He had just sat down at the linoleum topped table when a girl walked up and sat across from him. Like him, she was sweating. Her bangs were shoved back, making her look like she had some sort of mullet-gone-worse but effectively cooling her forehead.
Flynn eyed her for a moment, then pulled out his Big Mac. "Who are you?" He asked calmly before taking a bite.
"Those things will give you a heart attack." She pointed out, not answering his question.
"Believe me, a heart attack is probably the least likely thing to kill me." He replied, smiling slightly at his own private joke before taking a long sip of his Coke.
Still, it would suck to be killed by a burger after all the death-defying missions you've been on, wouldn't it?" She said, grinning.
"Who are you?" He repeated, a bit more urgently this time.
"Relax, Carsen. Judson sent me."
"Because that answers my question." He retorted sarcastically. She giggled.
"Keep your wig on. My name is Claire. I'm supposed to go with you to Verkhoyansk." She said.
He had noticed that her clothing was, like his own, unusual for the sweltering heat outside. He still couldn't believe they were shipping him off to the coldest permanent settlement on earth.
"How can I be sure?" He asked suspiciously. Being the Librarian had taught him a thing or two about caution.
"Have I given you any reason to distrust me?" She asked in return.
"With all due respect, I've met several dishonest people in my time and none of them have said 'before I introduce myself, here are the reasons you shouldn't trust me…' I have a feeling you're smarter than that. So let me repeat myself; how can I be sure?"
"Do I look dangerous?" she tried again.
"Do I?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow.
She hesitated, then seemed to mentally agree that he had a point. "Fine, fine. Finish up your McHeartAttack and let's pay a visit to the library."
It didn't take long for him to scarf down the rest of his burger, and they left for the library.
He let her lead him to the shelf with the secret lever. She knew her way there, which made him relax a little. Still, he reminded himself, that doesn't mean she's legit.
She pulled down the copy of Midsummer's Night Dream and he felt the floor vibrate slightly as the shelf moved. They stepped into the elevator and waited for the small chamber to make its way down to the many stories to the most precious rooms of the building. After a while, she spoke up, breaking the patient silence.
"I remember my first trip down here. It was awkward how long it took when I didn't know where I was going." She reminisced
Flynn remembered the same feeling.
"Judson didn't seem to find anything wrong with it though." She continued thoughtfully.
Then the doors opened, and they stepped together through the security.
"Judson!" She called out as she stepped foot directly in front of the arc of the covenant.
She was close to the box, too close for Flynn to be comfortable. He halfway stepped forward. "Don't touch it." He warned.
She shot him a look. "I'm not stupid, Carsen." She said, then turned back to the empty room. She folded her arms impatiently in front of her and tapped her foot. "Judson" she repeated.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." As always, his voice came before he did, but it didn't take long for him to appear before them.
"Claire?" He asked, surprised. I wasn't expecting you. You were supposed to leave with Flynn almost an hour ago.
"He didn't believe me." She said. She rolled her eyes and hooked her thumb over her shoulder indicating he was right behind her.
"I told you about this, Flynn." Judson said, wrinkling his brow.
Flynn shook his head. Judson nodded his.
"Can you just tell him that I'm O.K. so we can get a move on. Verkhoyansk will melt by the time he figures this out on his own." Claire suggested impatiently
"Why are you so damn condescending?" Flynn asked.
"Why do you have to be so overcautious?" she countered. "And you should know better than to be wearing glasses. Don't you own contact lenses?"
"Yes." He said. "But why are glasses bad. Do they annoy you or something." He noticed that both Judson and Claire were staring at him, openmouthed. He rethought his words, then gasped at his own stupidity.
"Figure it out, did you?" Claire asked smugly. "I've heard all these stories about how smart you are, but I must say I'm disappointed."
"Shut up." Said Flynn, somewhat embarrassed. He remembered that glasses weren't the only thing he had packed that could freeze onto him. "I need to repack." By this point he was completely ashamed of the idiocy he'd displayed.
"Whatevs." She said, trying hard not to laugh. "I'll wait here."
"Oh, no you don't." said Judson. "I'm buying two more tickets for you, telling Charlene it was your fault that we wasted money on a flight you missed, and you're going straight to the airport. You are not missing another flight."
"So why can't I wait here?" Claire asked, not seeing his point.
"Because you're going with him. Directly from his apartment to the plane. No dilly-dallying. This is not the time to smell the roses. You need to save the world, here."
Claire scowled. "You better make it quick." She said, glaring at him.
"Well, this will be a fun flight." Flynn said loudly 'to himself' as they walked back to the McDonalds down the street. "Whose car will we take?"
"Yours" Claire said simply, then went on to explain the decision. "I live right there. I walked." She pointed at a building across the street diagonally.
Flynn was exasperated with this girl's ego. Even saying the simplest things she managed to make him feel inferior. It was her tone of voice, he decided. She sounded pretentious, and the faint British accent didn't help. She couldn't even call him by his first name!
Though, when he thought about it, Carsen sounded a lot more informal than Flynn would have coming from her lips. It was backwards and nonsensical, but it seemed true.
When they got to his house, he let her in and left her in the front room. He focused on un-packing and repacking his suitcase. He needed to change his parka to one with a plastic zipper, change all his jeans to zipperless sweats, and painstakingly search each and every sweater, sweatshirt, and hoodie for traces of metal. When he was sure nothing could freeze together, he switched his bag to one with a plastic zip and hauled it over his shoulder. He passed through the front room on his way to the door and realized it was empty. He dropped his bag on the floor by the door and turned.
"Claire?" He called. There was no answer. "Claire?"
He called once more, and this time heard a loud crash and a cry of pain in the room to his right.