Three Mechanisms were stood on the side of the road; this sounds like the start to a bad joke, but only one of them was currently having fun.
"Remind me again why we're doing this?"
"The Library at Moorgrove contains a large selection of books that don't exist anywhere else, as far as I can tell." Ivy bounced slightly on the balls of her feet as she spoke. "It'll be a fascinating opportunity that I wouldn't get otherwise."
"Good for you but why are we doing this specifically?" Tim nodded towards the final member of the trio.
Brian was fighting with a bus driver.
Not physically fighting, of course. Ivy had banned them both from doing anything that might stop her from visiting the Library. But the driver was insistent on the three of them paying the fare, whilst Brian was trying to convince her to show kindness to her fellow man (or whatever species the Mechanisms counted as), and let them on for free.
Ivy rolled her eyes. These two were making everything much harder than it needed to be.
"Because technology doesn't work here and Nastya refuses to do anything that might put Aurora at risk."
Brian halted in the middle of what Ivy assumed was a cutting insult directed at the bus driver, and spun to face her.
"You're aware we're all technology, yes?"
"Jonny calls it narrative convenience." Ivy was still bouncing, her arms swinging in time. "Nothing permanently bad can happen to us because this story is fundamentally a lighthearted-"
"Mind the fourth wall," Tim muttered.
Ivy hesitated mid bounce for a moment before hurrying on.
"Anyway, my point is we'll be fine."
Brian seemed unconvinced
"Doesn't Nastya put the whole thing down to nanobots? Which, if I'm not mistaken, are very much technology."
"Like I said, we'll be fine. Can we get on the bus yet?" She really didn't understand why people made things so difficult.
"It would help if anyone had thought to bring Earth money."
He turned back to the bus driver. "My apologies. As I was saying-"
"Hello!" the driver interrupted cheerfully. "Do you three have tickets?"
Ivy poked Brian.
"She already said that, approximately 3.2 minutes ago."
"I'm aware thanks." He frowned, then replied to the driver with a very good imitation of genuine embarrassment. "We bought tickets, yes, but I can't remember where they are..."
The driver just smiled at the three of them.
"Oh I know the feeling! Come on, I'll let you on this once."
Brian hesitated slightly but Tim was already pushing past him and Ivy wasn't far behind. He tipped his hat, sighed, then followed his crewmates.
Ivy was deep in thought. The driver had- well,* reset was probably the best word for it. A highly localised time loop perhaps? Would it even be possible to form a time loop that small without it leaking? The amount of energy alone would be staggering-
And on ran Ivy's brain, ticking and whirring. She wasn't paying attention to the other passengers, which is a shame, really. She didn't notice that not one of the passengers looked up as the three of them trooped along to the back of the bus. The passengers didn't look twice at the man with great hair and flat metal eyes. They didn't pause to admire the woman' bright red hair and a colourful skirt. They didn't even blink at the robot walking past them.
Of course, it doesn't do to judge on appearance alone. But there was something eerie in the way the passengers sat still, staring forward, hardly even swaying with the movement of the bus. It was like someone had a very good mental image of what a bus should look like, and had made that image reality without taking into account how real life works.
Ivy noticed nothing. Besides- the other two didn't say anything about it, so how important could it be?
Moorgrove was, all things considered, quite a pleasant looking town. The three Mechanisms got off the bus, Brian at least thanking the driver.
It had hardly even driven off before Ivy began talking, quickly.
"If the two of you even think about committing something that will get me kicked out the library, including, but not limited to, murder, arson, identity theft or even jaywalking which is - apparently - illegal here, then I will not hesitate to vitrify you both and I don't care how physically impossible it is."
There was a moments pause as Brian and Tim processed this threat.
"Aye aye Captain?" Tim said weakly.
"Please don't turn us into glass," Brian offered.
Ivy grinned at them both.
"Great! If you need me, I'll be in the Library!"
They watched her go. She didn't quite run, but it was a close thing.
"So-" Tim began.
"Of course we're going to commit crimes. We just need to make sure Ivy doesn't find out."
Brian tipped his hat at a passer-by, who seemed remarkably unconcerned about the current topic of conversation they had just overheard.
"Where to first?"
"Oh hi! I'm Liv, the librarian here in Moorgrove! How can I help you?"
This was from the woman stood behind the desk. Everything about her screamed librarian - from her neat cardigan to her big round glasses to her hair tied securely back out her face.
She clapped her hand excitedly.
"Wait- you're not from round here? I'd be more than happy to show you around the library if you want, or even all of Moorgrove-" the librarian, Liv, paused. "Sorry, you don't have to if you don't want to!"
Ivy would have loved nothing more than to get a tour of this town with someone who clearly cared as much about knowledge as she did, but for now she was focusing on the library itself.
