Dark-wood-bookcases-in-Chethams-Library.jpgAll The World's Knowledge

The library’s bouncer, one Todd Flanigan, 300 pounds of muscle, tendons, and viscera, 50 pounds of armor, awkwardly fumbled from the advances of a girl no older than 17; no heavier than 110. She grappled onto his exposed arm, digging her chewed nails in not even hard enough to draw blood. And she clung there. When he tore her off, she would continue the assault on another limb, biting and scratching and reaching just short of the eyes. A little ball of fire, glowing with unfiltered rage.

Nesha rounded the corner just as the Todd’s crotch was met with a high kick. No armor there, a bit of an oversight. He tried to choke back his tears, but they came oozing out just the same.

So did his breakfast. Venison, toast, whey protein. All staining his shirt, covering the ground, burning his hands.

The girl backed down. Her smile escaped through heavy breaths.

Todd coughed and spat and stumbled, turning his head upwards to meet the Nesha’s bemused gaze. His eyes, wide and wet with tears, the corner of his lips crusted over with dried bile. He held his mouth agape.
“Having an interesting day, aren’t you Todd?” The smell of vomit hit her. She took an unconscious step back.

“That girl–” he whimpered through labored breaths “—She wanted in—” He turned his head and spat into the bushes lining the library.

Nesha craned her head towards the girl not 3 feet behind her, who was fiddling with a loose chain on a bike. Absolutely too young. The library wouldn’t let anyone under the age of 25 in without some kind of work pass, let alone a girl like that. And her clothing, nearly rags, stained and unwashed for days. Hair a tangle of grease and dirt. Knees raw, probably due to falls from the very same bike. Unfit for entrance. And yet.

“Kid, you should have just waited for me—” The girl perked her head up, Nesha turned back to Todd, who let out a shallow gurgle where words were supposed to be. “—She’s my apprentice, I was to escort her in.” She had never seen this girl in her life.

Todd fumbled back to his feet, a glob of mucus clinging to his beard came loose and tumbled down the trail of vomit on his shirt. Dumbfounded. He searched through his head for the right thing to say. Nothing good. He settled on the obvious.

“…If she had just said—“ He gave up half way through, begrudgingly stepping aside.

Nesha motioned to the girl. Follow. She obediently did, abandoning her bike and dashing to join Nesha, staring upwards with narrowed eyes into Todd’s pale face as she passed through the entrance. He refused to meet her gaze.

Pity, was it? Or maybe some kind of deep seeded, long forgotten maternal drive. Perhaps it was the shrillness, the monstrously horrid pitch of this girl’s unrestrained whining that simply needed to stop. Or perhaps it was all out of respect. Perhaps it was simply the levity of the entire thing that awoke whatever was left of Nesha’s humor. Such a windfall must be treasured.

‘Rory’ The girl’s hushed voice hardly met Nesha’s ears. Her name.

She led her through the columns of bookcases reaching upwards into the ceiling, most only half filled with whatever pieces of literature the town could find. The table tops, the shelves, even the air itself boasted a thick layer of dust that whipped around disturbed by their passing. It twinkled through the shafts of light breaking through the cracks in the pulled blinds, dancing through the air of this cathedral to old-world intellect. Rory inhaled deeply, sucking down the knowledge, and promptly coughed and hacked it all out again. She resolved to daintily sip the knowledge instead. Shallow breaths.

Nesha remained quiet, peeking back only to make sure Rory remained hasten to her side. She found a table far in the back of the building, and sat. Rory sat across from her, doodling in the caked on dust.

“You have Todd a bit of a beat down, didn’t you? He’s going to have to make a trip to Mama’s House for a remedy.” She forced the reference, shoehorning in a mention of the herb dealer to cover her bases. Subtle, but she wanted to know if the child was from the slums without asking; Everyone in the slums know Mama.

“He wasn’t lettin’ me in. I gave ‘im what he deserved.” Deflected. She was either very clever or not at all. Tough no matter what, though.

“I’m fixin’ to find some books on science. Diseases. Also mechanics, I’m puttin’ together a plane.”

Nesha pointed her in the right direction, though more in the interest of humoring the girl then a vested interest. Rory sauntered off in the general direction of her prize.

Nesha lost track of time, enveloped in an old world engineers manual she had picked from a tight spot on a bookshelf. It was half an hour later; or an hour perhaps. Rory appeared again with a stack of books in her arms, her eyes peaking just over the top. She abandoned the load atop the table, and began thoughtlessly paging though the thick works.

‘Disease Control and Prevention’, ‘The Human Immune System’, ‘Vaccination and Cures’, ‘Maintaining a Skyhawk’

Nesha quipped an offhand comment. Rory payed no mind. She tore through each large text with ease, which is to say she flipped through 30 pages at a time and skimmed whatever she landed on, if even that.

And she went on like that for an hour, flipping back and forth through the volumes, reading both everything and nothing at all. Moving between one text to another with little reason, sending dust exploding upwards from the pages. And what for?

Rory’s frustration soon became clear. Her actions slowed and her eyes look through the pages. Even in the lowered lights of the reading hall, Nesha could see the glistening, sparkling tears welling at the corners of the girl’s eyes.

There it is again. That damned maternity. She came here to research not baby sit. And yet.

“Are you okay, Rory?” Silence, thick and heavy. “Rory, what’s wrong”.

Rory turned her head up, trails of tears shimmered on her face.

“I don’t understand any of this—“

“It’ll take a while to learn that kind of stuff, you have to keep—“

Rory broke down. Sobs. Thick, wet, guttural sobs.

“I need to find a cure. I promised myself I would cure them—”

She lowered her head into her book and continued to sob.

Nesha sat silently, taking in the depth of Rory's sorrow. She could feel her own tear's forming, but she fought them back. There was nothing this girl could do. Nothing she could give to all the scientists and engineer's working on a cure day and night and failing. Her efforts were entirely in vain.

And yet.

"I can help you."