|It took a moment for the full impact of the High Priestess' statement
to sink in. It was missing, stolen. The most holy book in the Temple of
Knowledge. The source of all true cataloging without which the realm of
information would disintegrate into chaos. The book whose very title was
written in the ancient and unpronounceable language of the gods--AACR2.
It was gone.
"No one must know of this catastrophe," the High Priestess continued,
"if it were known that the very infrastructure of knowledge were vulnerable,
there could be panic. As a warrior and an adept of the Public Arts, you
must use all your skills to find the book and return it to its rightful
place on the Alter of Technical Processing."
Now the priestess of Technical Arts, whom Conan had not seen before,
spoke for the first time.
"It is true that Conan is a skilled warrior and hunter of basic information.
Even at the branch Temple at which I serve, his name is known. But this
is no ordinary quest. It was not a hunter or warrior who tamed the Hein
Session Laws on Microfiche. This quest requires the skills of an initiate
of the inner circle of Technical Arts." She turned her cool gaze toward
him. "Has he even seen the AACR2?"
Conan fixed her with a steady gaze. "All know that only initiates are
allowed into the sacred inner chamber."
"I understand your concerns, Meta," the High Priestess interposed, "but
we have discussed why I want our best warrior for this most critical of
all requests. Even in the branch Temples do not initiates practice their
arts only in the inner sancta? The warriors of the Public side know more
the dangers of the hunt."
"But how will he track the book? I have checked the scrolls of the outer
sanctum and have not found his name among those who have taken even the
elementary training required of practitioners of the Public Arts on the
They both looked at Conan, who had lost a shade of color. "It is a new
charm. I have been busy."
Meta's black eyes flashed in triumph. "The Prism is the only charm that
locate the book! I am the most adept of any of the Priesthood in its use.
If he has not even been trained, how can he.."
"Enough!" The strain showed in the lines around the High Priestess'
mouth. "I have made my decision. You shall both go. You will need each
other's skills if you are to achieve success. Remember you both that you
owe your loyalty first and always to the Temple and to the ideal of free
access to Knowledge for which it stands, and put this higher goal above
your individual differences."
Meta glanced at the floor. Conan looked only at the High Priestess.
"We will not fail you," he said.
"You must not." The High Priestess paused as if her next words weighed
heavy. "Before you go, I must tell you what I have told no one else. In
the inner sanctuary, upon the very Alter of the Holy Book, was found the
mark of the thief." Meta took in her breath. The High Priestess looked
at her, then at Conan. "It was a single paw print. The mark of...a Hyper-Cat."
© 1992, by Hadley V. Baxendale