A team searches through the wreckage.
Not a few days ago it was like a monument to perseverance. It stood tall and proud, its users happy to work there.
Now it was a broken city, mangled and twisted from its meeting with the meteor that destroyed it. The roof that had covered it and protected the Grand Library from the weather, so they said, was now crumpled, its jagged edges jutted downwards into the Library where the impact was made.
Most of the building did seem to be still on fire, judging from the plumes of smoke rising from the ceiling. Ruby swallowed. It was an ominous feeling inside him, that told him he would have to be very, very careful.
He looked over at Steve, then at Guy. “Are you guys sure you want to do this?”
Guy shook his head. “No. But it’s our duty. We can only do our best.”
Steve seemed ready to go, too. So Ruby and Guy held on tighter to their weapons as the search-and-rescue team began to circle the building, looking for an entrance.
The main gates turned out to be in alright shape, though its doors had been broken off. The security checkpoint, however, was running off some other kind of energy, and had not been disabled by the blast. It was standalone, perhaps?
Steve reached for his pocket and pulled out his wallet, extracting his credentials, and stepped up to the gate. The main terminal was hooked up to a card scanner and the alarm system, in case of system tampering or banned credentials. Steve proceeded to insert his key-card into the scanner, which caused the screen above to light up.
PORPLEMONTAGE PROPRIETOR PROCEED TO PRINT SCAN
The gate allowed him to pass through to the next terminal, which lit up automatically. This terminal only lit up when staff members identified, to keep their extra access clearances from being used by outside parties. It was a thumbprint and retinal scan, and Ruby watched as Steve proceeded to use the retinal scanner, pressing his thumb against the fingerprint scanner. The terminal lit up green, and he was allowed through.
Ruby and Guy also went through this process, their old credentials (“STOOBEN ROOBEN, BUREAUCRAT” and “MARIOGUY1, AUTOPATROLLED”) lighting up on the screen, though Guy did not have to access the other security terminal. And so, they all stepped through into the heart of the burning building, looking around them.
It was a mess. All of the library’s records were gone, charred remains in its place. Many things were still on fire however, such as the snack bar on the second floor and even the vines that wrapped around the ruined ceiling that some patroller had grown to “spruce the place up”.
“Goodness...” Steve looked around. His pride and joy was gone. Oh, and the Grand Library too.
Guy gulped. “Do you think anyone is still alive?”
Ruby sighed, and frowned. “I don’t think so... but let’s look. I’d hate myself if we left and found out we left somebody to die in here.”
They agreed to split up and search the many stories of the library, as it was unsure how much the flames would spread. Steve agreed to search the administrative floors, while Ruby would look around the first and second floors, and Guy the third and fourth.
The burning, twisted wreck provided many a challenge for those on the higher floors, as they all would discover. Walkways collapsed, giant gaping holes on the floors, and some of the flora had fallen as well, adding to the blazing mess.
Guy made sure to step around the fires, keeping the robe tightly wrapped around him, and was starting to think his decision to come up here was a bad idea. He lifted the dragging robes off the floor, carrying them in his arms as he tried to make sure they did not catch on fire. He hoped somebody was still alive here, but did not believe anyone would be.
“Oh god oh god oh god oh god.”
Bean stood near the entrance, looking over the burning Library. She still couldn't believe her friends would go into it, which inevitably meant she would have to follow them. She was scared, frightened. Maybe it was still the shock of having her life flipped, turned upside down. Or maybe it was because the Gods were terrible at writing a scared character.
Nonetheless, she knew she had to tell Ruby eventually. She’d have to follow him in there. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She stepped up to the terminal, and extracted her used key-card. The terminal read the card, rang up “BEAN, MEMBER” and let her through.
The library, she was surprised to discover, was not the hellish abyss of destruction she thought would be on the inside. But she understood that Ground Zero was not a safe place to be. So she looked around, and began walking through the main lobby, looking for someone, anyone.
One of the things Steve noticed, on his trek to the upper levels of the Grand Library to recover documents (and maybe, just maybe some staff if they were still alive), was that if anybody did die in the Library, it certainly didn't seem that way. No bodies or corpses anywhere. It was... rather curious, actually. He continued on his way, climbing up broken rails, and staircases on his way to the administrative levels.
And then he noticed someone staring at him on the walkway. He noticed because he passed through them, and he experienced a suddenly cold, shivery feeling. He spun around.
The spirit standing before him, an ethereal blue form, was undoubtedly Ralph, the chief editor of the news pieces that made it into what was the Grand Library’s internal newspaper. In life he wore green clothing and his signature hat, but while he did so here, there was no color to his body but the ghostly tinge.
Steve’s attention was so focused on the shimmering spirit of Ralph that he did not see an orange figure pad into his office, on the other side of the walkway.
Ruby whirled around him, seeing the mass of spirits walking about him. Not very long ago, as he searched between the shelves and rooms for signs of life to no available, he saw a single spirit walking around at the far side of the room. And one by one there seemed to be more and more ghostly figures walking about. But now there appeared to be a crowd of spirits around, the representation of the Grand Library's former populace. It was hard to notice, but Ruby did see that all of the spirits walking around seemed to carry a ball and chain around their leg. Bound spirits, perhaps? None of the spirits bore any clue as to what brought them back to existence, however.
The announcement system crackled to life. Ruby looked up, glad that Steve had made it up to the Administrative office. He was surprised that the system still worked, although the wires did sound quite frayed. But he wasn't expecting the animal voice that came on the air. It was deep and new; he didn't recognize it at all.
“Humans,” it said. The spirits, Ruby noticed, stopped and looked upward. “You are no longer welcome upon these premises. This building is hereby claimed in the name of th-... You have no business knowing." A pause. "You shall now leave and never return, upon pain of death. You have been warned.” The announcer clicked off.
Ruby looked cautiously at the stairway upward, and began to ascend. He would find Guy and Steve and confront this... this thing, who had the nerve to banish them from what rightfully belonged to Steve.
Whoever or whatever it was, it had a lot of explaining to do.