|Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four|
|Special thanks to Edana for suggesting the particular
Oscar Wilde book and for providing a copy of the frontis
piece of that book.
It was in the third year of the Fourteen Cycle when the light of the star Devron burned in the sky without ceasing and sleep was hard to achieve. Nothing else mattered to anyone except the being who came to visit the Master Librarian. The visitor was called the Doctor and it seemed that sleep was not something that particularly concerned him. So he said.
Then there was the matter of his identity. At his last visit, recorded so carefully by my predecessor, he had been a short man for Gallifreyan standards with a broad face and wild, light brown hair. And a hat. The Doctor had worn a hat in the palest cream. And spoken in an accent of a lilting, trilling kind. But this one, taller, thinner and longer face. A head full of dark, burgundy hair. And no hat. None. A voice different too. Lighter and more intense at the same time.
Regenerated he said but how could we be sure? There were questions among the middle level librarians but the Master Librarian accepted this being was the Doctor immediately. On sight. Only one thing: his last visit had been 20 standard years before and now he looked 20 standard years younger than at his last visit, notwithstanding the other physical changes. How could he be younger? Time Lords do live a long time but this is very odd.
I stayed close, not wanting to lose any time with the Master Librarian but it was only permitted if I kept things to myself. I paid that price.
Extract, Melosin's Diary
The Doctor strode quickly down the long cool hallway, his coat tails flying, the heels of his boots clicking on the smooth flooring. There was an expression on his face that said he was impatient to get to his destination. The private rooms of Campble, the Master Librarian of Siblu. He clutched the box in his hands more firmly to his chest and increased his speed. Behind him, the Third Underlibrarian scurried to keep up, struggling to match the Doctor's long and quick stride. His breath was getting ragged, his movements faltering. When he began to pant, the Time Lord slowed suddenly and turned to face him.
"I do apologize. It was kind of you to accompany me and here I am racing along." He began to walk beside the Third Underlibrarian at a more leisurely pace. "Tell me, how is my friend, Campble?"
Breath not yet recovered, "Looking. Forward. To. Your. Visit. Sir."
A gentle smile. "Not sir. Just the Doctor. It's the third year of the Fourteen Cycle, is it not?"
A frowning puzzled stare, "Yes, sir … Doctor."
A mumbled comment, largely to himself, "I missed it. Too long since my last visit. Tried to set it better but …" Something caught his attention. "Hmm, some changes. What a wonderful mural!" He paused to examine the large wall mural, an image of men and animals frozen in a great rush forward. Its power and immediacy was almost overwhelming. As if they would leap out of the wall and into the corridor at any second.
The Third Underlibrarian was ten feet further on before he realized the Doctor had stopped. Halfway back to the where the Time Lord had been examining the mural, he had to whirl around to follow when the Time Lord restarted his striding down the corridor. He had heard the Doctor was an impulsive being, but this experience was more than he had imagined.
The Doctor glanced into the rooms he passed, each one larger than the last. Larger than the moon of Sarindal. Each with its own transport system, its own feeding and rest stations. Each with a unique atmosphere and other accommodation specialized to various species. All drawing on the same immense data storage archives. He smiled at the concept: an entire world that was dedicated to the acquisition, storage, collation and analysis of knowledge. Making it all available to anyone who asked. Payment for access? Based on a sort of barter system. Pay what and in whatever manner you could. Most in galactic credits. Some in goods. Some in service. And it had all existed for several thousand years, gradually taking over the entire surface and much of the depth of the planet Siblu. For most people, Siblu was now only the Library. A wonder of thought and space.
He turned to the Third Underlibrarian gliding by his side. "How long have you been here?"
Four eyes blinked at him and the skin of the Third Underlibrarian's chest rippled. "Forever."
The Doctor had forgotten that the staff of the Library of Siblu was trained to forget their previous lives or at least to think of their lives as only existing for the period of their work in the Library. "Excuse me, I phrased my question incorrectly. How long have you served the Library?"
One eye winked while the other three waved about. "In what time measure?" Obviously not a staffer used to dealing with visitors. Normally, the question would have been answered in whatever time measurement the visitor used.
"Siblu tars." A period roughly equal to five Gallifreyan Shortmeasures or ten Earth Standard years.
A wiggle of pale mauve skin. "12 tars."
"And you entered at the usual stage of development?"
Eyes wide, "Yes."
The Doctor looked impressed. "You must be especially talented to be the Third Underlibrarian at your age!"
The mauve went pale and then darker in the Siblu version of a blush. "I have applied myself as best I could."
"I am most honoured to have you escort me. What is your area of specialization?"
A quiver. "A generalist."
"Truly! Well, tell me, how many staff do you lead?"
"A challenge. You use the mental connection?"
"Bionic implant. The only practical way to deal with the demands."
"How broad a connection is possible?"
"Theoretically unlimited but it would mean doing nothing else. The broadest effective connection known is 875."
A low whistle, "quite a span. Where does…oh here we are already. Well, thank you for your kindness, Third Underlibrarian."
A waving of his four arms in a complex pattern around his body. "Service is all, sir. Successful research." Then he disappeared back the way he came.
The Doctor was met by the First Underlibrarian, Melosin, and led through a series of doors and into a dark, shadowed room nearly empty. A variety of seating structures and some tables and shelving covered in items from all over the galaxy lined the walls.
