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[personal profile] manicdak
Title: The Unknown Galaxies
Chapter Four: The Library
Warnings: None except for possibly cursing
Summary: Robin and Ehren visit Cedre City



Ehren had enlisted in the Inter-Galactic Action squad as a recruit just shy of one IGyear previously, and he hadn’t seen his friends from university since then. He hadn’t spoken to them in just as long a time. He found himself in the city faced with them; an outing organized by his well-meaning neighbor. Hilda stood by, sipping on an iced plear tea, next to Robin, who’s face Ehren could tell was creased in a frown despite the beard.

He sighed to himself and turned his attention back to his own tea, which he stirred restlessly with his straw. He would have preferred to have spent a little more alone time with Robin instead of answering uncomfortable questions about a relationship he was unsure of himself.

He had been whisked away as soon as he’d been spied entering the plaza at the cafe where they were to meet. Jan, his ex, had grabbed him by the hand and dragged him to the table where, Dieter and Greta sat. He could barely get a word in edgewise before they were regaling him with stories of their advanced studies and published papers. He looked apologetically at Robin, who had been completely ignored. Robin to his credit didn’t appear to be bothered at first. Hilda had taken his arm and dragged him to the cafe to order their own teas. Ehren was disappointed that when they returned, they opted to find their own table in a secluded corner. He could only imagine what Hilda was talking to him about, and he couldn’t recall any of their childhood exploits to be particularly flattering for him especially with Hilda doing the retelling.

It was, after half an hour, that Dieter and Greta excused themselves to go to work, and Ehren was left alone in Jan’s company. He found himself with another hand on his knee without any words being passed between them and was quick to rid himself of the appendage and move to a seat that was out of reach while simultaneously looking to see if Robin had noticed. He hadn’t. He seemed to be deeply engrossed in a conversation with Hilda, and if the hand gestures were an indication it was a conversation about his military exploits. Ehren allowed himself a small moment to smile at the exaggerated laser pistols Robin was making with his hands, knowing that the vast majority of time spent on the Tarain Headquarters where they were stationed, was spent sifting through digital information and updating electronic paperwork. It was hardly the most exciting division to work in.

His attention was brought back to Jan by a clearing of his throat and a questioning look on his face.

“It’s good to see you,” Jan said quietly. “You’ve been gone a really long time. You look different, Ehren.”

“I am different,” Ehren said. “A lot’s happened to me since I was last on Earth.”

“Yeah.” Jan bowed his head. “I heard about that. I’m really glad you’re okay.”

“I’m fine. I’m really lucky.”

“So, what happened? Don’t they have training so you can avoid this kind of thing? We all thought you were going to be safe out there. We never expected you’d be out in the field so soon, and a Lieutenant no less!”

“I know, Jan. Me either. I hardly feel qualified for that. As for work in the field, It’s one thing to participate in a training exercise, but out there? There isn’t anything to talk about. It’s called Action Squad for a reason. That shit is happening right now. There’s no time to figure anything out, because it’s all happening in the now. The bad guys don’t even warn you before they shoot.”

He had meant it as a lighthearted quip, but something caught in his throat; an intense jolt of terror at the memory of the Naturian Assassin that had nearly taken his life. He felt the sting of tears in his eyes and tried to choke back a sob, but it fell out of his mouth anyway and was quickly followed by an unstoppable torrent.

Jan was shocked into immobility by Ehren’s outburst then made an attempt at comfort with a tentative hand on the shoulder, which Ehren promptly brushed away instead opting to lay his head in his arms on the table in front of him while babbling incoherent apologies for not being able to stop crying. There was only one thing he wanted in that moment and he soon enough found that his wish was granted as Robin arrived at the table and practically scooped him up in his cool arms and walked him away to a secluded corner of the plaza.

“What’s the matter?” Robin asked once the sobs had slowed down to a steady trickle, punctuated by sniffles and hiccups.

Ehren managed to look up at him momentarily even though his head felt like it was full of lead. He glanced over at Jan who wore a confused look on his face as Hilda explained things to him.

Ehren looked back at Robin, satisfied that Jan was in good hands and Robin pushed his hair away from his red tinged eyes to gaze at him with patient expectation.

“I could have died,” Ehren said.

“But you didn’t,” Robin said.

“But I might have,” Ehren replied. “I...”

“Cannot think like that. You could die crossing the street ten minutes from now.” Robin straightened up and pushed Eheren into an upright position. “I know it’s a terrifying thing to faced with your own mortality at your age...”

“Grandpa,” Ehren muttered under his breath and laughed when Robin pushed his shoulder to gain his attention again.

Robin was smiling gently but it did nothing to undercut his words.

