Library Card : Part Two
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"Ayman listen - listen! If I chew on the crayon to just a sharp enough point, I can use it to sign documents!"

A huge, lumbering beast, taller than the average bookshelf and resembling a fuzzy caterpillar with an owl's beak for a face, swung its massive neck across the kiosk to look down at a swarm of hands busy filing papers. The hands - humanoid, for the most part, and around six of them - buzzed around the office space, grabbing, sorting, folding, inking, and carrying files to and fro.

"Just focus on handing out cards right now, Owlpede." The hands signed in front of Owlpede's face, before a small group of them returned to float above a headless humanoid's body, adorned in a beige vest and button down. This creature was much smaller than its companion, sitting at around six feet tall at the shirt collar, and was presumably the one named Ayman.

"But that's boring! No one ever stops by our desk anymore!"

"Maybe that's because you got us moved out of the Main Hall and now we're towards the West end of Hall One, Third Port Off Left - or practically, the middle of nowhere." Upon second thought, one of the pairs of Ayman's hands returned to Owlpede's face to sign. Seems they were stuck in conversation.

"It's not nowhere! There's spaceships! But they never seem to want a Library card."

"Because we already gave them cards at the Station some time ago. They don't need another."

Owlpede let out a small harumpf of frustration and swung his massive head back to look out across the Library. Perhaps Ayman was right - there was no one out here. Most entities only passed through the area as it was a flight path for many flying species or modes of transportation. In turn, the shelves were short and grey, more of steel banks than wooden ledges, and hidden between gnarled masses of tubing. They were filled with heavy solid state drives, so nothing would get blown away. The Archivists' desk was less of a desk and more of a lone call station box, sitting off to the edge where the Library opened up to more of an endless expanse of cosmically inspiring liminal space.

A set of small footsteps pulled Owlpede's attention back over towards the shelves. Followed closely behind them was the smell of salt and seawater - a smell Owlpede hadn't experienced in awhile, not since being stationed over in Wing Two for the Depth's flooding event. The source of the sound made itself apparent as a human emerged from between the shelves, looking lost and confused. Odd that the human was alone - typically a Docent would sniff this kind of nervousness out and guide them where they needed to be.

"There are Docents. Don't you feel them?" Ayman had stopped sorting and a silence fell over the two as he pointed off in the distance. Docent lantern light, glowing in the darkness, slowly pulsating a dark eerie red. To the Archivists, it felt like a dull thudding pain growing closer.

"They're upset." Owlpede kept his focus on the human, puzzled. He tensed slightly as he continued to examine the figure. "Crumpled… suit. And tie. Jailor?"

"They're upset enough to warn us but not enough to issue a formal warning to the Library herself. I think they're just as confused by the patron as the patron is to be here."

"Patron? So the human is a Wanderer? Not a Jailor?" Owlpede breathed a sigh of relief.

“I… don’t know.” Ayman hesitated, one of his shoulders dropping slightly as if he was tilting his nonexistent head. “I just used the title that was suggested. But – well – if they are a patron of the Library, they should have a card. Go – look for one once they get closer and we can gleam a name.”

“But I want to say hi! To the mystery-“ Owlpede was shoved further back into the desk area as the patron approached. The Archivists watched as the human came to a stop before them, and despite being fairly large for a human, had to crane his head to look up at them. Normally, the Library would shift its appearance, making the desk smaller and more welcoming to the newcomer, but it did not. The Library herself seemed to be holding her breath, watching, and waiting, for the patron to make a move first.

“Afternoon.” The man stood there, his formal wear covered in dried sea salt, and seemed to know he was very much out of place. Revealed below his rolled up sleeve was a centipede… tattoo, perhaps, but it appeared burned on rather than inked. The same texture of injury was on his forehead too, but much fainter, of an eye sigil. They contrasted darkly against his pale, discolored skin – the color of a bruised, decaying body, awash in shades of purple and blue. As the Archivists stared, he stared back, and seemed to realize they could see him, truly see him, for what he actually was. This seemed to discomfort him, but that was only revealed by the Archivists being able to see true nature, as the stoic figure’s face did not betray a single ounce of emotion.

"Afternoon!" Ayman signed with a pair of his many floating hands, sending a telepathic message straight into the man's head. Another wave of discomfort emanated from the man. "What brings you to the Library?"

"I suppose I am looking for a book." A lie, sensed the Archivist. Or rather, only a partial truth - a fragment of the actual reasoning the patron was here. Well, that wasn’t too unusual, given the many reasons folks came to the Library.

"Okay!" Ayman sent a ping out for a nearby Page. The bug-like creatures, adorned with multiple sets of arms, were the Library's main way of sorting and retrieving books, though admittedly they worked a little slower in this section as the creatures were built for climbing, not dodging spaceships. "Do you know the title of said book?"

"It did not have one." A pause, as the man slowly tapped his forehead, seeming to remember that the Archivists could truly see him. "Had this sigil on it, rather."

