The Return of Conan the Librarian
Chapter 3
And so began the quest of Conan the Librarian to recover the stolen AACR2--repository of all true cataloging. He walked in silence, his keen brown eyes examining the ground for the tell-tale tracks of the Hyper-Cat. His companion--a Priestess of the Technical Arts--kept her thoughts wrapped as closely as her cloak. 

The track led from the Temple of Knowledge toward the Forest of Subject Headings to the north. Conan moved easily along the narrow path through the dense brush, at the edge of the forest, but the small branches seemed to clutch at Meta's cloak. She pushed the brush aside and broke any that stood in her way. 

Conan stopped and turned around. "The noise you make must broadcast our advance to every beast in this forest." 

Meta ignored the comment as she took advantage of the pause to catch her breath. "We must be careful," she said unnecessarily. "Many a traveler not familiar with the patterns of subject headings has become hopelessly lost in these wilds." 

"Though I am not an initiate of the Technical Arts, I think I can track subject headings," Conan replied dryly. 

"We must follow the Prism." Meta took a three-sided crystal, half a span in length, from the leather pouch around her neck. "The patterns of color will tell us if we are on the true path to the stolen treasure." 

"I have navigated this forest successfully for years without your technological marvel. See the carving in this tree? It shows us the broader and narrower paths that diverge from this spot. We should go this way." 

"Spoken like a true son of the public side. A quick glance and you think you are ready to go. You have no concept of the subtle differences in these signs, the patterns of broader and narrower. You could not assign a heading to your own boot." 

"Just because I do not assign subject headings does not mean I cannot follow them. What does your marvelous Prism say?" 

"We keep going straight ahead." 

"That leads deeper into the forest." 

"So does your path." 

Their eyes locked. Overhead a bird called "SEEEeee. SEEEeee." From farther away another answered, "Seee ALLLLsoo. Seee ALLLsoo." 

"It is because of the Prism that the High Priestess assigned me to this journey," Meta tried to smooth the edge out of her voice. "And she did say we should combine our efforts for the higher good." 

"Very well," Conan said at last, "we will try your way." 

They followed an ever narrower path into an ever darker forest. Conan stopped to examine the signs. "I see no track of Hyper-Cat here," he said softly. "But there are signs of other dangers. I think your fancy technology may serve you well in the inner sancta of the Temple, but it prepares you not for the challenges of real world research." 

Meta's retort caught in her throat and emerged as a scream. From behind Conan came a great crashing of bushes and a ferocious, deep roar. He turned in time to see emerge before them a monstrous Cross Reference. 

© 1992, by Hadley V. Baxendale

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