Chapter 122

Mary snapped her book shut with a sigh. Everyone had been gone since the morning and she was finding herself uncharacteristically bored. Sure, she was used to being alone, but the thing about living in the woods as a teenager was that there was always something to do. Wood to chop, food to hunt, water to gather, even traps to set. On a college campus, life was much easier. That was a good thing most of the time, but on days like this is was a solid pain in the butt.

Mary was in the library, the one under Lander’s surface accessible only to those in the HCP, reading up on some historical Supers. At least, that had been her plan. Unfortunately, only a few minutes into the book and the words began slipping around the page, freed from their positions by the reality-shifting power of her boredom. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Admittedly, she could have had Mr. Transport pop her home just as easily as to the library, but her parents were swinging by tomorrow to grab her for a spring road trip and she doubted they wanted to be disturbed a day early. They were big on taking time out to keep the romance in their marriage alive. Which left her a day to kill.

Mary noticed some movement from the corner of her eye. When she turned and faced the source she fleetingly wondered if she really had gone insane. Standing on the side of the table, waving for her attention, was a small orange paper cutout of a human shape. From the size and color Mary guessed it had been made from a sticky-note, and from the way it was jumping around trying to grab her attention she assumed that sticky-note had come from an ancient tome of great and unspeakable power.

The paper man seemed to realize she was looking at him, because he pointed his arm at her, then toward the rows of books off to the left.

“You want me to go into the stacks?” Mary asked it. She was taking it pretty well, but then again, when you’re a telepath in a school for people who bend (and occasionally break) the rules of matter and physics, your threshold for weird tends to be higher than most.

The paper man nodded his head, then began scampering over on all fours towards her. It wasn’t particularly dignified; however, it was more efficient than trying to balance on a pair of two-dimensional feet. He reached her side of the table in seconds and pulled himself back to a standing position. He pointed once more, this time at the hand she had resting on the table.

“What?” There’s nothing in it,” Mary said, holding her palm face-up to prove the point. In a flash the paper man had scampered into her upturned hand and perched himself there. Once situated, he pointed toward the same area of the stacks once more.

“I see; you still want me to go, you just want to come with me.”

The paper man nodded and gestured once more. Mary stared at him a bit longer, then shrugged and got up from her seat. Sure, this was eyes-meltingly weird, but it wasn’t boring. That was enough to keep her entertained for now.

They entered the stacks on the row her guide had indicated. She began walking down them, eyes alert for anything out of the ordinary. They’d only gone down a few rows when the paper man patted her hand and pointed her to the right.

Mary made sure she had the correct row, then turned and kept advancing forward. They went on like this for a few minutes, the paper man leading her deeper into the twists and turns that the library stacks offered. Mary was impressed at the sheer volume of books these different sections could hold. She hadn’t spent much time in the library, though that was likely to change after gaining firsthand knowledge of how comprehensive their collection was. The paper man pointed her down one last turn and the purpose of their adventure became abundantly clear.

“Hi there,” squeaked a girl hanging on the very top row of books by her fingers. “I don’t suppose you’d mind helping me down from up here?”

“Not at all,” Mary said. “You’re only about five feet off the ground, though; why not just let go?”

“I’m scared of heights,” the girl said. “I climbed up here to get a book, and then I made the mistake of looking down, and... I sort of freaked out and now I can’t look down to find my footing or let go and my hands are really starting to hurt.”

“Right,” Mary said. “Just close your eyes and try and relax your hands. I’ve got a good grip on you.”

“But you’re standing over... right, you’re the telepathic girl. Okay, okay; just give me second while I try to loosen my grip.” The dangling girl took a series of deep breaths. Mary wasn’t sure how long she’d been up there, though from the way her forearms were twitching it was clear she wouldn’t have been for much longer.

“I’m letting go,” the girl announced. Mary pulled her away carefully, focusing on keeping the girl steady without squeezing too hard. Mary lowered her gently to the ground, the girl blasting out a groan of relief when her feet touched the floor.

“You’re safe,” Mary said. The girl wobbled at first, then leaned against the wall of books as she got her bearings back.

“Thank you so so so so much,” the girl said, her eyes still squeezed shut. “I just wanted a stupid book about the first animator and I’ve been stuck up there for twenty minutes.”

“No problem,” Mary said. “We freshmen have to stick together. You’re Agatha, right?”

“Yeah,” Agatha confirmed. “And you’re Mary, the number one ranked girl.”

“Eh, that was over half a year ago. I’m certain things will change when we get reevaluated,” Mary deflected.

“That’s not what everyone else thinks,” Agatha said, her eyelids slowly parting.

“Thank you,” Mary said. She noticed the paper man in her palm was pointing toward Agatha. Mary obliged by mentally air lifting him over to the still-recovering girl, depositing him on her shoulder.

“What is he, exactly?” Mary asked.

“Oh, this little guy? Just an animation,” Agatha said, picking up the paper guide. There was a small flash of turquoise and the paper hung limply in her hand. “There were some sticky-notes on the shelf. I juiced them up and sent them out to find help.”

“I see,” Mary said. “I’ve heard about that power. You can control inanimate objects, right?”

“Sort of,” Agatha said. “It’s more like I put a little piece of myself into them, my own energy if you will, and then they follow my commands.”

“That’s kind of cool,” Mary observed.

“Yeah,” Agatha agreed. “That’s just the first level for animators, though. Those of us who are really good can sense the location of our objects, see and hear through them, even control them like an extension of our body rather than just as a henchman.”

“Wow,” Mary said. “Can you do any of that?”

“The sensing, yes; the seeing and hearing, sort of. The extension part is still miles beyond me, though,” Agatha said. “Otherwise I would have juiced up the entire shelf and had it lean down to lower me to the ground.”

“You couldn’t give it an order to do that?”

“I could, but it might have interpreted ‘help me down’ as ‘collapse totally’ since that was that fastest way to comply,” Agatha explained. “Anyway, thank you again for the help. I’m going to go back to my dorm room and lie down until my hands stop shaking now.”

“Understandable,” Mary said. “Nice meeting you, Agatha.”

“You, too, Mary,” Agatha said. She headed off toward the exit, her steps still cautious, as though she expected to be swept into the air at any moment. Mary, for her part, turned her attention to the tomes surrounding her. Now that she knew about all the information here, it seemed her day might not end up so boring after all.