The first thing Bee did was find all the snacks that the mages had hidden. She started by checking the desk drawers. Eventually, her nose and grumbling stomach led her behind the books on the shelves. Altogether, there wasn’t too much, just a few ends of bread and a moldy wedge of cheese. She also found half a watermelon, but it was spoiled. She gathered it all on the table. The food wouldn’t last very long, and some were already pretty stale. Not wanting to waste anything, she started munching gratefully on the food that was least likely to last. Despite not having eaten in a couple days, Bee didn't really enjoy this meal. Sure she ate it happily, but she didn’t taste a thing. That was very lucky.
Unfortunately, she did not find anything else to drink. That meant she had only the wineskin. It might last her for a day or two if she rationed. Before long, though, she would be back in the same situation. Then she would need to go out and find more water.
Eating the bread restored a respectable amount of energy rather quickly. Now that the adrenaline had faded from Bee's system, it was the boost she needed to keep going. She took a moment to gather herself. She wanted to rest but had to make the most of this opportunity.
Using her chair crutch, she started browsing the shelves. This was not the first time she had been in the library. However, they had never let her in alone. A librarian was always there to watch her. If she ever stopped to try and read even the titles of the books, she was chastised. One time, she had thought about removing a book from the shelf. Before she had moved the book more than an inch, the Librarian was on her. That had earned her a tongue lashing so furious that she couldn’t look the man in the eyes since.
Bee headed straight for the book that had incited that particular incident. Despite being alone for days, she still glanced around suspiciously for any onlookers before reaching out to the shelf. It was a thin book with less than a hundred pages. Something about it just spoke to her. A is for Alchemy. Finally, retrieving the book, she got to look at the red cover. It had a glass beaker with a smiley face on it. Perfect, just up her alley. The title fits her perfectly. If it was for someone who didn't know much about magic, that would be perfect. But also, the author didn’t seem to take his work too seriously. An accessible text was just what she needed.
She might be doomed, but she wouldn’t go down without a fight. The least she could do was try and find something to help her in this library. Of course, the thought of finally being free from the Librarian's attentive gaze may have played into her priorities a bit.
After browsing the shelves, Bee was ready to give up on finding anything else practical here. The organization of the library made no sense. Why was something like On the Origination and Classification of Beings Borne of Unusual Magical Circumstances, right next to Particles Ranging from 0.5 Microns to 3 Microns and Other Alchemical Ingredients for the Discerning Nanoparticulate Mage, an Etymology? First, whoever is letting these authors title their own books needs to be fired. Second, no really, these titles are awful. Third, what did Etymology even mean?
After looking around, she found a dictionary on the main desk. Ah, apparently, it meant the root and origin of words. The irony of having to look up this definition was not lost on her. Just being in this room was starting to make her feel stupid.
As she moved through the shelves, she looked up words she didn't know in the titles that seemed intriguing. Apparently, mages who wrote books were an eclectic lot. Titles ranged in readability from things that even she could read with ease, to ones that felt like a stuffy professor trying to impress his peers. Many were written by famous adventurers, if you believed the authors.
Besides, A is for Alchemy, she didn't find many at her level. Slowly, she began to pick out some patterns in how the books were organized. The titles didn't seem connected at first. It wasn't until she started reading the summaries that she began to put them together. Rather than by difficulty, title, or field, books were organized more by content. Not on what topic the contents covered, but how the contents covered the topic. One section was filled with books describing the origins of things, from histories to epistemologies to lineages. Another contained books with definitions: dictionaries, encyclopedias, and maps. Honestly, it was confusing even after you figured it out. Why would they set it up this way? That alone didn't make it challenging to find books. No, her issue was she didn't even know what topics she needed. She really wanted an overview book on a couple of topics. The organization within each section still stumped her, but she could scan through the titles, pick one she knew most of the words in, then read it a bit more. It was a slow process, but eventually, she made progress.
Once she found something that looked like a basic demonology book, she decided that was enough. Bee put her small collection on the chair. Along with the alchemy book, she had gathered a few other novice books on ingredients, demons, and mutations. Then she stretched out to read. By, C is for Containment, she was asleep. Not having adequate sleep for days was taking its toll.
I had made the most important discovery since the discovery of the mop. This is not to undermine the importance of the mop, of course. Perhaps it is more telling that if the mop had been discovered a couple hundred years ago, the statement would still have been valid. This new discovery would revolutionize my kind’s cleaning capability a hundredfold.
I found it when testing my grabby arm. I needed to test its capabilities and limitations. The first stop I made after getting my new update was the first bedroom I had cleaned, the one with a blanket on the floor. Sure enough, the fabric was still pooled where it had been left. I had been pushing it around the room the last few days. No matter what I tried, I could never get it cleaned to my satisfaction. The dust under the blanket moved with it, and when I pushed it, sometimes it picked up things or dust fell out of it. Not to mention that it was out of place, to begin with.
That would change today. I extended my arm and latched it on the corner of the blanket. It was surprisingly heavy. After I got a solid grip, I raised the arm to the level of the bed. I rolled forward till my arm was over the edge of the bed and released it. The corner of the blanket fell and hit the bed, then slid back onto the floor.
Hmmm, That didn’t work. This time I didn't just drop the corner. I set it down more carefully. This time it fell off more slowly. I had a chance to watch how it happened. It was not bouncing off like I first thought. No, the rest of the blanket’s weight was pulling it off. I tried again with the middle of the blanket. The same thing happened.
Why would it not stay? I attempted to get the whole thing in my claw so I could lift the entire thing up at once. Sadly, this was not to be. My talons were not large or strong enough. Pausing for a second, I collected my thoughts. I had seen the small human do this. Sometimes they didn’t pick up the whole thing; they just grabbed part of a blanket and dragged it behind them.
