"Can you hear me, Mr. Quince?" The very businesslike voice on the com was Andreas, the rescue ops coordinator. His crisp delivery only served to heighten his Nordic accent.
"It's Alphon, sir. How can we help you?"
"Here are the ground rules. There's a high level conference underway at the complex right now. We want to resolve this problem as soon as possible, and with as little inconvenience for our guests as practicable. We have equipment and personnel on site to re-open the entrance. What we don't have is eyes on the inside to help guide us through. The drones that your associates are controlling are our best surveillance resource, but they were not intended for this sort of activity. That was why, as distasteful as it is, we have asked the hacker collective for assistance. This is a highly sensitive situation, and I want to know that you will not divulge any details of what you see, under penalty of--, well, I think you know the rest."
"Of course, sir. I have worked with government agencies before."
"Good. Then we can begin."
While Ferd kept up a running commentary with the other two drone operators to coordinate their movements, and Phoebe directed the main camera at the places that Alphon indicated, he pointed out to Andreas which portions of the debris pile were stable, and which were not. When they had climbed nearly to the roof of the cave, he asked her to aim the camera upwards, and told the people inside to rotate the polarizing filter.
"What are you looking for, Mr. Quince?" The impatience in Andreas' voice was palpable.
"Bubbles of air in the ice along the filaments of the heat exchanger network. That can give us a read on how solid the structure is."
"Look," Andreas said, "we're going to open the entrance. All we need from you is some guidance on where to do it. The roof is fine. It's not an issue. Those heat exchangers have kept that ice stable for twenty years, and we don't see any reason to be concerned about them now. So just tell me right now: is that section of the entrance blockage stable enough for us to tunnel through it?"
Phoebe gave Alphon an uncomfortable look.
"The debris pile is fine," Alphon said, "but if you remove the support, this section of the roof will--."
"I told you," Andreas said sharply, "the roof is not your problem. We can dig through here?"
"Good. Now get that drone to safety and let us work."