True to his word, Dr. Hildebrandt had no trouble bluffing his way on to the UCLA campus, despite its walled and fortress-like aspect. His credentials, coupled with the fact (which he hadn't mentioned previously to the runners) that he had spent a semester there as a guest professor a few years ago, was good enough to convince the bored-looking guard at the main gate that he had business there. When the guard asked the name of the person that he and his friends had come to see, Hildebrandt smoothly told him that his purpose for entering campus was to do some highly specialized research in one of the biology libraries. Having no reason to doubt this, the guard had signed them in and waved them on their way.
"Well done, Doctor," Winterhawk said approvingly as they drove off. "We'll make a shadowrunner of you yet."
"I hope not," Hildebrandt said, sighing through his teeth. "I'm not much of a liar. I was scared to death that he'd see through my story and try to have us arrested or something." He made no move to relinquish his place in the driver's seat, which he had commandeered prior to their entrance to campus.
Ocelot looked around. "Nice place in here, once you get past the walls," he commented.
Hildebrandt nodded. "Yeah, it's too bad that they had to put up the wall, but I guess they were afraid of some of the dangerous stuff outside. LA's a nasty place if you don't keep to the right parts of it."
"Oh, I get it," Ocelot said, unable to hide his contempt. "Gotta keep all the soft little corporate babies safe so they can get picked over by the big boys when they graduate. Can't let 'em have a taste of the real world."
"Pretty much," Hildebrandt agreed. He showed no sign of being offended by Ocelot's words. "Lots of rich kids go to this school. Their parents can afford to keep 'em walled off and safe. Most of 'em never have any reason to leave campus, since everything they could possibly want is here. When they do go out, they know where to stay away from. Most of the time. Every year they lose one or two who wander away from where they're supposed to be and never get seen again."
"They can do that without ever leaving campus, if I recall correctly," Winterhawk said. "Especially if they're magically active. I understand astral space is quite warped 'round here from all the competition between the thaumaturgy departments of the schools in this area."
"The Magic Wars," Hildebrandt said, turning a corner and heading toward a half-deserted parking lot. "Yeah, it's pretty famous for that. I don't know much about it, but I've heard it can sometimes be dangerous and unpredictable to cast spells or do anything in astral space anywhere near here."
"Yes, so I've read. I've often thought about visiting the area to see what all the fuss is about, but I've not gotten 'round to it yet. P'raps I'll get the opportunity before we leave."
"Let's hope not," Ocelot said. "I just want to get this over with and get back on the road. You can do magical research on your own time, okay?"
Winterhawk sighed in mock exasperation. "You people have no intellectual curiosity."
"Not when working," ShadoWraith said in his odd monotone. He was sitting in Ocelot's former spot next to the door, his hand on his briefcase. Though his posture appeared relaxed, his eyes were constantly moving, scanning the area all around the van.
"Here we go," Hildebrandt spoke up, turning into a parking lot. He pointed across the street. "That's the faculty office building. We can try here first, and then go down to the para-bio building if we need to, unless you guys think we can risk a campus phone call. But my guess is he's in here if he's still around."
"Okay," Ocelot said. "Let's get our communication straightened out before we go. Leave your lines open, and yell if there's any problem." He looked around outside the van: he would have been much happier if he could have staked out a spot on the top of one of the nearby buildings, but it was too risky--if anybody saw him, they'd have security down here fast. Ocelot doubted that the security here was anything he wanted to mess with.
They all set up their wristphones on "conference" mode, with all four lines open so they could hear each other if anything came up, and the signals scrambled so no outsiders (or at least none without some pretty heavy duty equipment) were going to listen in. Winterhawk and Hildebrandt prepared to exit the van as Ocelot and ShadoWraith scanned the area for potential threats. "Looks clear," Ocelot said.
"Yes," ShadoWraith agreed. He held his Browning pistol in his lap, below the level of the windows in case anyone was watching them. "Be quick."
"We'll do our best," Winterhawk said. "Ready, Doctor?"
Hildebrandt took a deep breath. "You make this sound like they're gonna start taking shots at us as soon as we get out," he said. "We're just going to see a guy."
