Friday, July 12, 2013

Insert Jaw-Dropping Reveal Here (part 3.0 of 5)

"And you seem to break like time.
 So fragile on the inside, you climb these grapvines. 
Would you look now unto the pit of me on the ground?
 And you wander through these to climb these grapevines."
—Globus, "Orchard of Mines"


"Tash?" Michael asked. "What are you talking about? Has what?"

Valerie simply pulled her knees up to her chest. "What I've been looking for ever since Adrian died."

The Chief Agent frowned and looked like he was about to question her further, when a loud explosion sent all three of them ducking for cover. Now, normally loud explosions are commonplace in the Library Arcanium—between Tyler's insanity, Aster's fourth-wall breaking, and Ben's nukes, it wasn't hard to see why—but this one somehow felt more ominous than usual, particularly since they had all felt the analytical light of a Plot Device pass through them. That in itself was never a good sign.

Kuroneko's cat-reflexes sent her rolling back up to her feet even as she fell, and Michael wasn't far behind her. "The hell was that?" he yelled over the din, taking off for the corridors at a sprint. Almost as an afterthought, he slid to a halt and looked back at Valerie, who was hoisting herself back up with a nearby railing. Ari had already vanished to who knows where.

Kuroneko's ears twitched, hearing detail as the humans could never hope to. Her head tilted to one side, partly in confusion, partly in surprise. "Are those... Daleks?"

Valerie had never heard the term before, but apparently Michael had, and his eyes widened in horror. "Shit... Valerie, get to the med ward and wait for further orders," he barked. "I'm gonna go find out what happened."

The healer grit her teeth and nodded, knowing what he meant by "further orders". She would have some explaining to do later, to all of them.

Until then, all she could do was hope everyone was safe, and pray to whatever gods were listening that her and Kuroneko's plan was possible.


Insert the second half of "Insert Cro Magnon Civilisation Here" and most of "Insert Random Distraction Here" here.


Tash seemed alright for the moment, although with Daleks, Weeping Angels, and lord knew what else running around the Library, "for the moment" might not be too long a time. Harriet had been positively frantic when she carried the paralyzed Librarian into the medical wing, Michael almost more so when he arrived from the fray outside about twenty minutes later. Valerie and Phoenixia had administered the antidote to the datura immediately, so the blonde leader's temperature had lowered to a more reasonable level, but her heart rate remained elevated and her respiratory rate had gone up by quite a bit. The drug's paralytic effects were wearing off, but the increase in breathing suggested that Tash was still halucinating—and the dreams weren't pleasant if her heart rate was any indication.

"I don't care what you have to do," Harriet said as she holstered a few grenades and picked up her cricket bat threateningly. "Just make her better." And with that the Founder left the sick bay and marched out into the brawl.

Valerie looked around. Other than the sleeping Tash, she was alone. Michael and Phoenixia were already long gone; like their esteemed Founder, they too knew where their talents lay during a combat emergency, and it wasn't in dutifully holding the hand of an unconcious woman. Valerie, though she was picking up new tricks rapidly, knew herself to be no warrior, and so concentrated her efforts on what she did know.

The healer sat down next to Tash's bed and made herself comfortable. She did not bother with any sort of gesture to aid her concentration; after nearly three years of working together, eating together, laughing and crying together, Valerie knew the Leader's mind quite well.

Please... she prayed. Please, let me be right...


Valerie was struck with a sudden sense of deja vu—in its current state, Tash's mind was remarkably similar to Aster's when she had dived into it... was it really only yesterday? Except this time it was more like a hurricane: impenetrable chaos surrounding a small island of calm, and inside that calm, something incredible was happening.

She could see the hallucination the Librarian was under, and it wasn't pretty. Valerie couldn't suppress a wince when she saw... well, Valerie... get slashed acrost the front and land in a mangled pile across the spacious room, but weirdly, she was morbidly facinated. There was something decidedly disorienting about watching yourself, even an illusion of yourself, be murdered.

Then other agents in the dream began dropping, and Valerie began to feel sickened. Okay, she thought, slightly nauseated, Where's the pause button on this thing?

Abruptly, her conciousness pulled away from the dream—still within Tash's mind, but not so deep a part of it. She now saw the hallucination as it was: a function of the mind induced by drugs and powered by the Librarian's fears. But from such an outside point of view, she also saw something else.

That's it, isn't it? she asked. Ari gave no response, but the healer didn't need one. The identity of the enormous mass of brilliant violet energy that encompassed the illusion in a manner that looked achingly like a comforting hug, was obvious.

The pathway was paved with firey crimson this time, the reasons for which were pretty obvious. Valerie followed along it, neither hurried nor slow.

