The problem with being efficient once is that people rely on you to duplicate your past performance. When past performances were largely enabled by happenstance, this can be tough. I'm Jim Carlson, a student at Miskatonic U, West Coast campus, go Badgers, whatever. As you might guess, Miskatonic U has some rather unusual problems, which the Administration can't even admit to having, much less fix. Student trouble-shooters close the gap. I happened to become one after a recent adventure. We work for the University as the Special Technical Support Group. Hell, they even pay us, just like they pay the library clerks and the Student Union wait-staff. Our office's number is posted in the directory, and although we re-direct ninety percent of all calls to the helpdesk, we do a lot of work.
On this particular day, I'd just finished with a test in Soil Science 1401, and I'm rather irritated. I walk through the library on the way to the STSG office fuming about the professors remarks on my essay question. My saxophone case slaps against my leg as I quick-step down two flights of stairs. Our office is located in a back corner of the sub-basement. The library dates to the 1940s, and all the original furnitiure has flowed to the lowest point in the building. The door is wooden, with a frosted glass window in it. Black letters on the window announce our department to the few people who venture down here. Carved into the lintel is what passes for our motto and mission statement: Exitus Acta Probat. I knock, then walk in anyway.
"Jock! You're back! The phones've been ringing off the hook while you were out." Janet, an exchange student from Aberdeen, has taken to calling me that. "Dammit, Janet. I leave for five minutes and the place goes right to hell." Cadet Clearfeld glares at me from behind his desk, unimpressed with our banter. I'm reasonably sure that ROTC removes your sense of humor on induction. But then again, I'm also dating his sister. I look up at the blackboard on the wall. There aren't any new cases, and Evelyn has just hung up the only phone in use. I walk over to the closet labelled "Band Instruments" and stick the sax case inside. David is poring over some survey maps at his desk, and things look quiet in general. My desk is over in a corner by the big board. The other desks are empty.
David scrawls a notation on the map he's working on, then looks up at us. "Mount Hood is acting up. USGS is reporting tremors and a slight bulge. This is a little odd, guys." David's working on a Master's in Geology, and he's not long for this world. He knows what he's talking about. Evelyn stares at him. Being from Yakima, she's heard stories from her family about 1980. "What slope of the mountain?", she asks. "Northwest side's bulging. Hood's supposed to be pretty near dormant. Maybe we oughta send out some feelers?" Clearfeld stands up, nods at us and makes for the door. He says, "I'll go ask up the chain. See if anyone else feels wrong about this, see if the Colonel's interested." He leaves. The Colonel he refers to is the Professor of Military Science, the man in charge of the ROTC program here. Apparently, he's got membership in an organization like ours, but grown up. If he's got a feeling about this, he might have us go on a fact-finding mission. I also have a nasty feeling that whether we like it or not, we may graduate into that same club.
"Ah, shit." I get up and chalk Mount Hood activity up onto the board. So much for it being quiet. I don't even have time to sit down before Tom Rice bursts in, followed by Michelle Penn and Maria Martinez. Currently represented in the room are the Ag Science, Mathematics, Biology, Geology, Criminal Justice, Pyschology, and Medical departments. Seven of the thirteen of us. Tom opens his mouth to speak, but I interrupt. "Christ, now what. Don't tell me, someting else has come up." He pulls up short, looking confused.
"Yes, but what else-" I jerk my thumb at the board, indicating the freaky geology. "Oh dear." His face falls. "Well, we've also got something to write up, too." Michelle chimes in, saying "There was a birth at the teaching hospital. A girl who'd been knocked up and run out on. Poor girl gave birth to a hybrid. It's one seriously ugly baby." She grabs the chalk out of my hand and writes ugly hybrid babies on the board, in a separate section from the geology. I raise my eyebrow at her, and point at the last word. "Plural?"
'Yeah, there's been a glut of the horrible things. Tom has an idea or two about that." I sit back down at my desk and bury my face in my hands. A whole litter of hybrids can really only mean one thing. Tom says it. "Something's serially impregnating these women." He pauses, thinks, starts up again. "Maybe we ought to escalate this one. I don't think pursuing rape cases is really in our capacity." So that's one problem we can't really pursue and one we're going to have a tough time running down. Can this day get any better? I should have slapped myself for even thinking it. Our next visitor proves my point.
The Colonel opens the door, Cadet Clearfeld in tow. The man is old, definitely pushing mandatory retirement age. The cadets are all in terror of the man, and the civilian students are certainly wary, despite the fact that he has no authority over them. We happy few, on the third hand, know exactly what's up, and answer to him. Eyes like chips of polar ice moved to each of us in turn, survey the big board, and go back to Michelle. She's the closest thing to a leader we have, so she speaks for us. He says, "The hybrids aren't your concern. It's being handled by another party. The activity at Mount Hood is probably the work of an outside actor. I want you to send two of your hitters with a local student out to Government Camp. Have them look around. Not the cadet here, though. He'll be needed on campus in the meantime. That is all." He turns and leaves. Cold bastard.
Michelle blinks. Shaking herself, she begins issuing orders. "Jim, get your instrument, pack up and bring your truck around. Janet, you pack too, and someone call Rob, we need a local guide." I retrieve the sax case from the closet and make like a tree.