"You want the Rafter Ghost's book?" Owlpede had managed to break free of the hands keeping him towards the back of the desk area and suddenly swung forward. Ayman watched as curiously, instead of flinching back, a small pulse of magic emanated from the man, and he remained standing calmly still.

"The Gatekeeper's Sketchbook." Ayman corrected. "Typically patrons come here to return said book when the artist ends up dropping it somewhere. We've never had anyone request to check it out directly."

"Is that so?" That seemed to make the man more nervous than having Owlpede in his face did. "Will there be a problem with my request, then?"

"No! Not at all! Just means we need to track down where the book currently is, and if the artist is currently working on said book. Then you might need to wait, or you could seek out the artist directly if you wanted to ask it about its art or something like that."

"What did you say your name was?" Owlpede had swung back around to rummage through some drawers. Ayman could tell he had already found something.

"You can call me Basar." Another small pulse of magic.

"Then I found your card! Here you go!" Owlpede handed Basar a library card. "Looks like someone dropped it off earlier this morning! You should really try not to lose a hold of it. Some people won't be as nice returning it! Or someone will eat it. Like what happens to my crayons."

"What do you mean you found my card?" Basar looked down at the card in his hands. "I - I have not been here before."

The two Archivists looked at each other, then back at Basar, then back at each other again. Telepathic bickering began.

Who dropped it off?

I don't know! It just appeared on the desk earlier!

And you didn't think to tell me?

You said I could handle all card related duties!

And it's not a fake card?

No! But he does look a little different.

Who issued it?

I did! That's how I know it's not fake!

And you didn't recognize him?

Take a look for yourself!

"May I?" Ayman extended one of his hands out. The card was placed in his palm. Both Archivists peered down to stare at it with their eyeless faces. What they were doing, exactly, was unclear to Basar, but Ayman could tell it seemed to be appreciated.

The card was Basar's card, issued by Owlpede some 30 or so years ago by the human's standard of time. Humans did change as they age, but not drastically enough that the Library shouldn't be able to recognize them for who they are after a decade or two. Peering closer at the card, Ayman began to dig through his memory, trying to recall who this person was, but nothing more than a vague nostalgia came to mind.

"What's your name?" Owlpede asked again. Ayman ran a finger over where the true name would be on the card - would be. The name slot wasn't blank, but it was distorted, only a part of the name was there. The identification callsign on the card had been scratched out, and replaced with a crude carving of a centipede.

"You can call me Basar." The human repeated. Human? No, something wasn't right here. He was an atypical and perhaps magical human, sure, but there was something else that made him lean non-human. The name Basar was on the card though and the etched in centipede matched his tattoo, so the card had to belong to him, but what the hell had happened to this card?

"Basar what? Doesn't your type typically have a last name of some sort?"

"Yes, but, Basar is my last name."

"So what's your first name?"


"Basar Basar?"

"No… Just Basar." The figure paused for a minute, thinking. "I used to have another name, a nickname, but I never claimed ownership of it, and it would have been given to me after I would have… presumably ordered this card." Another long pause. "A first name. A first… name. What was I called before I was just Basar?"

"I dunno! That's why I'm asking you!"

The distorted card yielded no further answers. While the theft of true names was very common, it took powerful, rarer magic to vandalize a name to the point it would be erased from history - from even the Library's records. Ayman mulled it over - was it worth calling over one of the Senior Archivists or even the Chief Archivists for something like this? He handed the card back to Basar. The Docents were still lurking nearby, their warning signals only slightly fading now that they saw an Archivist was handling the situation. No - the two of them could handle this, and maybe then they'd get to move back to the Main Desk area after solving such a complex case!

"Well, Basar," Ayman started, gesturing towards the card now in Basar's hands. "It looks like someone didn't steal your name, but rather… corrupted a part of it. Are you familiar with anyone or any specific event that might have done that to you?"

"Take your damn pick." Despite the amused huff that came after that sentence, the emotion that came across the man's face was one of exhaustion and melancholy. Ayman's hands faulted for a moment, surprised by the sudden intense emotion radiating off of Basar. And while at one moment it looked like the man may cry, in nearly an instance his face shifted back to the same stony expression as the conversation continued.

"Just being here could get me terminated. But I would not be surprised if my retirement in a month meant the same outcome."

Terminated? What kind of work does this guy do?

Gleam him again!

Ayman tilted his torso forward ever so slightly, with Owlpede mimicking him from behind. Again, only a vague nostalgia came forward. A man who was only remembered when it was convenient, relevant, or when there was work needed to be done. Otherwise forgotten, cast aside, and just a bystander to his own life's work. Achievements he had made credited to other people. Those he had helped growing up and moving on. Things he was proud of were broken, or considered trash. And while humble on a good day, exhaustion took over the majority, and thus no change was ever made. A walking wall of authority who could not stand up for himself, only the corporation he was a face of.