“You are a officer in the Inter-Galactic Action Squad, Lieutenant. It’s a risk you signed up to take,” he said.

“Are you really telling me to suck it up now?” Ehren said. “Because I’ve managed to keep it under control up until right now. It’s just Jan...”

“Jan is irrelevant,” Robin said. His tone was serious and his posture was formal, and Ehren found that he had assumed the same rigid stance.

“I’m not telling you to suck it up,” he said. “It’s risky out there, but it’s even more so when you’re running around hobbled by your own demons. I should know. I’ve been there, and you see what came from that. It’s no good for you, it’s no good for the officers under your command, and it could lead to things far more dangerous than death.”

“Like what?”

“Trust me,” Robin said. “There are plenty of things that are worse than death. Understand?”

Ehren nodded without pushing for any further explanation that he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear at that particular moment..

“Good,” Robin said, seemingly satisfied with his non-verbal answer. “Now, let’s go meet your ex and get that over with, then you can show me where the library is.”

“Really?” Ehren visibly brightened at the mention of a library.

“Really, C’mon.” Robin spun on his heel, and Ehren reflexively followed his lead as they marched back to the table with dual stone faced expressions.

Jan glanced nervously at Hilda as they came to a stop in perfect time right in front of him. She only shrugged at him and urged him silently get up and face them.

He rose to his feet and held a hand out to Robin, plastering a smile on his face.

“Hello, I’m Jan. You must be Robin. Pleased to meet you.”

“Commander Grey if you please,” Robin said in his most authoritative voice.

He was silently pleased at how terrified Jan appeared to be of him, until Ehren jabbed him in the side with his elbow.

“Sorry, that was a joke,” he said sheepishly. “Robin is fine.”

Jan breathed a sigh of relief, and they all sat back down while Hilda went for another round of tea.

***


The Cedre City Public Library was a grand three storey building in the city center. Ehren proudly led Robin around on a grand tour of the facility as Robin trailed along behind him wondering when he could get a word in between his long explanations of the building’s modern architecture and data storage units.

“This is my favorite part!” Ehren said as they reached a door to a room that was nestled in a corner far away from the rest of the data storage containment units. He pushed open the barrier which led to a room filled with row and rows of bound paper books. Robin stopped his worrying about his intent behind requesting the trip and stared in marvel at the stacks.

“I haven’t seen this much paper in one place...ever.” He said.

“Ancient texts!” Ehren couldn’t help himself and let out a little squeal of delight before clapping his own hands over his mouth. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You really have no idea how deep my word nerdiness really runs.”

“I dunno.” Robin smiled at him. “I think I have a pretty good idea, what with the 11 languages and all.”

“Almost twelve,” Ehren replied. “I’ve just got to get that guttural sound down and... nevermind.”

He turned his attention back to the books and dragged Robin over to the Utopian section.

“This is where I spent all my days learning how to speak all the Utopian dialects,” he said as he ran his fingers over the cracked leather spines of the old books. “I just couldn’t stop myself. There’s just something beautiful about the feel of a book in your hand, y’know? You just don’t get it with a computer. It has no soul, and check this out!”

He grabbed Robin’s arm and dragged him off to another corner where a book sat open in a sealed display case.

“This is one of the oldest books on record in the known galaxies,” he said. “It’s so old we don’t even have the technology to date it properly. I mean look at it.” He pointed out the huge ornate letter that started the page and the hand inked border around it.

“What is it?” Robin said then held up a finger to stop Ehren from answering immediately.. “ Don’t say a book.”

“It’s a bible,” Ehren replied. “Monks used to transcribe them in the ancient world. On the old Earth.”

“Really?” Robin peered closer at the words on the tome. They looked like nothing more than an incomprehensible mountain of scribbles punctuated by strange illustrations to his eyes.

“Yeah.” Ehren nodded enthusiastically. “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Can you read it?”

“Nah.” Ehren said. “It’s in Latin. I don’t know it. That language is like...almost as old as people on this planet.. Think about it though, Robin. That something physical like this can survive through linear time...all these years and still be here? It would probably be worth a lot, or in a museum somewhere if people even gave a shit about books anymore. They don’t, especially ancient religious texts, so it’s here.”

“The better for you, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Ehren sighed. “I just wish people cared. I wouldn’t feel like such an immense loser.”

“I don’t think you’re a loser.” Robin placed a friendly arm on Ehren’s shoulder, and Ehren settled into the embrace. “I’ve never seen you this excited about anything. It’s kind of hot. You know you’re attractive when you smile.”

“Thanks. So are you. When you shave and I can see it.” He laughed as Robin gave his shoulder a squeeze, but was unable to even muster up any annoyance.

