The Shadows of Olympus

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Chapter 25

On October 21, 2010, Povenmire University psychology student Melanie Roberts left her apartment to buy groceries and never came back. She has not been seen or heard from since.

Despite the filing of a missing persons report, there was no real investigation by the town’s police department, or any other local, state or Federal law enforcement agency.

The fact appears more ominous when the circumstances of her disappearance are taken into account. When Melanie Roberts vanished, she had been attempting to blow the whistle on suspicious experiments being performed by Povenmire University’s Department of Psychology, where she had held a graduate student assistantship. That assistantship, which was how she came to know about the experiments, and the attempts to pass them off as ordinary research, was terminated earlier in the month, after she began to ask questions. She was then expelled from school outright.

Melanie then attempted to go to the media with her story, but found no one willing to investigate the matter prior to her disappearance.

All of this strongly suggests that she has been made to disappear, and very possibly murdered, as part of a cover-up of the research at Povenmire University.

Pasted below were thumbnails of pages scanned out of Melanie’s diary, the principal source of Blake’s account, it seemed. Ashley clicked on one of those pages and found Melanie’s writing quite legible, despite the shaky quality of the scans, so she started reading.

August 26—I’m still not thrilled about working with Dr. Hamilton, but it doesn’t look like I’ll actually spend much time with him. I won’t actually be using the equipment or dealing with test subjects, just sitting at the desk and answering the phone and helping with paperwork, in which he doesn’t seem to have much interest. I would have liked to do some of the hands-on stuff, but all things considered this is probably for the best.

So she didn’t actually participate in the experiments, Ashley thought. But she would still have been in a position to see and hear things.

September 27—Today I saw one of the test subjects come out of the testing room a crying, screaming wreck. She was a freshman named Shelley Young.

She was fine when she went in.

Test subjects have been known to have a hard time with MRI machines. They get claustrophobic in there, freak out—but the whole point of the machine we have is to avoid that, and even after going into an old machine that reaction would have been excessive.

What the hell happened in there?

September 29—I just couldn’t get what I saw on Monday out of my head, and so I found myself checking up on Shelley. Shelley, it turned out, dropped her classes and went back home to her family in Washington state the same day. “Family emergency” someone said.

Given that she was in that room and I was right outside, I don’t see how someone from the school could have given her a message about any emergency, so I’m not convinced that’s the reason she became so distressed. So when I heard all that it still seemed to me that something happened to Shelley in that room. So I borrowed the keys and took a peek at the room for myself.

I saw an odd white box set up on the ceiling of all places, right above where the test subjects sit during their sessions.

I have seen that box before, and remember that it was identified as “brain imaging equipment.” It didn’t look like any brain imaging equipment I’d ever seen before. It also didn’t seem to have anything to do with the MRI equipment. But I shrugged all that off at the time.

Now I took a closer look. Funny thing—I didn’t find a manufacturer’s name, a serial number, or anything else like that on it. Definitely nothing to connect it with the MRI. That made me even more suspicious.

I think the experiments, like the equipment, are something other than what Professor Hamilton’s telling everyone they are. The question is, What?

Beneath the scan of the diary page were two links. The first led to a JPEG of a cell phone picture which showed the whole set-up. The MRI machine was one of the “open” kind, in which the patient sat between sets of imaging equipment rather than inside a tube. That seat was positioned directly beneath the mysterious piece of equipment on the ceiling, which she did not see clearly in that picture.

However, the second link led to a page full of JPEGs of that equipment, also taken by cell phone, but from much closer up. Ashley clicked on and enlarged each of those pictures in turn, and saw a white box the size of a classroom media projector screwed to the ceiling. She noted that the box mounted an array of adjustable, telescoping ports on a swivel.

Something about all these pictures nagged at Ashley, but she dismissed it, figured it was just the authority with which this image was being presented to her, because she certainly didn’t see anything of clear significance in the pictures of that box. So decided, she left the page of JPEGs and went back to the page with the thumbnails of the diary pages to read Melanie’s next entry.

September 30—I asked Dr. Hamilton about Shelley Young, and the white box. He smiled that patronizing smile he gives in class when a student asks a question to which he doesn’t know the answer but won’t admit it. He said Shelley had lied on her application about not having a prior mental condition, and unfortunately suffered a breakdown in the testing room—and that this was purely a coincidence. He also said that the box was a prototype of a new “imaging technology concept” we were fortunate to have had made available to us as a supplement to the MRI equipment.

I don’t believe him, which is why I’m going to talk to the department chair.

October 4—The way Dr. Morganstern’s assistant acted about my request, I might have been asking to see the Pope, but I finally got to speak to her today.

She sat there and listened very nicely and thanked me for sharing my concerns, but she really didn’t seem at all interested in what I had to say. I think she either doesn’t believe me, or that she already knows all this—and just doesn’t care.

What the hell have I got myself into?

October 5—Today I got a summons from Dean Chalmers. I thought at first that he was going to discuss what I’d told Dr. Morganstern, but I should have known better. Instead he told me that I had come to the department chair with “spurious” accusations against Professor Hamilton. (He didn’t say how or why they were “spurious,” didn’t actually try to dissuade me of what I’d seen.) He also told me that I was not to try to speak to Dr. Morganstern again, and that the whole episode had “raised questions about my fitness to continue in an assistantship, and even continue in the graduate program.”

In short, I am looking at expulsion from my assistantship at the least, and maybe from the school, though they’d be the same thing; it’s the assistantship that’s covering my tuition, and they know it.

I hate admitting it, but as soon as he made his point, I was probably ready to retract what I’d said. Not that he offered me the chance. Maybe what he wanted was to see me beg. (Oh yes, I bet he would have liked that.) Maybe he wanted me to do more than beg. (There are those rumors about him. I didn’t know what to make of them before, but the way he was looking at me . . .) And so I ended up sitting there just stunned.

I can’t believe these people are going to kick me out of school.

October 6—It’s official now. I’m no longer Dr. Hamilton’s assistant, or anyone’s assistant. The job’s gone, period. Which means I’m not finishing my degree at Povenmire, or probably anywhere else. Because if I apply anywhere, they’ll call up Povenmire and ask what happened and one phone call will end it. So goodbye grad school, goodbye any career I was hoping to have.

October 13—I thought the local press would be excited about the idea of a secret program of questionable experiments at the college, but they all said that my story was too vague, that I didn’t have any proof, that I didn’t have “credibility.” Because of the way I got kicked out of the school. One reporter at the Povenmire Journal, who seemed more sympathetic than the others, said there was no way his editor was picking a fight with the university over what some “disgruntled dropout” said.

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