Gear had been gathered, preparations made, and the three were ready to depart from the orbital space station to the surface of Critainia. However, instead of flying down with the Nighthawk, they received a message from the planet’s constabulary. Constable Jor’Tal would be the one to transport them personally and would be waiting for them at the departure platform for small vessels.
Small vessels and Critainian are two things that often don’t mean the same thing, at least from Vulpine standards. Jor’Tal’s shuttle was about as big as the Nighthawk. Still, for something so large, it still looked sleek and very space worthy, a tribute to Critainian engineering and design. As they three made their way onto the departure platform, Jor’Tal could sense them and turned to greet them. He, or rather she as indicated by the blue arm band, stood a good height, close to three meters tall. A veteran, by the look, she had one horn at the top of her head crest chipped off, the indication that she partook in a ground battle at one time. Critainians were fond of battle scars, and would often display such things with pride. The other horn was ornately decorated with carvings, some of them with Critainian glyphs describing the battle she lost her horn in.
“Left-tenant,” she called out with a stiff salute. Her voice was quite gruff compared to other Critainian females they had run into before. “Corporals,” she added. “I’ll be taking you directly to the surface. We can discuss the situation in greater detail on the way.”
“Of courthe,” Senia replied with a nod, though didn’t understand what exactly needed to be discussed further, all information had been given to them, including suspicions. What more could there be?
“Right this way,” she said as she opened the hatch to the shuttle. She took note that the three had given a glance or two toward her arm band. “And before you ask, I go through a gender shift in two weeks. Just getting used to the arm band right now.” The three nodded and entered the craft, no need for further explanation at all. As they settled in, Jor’Tal climbed into the pilot’s seat, making sure she didn’t inadvertently step on the feet of the Vulpine. The shuttle’s hatch closed, she began the main launch sequence. The engines whined to life, then they felt the ship slowly take flight toward the planet’s surface. “You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t have tea ready on the trip down. I felt you’d rather get ready for the investigation,” she said as she steered the craft through some minor traffic, then straight on to the planet. “Besides, I think by now you’ve probably had your fill.”
“Tea in the harbour master’s office, tea in the living quarters,” Hardy said with a sigh. “I spent so much time going over some of the Library’s schematics, my last cup got cold.”
“Impressive structure, isn’t it,” Jor’Tal said as she took a glance back to the Vulpine. “But wait’ll you see it from the air. That’s the most impressive.”
“I’m thurprithed the diagramth don’t include the hidden bunkerth,” Senia commented. “After one hundred yearth, it might be thomething to put in plathe.”
“There are a few that had suggested doing that,” Jor’Tal explained as she tapped the controls. The craft changed attitude slightly. “Hang on, we’re hitting atmosphere.” The shuttle bounced just a bit as the ship made her way back into the atmosphere of the planet, then adjusted to compensate. “As I was saying, the Ministry shot the idea down after the Raptory settled on a southern continent of the planet. There are still many in Tri-Horn society that believe the Raptory would like nothing better than attack us.” Tri-Horn, an old phrase to describe the Critainians. One they hadn’t used in over a thousand years since settling on the third planet of the Lupine Star System.
“Still, it’s possible that someone in authority, maybe even military, might have a secondary schematic prepared,” Clarfax added, thinking maybe there was some map to these underground bunkers.
“Don’t forget,” Jor’Tal said with a slight chuckle. “We Tri-Horns have hereditary memories, most of the pathways are locked in memory. I know that place like the back of my hand, even though I’ve never set foot inside of them.” She looked back to the Vulpine and nodded. “You may want to come up here and see this.”
The three left their seats and moved to the front of the shuttle, looking out through the windshield. There before them was the Great Library, bigger than the largest city on Vulpinia, with structures any architectural master would dream of seeing. Eight main structures, leading out from a central amphitheatre, smaller buildings spread here and there between the larger structures. Where the eight main group of structures met the outer edge of the amphitheatre, there were eight towers, measuring at least fifty meters and reaching as tall as seventy five meters.
“The thchematic doeth not do thith plathe juthtithe,” Senia said in a hushed voice, amazed by the layout of the entire thing.
“I told you,” Jor’Tal said with a smile, then flipped a few switches on her craft’s communications console. “This is Constabulary Shuttle 005, Constable Jor’Tal at the helm. Requesting permission to land.”
“Permission granted,” a voice called back over the comm. “Librarian Sor’Tah will be meeting you on the main tarmac. Air traffic control out.”
“Thank you, Air traffic control. Constable Jor’Tal out,” she replied, then sighed as she cut off the communications link. “It had to be Sor’Tah.”
“Problem?” Senia asked as she settled back into her seat to prepare for landing.
“Sor’Tah is a stickler for duty, tradition and protocol,” she explained. “This may hamper the investigation, especially if he’s being assigned to assist you while in the Library proper. But if I recall, the evidence found is just outside his jurisdiction. We might catch a break there.” She checked her navigation and eased the decent of the craft. The engine began to slow down slightly as they prepared to land. “Get ready. We’re about to enter the ancient Library City. Welcome to the Great Library.”