Back inside the dream, Valerie thought she felt a different kind of tears. Or maybe that was just her.


"Who are you?" she immediately demanded.

Adrian gave her an odd little smile and began walking in circles around her. "Who do you want me to be?"

Valerie rolled her eyes, exasperated before they even began. "What is it with mental hallucinations and their refusal to give a straight frikking answer?"

The man before her chuckled a bit. "If you don't feel like thinking about it, just take a guess."

She sighed and decided to play along. "You're me," she said at last. "Some part of me trying to tell me something I've missed and it's simply looking like you because it drives the point home that I'm missing something, since I miss Adrian and he's dead."

"Good theory." He nodded approvingly. "It's logical and founded on your own experiences and knowledge about things like this. But it's still inaccurate." The circling stopped and he faced her again, hands clasped in front of himself as he regarded her. "Care to try again?

She folded her arms and glared at him. "We could cut out all this and you could just tell me."

"We could." The Not-Adrian agreed. "But you won't gain anything from that." He smiled suddenly. "Think of it like pieces to a puzzle. Find enough of them and you'll able to see the whole picture without having them all."

"Why a puzzle? And what are the pieces?"

"To your first, why not a puzzle, and to the second..." The smile did not leave. "You've already met all of the pieces, there's no need for me to elaborate on that."

Her eyes went wide. "So they are people! Who are they? How many—?"

"Let me ask you something," he interrupted, clasping his arms behind his back and pacing in front of her. "What is your purpose?"

The healer gave him a look, but got the feeling he wouldn't continue unless she answered. So she shrugged. "It depends on the moment, really. Life changes from one second to the next and so do goals and purposes and reasons for doing things."

Another nod. "Another good answer. Do you believe that our purpose changes from person to person? That is to say, when we meet or see someone, we give ourselves a different purpose for that person? Such as protecting them or giving them a hug or helping them?"

"Of course."

"Okay." He paused in pacing to look at her. "What is Adrian's purpose to the Society?"

She didn't even need a second's thought. "To protect and train us, give us an HQ, teach, help usall manner of things along that line."

"Does this purpose change from Agent to Agent?"

"Obviously. To love us, most of all Tash. To teach and train and fight, people like Michael and Ossa." A slight frown. "What purpose does asking me this have?"

"It's a clue. Or at least, it's about to be one." He rocked on his heels a bit. "But since you're in the mood for something a little more literal, I'll close with a riddle.

Valerie twitched slightly. "I think you may have a different definition of literal than I do..."

He responded with a wry smirk. "It's still more straightforward than waiting for you to notice bits of scenery in old memories." He laughed a bit. "You already know everything you need to. It's just a matter of remembering that you know it. You all have that problem, really, but that's for another time..."

"If I already know, then just tell me!"

He glanced at her. "If you wanted me to 'just tell you', you'd have remebered it by now. So, my final question... who do you know who has decided that their purpose is to shield the sword?"

"Shield the sword…" Valerie scowled at him. "What kind of clue is that?"

He laughed. "A very excellent one, thank you very much, especially if you've been paying attention to Real World changes. Now put that lovely brain of your's to work already!"


At the end of the day, nearly everyone had gone to sleep early, even those who operated in different time zones. It had been an exhausting day, and by the time the last of the Dr. Who villains were defeated and sent back to their own fandom, it was a rare soul that could even think about remaining upright any longer than the trip to their quarters. Only Michael and a handful of other agents were still up, making one last check around the Library. No one was taking any chances that there might be remnants of this, their second full-scale invasion.

Valerie remained in the med ward with Tash, even though the Library had moved her bedroom right across the hall from it (moving entire rooms was commomplace, apparently). Harriet was still gone without a trace (off to investigate gay Turkish pirates, apparently), and Phoenixia had gone to her own quarters once she was satisfied that the Librarian was out from under the effects of the datura drug. Valerie was exhausted herself—most of the Library's occupants had passed through the med ward for a once over after the fighting was done—but she couldn't sleep.

She could be wrong. She could be devestatingly wrong. Even if it was possible to find every last piece of Adrian's soul, there was no guarantee she could fuse them back together, or even that the body would accept them. Hunch or no hunch, there wasn't even a guarantee that the number of pieces was even calculable. They were in completely uncharted territory here, and that was a lot of pressure for one healer girl to carry.

However, if Valerie's fear of failure in this venture was great, it was surpassed and eclipsed by her fear of her friends' reactions to her secrecy. She had her reasons for keeping it to herself, very good reasons, but at the same time she had known from the beginning that they would not take well to being left in the dark. By now, however, it was moot point. Michael knew she was up to something, and she had already resolved to tell both him and Tash everything.

