The Dedekind Infinite Demographic

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He was always surprised at just how simple it was to steal from the gods.

The Librarian was a robed semi-human thing with an ink-stained hand for a head. Despite its frail appearance, whatever it wanted, the Library gave it: which only made the fact someone had stolen an entire section of the Library right in front of it even more perplexing.

Landen Eckhart twirled his pen and tapped its top against the notepad he'd been scribbling on. "Every book from that entire shelf over there." He motioned with his head at the recently-emptied bookshelf next to him. "And nothing else?"

The Librarian's head dipped forward in response.

"Right. But you didn't stop them, because-"

It smacked the flat of its hand-head against the the shelf, before beginning to scrawl on the wood with its fingers. As they squelched against the surface, ink welled from gaping pores on its skin and stained the shelf's finish. ACTORS (BY (TIME (DETECTED (CRIME))) (OUTSIDE (LIBRARY))).

Landen didn't exactly consider himself an expert on the niceties of Library architecture, but the shelf was enormous even by its standards. Just looking up at it gave him vertigo, and the omnipresent 'ASCPAB' acronym spray-bombed onto its side was written in letters taller than he was. "But.. how could you not have picked up on the theft while it was in progress? I mean, there's space for, what, a million books on that shelf, it couldn't have been done that quickly."

The Librarian's hand balled into a fist in response and for a moment Landen thought it was going to punch him in the face for what he'd said. Instead, it began scribbling on the shelf with renewed intensity. DURING (CRIME THREAT (NUCLEAR)). ATTENTION-ON (CRIME). ONLY-DETECTED (THIEVES DURING (EXIT (LIBRARY))). COMBINED (ATTENTION-ON (CRIME) HARD (DETECTION)) IMPLIES (UNABLE-TO (DETECT (ACTORS))).

"Sure." Landen transcribed the rant onto his notepad and tucked it back into his pocket, unable to wholly suppress a sigh of disappointment. "Well, in that case, I can't say I blame you. Thanks for your time-" He squinted at the red-and-white name-tag someone had slapped onto its robe in an (unsuccessful) attempt to make it look more approachable. "-Ham."

Its palm opened up to reveal rings of teeth and tongues that gargled something like 'no problems' at him, before it turned away and left Landen to wipe strings of fluorescent spit off his suit.

He took a moment to search for his partner twice-over amidst the hundreds of levels of the shelf. Eventually, Landen found him taking photos of the thirty-somethingth level and waving a chunky-looking detector over it. With a quick whistle and a minute's climb down the ladder mounted to the shelf, the two were reunited on the ground floor of the building.

"Anything?" Landen asked.

Ari Perkowitz fiddled with the camera for a few more moments before handing it to him with a look of faint disgust on his face. "If there was anything, it's gone now. Everyone got their hands on the crime scene ages before we showed up and fingerprints are a nightmare, let alone thaumic bullshit. Only promising thing I found, I photographed."

Landen glanced at the photo on the screen; a single black chess piece lying in the corner of one of the rows of the shelf. A quick zoom in on the piece in question revealed an ornate crown sculpted into its head. "Hhhhuh. Any artists you know with that signature?"

"None on my watchlist, nope." Ari scowled at the ground and scuffed it with a foot. "Detector didn't pick up anything too suspicious about it, either. It's not a nuke and it's not magic. As far as it can tell, it's just a really nice carving."

"Could we get Noemi to look at it?"

Ari began walking away, gently leading Landen by the hand to the Way out. "You think someone's running a book-based Ponzi scheme? Rob Peter to pay Paul's late fees?"

"She's not just a mercanturge, Ari, Christ." Landen deftly weaved out of the way of a woman made of terracotta who was toting a gigantic tray of gaiwans and other tea-themed paraphernalia. "It's just that Thorne's busy, and she's the next available Blue we could call to check out the thing you found."


Before Landen could respond, Ari pulled him behind a tent bordering the 'road' they were on and gingerly unzipped the tent's back. "Way out's in here."

A stiff breeze from the Way's interior blew the scent of burnt coffee and spoilt milk into Landen's face, making him tempted to add vomit to the list of smells coming from the dark passageway. "Ari, I love you, but I literally don't trust the smell of this."