“So, if the scientists of the known galaxies haven’t been able to date this thing, how do you know some time traveling rogue hasn’t brought it back a few decades after it was written?”

“No lingering tachyons, and they can tell at least that it’s older than a few decades from the usual dating methods. They just can’t tell how far back it goes.,” Ehren said. “C’mon. I know you’ve taken courses in time travel to make it this far in the Action Squad. Don’t be stupid.”

“Remind me not to play devil’s advocate with you again,” Robin said, his voice full of amusement.

“I know bait when I see it,” Ehren replied. “I’m glad you wanted to come here, Robin. It’s really nice that you take an interest in things I’m interested in. I know you must be bored out of your mind, but you suggested it anyway. I...”

“Wait.” Robin turned him around so that they could look at each other, and Ehren saw the hesitation in his eyes.

“What?” He said.

“Not that I’m not enjoying this,” Robin said. “I really had no idea this place meant so much to you.”

“Really?” Ehren frowned. “That’s not what you were talking to Hilda about?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Hilda wanted to know my whole life story, and how we met.”

“Oh, no.” Ehren grimaced at the thought of how the retelling of that story must have come off.

“Oh, yes.” He nodded. “She was surprised to learn about what a headstrong pain in the ass you’ve become.”

“Yeah, she probably doesn’t like the idea of competition,” Ehren muttered. “So if we’re not here because Hilda was giving you tips on how to pick the most romantic spot in the city...”

“I kind of wanted to look something up. Yes,” he said.

Ehren frowned at him. “And you let me go on and on like an idiot? Thanks.”

“You’re not an idiot,” Robin said. “It was interesting.”

“Don’t lie,” Ehren said. “I’m not stupid either.”

“I’m not lying.” Robin reached out and tilted Ehren’s chin up so that they could look each other in the eye. “This afternoon has led to some remarkable insight.”

“Oh, yeah?” Ehren arched an eyebrow at him as Robin’s hand moved from his chin slowly down his neck leaving a trail of cool sensation from the tips of his fingers that made Ehren shudder and close his eyes.

“Yeah,” Robin said. “Like you find hanging out in windowless rooms full of dusty old paper books to be romantic. That’s extremely handy information to have that I wasn’t aware of. See, I was thinking more of building rooftops and scenic vistas. Maybe some candles, orchestral music, Lilly Wine, a meal of your favorite plear based foods cooked with my own hands...”

“Cliche.” Ehren opened his eyes and smiled up at Robin.

“I’m going to kiss you now,” Robin said. He leaned down and Ehren stood on his tip-toes. Their lips met in the middle and Robin’s hands slid around Ehren’s waist to draw him closer. He let out a muffled sound of pleasure as Ehren threw his arms around his neck and deepened the kiss despite their height difference.

Robin let his mind wander long enough to wonder if there was a lock on the door or security cameras. Ehren seemed to notice his distraction and broke from the kiss, settling his feet back on the floor. He looked thoughtfully from Robin to the door and back to Robin before shrugging.

“Nobody ever comes in here,” he said. “Trust me. I’ve spent entire days down here without anybody noticing.”

Robin grinned at him in response.

“You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that right now,” he replied.

***

“I think we have to stop having sex on desks,” Ehren said later as he sat upon the surface of the lone working station in the room. “Like...beds are nice. I like beds.”

Robin eyed him sideways as he buttoned up his shirt.

“I think I twisted my elbow or something.” Ehren frowned and flexed his arm and fingers.

“Stop complaining.” Robin elbowed him from the seat beside him and chuckled. “There’s plenty of bed at your house that you refuse to have sex on.”

“That’s mom bed,” Ehren said. “It’s different.”

“Yes, exactly, so suck it up!”

Ehren laughed at him and stood from the desk, leisurely stretching his arms out above his head and yawning.

“So, what are we looking up?”

“Huh?” Robin looked up from his buttons with a perplexed look on his face before remembering his reason for the library visit in the first place.

“Well, you came here for a specific reason,” Ehren said. “Apparently it originally wasn’t to sex me up in the stacks.”

“It worked out though,” Robin said.

“Yeah, I can totally check that one off my list. C’mon, let’s go,” Ehren motioned with his hand and Robin got up to follow him out of the room.

“This is embarrassing,” Robin said as they exited the room. “But I kind of want to find out if I still have any family on Amarantos.”

“You don’t know?” Ehren eyed him curiously. He couldn’t imagine a case where he wouldn’t know his entire extended family and their live’s stories.

