Rumble in the Library!, p.1Vincent Cleaver / Science Fiction
Rumble in the Library!
Copyright 2011 Vincent L. Cleaver
Article One- Let the stars above us bear witness that our two species must be at peace with each other, now and forever. To that end let us therefore establish a new order of things, so that each kind may be free to pursue peace, prosperity and happiness.
Libraries are great places for people-watching. They're not necessarily on their best behavior, and not overly guarded. But they do often share my expectations of civility, quiet and tolerance. The fight that broke out a little ways down the aisle between the shelves of books was none of the above, which annoyed the hell out of me. I clapped the book I was browsing shut, loudly. That caused the offending parties to turn towards me. I set the book on a shelf regretfully and walked their way.
"Stay out of this!" The little alien chittered, and my ear-bud translated. It was, literally, a starfish alien, one of the weirder ones, a three-armed starfish with a few tendrils for grasping things. It went bipedal now and aimed the melted-looking long object in the tendrils on the back of its third tentacle at me. I saw no obvious eyes, so I wondered if the tendril-tips were light sensitive, and what this did to its' perspective on the universe.
Philosophy had to wait, though, because the big ugly monster it had been arguing with stomped over just then. It was some sort of hooved carnivore, a sort of centaur on three hind limbs. It had three arms with four-digits and a long switchblade claw in each paw, each of which now snicked open. The large head with no real neck had three eyes set far forward and close together. He, or she, didn't look too damn bright, and smelled like rotten meat. I waved a hand at the stench.
"Somebody needs a whole pack of breath-mints, Jaws," I said up at the monster, which was slobbering. The mandible split in two pieces and opened up wide as it roared. Ugh! I looked down at the starfish alien who was quivering with fear or anger, or both. "What's the all fuss about, Tiny?"
Maybe I should have been a little nicer, but whatever. The starfish shot off its beam weapon with a zat! He missed me as I ducked and rolled away from the starfish and between the monster's nasty-looking hooves. It was prancing like a quarter ton reindeer and I made like a weasel. I was quite lucky to slide under and through on my belly with a single cut to the back of my right hand. I rolled and was on my feet running. Those two got tangled up in each other’s egos, I expect, and let me go. There was a wet smack as the monster slapped the starfish into the shelves, and a second 'zat' sound as the beamer fired again. This time it hit the monster, which screamed its' rage and started stomping the starfish into chum. There was the smell of blood and burnt meat now, as well as smoldering paper.
A librarian peeked around the stacks, down low, a turtle-like Haroo who I knew. "Anderson!" Librarian 2nd Class Alwekoo hissed, in good English. "I might have known that you were involved!"
"I was trying to stop it..." I said, wasting my breath. The Corp of Librarians have a dim view of me and my self-professed status as an 'acquisitions agent', but put up with me because I've been useful in the past. I couldn't afford to get banned; I do all my heavy research in here!
The monster with its bloody hooves turned our way at that point, and charged. I did what anybody with a decent sense of self-preservation would do- I ran away. It followed me; I have that effect on many people and aliens, just like the chief petty officer who had been my drill instructor back in Naval Infantry. She was a Venus Space Navy lifer, and from our first meeting had been determined to make a decent NI out of me- if it killed me.
God bless her. Because of her, I can run like the wind.
Down the long outer stacks of strange alien biology texts, galactic 'geography', and the history and politics of the Second Haroo Empire. Past fifty thousand tomes on alien religion and mythology and thirteen hundred thousand period romances, travel journals, poems in ten thousand tongues (God, how I love this place!). I dodged into the short stacks by the railing of the rotunda, the thing with the razor-sharp hooves bellowing and snapping at my head. I went between the spaces in the railing, which were made to keep foolish turtles from falling thirty feet and breaking their shells, but not skinny string-beans from the habitats of The Verge. I rolled onto my belly as I went through, to grab a hand-hold, and then my right hand slipped on damp, slick stone. I wrenched my left shoulder, lost my grip with the other hand, tumbled down-
And onto a pile of bunting, which the library staff would be hanging for Landing Day next local month. I still knocked the stuffing out of myself and lay there... until I heard the growling monster coming down the big main stairs. I sat up, and I tried to get my act together, I really did. I could almost hear DI Koudelka shouting at me inside my ringing head. But my legs weren't cooperating and I was staring at Jaw-Some when he, she, or it, suddenly turned towards the front doors of Golden Harbor Municipal Library and ran right out of there, stomping through the unlucky and the unwary.