But as Ayman peered closer, he could see the cracks forming. A light, while faint, glowed inside the man. One of talent, of adventure, of a love of helping others. That, while discredited, kept doing his work because it needed to get done regardless. A person who carried the weight on his shoulders and asked for nothing in return. Someone who-

Jailor! Jailor pin! On his shirt!

Ayman's attention snapped to Basar's shirt collar. A collar pin held the tie in place, and in each button hole was a decorative button - an eye on the left, and the Jailor's insignia on the right. Both Archivists tensed, bewildered at the possibility that a Jailor was standing right before them.

A pulse of magic. Basar turned his back to the Archivists, looking around the open port behind them. The faint red glow had multiplied, as a group of Docents were now waiting nearby, but still - they waited. None approached any closer as Basar turned back to face the Archivists.

"What are you doing here, Jailor?" Ayman asked cautiously. "How did you get here?"

"A dream led me here." He said, finally. Another long pause. "I understand the hatred towards the Foundation -"

"Understand? You understand?" Ayman looked over in surprise to see Owlpede, fur bristling, begin to raise to his full height. It wasn’t often Owlpede expressed any other emotions besides hunger or boredom. "You couldn't possibly begin to understand the amount of harm you've caused. The amount of lives you've ruined. Leave. Now. Before I call over the Chief to eat you. Or before I do it myself!"

Ayman, still gleaming information from the Jailor, watched as that spark of light - the desire to stand up for himself, quickly went out. As Owlpede hissed at Basar, he stood calmly, before giving a small nod and turning to leave.

"Not so fast." A voice echoed from the infinite space behind the bookshelves. Out of the darkness, a porcelain mask emerged, an emotionless smile carved into its surface. After looming for a moment in the atmospheric fog, a hand stepped forward, followed by another, and another, until a canine-like beast emerged from the shadows. It had a serpentine neck, much too long for its body, with a tail to match. Its limbs were stretched and distorted, and while it walked on all fours like a dog, when it approached the desk - which it towered over in comparison, even to the Archivists - it sat down like a human. Carried in one of its human-like hands (paws?) was a terrified Page, clinging to the book Basar had requested. This was the Gatekeeper's pet: Uncertainty - the oldest of the masked canines.

"We're a little busy, Uncy." Owlpede hissed. Ayman watched as Uncy played with the Page like a doll, holding it by a pair of its arms, dangling it from many feet up in the air. It plucked the book out of the Page's hands before dropping the Page with a small flick of its fingers, sending it flying across the clearing. The Page landed with a soft crunch before quickly picking itself up and scuttling away as fast as its bowed legs would carry it. Harming the Library was punishable by things worse than death, but Uncy simply ignored Ayman's pained disapproval as it dusted its hands off and handed the book to Basar. It then stood, motioning for Basar to follow it, though the human seemed reluctant to do so.

“A little busy doing what? Being bad at your jobs? Remind me, how long ago was it that you were banished here to the Third Port of Left?”

“Uncertainty, please.” If Ayman could let out an audible sigh, he would have done so. Owlpede took his attention off of Basar to bristle at Uncy instead.

“Busy dealing with a JAILOR. In the LIBRARY.”

“That’s no Jailor. That’s a patron of the Library. He has a card, does he not?”

“Well, yes, but-”

“And what Jailor has a Library card?”

“None do, but-”

“He could still inform the Jailors about the Library with whatever connections he does have.” Ayman cut in, trying to help Owlpede out. Uncy didn’t even bother to look at them, instead examining and picking at the dirt under its nails.

“Are you going to do that?” Uncy asked Basar, finally looking away from its nails to glance down at the human who had been standing there awkwardly.

“No, I would likely be killed for breaking protocol, regardless of whatever information I found.”

“Well there, problem solved, no?” Uncy turned to leave. It wrapped its tail around Basar, turning him around as well so that the human had no choice but to follow it. “Come with me, old man, off we go now.”

“Wait, no, that’s not how this works!” Owlpede strained to leave his desk, to go follow after them, but due to the laws of the Library, he was constrained in place. Ayman watched quietly, gleaming Basar once more, and could tell he was being truthful. Something about this situation was so odd - the card, a Jailor finding their way in, even Uncy making one of its rare appearances - but perhaps that was the will of the Library. It had to have approved of giving Basar a card, after all, so perhaps it wasn't worth questioning.

“Do you want me to call the Chief over to tell him you’ve fucked up again? Denying a patron entry to the Library? If the Docents have let him get this far, what do you care?” Uncy was already walking the pair away.

“Let them go.” Ayman said quietly to Owlpede, pulling him back once more with a pair of hands. Owlpede muttered what could only be a string of curses in his native language, but heeded Ayman’s suggestion, and thus the Archivists watched the figures disappear into the shelves, soon nothing more but another one of the shadows between the stars that decorated the cosmic expanse between the Library wings. Ayman had a feeling they weren’t getting back to the Main Desks any time soon.

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