“No,” he murmured. “It’s not like it is here, Ehren, on Utopia. My moms’ families are what’s considered official family. The only reason my dad was even a part of it was because he was Mother Aina...he was her best friend and not some random donation from the bank. They wanted him in my life. It’s pretty unconventional for the donor parent to be involved at all. I was only three years old when he went missing, and they never kept in touch with his family. They were so far away and had never met. It just never came up.”

“And you’re just now looking into it?”

“Well...” Robin frowned. “I’ve just been thinking a lot about him lately with what happened to my mom and being here in this galaxy for weeks now. This is partially my galaxy of origin, right? I wonder if his family even knows that his identity has been laid to rest in the database.”

“I assume they do,” Ehren said. “They must have been informed of his disappearance.”

“Case records are sealed. I couldn’t get past the barrier,” Robin said quietly.

“You tried to hack his case record?” Ehren said. “Wow.”

“I’m no Rasa,” he said. “That kid’s going to go far with the proper training. As far as the registry goes though...they haven’t gotten around to processing the restricted access on me from that probationary period. Thought it might be easier in-galaxy.”

“You could have just asked for help,” Ehren said. “I’d have logged in for you.”

“I wasn’t exactly in the business of confiding in my recruits and admitting weakness at the time,” Robin said. “Besides. I’ve had a fair bit of distraction lately.”

“Alright,” Ehren said. “Let’s do it.”

He led the way through the maze of data storage banks until they found their way to an unoccupied terminal booth. The terminal booth was a small cubicle, decorated in a neat Earthian fashion as a tiny lounge. The walls were covered in a faux wood, there was a small sofa in front of a computer terminal and a cool air blowing from a vent directly above them. Robin muttered something about the ‘damned false air’ before slumping down into the couch while Ehren flicked on the terminal and began poking his hands into the holographic display in order to navigate his way to the information Robin was looking for.

“Let’s see, we’re looking for the Milk Way, Mawron System, Amarantos...” He diligently ran his fingers through the holographic projection with ease, and quickly pulled up the registry of Amarantian Inhabitants.

“Tada!” He said. “Who are we looking for?”

“Soter,” Robin said. He leaned forward in his seat in anticipation. “Alistair Soter.”

“Right,” Ehren said. “That is going to be a super massive problem.”

Robin frowned and turned back to look at Ehren.

“Why?”

“Soter is one of the most common Amarantian surnames ,” he said.

“There’s probably hundreds of thousands of them on that planet. That would be like if my name were Muller.”

“I get what you mean. What do we do then?”

“We’d have to cross reference the name with the Time Detective’s roster, see if he had a next of kin listed or something, I guess,” Ehren said.

“Good, do that.”

“From a public library?” Ehren laughed. “Nope, we’re going to have to hit up an I-GAS facility or a Detective Base to have any hope to access that kind of information.”

“Okay, so, what do we do?” Robin frowned and fell back into the couch beside Ehren, feeling defeated.

Ehren found his spot in the crook of Robin’s arm and nestled there before speaking again.

“Well, option A we suck it up and go see if the Agency can put us in contact with his family. They might.”

“A Time Detective voluntarily giving an I-GAS officer information when he’s fully within his rights to refuse? I doubt it. What’s option B?”

“Call every Soter that is in the database,” Ehren said.

“Please tell me there’s an Option C?” Robin said.

“We could ask Rasa for help?” Ehren said. “It can’t hurt to try. She’s already on an I-GAS facility and has access to all that information.”

“With no security clearance.”

“Do you think that’ll stop her?” Ehren asked. “You may suck at computers, but that doesn’t mean she can’t hack one. Come on, the girl identified a Naturian String as a time anomaly, and she’d never even seen one before! She sees numbers in everything…”

“Okay, okay.” Robin patted him on the shoulder to get him to calm down.

“I’m already well aware of her abilities, you don’t need to sing her praises to me. Go ahead and see what she says. Don’t push her into it though.”

“Never,” Ehren said.

They spent the next few minutes basking in the glow of the holographic projection, until Robin kissed Ehren on the head and unfurled himself from his seated position.

“We should get going,” he said. “I think your mom said to stop by the Agrolab before we go.”

“Yeah,” Ehren said. “She’s got some sort of vegetarian feast planned. If I were you, I’d be worried. My mom is a meat and potatoes kind of cook. I shudder to think what kind of vegetable dishes she has going on.”

“I’m sure it will be good,” Robin said. “Remind me to let her know that I really appreciate the effort.”

“Sure.”

Ehren stood to stand beside Robin and Robin offered his elbow. Ehren gave him a concerned glance, but Robin only arched an eyebrow at him until he shrugged and slid his own arm through the gap.

“Was that so bad?” Robin asked as they walked arm and arm toward the library exit.

“Nah,” Ehren said with a small shake of his head. “Not bad at all.”

February 2013

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