That might work. Moving to one side of the bed, I dragged the blanket all to that side. That was complete, so I got a corner and moved around the foot of the bed, my claw extended as high as it could go. Once on the other side, I moved up a little. Then I pulled until the center of the blanket was on the bed. Still, parts were on the floor on either side of the bed, but this was progress.
Grabbing each end, I was able to set those on the bed. Finally, the blanket was conquered. This was perfect. I spun in a circle a few times in celebration and scrutinized the room. What else could I do?
I carried on to the other rooms. There was not too much on the floor that didn’t belong there. I tried moving some of the cages with the smelly figures in them. They were too heavy, though I did note those lumps were a bit larger than the last time I looked at them.
I also tried moving the chairs around in the room with the lovely rug. They were much too heavy. The rug, however, was easy to move around. I adjusted it to be perfectly square to the desk. It had been off by a few degrees, and that bothered me. Now that I could do something about it made this room even better. I would be so much more helpful to my humans when I returned. I could even put the small human toys away.
When I was in one of the rooms with the smaller cages that I could lift, I noticed one on the table by the door. Something just looked off about it. That cage didn’t belong there. I went to pick it up off the table and put it with the other empty ones.
That was when I noticed the groundbreaking discovery. Right level with where I was holding the cage was the twisty bit humans used to control doors. The idea hit me like a particularly hard collision with a wall. No, I couldn't…
I turned to the closed door in the back of the room. Setting the cage down carefully, I trundled reverently towards the door’s handle and gently reached for it. My claw could make it. I grasped the end of the handle and pulled gently down. It turned. Now what?
I tried rolling backward, and nothing occurred. I thought back to what I had seen humans do. They turned the knob and then pushed or pulled. I had seen them push, then pull, to open a door. So it seemed necessary to get the action right, but there was no actual consequence to doing it incorrectly. Driving forward, I felt the door shift. A gap in the doorway appeared, then slowly grew until it was large enough for me to fit through. The door opened! Yes! Finally, I would not be stopped. No longer would any dust be safe. I reversed slowly, and the door shut. I pushed forward again. It opened. I went backward, and it closed. Forwards, backward, forwards, backward….
Several hours later, I noticed I was getting low on energy. Letting go of the handle, I took stock of the material I had inside. There was still the warm lump from the mess maker I had absorbed earlier. Interesting. The presence of that living dust bunny seemed to flare, flicker like a candle flame, then spread evenly throughout my chassis. With it, a familiar rush of power perked me up immediately. In fact, I didn’t have enough capacity for all the energy. It dissipated slowly into the surroundings. That was a bit of a waste. I wonder if I can convert only part of my bin in the future. I had a large character float in my vision again.
This time I didn’t hear the voice demanding I choose a mutation. That had always accompanied the longer floating things. I wondered why it did not this time.
With my energy reserves topped off, I reached again for the door handle.
Bee woke gradually. Her head nestled into the pages of a book. Blearily she opened her eyes and looked around.
Laying on the floor, she had a half dozen books lying about. Her hand rested on the dictionary right next to her head.
How long has she slept? Groaning, she sat up and began to stretch before her ankle put a stop to that. With a small gasp of pain, she looked at it. Covered in the mop splint, it looked like the swelling had gone down some, and now the bindings were loose.
She would need to fix that before moving around too much. Also, she needed a new crutch. Using this chair to get around worked okay in the library, but it didn't let her move fast enough.
Gathering herself, Bee noticed that she had a notification. Huh. She had just received full access to the system last year when she turned 12, so it was taking a little getting used to. Confused, she opened it up.
LEVEL UP. LVL 1. THE FIRST PERK REACHED. CHOOSE BETWEEN: SCAN, QUICKSTEP, OR HUNTER’S CAMOUFLAGE.
That was shocking. Until Bee earned a class, she should only be able to gain experience through combat. She was level 0 because she hadn't killed anything before. Bee flipped to her detailed logs and filtered out all injuries done to her. The only damage she had inflicted was with the couple of broomstick swipes she had got in against the ash imp. She hadn't killed it, though - the Void had. So, where did the experience for the first level come from then?
She scanned her experience logs for the answer. Astoundingly, it appeared the experience was issued for an assist. Bee frowned. That couldn't be correct. To get an assist while you weren’t in a party, you needed to be allies or at least non-hostile…
At least, she was pretty confident. Or was it that you couldn't have damaged each other…. Bee added that to the list of questions she needed to research.
Still, her first perk. She had been dreaming of this since she was a child, and now at 13, she was finally there. She didn't expect to get a level until much later.
Considering her options, all three sounded good. Each one would help in her immediate situation. Well, maybe not the Quickstep with her bum foot. But stealth might be essential when getting out of here. Of course, it would also be massively hindered by a broken leg.
Looking around, Bee figured her only advantage right now was knowledge. She selected the scan option. Not that she ever would have really chosen anything else. Scan was one of the most valuable perks you could get. It was exceedingly rare, especially at such a low level. Any other time she would have picked it without hesitation. However, she wasn't sure if it would be instantly helpful. It was a pity that she hadn't gotten a healing perk.
Her perk’s strength would grow as her level advanced, so getting Scan this early would mean she would have room to develop it a lot. If she attained level 20, she could maybe see confidential stats. That could really help her children and grandchildren if she got that far.
The skill would also make her a valuable community member as she could help find people's potential classes. It would make her useful in combat or a successful merchant. The more she thought about it, the better it seemed. Getting Scan so early could set her up for life.
Now all she had to do was survive. Simple.