Entomophobia, Part One
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Detective Lorenz Barron was a private detective, and quite a good one. His office, located somewhere between the Stacks and the Atriums, resided in an area called the Chill, where the Library stored multimedia which required cold temperatures to keep. If you're looking, you'll probably find it. Patrons who request his service know him as quite the walking cliché, no-nonsense and efficiently effective. This is, at least partially, an act on the detective's part. Barron's psychic powers are his main selling point, but his experience in marketing was what he prized. With nearly two decades on the job, half of that in being the Library, Barron could be considered quite the entrepreneurial veteran.

Yusuf Dyer, the detective's partner, stands over the body, frowning and chewing a cigar. The Library staff had cordoned off this reading corner from the public earlier, and contacted Barron's agency after they couldn't find the killer. The staff isn't too great at that: essentially, the Docents are like beat cops. Great in pursuits, making arrests, and preventing crimes, but horrible at finding a suspect that had gotten away. It should be a rare occurrence, but recently… Well, let's just say Barron's services have been in high demand, even to the Library itself. The archivists didn't often reach out to him, but it seemed they were running out of ideas at this point.

"They found the weapon a few miles away, in an atrium," Yusuf said idly as Barron ducked under the yellow tape. Neither man took their eyes off the body. Good God, it was horrible. Mutilated beyond recognition: sex, height, nothing was discernable. The body looked was like it had been turned inside out. Barron couldn't even tell if it was humanoid or not. He squinted. Being from Earth himself, it was challenging to adjust to the wide variety of species and races all mixed together in the Library. The poor thing's spine had been torn out, and was missing. The eyes had been meticulously removed; unscathed apart from being separated from the skull, and were placed atop a small slip of paper a few feet from the body.

"Fuck," was all Barron could say. He'd seen many grey and grisly scenes in his life, but this was something worse. This was the most vile he'd seen in awhile. It was like a kill out of a horror flick, unnaturally violent.

"Something tells me this is only the beginning," Yusuf breathed in-between moist chews, "I haven't touched the note, an' I instructed the who-knows-whats to do the same." He gestured to the Librarians and Docents who were standing around, still marking evidence with little yellow cones. Yusuf, Earthling himself (though from a different timeline? Universe?), was still acclimating to the Library's environment and inhabitants. They wouldn't find much, just by looking at the scene. Barron could tell this killer was… thorough.

"Always the optimal optimist, Yusuf, thanks," sighed the detective, discarding his long coat and gloves. He had just come from his office, which was self-evidently cold. The name said it all, but the real-estate was cheap. When not working for the Library itself, Barron and Yusuf ran a private agency for Wanderer's whose troubles weren't important enough for the Librarians to handle. Not every criminal is Wrun, after all. "I'll scan the scene for residue," Barron concluded with a final tug on his glove, "you could check the note now?"

Barron streaked his mind's eye into the history of the things around him. It was a comforting experience, usually. The world was like metal to Barron, cold and smooth. He extended his astral being to the history of the corpse, putting his warm hands to the mercury of time, turning back the clock within his psyche. At first, there was nothing, which was typical. Some events had inherent resistance to psychic interference. These events liked to remain secret, and would protect themselves. To Barron, they were like Gallium: melting at his psychic touch.

the rustling of a page
a voice; smooth, like creamer spilling into coffee
a shattering of porcelain

"Not much, there's been a lot of contamination" says Barron, returning to the walking world, pupils dilating, "our victim was an avid reader and coffee consumer. Odd, usually the most present psychic residue is the most intensely felt feelings of the victim. Seemingly, that feeling was placidity broken by surprise." This signified that the attack was sudden, from behind, but there was an inconsistency: if the crime had been so violent, why wasn't pain the most present residual emotion?

"Note wasn't much either. Just two words, written in blood —yeah, I know, real elegant. Just two words: 'NOW REBORN' in big, capital letters," Yusuf spat out the tobacco into a plastic bag, so as to not contaminate the crime scene physically. After a thought, he asked, "you don't think the victim was drugged, do you? The coffee?"

Now reborn? Barron scanned the crime scene. There, in a bloodied, well-upholstered chair, was a book. He walked to it, evidence number 5 as signified by the marker. Yusuf liked to stay organized; order from chaos was his motto. Barron took out a pair of orange plastic gloves and gingerly lifted the book into his hands. It was tinged with blood, but readable. War and Peace. He had read this red-stained book before. Tolstoy, did that signify that the victim was from earth? No, but at least interested in Terran authors…

Barron flitted through the pages aimlessly. Well, at least they had something. He set it down on the chair again. A few meters away, a docent was taking a blood sample. It was odd, watching the thing stick its one fingered hand into a pool and sniff it. It was said that docents could sequence DNA in their nostrils. They could not speak, but communicated with themselves somehow. Barron looked around, but didn't see a mug or cup anywhere. Psychic impressions were just that, impressions, and were often metaphorical. He turned to Yusuf, shrugging and wading back to him through the messy crime scene, careful about his steps.

"So," said Yusuf, tapping his chin as he often did when thinking, "our killer is a cult-ie. Go figure. You know of any cults in the area who would do something like this?" He seemed distraught, but that was only readable from someone who had known him for a long time.

