A Dragstrip Librarian

A Dragstrip Librarian » Edible Brand Recognition

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28

It was a bright cold day in April, and the fog had since left the courtyard. The men that walked through the cavernous expanse below, desperately trying to escape the stinging April wind, strode forward at a brisk pace, trailing their carts behind them. Sean entered the pale glass doors of the city Protection center, the all-too familiar ding of the anomalous scanner welcoming him.

The reception area smelt of recycled plastic and burnt cigarettes. At the far side of the room, sat a pale plastic desk, the employee since replaced with machines. Sean made for the desk, pulling a piece of paper from the whirring, buzzing metal contraptions on the desk. He looked down at the emboldened text.

Unit Commander: Congratulations are in order for being issued a Librarian-class Protector. Your dissident-suppression record is guaranteed to be doubled or better in the coming months. This brief guide will aid you in maximizing the utility of this most versatile asset.

His eyes dragged over the rest of the paper, the whirring of the machines lulling his brain. The clean white page, contrasted by the emboldened black text. With that horrendous triangle logo in the top middle, darker than the rest, like it was staring into his soul. Sean stared back at that perverted symbol, the triangle that had since lost the meaning he had grown up with. His train of thought was interrupted by the sound of a woman clearing her throat. He looked up, immediately noting her union-mandated clothing, with that infernal triangle on her coat pocket.

"Mm, yes?" He asked, eying the symbol.

The woman walked closer, holding a collection of books beneath her coat.

She cleared her throat again, "I assume you got the briefing, Major?"

Sean held up the paper, the buzzing of the machines highlighting the interval between their comments.

"Let me guess, library girl, we're gonna go kill more heretics," He sighed, the comment drenched with sarcasm.

"The term you're looking for is dissidents, Major."

He grumbled, stuffing the paper into his satchel. "They didn't teach you humor at the academy?"

The woman looked at him, an expression of disdain upon her face. "They were more concerned with conformity, sir. Humor doesn't conform."

"So same as the receptionist there, huh?"

She looked at the desk, frowning.

Sean cleared his throat. "There's a guy on 49th street. The tech monkeys say he's got an anomalous item that makes his car go apeshit." He coughed again, closing the satchel.

"Is this a permitted anomaly?"

"Of course not, or else we wouldn't have to care."

The woman clutched the books, speaking in a brisk tone, "And how would you suppose we are to go about apprehending this anomaly?"

Sean rested his hand on his belt, patting the pistol cleverly concealed behind a strange kind of reflective fabric.

"And if that don't work, we use your bookworm shit to throw a bomb at 'em."

She sighed, "I can't throw bombs, Major."

"Then the pistol will have to do, now let's go." He said, turning for the door.

As they exited the plexiglass doors of the building, they were greeted by that horrendous stinging April wind. The wind that smelt of burnt cabbage, the garbagemen having been barred from the Center's perimeter all those years ago. Security threat, Sean always thought. The bricks of the pathway were lined with grime, and below that, only the cavernous expanse that made up the so-called workers underpass. The men there walked on, ignoring the two standing above them.

The woman tucked her books into her coat pocket.“You said 49th street, correct?”

“Yes.”

She took off in that direction, leaving Sean to follow her. The fence separating them and the underpass was riddled with rust and grime, the steam rising from the occasional manholes providing the only sources of warmth. They exited the pathway onto a street, the bustling traffic at an almost complete stop. The buildings above them towered off into the sky, with glistening advertisements littering their concrete skeletons. The librarian looked up at one, Sean grabbing her by the shoulder. The screen shifted to show an expensive car, with a woman gleefully showing off its shining exterior.

“You think you could get us one of those? Make this trip a little easier.”

The librarian paused, as if to consider it. “Not without a written description, no.”