"Well, too bad, because it's the only free Way out to Portlands for two miles." The older agent fished a couple of napkins out of his pockets and tossed them roughly at Landen. "Wedge them up your nose and get crawling, loverboy."

Landen swallowed.

After a much-needed change of clothes and a few calls to the branch office, Ari and Landen found themselves directed to meet up with Noemi at a warehouse on the outskirts of Three Portlands. It was a shabby-looking building with a corrugated-iron roof and little caterpillar legs designed to let it crawl about as needed. The house was midway through the process of doing so when they arrived, at which point it quickly froze in place and tucked its legs underneath itself.

As Landen knocked on the door, he could swear he felt the building tremble a little in fear. Before it could try to roll over and play dead, the door slid to the side, revealing a harried-looking woman in a purple bathrobe with her brown hair in a chopsticked bun and a still-steaming coffee in one hand.

She spent a few seconds patting the wall comfortingly and whispering soothing things into the wooden doorframe, to which the warehouse responded with a content purr. Ari interrupted the display by coughing as indiscreetly as possible and arching his unsinged eyebrow at her. "Noemi. Didn't know you lived here."

"I don't," Noemi Simonides stated flatly. "Girlfriend does. What do you want?"

Ari pulled a square of paper from his pocket and unfolded it with a noticeable effort. Its corners exploded out with a loud pop to reveal a plastic evidence bag sitting pretty in the center of the crumpled sheet, the black queen they'd found earlier ensconced in its zip-lock depths. "Robin's busy with some other case, and it's not worth calling in MOOT on this one. We think we've got a lead on a theft case, but hell if I can do anything with it, I'm a shitty wizard: you mind giving this a look-over for us?"

If it was even possible, Noemi's look became even more non-plussed. "Perkowitz, I've got the Infernal Revenue Service hounding me about Faust Bank again in a week. Tell me why I should blow off the Skippers, the Gockers and the Pentagram for some pickpocket with a chess fetish."

Landen cleared his throat quietly. "Actually, they stole every book on artificial intelligence in the Wanderer's Library. If you think the Bermuda real estate economy's going to land you in hot water with the IRS, try 'AI research behind the Veil grinds to a halt.'"

Noemi opened her mouth, thought better of it, then turned to Ari. "He's serious, right?"

Ari shrugged and let his grin speak for itself, to which Noemi responded with a resigned huff. "Come inside, then. Touch anything-"

"We get it, Noemi." Landen bowed his head obligingly and tailed after Noemi, holding the door open for Ari as he did.

From a glance, Landen could tell just what Noemi's girlfriend did for her day job. The apartment was littered with the same artistic detritus that cluttered Ari's home in Chicago, most of them test runs instead of failed final products — a Rubik's tesseract on the beaten-iron coffee table, a few stress balls strewn about the floor that exploded and promptly reformed when Ari walked too close. Arguably the whole house looked like an experiment in style, albeit one that worked.

Noemi motioned for them to sit on a transparent couch that looked like it'd been carved out of a single lick of glass but felt like it was made of cotton candy, and headed off to one of the rooms upstairs. A few moments of staring at the rickety ceiling fans later and she returned, now properly dressed and holding a bottle of pills and a chunky plastic thing that looked like a projector's weird aunt.

She unceremoniously dropped it into Ari's lap, earning a yelp from him as she cleared the table of detritus to reveal an outlet in its surface. "Plug it in," she added, uncapping the bottle of pills.

When the plug was in, Landen ventured to say something: "So, what are you-"

"Following the money," Noemi snapped, downing two of the little capsules and dropping on the couch beside Ari. "Hit the switch, Perkowitz?"

Ari obliged and on the wall opposite the couch, a butterfly-shaped projection of the Earth began to take shape. The projector emitted a high beeping noise like a dial-up modem and Noemi's eyelids snapped open, revealing eyes of solid silver.

Noemi turned to face him with eerie smoothness, and Ari couldn't help but shrink back a bit when faced with those unblinking eyes. "Pass me the evidence bag."