Barron stroked his beardless face. "No, I don't think so. Most of the cults here are peaceful, at least mostly. I can't think of any that would have anything to do with being 'reborn' either." Yusuf nodded, then looked over to where some docents were gathering in a column. Looked like an Archivist was coming to the scene after all.

Hmph. The creature in question was not one of the Archivists, surprisingly. In fact, it was not even one of the strange contorted beings that served as extra security when the Jailors came knocking. No, this was something different… It had the rough appearance of some sort of skeleton, though as if made from the jutting quartz crystals of a geode. Its bones were prismatic, casting rainbows where it stood instead of shadow. Its parts were oddly shaped and numbered, and while it somewhat had four appendages approximating limbs, it looked more like a horse standing upright than a man; that is if the horse had no skin or muscle, and was made of gemstones, and really didn't resemble a horse at all. There was nothing connecting the bones, and it seemed to be able to move them anywhere at will through the air.

It was terrifying. The docents around it looked off, too. As if less alive than usual, which was saying something. As Barron got closer, he realized that there was a crystal spike driven through each of their foreheads. It was uncannily uncharacteristic of the Library, and the detectives both wondered how big this might be if the Library was willing to take such hasty strides.

"I am Zagreus," it spoke in a thundering voice, and if it was looking at Barron, he couldn't tell, "you are Detective Lorenz Kolbe Barron. Your true name is excluded from my database, therefor I will call you only by your title."

"That is my true name," Barron growled, but the thing didn't respond. It was at least two feet taller than him, and Barron finally identified something that looked like a skull that might be its head. It was fixed on the body, and did not even spare a glance to Barron or Yusuf. Those docents, with their impaled heads and ridged stances, almost gave the impression that this Zagreus was some sort of military general. But the Library had no such things.

"Detective, I have been created with the sole intention of solving these murders. I hope to see fruitful collaboration in this field."

"You're tellin' me that there have been other murders like this?" Yusuf was practically attacking the Librarian, if it could be called that. He was particularly jealous when it came to cases, and Barron knew from experience that he didn't like outside influence. He put a staying hand on his partner's shoulder.

"There is little need for anger," replied Zagreus, "yes, the Library has withheld some information from you, and will continue to do so as serves Its interests." The thing was all efficiency and objectivity and single-mindedness. It was clinical, inhuman. Like the jailors. Even as it spoke to Barron, several pieces of the thing shot off to survey the scene like drones. How they could see anything without having eyes was beyond him.

Barron looked the thing up and down, and decided to choke down his pride. He might, for one reason or another, inexplicably hate this thing, but maybe a little help wasn't so bad. "Yes, I hope so too. Now, what can you tell me about these other murders?"

"I am called elsewhere currently. I have enlisted a special resource for you to use in your case, Detective. Milo Josepha Strand, true name: Theseus. He will provide you with the facts of the six other slayings." Six other slayings? Good Lord, how deep did this go? Seven murders in total, all suspected by the Library to be connected? This was bad. The bedazzled Librarian's bone drones snapped back into place suddenly, and it left the scene abruptly, augmented docents following.

"Something's terribly wrong if the Library's created… that thing," Yusuf huffed as a young, wiry Terran who couldn't be over seventeen walked out from where Zagreus left.

"It's desperate enough to create a specialized Librarian, which is near unheard of."

The boy approached them, but did not speak. He only stood there, somewhat awkward and somewhat defiant. Arms crossed, but leaning slightly to the left. He favored his left foot, it seemed. Barron scanned him for anything dangerous, mentally or otherwise, about him. He was of average size for his age. His eyes were dark grey, like a storm cloud. And with sand-colored hair which looked frazzled, it was as if this Theseus had been struck by lightning. His dark eyes darted from Barron to Yusuf.

"Alright, debrief quick," Yusuf finally cut the silence, asking, "what's with the other murders?"

The boy did not respond, but instead walked to survey the crime scene. He stood there for some time, and it was then that Barron noticed the device embedded in his upper right forearm. Grafted into an incision where skin, muscle, and bone should be was a metallic ring which contained a blue trapezohedral jewel, floating in the center. You could look through his wrist from one side to the other. Hues softly fell, coating Yusuf's jackboots in soft turquoise light. As Theseus spoke something indiscernible into his wrist, several small holographic symbols appeared scattered around the crimescene.

"Kid, c'mon, let's get on with it. Neither of us wants to be here longer than—"

He was cut off by the abrupt jab of Theseus' left arm, eyes fixated, fused to the crystal light's quiet pulsating. He was still mumbling into that all-too geometric crystal of his, flitting masses of integers and numerals passing silently from his mouth. Some holograms winked out like stars, the boy was whittling down the datapoints to a cohesive variable. Barron watched with mixed emotions. On one hand, something about this silent young lad intrigued him; on the other hand, he was being cryptic and withholding information. He looked suddenly up, like a Mastiff catching a scent, as one of the markers blinked red, and all others disappeared. Barron, by instinct, rushed over to the marker, crouching down to inspect the small implement under it. A floorboard, slightly askew.

Peeling up the floorboard revealed thousands of cicadas.

Barron blacked out.

Shall we go on?

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