"Good to be prepared," Ocelot said. "Now go." He slid open the van's side door and motioned them out. When they had exited, he quickly closed it again.
The UCLA faculty office building was a multi-story affair, institutional but elegant. 'Hawk and Hildebrandt had quickly made their way across the street and in through the main entrance, once again relying on Hildebrandt's credentials to get them past security. The three-dimensional, multi-colored map/model in the middle of the lobby showed that the top third of the building was devoted to UCLA's three "star" programs: Film & Sim, Medicine, and Thaumaturgy. The other departments shared the remaining two thirds of the floors. The Department of Parabiology's floor was also occupied by the Departments of Parazoology and Parabotany. Pressing the icon for the Department of Parabiology brought up a list of faculty members and their office numbers; a Dr. Henry Foley was among those listed. Armed with the information they needed, Winterhawk and Hildebrandt headed for the elevators.
Winterhawk noticed the the ork was glancing around nervously. "Calm down, Doctor," he said gently. "We should be safe enough in here."
"Yeah, maybe," Hildebrandt said as if he didn't believe it. "This is all just a little hard for me to take. I'm jumping at shadows."
The elevator door opened out onto the lobby of their floor. They stepped out and followed the hallway down to the door marked "Dr. Henry Foley."
It was closed and locked.
"Bugger," Winterhawk said, almost to himself. He sighed, then spoke under his breath into his wristphone: "He's not here." To Hildebrandt, he said, "Now what?"
Hildebrandt looked as dejected as 'Hawk felt. "Like I said, we could try his house--"
"Wonder if the department secretary's still here," Winterhawk cut in. "P'raps they'll know if he's due back at all tonight, for late classes or whatnot." Without waiting for an answer, he headed back the way they had come. After a moment, Hildebrandt followed.
Luck was with them: the door to the department office was open, and light could be seen coming from the doorway. As the two men entered, a middle-aged human woman looked up at them. "Yes? May I help you?" she asked, eyeing them a bit suspiciously.
Winterhawk put on his best charming smile. "Yes, I believe you can. We're looking for Dr. Foley. Can you tell us if he'll be back on campus this evening?"
"No, he won't be back this evening," she said, still looking suspicious. "May I ask your business with him? If it's something department-related, perhaps I or another faculty member--?"
"No, we really need to see Dr. Foley," Winterhawk said smoothly. "Dr. Hildebrandt here is an old friend of his. We were in town, and he'd asked us to look him up."
Hildebrandt nodded. "That's right. I was hoping to see him before I left town."
The secretary punched something unseen into her computer, looked at it for a moment, then up at Hildebrandt. She smiled. "Pardon me, Dr. Hildebrandt. But I'm afraid I still can't help you. Dr. Foley is out on a short expedition into the Mojave with some colleagues from the Parazoology Department. He should be back in a few days, if that's any help."
"Odd that he didn't mention that," Winterhawk said to himself, careful to pitch his voice loud enough so the secretary could hear it. Glancing up at her, he spoke more loudly: "He told us he wasn't leaving until next week."
"Shame to miss him," Hildebrandt said ruefully, getting into the charade.
"Yes, indeed," Winterhawk said. His eyes widened a bit as an "idea" dawned on him. "P'raps we can surprise him out there."
"Yeah." Hildebrandt grinned at the secretary. "How 'bout it? Ol' Hank will be happy to see us. Can you tell us where they are?"
The secretary hesitated. "It's not generally the policy to--"
"Just this once," Hildebrandt said. "C'mon. We go back a long time. I want to see the look on his face when we show up."
She sighed. "All right. I suppose it isn't really a secret--you could find it out by checking the department info. It's just a little weird." She punched some more information into her dataterminal and hit a key, causing a small printer next to her desk to spit out a map. "Here's where they are. I wouldn't try going there tonight, though, especially if you don't have a vehicle that can handle desert travel. The roads are bad, and I'm sure you know that there are some dangerous people and creatures out there, especially at night."
"Thank you," Winterhawk said. "We'll keep that in mind. Doctor?" With a sweep of his hand, he motioned for Hildebrandt to precede him out the door.