He gingerly pressed it into her upturned palm. As it made contact, four needle-thin beams of light shot from the head of the queen and began converging slowly, each crawling across the map and growing brighter as it wandered inexorably towards its home, somewhere in-

"New Mexico?" Landen murmured under his breath.

Before they could meet at a point, however, Noemi let out a strangled yelp and shut her eyes as if she'd just looked out of a window and come face-to-face with the Sun: metallic tears began to roll down her face as she wiped a surprisingly large sheen of sweat off her brow.

Ari quickly moved over to support her as she sank into the couch, the projection and all with it fading out of existence as she did. "You alright?"

"Albuquerque," Noemi blurted, "South side, warehouse by Holly Avenue-"

"Not alright. Not alright, then. Landen, get her the coffee, she needs energy."

"No, dammit, I'm fine." She waved Landen off as he was midway to bringing the coffee mug to her face, and busied herself with wiping the reflective tears from eyes. Eyelids twitching, she refocussed on something in this plane of existence and grunted. "Feedback loop."

"Wait, hang on- feedback from what?" Landen asked.

She tapped the chess piece through the bag. "Your lead's owner. I'm assuming you know how scrying functions, yes?"

Ari spoke up. "Part affects the whole. If something's been in contact with you or it's important enough to you that it'd be metaphorically part of you, Noemi could use it to find you."

"Reductive, but accurate enough." Noemi began to massage her forehead, sinking back into the couch. "The more of 'you' something has on it, the easier it is to find you with it. This-" She pointed at the bag. "-has so much of its owner on it that it was almost impossible not to know where they were. I'm good, but you know how hard it is to get city-level accuracy across dimensions?"

"Well then, that makes this whole thing pretty open-and-shut, doesn't it?" Ari said wryly.

"Unfortunately not." Noemi grimaced. "That's only one explanation for why the signal's so strong: the more likely one is that this is waffle."

"Magic Eggos?" Landen asked, a trace of hope in his voice.

"I wish. No, it's something that magically pretends to be you, throws a wizard off your actual 'scent'. Like running through a cologne factory to shake off drug dogs."

"Of course. The one lead we have and it's a double-blind." Ari grimaced, folding his arms over his chest and chewing resignedly at his lip.

"That's the most likely possibility at the moment. Somehow I think your culprit would be a bit more careful than to leave something as damning as this at the scene of a crime, no?" Noemi pursed her lips in thought and spent a few moments contemplating a section of the wall, before glancing over to Landen and promptly swatting him on the shoulder. "Is this really the time to play with your phone?"

"The lead might've been a double-blind, but it might still be worth something." Landen stuffed his phone back into his pocket and motioned for them to head out, face drawn and lips a grim line. "We need to get back to the branch office- the Skippers have a situation in Ohio."

Five minutes earlier in the hellish backwater of Sandusky, Ohio, someone had just finished desecrating a grave.

The process was about as messy as you could have guessed, knowing that the final resting place in question was a room deep within the bowels of a Foundation site. By the time the robber in question finally prised open the stainless-steel coffin her arms had been thoroughly basted in an elbow-deep mix of blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Only about half of it was hers — well, she had recycled some from her earlier victims to make up for the occasional bullet wound she sustained, but at that point it was mostly splitting hairs.

She grunted as she lifted the recently-separated cover off the coffin and roughly tossed it to the side, the metal cover smashing against the wall of the cool room with a heavy clang. After a quick glance at the entrance of the room to make sure nobody was in any state to do anything about the noise, she peered into the coffin with a critical eye and examined the body.

The Warrior's body looked like it had been frozen in the moment of death, the only sign that time had even passed for it being the fact that its cheek had stopped being plasma and started being solid matter once more. She nodded mutely as her eyes ran down its length, confirming once more that all the necessary parts were still intact and in place — when every point in her mental checklist was satisfied, she set down the bag of tools slung round her shoulder and took out a wicked hacksaw the length of her arm.

Marking out the cut she needed with the blood that had congealed on her finger, she took a deep breath in and began the process of disassembling divinity.

Everyone knew how simple it was to steal from the gods.

What the Foundation didn't know was how simple it was to steal the god itself.

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