They pushed on through the bustling crowd on the sidewalk, the civilians moving to show respect for their positions. Or, as Sean had suspected since he had first gotten the uniform, fear for the symbol they bore upon their coats. It didn't matter to him, not in a long time. He'd gotten numb to his job, running from criminal to dissident, disposing of each with the help of these befuddling anomalous items. Perhaps once, he thought, there was a time where they were viewed as otherworldly magic, something to behold with wonder? But now they were tools, tools meant to be used by those bearing the logo stamped on their coats. The symbol that had once called its bearers to the cause of "research, contain, protect". There was no more research, containment, or protection of the anomalous, not with the old balance that had once been held so dear to their concrete-walled hearts. Now, there was only righteousness. Righteousness in a world full of demons and monsters— that, was the new goal of the so-called “Authority”. And indeed, he thought, some authority they must have, for they now had dominion over an area larger then eighty-percent of the entire planet.

And then, as they turned a corner to cut across a grunge-filled alleyway into the next street, neon cars came shrieking by.

“Guessing those are our guys, then?” said the librarian, as she eyed the speeding vehicles.

Sean sighed, watching them turn into a tunnel. “Looks like it.”

“And how do you suppose we catch up to them?”

“You got any fancy cars in those books of yours?”

She nodded, pulling a leather-bound book from her coat. On the spine of the book, Sean noted, was the title “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. As she read aloud the description of some kind of flying police vehicle, the words on the page abruptly forcing themselves into becoming a reality. Sean didn't bother asking her about it, as he had already climbed into the driver's seat.

He observed the interior of the car— it was almost exactly the same as a real vehicle. The corners of his mouth aimed upwards, as she climbed into the seat beside him. They took off down the street, the vehicle’s engine roaring with an almost gleeful sound. Soon enough, they came across the cars that had sped past them in their antics.

"So you know, this won't last. I'll tell you before it starts falling apart."

"And what then?"

The woman held up the novel she pulled the vehicle from, brushing over a dozen bookmarks with her free hand.

"Can always get a new one." She shrugged, tentatively shutting the book.

“Shoot to kill, I’m guessing?”

The librarian looked at him in response, her face that of a child that had just been told they couldn’t have any dessert after dinner. “For street racing? Really?”

Sean nodded, remembering the standard punishment for abuse of an unregistered anomaly.

“They’re using an anomaly to street race, honey. That’s death penalty right there.”

She slowly nodded, however retained an expression of disgust.

As their vehicle approached the speeding cars, Sean engaged the sirens on the top of the flying vehicle. The sound of a steady fast beat overtook them as they got closer to the cars, urging them to join the race. Sean, having been prior exposed to this kind of anomaly, pulled a cylindrical device from his coat pocket. He placed it on the back of his head, as it expanded into a metallic helmet, blocking out the affect.

“Take the wheel, bookworm.” He said, already rolling down the driver’s seat window and leaning out. He saw her move into the seat next to him, making sure the car didn’t swerve into any of the street racers.

As he leaned out the window, he pulled his pistol from its concealed pouch on his belt. He allowed the helmet’s visor to negate the motion blur of the speeding vehicles in his vision, aiming the sights of the pistol at the driver’s seat of the car in front of him. He noted the presence of a pair of green dice hanging from the inside dashboard, highlighted in the visor as anomalous. A burst of energy fired from his gun, arcing through the air like liquid lightning. The dice were encapsulated in an orange gelatin, significantly weakening their effects. The speeding cars whirred to a halt, followed by the halting of the police vehicle.

Sean slid back into the driver’s seat, removing the helmet. “That stuff only lasts for about two minutes, so let’s make this execution quick.”

“I.. will stay in the car for that.”

Sean nodded, not caring enough to argue. He got out, lazily walking over to the parked vehicles. He was greeted by a woman with a strikingly neon blue mohawk, wearing sunglasses.

“Like, what’d we do, man?” She asked, with a slur in her voice.

Sean sighed, pulling a paper from his satchel. “You violated section 78-C of the Anomalous Activities Agreement. Which explicitly states that unregistered anomalies are not to be used in any way, shape, nor form, and violators are to be punished by death.”

She gasped, scooting away from him into the passenger’s seat. Sean sighed, swiftly aiming the pistol and firing it at her neck, the bullet splitting into sixteen different parts whilst in flight. The shrapnel burned through her neck, killing her near-instantly. Painless, he thought, or at the very least, had always hoped.

Part 2 »

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