The crystal at his waist chimed just as he was six feet off the floor in B-stack, and only lightning reflexes kept him on the ladder as he near levitated in fright. Cursing, juggling delicate simulacra, he fumbled at his belt for the thing. "What?" he asked rudely, hooking an elbow into the rung so he could get a better grip on his load. Those were ancient simulacra, those! What would have happened if he'd dropped them?
"Don't take that tone with me, Finn Winters!" Lisanna barked back, and he almost fell off the ladder again.
"Lis ... Lisanna?" he stammered, wincing. "Sorry. I just ..."
"You just nothing!" She steamed right over him, and he bit his lip to keep from speaking back. "Now you get down here, Finicky, and tell these damn visitors of yours to get their mage asses out of my Library!"
He paused at that, frowning. Mages? What the ... "On my way," he said shortly, and gently laid the simulacra on the ladder tray, before stopping to think for a second. Stack B ... and visitors would be in the main atrium ... yes. That would be fastest.
Mind made up, he scampered the rest of the way up the ladder, fully fifteen feet off the floor, and pulled himself up onto the top of the stack. The simulacra stacks were marble, set dead into the floor, and ran radially for almost a third of the width of the main building. B-stack itself ran right to the balconies overlooking the atrium, bypassing most of the dividers on the floor. Once Finn had his balance he made rapid use of the fact, running easily over the two-foot-wide pathway until the sunlight through the dome hit him in the eyes and he skidded to a rapid stop, dropping to his knees and swinging off the side of the stack, feet finding the shelf-stops with practised ease. Inside of two minutes, he was on the third floor balcony, looking down into the vast atrium, and there he stopped, panting slightly.
Peeking warily over the balustrade, he took stock of the guests waiting for him down on the ground floor. One of them he recognised immediately. Whistler, who should know bloody better than to come find him here! The other, a stern-looking little blonde woman who was tapping one foot impatiently, he didn't know, and didn't think he really wanted to know.
For a second, he debated whether he wanted to head down at all. But if he didn't, the wrath of Lisanna would fall on him, and he'd rather not go through that again. Oh well.
"Ho, Whistler!" he called down, ignoring the frown from an alchemist on the second floor. Whistler looked up at his voice, his broad, heavy face creasing into a smile of welcome. The woman looked up too, a frown of disapproval already on her petite features, and so did Lisanna from behind the desk, her glare hitting him solidly between the eyes. Shrugging uneasily, Finn decided to ignore the lot of them, and focus on getting down to ground level instead. Which unfortunately wasn't much of a distraction, since he'd been doing that in his sleep for over two years. But still he paid a deep, almost ridiculous attention to the handholds on the descending bar, feeling their stares buzzing between his shoulders as he landed on the golden marble floor.
He nodded to Lisanna first, who only rolled her eyes at him, satisfied that he would now take the guests off her hands. Whistler next, and the man was grinning at him with serene eyes, tilting his head towards the woman at his side with a warning look. Finn grimaced, having already figured that out for himself, and finally turned towards the stranger.
"Finn Winters," he said, holding out his hand in the firm expectation that she would ignore it. He wasn't at all disappointed.
"Yes," she acknowledged frostily. "I know." Her eyes crawled over him from head to toe, lingering on his work leathers, his sloppily tied hair, the scuff marks left from years of alchemical research and climbing around the Library and any other available surface. She didn't look impressed and Finn could already feel himself bristling under her stare. "Disrespectful, childish, poor response to authority, sloppy. You could hardly be anyone else."
"And you would be?" he snapped, annoyed at how defensive that grey gaze made him feel. She only raised a cool eyebrow, and gestured to the police patch on the mantel of her short cloak.
"Jeanette White," she said briskly. "I've been assigned to your team for the remainder of your trial period with the police." She raised that eyebrow again, smugly this time. "Which I'm sure won't be long, judging by your record with us so far, and your ... less than stellar first impression."
Finn stared at her. He was meant to work with this woman? More to the point, he was meant to trust her to look out for him when it came to bastards like the last guy? Seriously? When obviously as far as she was concerned, he could go jump in a crucible for all she cared? Childish! Sloppy! He'd never be sloppy in his life! Just because he couldn't be bothered to tie his damned hair back properly ... didn't she think there might be slightly more important things for him to worry about in the mornings? The bloody judgemental little ...
He sighed heavily, not even looking at Whistler's serenely amused expression. Well, there went his day, anyway. There went the rest of his life, quite possibly. Damn bloody mages and their damn bloody superiority complexes, damn bloody Whistler and his damn bloody team, and damn bloody Jeanette White!
This was going to be a long, long couple of months. He could just tell.