Liv nodded, and Ivy came to the realisation that she'd just said all that out loud.
"What do you want to see first?" Liv's hands didn't stay still as she talked - first tapping on her collarbones, then fidgeting with her ponytail, now flapping in time to her speech. "There's books on history, as well as further information on significant historical f- oh! So sorry - I almost forgot to mention that today the books are arranged in height order! If you tell me what you want, I'll lead you right to it!"
There was a moment as Ivy worked through what Liv said. She spoke extremely fast, and whilst Ivy's brain could do calculations at that speed easily, understanding words required more thought.
"Height order?" she said at last. "It would be almost 93% more efficient to organise your books alphabetically, and 198% more efficient to use the established non-fiction organisation method for this planet and time period."
"Oh - would it?"
"Tim I honestly don't understand what your problem is. You talk about doing crime, but as soon as we go break into one hou-"
"Didn't you see the guy in there?"
"'Sorry for interrupting, Brian.' 'I do care about what you say, Brian.'"
"Yeah, that. Anyway, my point!"
"He's just baking."
"In a three piece suit! I'm not messing with someone who bakes in a three piece suit."
"Why did I agree to this."
"And these ," said Liv, adding two thick books to what was already a considerably-sized stack, "are what we've got about the Library building specifically."
Ivy nodded appreciatively.
"Thank you, you've been a great help. Oh-" she grabbed a book, flipping open to an already bookmarked page, "- can I ask you about a few inconsistencies in this?"
I would really rather you didn't
said a voice that came out of Liv's mouth, but it didn't sound like her, and decided to skip past Ivy's ears entirely.
This was unexpected.
"There is a 62% chance you're not Liv. I'd like to ask Liv some questions please."
I'm afraid you can't do that.
Liv - Liv's body? - moved over to the table, closing up some books and moving them out of Ivy's reach.
"I don't understand. Liv was perfectly happy to help me before."
"I'd also like your name please."
I am the Host.
Where Liv had been constantly moving, the Host was almost supernaturally still. It seemed to consider every move it made, every word it said, before doing so.
You're not from round here, are you? Not in the outside of Moorgrove sense, but further.
Ivy began drumming out a beat on the table. She couldn't predict with certainty where this conversation was going to go, but she really didn't want to have to shoot her way out.
Before she could ask anything, the Host continued.
It's not safe for outsiders to know too much.
It took some more books, putting some back on nearby shelves and some on the returned books trolley.
"I highly doubt there are any real dangers to me here."
It raised an eyebrow in a very un-Liv-like fashion.
Are you so sure?
That was needlessly ominous
Anyway, there should be at least some information left in those books. Do enjoy your visit.
And with that, the Host walked off, reshelving as it went.
Ivy sighed and opened one of the few books left. She sighed even heavier when she saw how some words had managed to disappear, with some pages now entirely blank.
"Brian, Brian, Brian look at him!"
"Trust me, I haven't taken my eyes off it."
"Look at the good boy! Isn't he just the cutest dog you've ever seen?"
"Tim it has eight eyes."
"I'm going to pet it."
"Tim do not -"
"Hello! Who's a good boy? Who's the cutest eight eyed dog creature? You are! You- fuck Brian run! "
"It's chasing us!"
"And who's fault is that?"
"Shut up and run!"
Ivy was vaguely away of the passage of time, but reading about the history of Moorgrove was far more interesting than worrying about how long Tim and Brian had been waiting for her.
Although, perhaps "reading about" was too optimistic. "Extrapolating from incomplete data" might be better, or "filling in the gaps and hoping for the best".
The Host hadn't reappeared yet.
"So how long are you staying?"
Ivy jumped at Liv's voice.
"Oh, sorry! I hope I didn't interrupt you?"
"I'm not sure I left?"
Ivy paused. It was 89% likely that Liv was telling the truth, or thought she was, so Ivy decided to just leave it.
"Nevermind. I've don't have to go anytime soon, really, unl-"
She was cut short as two people burst out from behind the shelves, running like they were being chased by the dogs of hell themselves.
Two people who were, unfortunately, very familiar.
"Brian? Tim? How did you get there? The last person to enter the Library entered at-"
"No time! Run!" Tim grabbed Ivy's hand as he sped past, pulling her along.
" Someone decided to antagonise the eight-eyed, dog-like creature we found in the Archives."
Ivy couldn't see, but she was sure Brian rolled his eyes as he spoke.
"There are Archives?"
"Irrelevant! We need to go!"
Tim's point was emphasised by a harsh bark that was far too close for comfort.
Liv watched the three of them run, arguing as they went.
Then she shrugged. She had books to tidy.