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“The entire Underworld branch is on strike.” Everett repeated, looking in turn at Zelda, Phyllis, and Cyrus.

“So it would seem.” Zelda confirmed, nodding and dipping slightly to emphasize the motion, “In addition, they are refusing to allow any non-deceased personnel into the building. Those who try to enter are forcibly ejected.”

Cyrus snorted, “A nice term for thrown up the book chute.”

“Which really isn’t good for the BookWyrm.” Phyllis pointed out, “Any further attempts are likely to result in digestive issues that may cause books to go missing or blink out of existence altogether.” Or people. Which was left unsaid.

“Clearly unacceptable,” Zelda said.

Everett nodded, “And Derek?” He asked.

“He appears to have allied himself with his staff.” Phyllis responded, “Attempts to contact him have met with a standardized message repeating the demands as well as invitation to leave a message that will be processed and responded to according to protocol once the matter is resolved.”

“What are the demands?” Everett asked, “And how is this possible?”

Zelda addressed the second question first, “When magic disappeared, we prioritized which contracts we devoted our reserves to maintaining. Although we kept the contracts all active, it was decided that it would be an unwise use of limited resources to enforce the contract details on employees in the Underworld Branch, as most of the clauses are irrelevant.”

So the Underworld Employees were under no magical compulsion to work. No headaches that would turn into migraines, no slow bodily numbness, nothing. Everett would have sighed, but he did not sigh.

“Also,” Phyllis interjected.

“Also.” Everett said flatly. What else?

“Although our living personnel are, of course, properly restricted by their contracts, one of the matters of contention is the treatment of the personnel who died in the Modesto explosion. They cannot strike, but approximately 80% of the pages and clerks are Working to Rule which has resulted in a 44% decrease in productivity.”

In short, the entire situation was a fiasco.

It was important to focus, “And the demands?” Everett repeated.

Phyllis unrolled a sheet of paper on Everett’s desk, “Compensation in the form of reduced work terms for employees killed on the job - worker’s compensation, essentially.”

“We know what worker’s compensation is, Phyllis.” Cyrus interjected.

She ignored him and continued, “An 8-hour workday. Although our deceased personnel do not need to sleep, they claim that since they are being impacted by events taking place in the living world as well as our decisions that they have the right to time to keep abreast of matters. And our deceased personnel and paraprofessionals both want voting representatives in managerial meetings.” Phyllis paused again, the side of her mouth quirking in a way that meant there was more .

Everett gestured for her to keep speaking.

“The last demand is for their own Poison Room, that management cannot access.” Phyllis finished, looking around the room, “So they may keep their own records. And so they can keep their own copies of Management’s books.”

“Unacceptable,” Cyrus said flatly.

“I agree,” said Everett.

Zelda cleared her throat, “This is clearly a less than ideal situation, but we have no reason to think they have ill-intentions. Many of them have served the Library for thousands of years. They’re as committed to its mission as we are.”

“The question remains what do we do about it.” Everett said, “Cyrus?”

“To be quite honest, there isn’t much we can do about it.” The Head of Regulation answered, “Given the effort is led by the deceased, and books end when a subject dies, they can’t provide useful intel.  In addition, they seem to understand that punitive measures are somewhat limited for the dead.” To put it mildly. What were they going to do? Kill them? “Punitive measures taken against the living employees would result in our being the first to break the contract. We would bear the repercussions and they would be released from them altogether.”

Which would make a 44% drop in productivity look like someone taking a single sick day.

“I have a crazy idea.” Phyllis interjected in a dry tone, “We could try talking to them.” Cyrus shot her a look and Phyllis raised an eyebrow.

“It appears I have little choice.” Everett agreed, standing, “Thank you all for informing me. I’ll make arrangements.”

***

Everett didn’t have time to be wasting standing in the staff elevator to the Underworld Branch so he could go put a bunch of short-sighted imbeciles in line. There was an entire reservoir of magic waiting for him, and the Brakebills students (and staff) had proven to be both oddly effective and a major thorn in his side. It wouldn’t do for them to get to them first. Of course their ridiculous plan wasn’t going to work; you couldn’t trap Them with an Incorporate Bond. It would take an absurd amount of power.

But still. They weren’t supposed to get to Blackspire or kill Umber either. It was good to be prudent.

This was, naturally, the slowest elevator in the system. The dead sometimes had poor conceptions of time.

Eventually, however, the machine let out a ‘ding’ and Everett stepped out into the Underworld Branch, only to be met by a Librarian who introduced himself as ‘Howard’ and offered to lead him to the office where their representative was waiting.

This would be easy enough to take care of. Everett had read Derek’s book. Even if it could not predict his actions when he was dead, it was a fairly reliable indicator of the best persuasive tactic to take. He’d give a few concessions, talk up their similarities, and reiterate the importance of the Order’s mission.

Everett didn’t even wait for the door to open all the way before he began to speak, “Derek,” He said, turning the doorknob and pushing the door open, “I appreciate your meeting with me. Let’s talk about how we can best resolve this issue.”

“Of course,” said an unfamiliar voice. Everett looked up in surprise.  “Let’s talk,” said Penny Adiyodi, looking at him from across Derek’s desk with a smile on his face, “Have a seat, Everett.”