A soft humming and the Master Librarian itself flowed into the light. His skin was mottled and not the smooth single colour normal among the Siblui. Eyes blinked, digits moved continually. Voice scratchy, "Doctor! You have regenerated again! I like the new look. Do you get to select such a fine design? For the ladies?"
A blush and a shy smile. "No. Random within the range of genetic patterns I was born with."
"Born, hmm? Isn't that a rude word on Gallifrey, to the Time Lords? All that loom business meant to avoid the intimate messiness of mitotic reproduction, wasn't it?"
"Yes, to the narrow minded. And you know that I am not a product of that ridiculous denial of our physical selves." He spoke a bit more sharply than he intended. He softened his tone. "So how many children do you have now?"
Eye sockets danced, the Siblui version of a chuckle. "You know very well I have not meioticized since before your last visit. I was calculating the other day how many ... grandchildren and great grandchildren ... odd Earther terms ... there must be over 1000." A wiggle of eye stocks. "How many children do you have?"
A pursing of lips. "Not a matter that concerns me."
"Oh ho, then there are some. My dear Doctor, what would the High Council of Gallifrey say?"
"Did I say I had children? And I don't care a fig for the High Council." They grinned at each other. this was a conversation that they had had before. The Doctor reached into one of his capacious pockets. "If you continue to tease me, I will not give you the surprise I brought."
Skin all aquiver, eyes wide, hands patting his body, "A surprise? My dear friend, please forgive me." His four eyes swivelled to focus on the pocket where the Doctor's right hand was still hidden.
The Doctor could have described the Master Librarian's expression as child-like excitement had someone asked. As it was, he felt a delight filling him in response to the Master Librarian's reaction. He could not decide whether surprises were better to give or to receive. He drew the package from his coat and held it out.
"Oh," said the Master Librarian, studying the colourful cloth package.
"It's wrapped yet. The surprize is inside." He laid the package in the Master Librarian's lower hands.
"Oh!" sighed Campble. The Siblui's fingers patted the cloth and then pushed at it and pulled at it, all very gently. Two of his eyes glanced up at the Doctor, a sort of wistful pleading in their depths. A sigh.
"May I assist?"
A nod and Campble extended the package back to the Doctor. The Time Lord dealt quickly with the cloth, holding its edges up until the last second before revealing what it contained. "There," with a triumphant smile.
"A book? A book!"
"Yes. A first edition copy of Oscar Wilde's 'A House of Pomegranates.'"
Campble took the book into his lower hands while his upper hands caressed the leather surface. "A book," he sighed softly. "Never held one before. Everything here is electronic. And one of such antiquity and beauty." His mouth opened and closed a few times, in a rather fish-like move. Voice very low, vibrating, "My dear friend, I am overwhelmed that you would let me hold such a precious thing." He caressed it again and then slowly passed it back to the Doctor.
"No, no. It is yours. To keep."
"Mine? I. Oh. Oh." His breath came faster and faster and he half rose up, sat, rose up again. a hiccuping sound and an allover quivering drew the Doctor to his feet, hands reaching to brush over the Siblui's back. In time, he stopped himself, not wanting to break the Siblui' prohibition against touching.
"My friend, what is it? Should I call someone?"
In a moment, Campble calmed and slumped into his chair. "It is nothing."
"Are you unwell?"
"No, no. just too much excitement. How thoroughly incredible your surprize is. Are you certain?"
The Doctor, still concerned, nodded. A soft cough behind him and he turned to see the First Underlibrarian standing, face slightly anxious.
"Excuse me, sirs. I…Master Librarian, you are ..."
A wave of three hands. "Fine. I am fine, Melosin."
"But sir…" He stopped at the Master Librarian's frown. "Well, it is time."
"No, not yet. The Doctor has barely been with me a few moments."
"I am afraid, sir, as the Medicus said ..."
The Doctor was following the conversation with a concerned expression. Something was going on that he did not know about. He was about to ask what it was when the Master Librarian gave the Siblui version of a grimace and grumbled.
"There is no reason I should not have my friend with me. Go away."
"I have never had to repeat an instruction to a member of the Library staff in my entire career. Do not make me do so now."
Melosin looked very unhappy but he pulled his lower lip up and spoke no more. With a glance at the Doctor, he left the room.
Just as the door closed behind him, the Doctor studied Campble's face. "Am I breaking some rule by being here so long? Is there some reason I should not still be with you.?"
"No, of course not. Melosin is a fussy old maid. Isn't that the Earther expression? Now tell me, where did you find this wonder? And why are you being so mad as to give it to me? You do the most odd things sometimes ... remember that business with the spoons? Odd even for you. Have I misunderstood you?"
The Doctor laughed. "That, my friend, is an excellent imitation of me. A thousand questions at once and aiming to distract. If I was more egotistical, I might be offended."
"If you were more egotistical, you would want me to it again."
The Doctor threw back his head and laughed even harder -- a bright burst of sound.
"Now, Time Lord, tell me where you found the book. In such perfect condition."
A small shrug. "I went to the source. The author. He was very -- flattered."
The Master Librarian's digits, all sixteen of them, reverently opened the book resting in his lap. He peered one might say myopically at the pages before him. "Ah," nearly an exhale. "It is so beautiful. So very beautiful. No one has ever given me anything so precious."
The Doctor's face got warm with pleasure and shyness.
"How can I ever repay you?"
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