Forest of Paper

In response to an Iron Chef posted by The Angst Guy on PPMB.

The challenge was “What kinds of Daria crossovers have not yet been tried that would be worth doing?”

A Daria/Read or Die crossover

The tall man in a light gray suit softly opened the door an entered the plainly appointed waiting room. The brunette girl waiting in the room showed no sign of noticing his presence, her gaze remaining focused on the book in her hands. She was dressed in a black skirt, boots, and a dark orange blouse that had apparently seen much use. She was also wearing a green jacket, which made the presence of a dark green trench-coat draped over a nearby chair stand out. The man restrained a smile as he noticed at least one more book sticking out of the pocket of the trench-coat, and at least two more in inner pockets hidden from view.

He softly cleared his throat, and when that failed to get her attention, said, "Ms. Morgendorffer?"

The girl finally looked up from her book. "Yes?"

"I'm Joe Farrier. I must say, we're quite pleased at your interest in our internship. Your record is very impressive."

Daria slowly and deliberately marked her place with a bookmark, closed the book, and placed it in her lap. She then looked at Mr. Farrier for a uncomfortably long time before sighing. "Mr. Farrier. I'm not sure I made myself clear. Your offer was... curious. But extremely vague. I'm afraid I really can't call what I have "interest" until I know more about it. You do have my curiosity, though."

"Of course," he nodded. "I'm afraid the... vagueness of the position couldn't be helped until we knew more about you. I'll take you to someone who'll explain everything to your satisfaction. If you'll follow me?"

Daria looked at him a moment more, sighed again, and stood up. Gathering her trench-coat and draping it over her shoulder, she followed him out in to the hallway. He headed for a nearby elevator that was waiting with the door open.

Once inside, Joe slid a card into a card reader mounted by the button panel, and hit an unmarked button. He didn't mention that all candidates who had shown up without at least one book were taken to the third floor, to be interviewed by HR for a position processing Congressional records requests.

The elevator ride wasn't short, and most of the candidates had been unable to refrain from striking up a conversation. Daria had simply returned to her book, holding it in one hand and shifting the bookmark with the other as she changed pages.

The elevator doors opened, and Daria followed Joe out of the elevator. He took a few steps, then stopped and waited. He noticed, with some amusement, that Daria finished the paragraph she was on before looking up.

He had seen this reaction many times before, in many variations, but this did nothing to dampen his pleasure in it. Daria sucked in a breath and froze, the only thing left moving was her eyes. In front of them stretched out an enormous room, several stories tall. While the center of the room was full of people at desks, the vast majority of the room was filled with books, and the walls were lined with them.

Mr. Farrier said, "There are over a million books in this room alone. Most of them can't be taken out of the building, but if you do accept our offer you'd have access to these and many more. We have books from all over the world, in nearly every language, including one of the largest collections of rare books in the world."

Daria finally let out her breath. "I knew the scope of the Library of Congress collection, but to actually see it..."

"It is breathtaking, isn't it?" Joe said warmly, looking up at the shelves with pride. For the sort of people they were looking for, this was the biggest incentive they could offer, one that would be irresistible for the perfect candidate.

"Well, shall we satisfy that curiosity of yours?"

Daria nodded, and followed as Joe lead a course through the center of the room towards the far wall. She paid little attention to the activities of the people at the desks, but kept staring up at the books on the stories above her.

They entered a hallway, and when Joe stopped walking Daria, who had been looking over her shoulder, walked straight in to him. "Oh, sorry."

"My fault," he said, "It often takes people that way their first time."

Knocking on the door in front of him, he waited a moment, shook his head, then opened it and entered. Daria followed him in to a moderately sized office. The walls were packed with bookshelves that were oddly empty. Sitting on the far side of a large desk was a young Japanese woman. She was dressed in a simple white blouse and trench-coat, wearing glasses and with rather disheveled hair, didn't look up even when Joe said, "Ms. Readman, your next interviewee is here."

Joe shot a wry glance at Daria. "This is Yomiko Readman. She'll be the one explaining things to you."

Joe reached out and snatched the book from Yomiko's hands. "Ah, my book!"

"You know the agreement, Yomiko. Any book you want, but only [i]between[/i] interviews. This is the next candidate, Daria Morgendorffer."

"My book..." Yomiko repeated, pleadingly.

"After you're done. I'm sure she has many questions for you."

Yomiko finally turned her somewhat fuddled gaze on Daria. She adjusted her glasses with both hands, stood up, and bowed, saying "My apologies. I'm Yomiko Readman. Pleased to meet you."

"Daria Morgendorffer."

"Now, if you'll allow me to hold on to your books until after the interview, I'll leave you two alone to get on with things," Joe said to Daria.

Daria's eyes narrowed slightly. "She may work for you, but I don't. I think I'll keep them."

Yomiko nodded in clear approval, and Joe hid another smile before excusing himself.

Once in the hallway, he went a few doors down and entered another room. Two other men in nearly identical gray suits were sitting watching a large monitor. On screen were Yomiko and Daria. Even without sound, Yomiko was obviously trying to get Daria to hand over a book.

One of the men looked up as Joe entered. "What do you think about this one, Joe?"

"Quite promising. She had at least three novels and a notebook on her. I don't think we've had one with an actual notebook before; it'll be interesting to see how Yomiko reacts to someone who writes as well as reads. And she's the first to flatly refuse to let me hold on to her books."

"She's got an impressive record. Literature professors do have a tendency to overstate things for their favorite students, but some of these awards..."

"Yes. I tried looking in to that Dianne Fossey award. It makes me wonder about her high school."

After a few moments a third man, this one wearing headphones, spoke up. "Well, this is fast. Yomiko's already preparing a demonstration."

Joe frowned. "She must really like this one. They haven't even been talking for two minutes. Turn the speaker on, I want to hear this."

Yomiko had removed the cover of a box sitting by the desk. It contained several reams of loose copier paper. "I'm sure you heard of the damage the Library sustained a few months ago."

Daria scowled, clearly angered by the thought. "Yes."

"The American government has decided that they want to take steps to prevent such a thing from happening again. Which is why they asked for me. Ah, I'm actually with the British Library, you see. But they... that is, the Library of Congress is looking for someone with special talents."

"What kind of special talents?"

"Um... well, it will be easier if I show you. Please watch closely."

Yomiko waved a hand over the open box of copier paper. The sheets of paper fountained up in to the air, and Yomiko gestured down towards the desk. In a matter of moments the sheets of paper had formed an extremely detailed scale model of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson building.

Daria stared at the model wide-eyed.

Yomiko adjusted her glasses with both hands. "The Library of Congress is looking for a Paper Master."