As though summoned by her thoughts (an idea Valerie thought quite possible, as it happened to her a lot), the Chief Agent himself stormed in, looking weary and irritated as he slammed the door behind him. "...don't even have a Youtube account..."

Tash stirred from her sleep at the sound, moving to cover her head with the blankets. "Bloody hell, Michael..." she whined.

Michael's cheeks turned pink. "S-Sorry. The lights were on, and I thought—"

"I was awake," Valerie explained.

The Chief Agent's gaze rested on her. "Right..." he said slowly. "I've been meaning to ask you..."

"I've been meaning to tell you," the healer interrupted. She glanced at Tash. "Both of you, actually, so Tash, could you stay awake for this? It's kind of important."

Tash sat up and stretched a bit. "I'm already awake now, I guess." She yawned broadly, and then smiled. "What's up?"

Valerie took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to ignore the pounding in her ears.

"Kuroneko and I found Adrian's body, and there might be a way to bring him back to life."

She had expected the stunned silence to follow. She had expected the looks of shock and disbelief on her superiors' faces. She had even anticipated the way Tash reeled back as though struck.

That didn't make it hurt any less.

"How?" said Michael.

The empath looked at him. "What?"

"How do you plan to bring him back?"

"We think his soul was broken into pieces before he died, and that the pieces got scattered around. If they're all brought back together in his body, he should wake up again."

"How many pieces are there?"

"I don't know."

"But you have found some of them." It wasn't a question.

Valerie nodded. "So far they've all found shelter in the minds of people Adrian was close to. Aster was one, and so are you two."

"How do you plan to put the pieces back together?"

"I don't know. That's what Kuroneko's been researching, so she—"

"Where did you find Adrian's body?"

For the next hour and a half, Michael grilled Valerie with every possible question he could think of on the situation, not making a single expression all the while. Valerie, meanwhile, was somewhat surprised to find that the answer to more than half of his questions was "I don't know." That thought made her quite apprehensive as the night wore on; no matter where you went, ressurection was a delicate operation (at least without some kind of divine interference). What chance could they possibly have of success, if there was so much that she simply did not know?

It wasn't until the end, when Michael was finding it harder to think of new questions, that Tash finally said something.

"Take me to him."

Both of the others in the room paused and looked at their Librarian.

"Take me to Adrian," she said softly.

An array of different expressions flitted across Michael's face, but he said nothing; instead, he looked down at the empath, who's face was completely unreadable.

In an even quieter voice, Valerie replied, "No."

Tash's featured scrunched up in anger as she sat up. "I want to see him, Valerie!"

"Tash, please understand. I asked Kuroneko the same exact thing when she first told me where he was. I've only seen him once, but even that was one time too many." She looked at her superior with unshed tears behind her eyes. "He's dead, Tash. There's an incredibly slim chance that we could do something to change that fact, but for the forseeable future, he - is - dead." Valerie looked away and gripped the obsidian pendant under her shirt—her own emotions were hard enough to contain. "No one deserves to see that..." she whispered.

The Librarian swallowed, her resolve like molten steel. "I don't need to be protected, Valerie. Moreover, I'm still the Librarian. If I want to see Adrian, then you can't stop me."

"No," Valerie retorted angrily, "Nobody can stop you from doing what you want, not even yourself sometimes! But don't think for a second that it's only you I'm protecting! I saw my dead friend once, and it tore me apart inside—and I'm not even in love with him! Do you think I want to feel that pain again, ten-fold, through you?"

There was a long silence as the two women glared at each other. Michael looked like he wanted to say something, but was torn between his loyalty to his sister and his agreement with the healer's sense.

"I-I need to be alone for a while," Tash finally said in a shaking voice.

Valerie and Michael both stood up.

"No," she said. "I need to leave. I need to be somewhere else." The Librarian slowly stood up and made for the door on legs that shook more than her voice. Strictly speaking, she shouldn't be up and about just yet, but Valerie didn't have it in her to stop her.

When Tash leaned on the door handle for support as she opened it and began to exit the room, Valerie couldn't take it anymore. "Ask Kuroneko to take you if you really want to see. I don't want you to do this, but I can't stop you if you really feel you must. It's your choi—"

The Librarian whipped around to glare at her friend. "When you issue orders for the mental health of your patient, you need to be a little more firm than that," she said coldly. Without waiting for a response, she turned on her heel and slammed the door behind her.

Michael rose from his seat and left as well, and Valerie made no attempt to stop him. All too often, people in pain wanted to be followed, no matter what they said. If Tash needed someone with her, he'd be there, and if she wanted to be alone, he'd leave.

Valerie herself often wished that someone would follow her, but this was the life she chose. She made the hard decisions so that others wouldn't have to, and told people what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted

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