Hitch’s Journal: The Game’s Afoot

21 March 2010

It was when Sandi broke off her conversation and rushed across the room towards Cliff I knew the flat warming was a success.

It had been a while since so many of the Campus had been in the same room at the same time. June last year, Mr Elliot came down with the order from Academy hierarchy in Boston. The Bean Town Boys had obviously taken a look at our mission reports, and decided we were running too close to the edge. Boston decided we had been slugging above our weight, and we risked burn out if we kept at it. We were stepped down for some months. Enforced leave from active duty, starting immediately.

The team had lost two members in three months. A campus predominantly composed of assistants – no peers on tactical duties – had faced down threats which had endangered the lives of millions. Fought monsters on a world divided from our reality. The team had hunted, located, and retrieved a spear of great spiritual power against deadly, and sometimes demonic powers. And another one of us had briefly died. That’s one for the record books. We were all put on light duties: studies and training allowed, but no active contact with the uncanny. Further, and they were quite clear on this point, no ‘accidental’ contact with the uncanny. Nexii were off limits, no mooching around misty graveyards, no moonlight strolls on Third Fish Island, no drinking down at the ‘Blue Moon’, no wandering through morgues poking corpses to see if they blink. And in my case, while Elliot stressed this to us all, he caught my eye particularly on this one: keep out of Asher Loxley’s cabaret and life.

Tim Tang was brought in with a scratch team to cover the situation. After the mauling his outfit had taken against the Demon Lord Belizar in downtown Chicago, Tang had to bring on a number of new faces, which included people from New York to Los Angles and between. Most went into temporary accommodation, but a martial artist called Shen Lu, unlike the others, seems to have got an apartment in Chicago.

It was tough for the first few weeks, most of us didn’t know what to do with our time. We would drift down to TSM and hear what Eva and the Carpathian Friendly Society had been up to that week, research a bit on DARMA, get down the gym for some fighting practice or the shooting range. It was mostly the feeling that we should be doing something. But Tang’s team were on the job, and for the next few months things were quiet anyway. Given some downtime we all discovered we had lives to get to.

Adele and I decided it was more sensible for her to move in with me, so a small flat for one has become a small flat for two. But given how busy we both are, me with work, and her with her research and teacher-aid work, it’s turned out to be a great way for us to be together. So far, so very good. We threw a flat warming for Adele’s friends and my people. The party didn’t go to badly, especially when it overflowed out of the appartment and down the hall.

It also gave me a chance to catch up with the others. I got no response when I tried to invite Paul to the party, but I wasn’t surprised. Paul dropped out of regular contact quickly, he always preferred keeping himself to himself anyway. I met up with him a few times down at TSM when he was on DARMA, he seemed as pleased to see me as you could expect. He let me know he was heading overseas for a while, but was booked to be back in time when we went active again. I suppose he was okay with leaving Chicago: given he knows that Tessa Frost is here, he can feel safe anywhere else.

Cliff was in a great mood. The job at the bar is history and he is working as a security expert uptown. Cliff looked a million bucks in his new suit. Other than that, Cliff had taken to the downtime easily, moved into a new apartment and meeting new people at his new job. He said he had gone to a training camp in North Carolina. He’d really enjoyed it, given him what he said was a whole new idea of how to fight. Cliff was relaxed, open and cruising. It was a pleasure seeing him.

Dan was there, and although it wasn’t really his scene he made adjustments. By about halfway though the evening he was talking with three earnest friends of Adele’s about the importance of applying oneself to achieve in their chosen field, so I guess Dr Dan was enjoying himself. It was about then I noticed that Dan had got hold of a handsome walking stick, with an unusual, cross-like handle.

Of course, I had kept in regular contact with Sandi over the months. So I knew that beyond her studies, Sandi had been busy with her charity jobs. Still, Sandi and her flatmates added something to the party. For a starter once Sandi started dancing, and some of Adele’s fellow students joined in, by which I mean the blokes. So that would have made it the party of the year for those nerds. In between dances, Sandi said she had also been to North Carolina for training, but she had to cut off part way through. Turned out Ronni, one of Sandi’s flatmates, the curvy-flirty one, was hitting on Cliff, or it may have been the other way around, and Sandi felt the need to be there. Maybe Sandi was protecting Ronni, maybe Cliff, maybe both. I, however, think a party that includes people slightly inappropriately hitting on each other, can be called a success.

Very soon, we’ll be back in business. In preparation I’ve asked Mr Elliot about a line of research, and he has given his preliminary approval to some quiet investigation. So, soon the hunt will be on, and the game, as far as I can tell, is afoot.

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