Bibliotek Special! Chapter Five.Three

Posted on 20/09/2011 by

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They were all browsing while they talked and Graham had edged away to the back of the store by himself. In his hands he had a browned, but clean-edged bound. He turned it in his hands, it was odd, but he felt no thrill in that. Bringing it to his nose… there was nothing, the cover a distressed and ruined card. Opening it out, he flipped through some dozen pages, noting it’s copyright was late last century, the pages were scuffed, and it read as pop fiction. Then he saw it, some of the pages were mixed-in with modern Jewish tracts—techno-critical, sensitive to a hardcore view of the Sabbath. Graham picked up another and looked through the oddly porous bond—so unlike the newer high-res paper, instead the print ink stretched over those pages like a close-up of a low-def face. Inside there were dates and figures: recent dates. The bound couldn’t have been so old if it was an almanac from the last year. He put both of them back as close to where he’d found them as he could.

He checked to see that Emlen and Robert were talking over a far set of shelves. Smudging the edges of the bound’s covers, he tried to remove any evidence he’d ever been there. He knew then, that this place was just as bad as he’d thought. There shouldn’t be anything so new in here. Of course, every bound printed before the Act had been ruled to have an implied, ‘permissive’ license, so the secondhand stores lay in that gray area; anything made since had to go through a publisher: books, blogs, everything. And they had to go online. If the text was then printed, it would inevitably conform to an expensive art&craft template—to beat the enormous green tax—or to a cheap and dirty, thirty day disposable.

But the Jewish bound there made sense, that had been going through the courts for years. Hardliners saying they couldn’t use a feeder on the Sabbath, and that the print restrictions were a violation of their ‘inviolate’ religious freedoms. Oh, but let the courts decide on that! The gun, sitting on the counter, made him feel less nervous than this. Graham understood then how Emlen was so sure that the place was clean of Inspiration. It was a professional chopshop. It broke the compact. And this was deadly against the law.

He reached round his hip—spasmed—to check his mobile. Then he remembered: the night before, they’d passed it off on an operative of Emlen’s, and now he had no idea what had been done with it. Last night was more manic than he’d felt it at the time. Emlen seemed so still now; but there, with his calm, it was more than enough to disturb Graham—this was far from a safe place. Then again, Emlen had said he was taking the two of them to a ‘safehouse’—compound word, as he now knew, and not actually a place of safety. He’d also said he was sincere in helping Graham track down a copy of his bound. Sure, so he could follow the changes that’d been made to it, pinpoint the precise school of hacking used from amongst all those he’d seeded into the wild, but sincere in that. What choice did Graham actually have in believing that?

Neither of them had known what the Collective had been up to, though Emlen admitted that he should have tried getting Graham out earlier. Brilliant. He’d been stalking Graham, waiting for disaster… Not that he would’ve gone on this mad run with Emlen if he hadn’t been being hunted… Maybe I’m actually the exact opposite of Emlen, he thought, last night after the heist might’ve been the most normal my life has been—and is gonna be—in a long time. But Emlen was at home there. Actions, and consequences. We fucked it, and the world worked the way it was supposed to. Now I’ve got no idea what the hell this is.

He waited while the two men finished their negotiations, Robert finally agreeing to source whatever it was that Emlen—or the both of them, Graham thought himself into the scheme ruefully—required. Graham thought then they’d go and hide out in the back room, but after Robert closed them in the lab, Emlen collected his few things and looked about ready to leave.

To be Continued… with Authorial boybands and wordplay…

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By Paul McLaughlan

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Delamotte, F.: “Ornamental Alphabets, Ancient and Mediæval” (1879)

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