for you?” Dar’cy asked.
“Careful. Spoilers.”
She graciously opened the door to the Secret Library, and closed it behind them.

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