The room was large, like everything about Critainian architecture. One room set aside for sleeping, another for bathing, and the largest room for other pursuits. To the three Vulpine pilots that could have been a half sized game of rough ball. As the entered and stored their gear, Hardy took note of the tea service that sat on a coffee table of the sunken section of the living room. The chairs and couches were quite ornate, as was customary in Critainian culture. The room even had a communication console, and on one of the shelves sat a data rod. Senia picked it up and placed it carefully into the data processor of the console and pressed a few buttons.
Behind her, over top of the sunken living room, a holoimage appeared, a schematic by the look of it. A full layout of the Great Library. It nearly covered the entire sunken section of the room. As they studied it, there was a chirp from the communications console, which Senia answered quickly. As they waited for the call to complete, Clarfax fixed tea for each of them.
Soon, the form of a high ranking member of the Critainian government came into view on the screen. A respectable looking individual, the three knew that they needed no coloured arm band to determine his gender, they’d been briefed on this Critainian. “Ah, Left-tenant Felix,” he said with a smile and a small bow. “I was informed of your arrival and took the liberty to arrange quarters. I know that Vulpinia is a much more temperate climate than Critainia, and I do so hope this is to your liking.”
“It should thuit uth fine ath a command thentre while we work, Minithter,” Senia replied with a nod. “Ath you’ve no doubt been informed, I am Left-tenant Felix. Corporal Maynard and Corporal Billingth,” she said as she motioned to her comrades. Clarfax handed her a tea cup filled with a steaming liquid before she continued. “We jutht only activated the data rod found in the room. A three dimensional map of the library.”
“Yes,” the Minister said as his tone became much more serious. “This will hopefully help. Most of the reports have been coming from one of the older sections of the library. Most advanced technology outside of the climate control and lighting is outlawed in that section. We’ve detected signs of … well.” He paused a moment as he tried to explain the situation. “We believe that there is something being moved through the library using the old infrastructure underneath the current foundation.”
“Underneath?” Senia remarked as she was about to take a sip. She turned to look at the holo image, as did Hardy and Clarfax. “It would appear no thuch thytructure ith prethent in thith diagram.”
“Sadly, our data rods have not been updated since the war with the Raptory over one hundred years ago,” the Minister explained. “There were a great number of bunkers created to hide non military personnel during the worst of the fighting. We had created the data rods before the war broke out, and felt it best to leave out the hidden chambers in case they fell into enemy hands.”
“I remember that,” Hardy said as she studied the schematic. “Around the same time of the Vulpine Pantheran war, if my history is correct. One of the reasons why the Critainians didn’t directly join the fight until near the end of the war.”
“You’d make an excellent historian, Corporal,” the Minister said with a chuckle. “Are you sure you’ve chosen the right vocation.”
“History is just a hobby,” Hardy replied with a smile as she looked back to the console’s view screen. “Now, get me in an engine room, I’m in my right environment.”
“Well, I’m hoping it is some of those other talents I was told you have that will assist,” he said with a nod. “There is a theory that there is someone trafficking contraband through these old bunkers. We haven’t been able to find out who exactly, but we may have a possible suspect. Constables have found interesting tracks at one of the sites, and believe it may be Jackai.”
All three looked to the view screen in silence for a moment. They knew Jackai had raiding ships and often would attack merchant vessels between Vulpinia and Critainia, but for a Jackai raider to be so bold as to attempt an operation surface side was unheard of. “You’re certain, Minister.”
“Very,” he replied with a nod. “We’ve matched some of the tracks in our data base, ruling out everything that we know of the Raptory right away. That was our first thought. The tracks belong to, if you will forgive the use of the term, more mammalian creature. Too big for a Vulpine or Felanus, and too small for a Pantheran or a Lionid.”
“Which left only Lupine and Jackai,” Clarfax stated as though finishing the Minister’s thought.
“Exactly,” he said with a sigh. “The Lupine very rarely leave orbit of their own world, as many of them find their own home world just good enough. There are exceptions to that rule, however, but we’ve accounted for almost all Lupine that do leave planetside. We can almost name them all without difficulty. That left only the Jackai, and I believe everyone is familiar with their activities throughout the system.”
“With the extheption of the Dorgotha,” Senia added, mentioning the salvage operation vessel that was commanded by the Jackai Red Streak, the only known Jackai vessel that was registered with the trade commissions throughout the system.
“Yes, of course,” the Minister added quickly. “I wouldn’t think Red Streak has any such inclination toward such underhanded display.” The Minister cleared his throat and continued. “I’ve assigned Constable Jor’Tal to assist you, should you need anything. Head Librarian Drago’Hyt shall assist you in the library should you require anything there. I ask that you respect the laws and traditions of the library. I don’t think that should be a problem, but I must convey that to you. The Library is of great importance to our people.”
“Of courthe, Minithter,” Senia said with a nod. “You have our word that nothing shall be done to show any dithrethpect at all.”
“I thank you, Left-tenant,” the Minister added, and then the communication ended.
Senia looked to Hardy and Clarfax, silently waiting for their opinions as she sipped her tea. Hardy was looking over the schematic once more. “This shows the plateau the Library was built on,” she said as she pointed out the geographic landscape of the structure. “It looks deep enough and thick enough to hide several thousand Critainians, just by the size of the structure standing on top of it.”
“The rock face has to have some sort of mineral in it, I suppose,” Clarfax added. “Something that would scramble any scans at all.”
“Why couldn’t they jutht open the bunker and look inthide?” Senia asked aloud.
“The Minister said certain sections of the Library forbid any technology,” Hardy said with a shrug. “Maybe they have rights on the land as well.”
“Unless someone in the Library already knows what’s going on,” Clarfax stated as he took a sip of his tea. He looked to Senia and Hardy as they appeared to be waiting for him to continue. “I know you two are already thinking of it, so it has to be said. What if someone in the Library, maybe with a decent security clearance, knows about what’s going on. It’s not unheard of for Critainians to have illicit activities, after all.”
“We’ll have to keep it in mind,” Senia said as she set down her tea and crossed her arm. “I want to thpeak with the authority before we go to the Library. We should leave thith evening, arrange a time to thpeak with the contact the Minithter arranged for uth. Then we’ll thee if we can’t go pay a vithit to the Library.” Hardy and Clarfax nodded firmly in reply, both agreeing with the plan. “For now, let’th prepare any gear we do need. No need to take rifleth, jutht pithtolth. I don’t believe we’ll get into trouble, but it never hurt. Clarfax, bring your thcanning equipment, Hardy, make sure your toolkit ith at hand.”
“When is it not?” Hardy replied with a good laugh.
“Good.,” Senia said with a firm nod. “We’ll plan to leave by 2100 hourth local time.”