The alarm sounded. From the ship’s library, it cried, more than a billion automated voices screaming an alert in over a billion languages at once. It was as meant to be heard by one triggering it as by the ship’s master, Sarusammog of the Gates.
It roused from a sleep filled with dreams of concerts and hours upon billions of hours of perusing its massive book collection in research. For that contained books from all over the universe, from nearly every age of history. And somehow, a thief had gotten in and put his grubby mitts on some of them.
That called for a good paradoxin’ to the offender.
Saru got up, yawned, stretched its six noodlly arms, and caterpillared into the hall on the long trek to the library portal at the end. It wasn’t pressed for time. The library was vast, and labyrinthine, and the would-be book purloiner would easily get lost in it. Only Saru, and its Heralds, the Tempest and the Agni, knew their way around in it. The Tempest especially would spend time, some of it measured in imaginary numbers, all of it interesting. She’d pore over stories written by long extinct species, and those yet to exist in her own relative timespan.
Sarusammog finally reached the portal, and looping through, entered the terrifying and awesome expanse of the library, stretching onward in all directions, and seemingly lit by its own stars.
He is . . . there! It had found the thief, in block C, level চ, shelf Σ. The miscreant was hunched over a reading table, stuffing a small pile of graphic novels from a world gone for three billion years into a sack. Oh, please, comic books? Saru thought to itself, Can’t he even have the good sense to leave those alone. Tempest will go through the bulkhead when she hears of this. Those are all hers. Imbecile.
“Ahem!” it cleared its throats, sounding like pack of asthmatic tigers hacking up giant monster hairballs, and cracked six sets of knuckles as the shocked purloiner suddenly looked up and realized it was there.
“Those just happen to be from my Herald’s private collection, fanboy. Do you mind telling me how you got in here before I pronounce sentence?” It purred menacingly, its far-too wide grin nearly splitting its face as lips curled upward, its teeth showing in a smile clearly not intended to express good will. Its ears were folded back with annoyance, whiskers flush against the face.
The thief was human this time. That was rare. Humans didn’t often have the technology to get in here. Probably indigo market infiltration systems stolen from one of the older surviving species in home-time. Saru upgraded its opinion of the man’s intelligence. Getting hands on stuff like that took brains.
On the other hand, Saru was widely known in the Local Galaxy for deleting those who stole its books from existence, so its assessment rose only slightly. One can be otherwise smart and still be a special species of stupid to try a stunt like this…
To be continued.