“Ley lines, why you gotta be that way?”

Syd was in the basement of the public library, masquerading as Ms. Inez, the elderly night shift librarian. It had been easy enough to dispatch the real Inez; calling her up with an authoritative voice to give their the night off without pay did the trick. She had cackled something about a casino upstate and left the place completely unlocked.

One you knew how to look for them, the ley lines that knit places to their existence in the physical world were easy to find. Folks tended to align things with them unconsciously, from potted plants that just happened to grow lusher on one side to a line of posters that all slumped in the same direction.

“Unless you have a computer lab that looks like a refugee from a Soviet gulag,” Syd groused in Inez’s voice. The bare, painted cinderblocks, with rows of buzzing late-model PCs…it had been set out with the sterile carelessness of an architect running out the door for along weekend.

If there was one thing Syd respected, it was folks taking pride in work. Not that this stopped them from interfering with, disrupting, or destroying said work if it was necessary or fun, but they respected it all the same.

“Everything okay, Ms. Inez?”

Syd whirled around, catching themself awkwardly halfway through the motion—a 60-year-old woman couldn’t bust a move that fast. Some kid was there, looking concerned from where he sat at an empty computer carrel. A soldering iron and a bunch of video game parts were spread out before him–retro stuff, something that would have been in vogue when the kid was a zygote.

“Oh, I’m just looking at the cables,” Syd said, vaguely gesturing at the computer. “Don’t you ever find that they’re just too messy, that they offend your sense of order?”

“Yesterday you said that they were a delightful island of chaos in the straitjacket of order your career had put you in,” replied the kid. “You called them data spaghetti and said you wanted to eat them all up.”

“Did I really?” Syd said, surprised. “Must have been before lunch. You know I tend to…wax poetic…about all of the…wires…when my blood sugar’s low.”

“I might’ve exaggerated it a little bit,” said the kid. He turned back to whatever he was working on. “Don’t worry, I remember the deal. If I set off the smoke alarm or melt the desk again, that’s it for my iron in here.”

Syd looked over and saw that, indeed, a tendril of smoke was rising from the kid’s soldering iron, and it was being borne in a straight direction away from him. The ley line was revealing itself.

“Well, you do that,” Syd said. “Ms. Inez is going to go over this way and refer to herself in the third person.”

“Have fun,” replied the kid. “I prefer it when you do third person though. Remember ‘Heath Kilgore sat there as if he didn’t know half the floor could smell the trace he just burned out on a modded Xbox’ from last month?”

“Oh, of course.” Syd squirmed uneasily, unable to tell if the kid was messing with him or Ms. Inez was actually as bizarre as she sounded. The librarian they remembered from way back when had been a doddering old dullard, after all.

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