File 13: M-Force Special Collections

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 16 November 2018 Written by Steve

Part 2 of the series of posts on the combat overhaul of Cinemechanix will have to wait until next week due to the whole world being shitty and today sucking too hard for me to form coherent sentences. In the interim, I’m going to post a lightly edited fragment of the M-Force Special Collections supplement that I never finished writing way back in the early part of this century. It’s about badass librarians. 

History of Special Collections

The Special Collections Unit began with Cassius Riley, a rare book dealer from Boston. Riley, an acquaintance of Abernathy Quinn, first met M-Force Director Henry Fields in 1960, when he helped the pair track down a book containing information about a demon that was causing trouble in upstate New York. When the Quinn Library was founded, Riley, whose extravagant lifestyle had plunged him deep into debt (and cost him his business), applied for and was awarded the position of Special Collections Librarian. His job was to see that the rarest and most delicate books in the collection were properly cared for and preserved.

In late 1965, Dr. Fields retired, leaving Mike Mulligan in charge of M-Force. Mulligan focused the vast majority of M-Force's resources on combating the slug menace. Mulligan's "kill it first, figure out what it is later" policy did not discourage Riley's constant requests for a larger budget to expand and preserve the collection--requests which became both more elegant and more insulting as the years went by. Mulligan's replies, in turn, increased in both terseness and vulgarity. The file of memos passed between "Our Most Cretinous Director" and "The Old [Slur Retracted] in the Library" still provides bored library staffers with hours of amusement.

When M-Force's activities were suspended in 1970, Riley and the rest of the Quinn staff found themselves unemployed. Fortunately, M-Force was allowed to resume operations when Congress passed the Federal Monster Hunter's Act in 1972, and most of the old staff returned to serve under the new Director, Carlton Saunders. Saunders saw the advantages in Riley's plan to expand the library's collection of rare texts, and budgeted money to track down books that Riley believed would be useful to M-Force's mission. As M-Force grew, so did the scope of the Special Collections Unit. Cassius Riley retired in 1975 and died of natural causes two years later.

After Riley's retirement, Milton Young took over as the Special Collections Supervisor. Shortly after Young took the position, the duties of the SCU were further expanded when an M-Force mission led to the discovery of a book called The [Something FIREY and EVIL that cannot be satisfactorily translated into English] Tome. The Tome contained rituals that could be used to summon ARARARARAR, an ancient god of fire and evil. This in and of itself was not unusual--the Quinn Special Collection at that point had many books containing lurid details about summoning various ancient evils. The unique thing about the Tome was that it prosthelytized, using a sort of telepathic sentience to convince otherwise stable citizens to try their hand at summoning an evil destruction god. Special Collections had to determine how to preserve the book without putting the library staff at risk of becoming pawns of ARARARARAR. After two years of research, theories, and close calls, the Vault was constructed. As additional treasures were added to the Vault, the SCU began looking into possible ways of unlocking the books' secrets without unleashing their destructive forces. Through a combination of magic, science, and sheer determination, the SCU has now been able to obtain useful information from several of the Vault's hazardous texts.

After nearly half a century, Milton Young still serves as the Supervisor of the Special Collections Unit. The SCU has a staff of fifteen full-time employees (Young, his secretary Molly Davis, Assistant Supervisor George Osbourne, and 12 librarians and researchers), over 100 part-time field agents, and numerous freelancers. In addition, a number of M-Force grant and fellowship recipients report to the Special Collections Unit.

Special Collections Staff

Most of the full-time staff spends its time with the day-to-day management of the collection. This includes processing and storing newly acquired materials, translating non-English works, transcribing, photographing, and otherwise converting material into a more accessible format, and entering information from the collection into the Quinn database. They also handle research requests from the mission support hotline that deal with materials in the Special Collection.

Field Agents

In addition to maintaining, researching, and occasionally being attacked by the books currently in the collection, the SCU is in charge of expanding the Special Collection. In the old days, acquisitions work mainly consisted of tracking down and negotiating with the owners of rare books. Freelancers handled most of the work, acting as brokers for the Special Collections Unit in return for expenses and a finder's fee. As the titles M-Force wanted to add to the collection grew more bizarre, so did the freelancers they hired. In 1980, M-Force approved a plan to bring some of these freelancers on as part-time agents working for the Special Collections Unit.

Special Collections field agents are employed on a per-mission basis. The "on-call" arrangement of typical M-Forcers is impractical for SCU agents because so many are regularly out of the country for extended periods of time. The time-consuming nature of most SCU missions compared to typical M-Force work is also a factor. Instead, SCU agents make themselves available at certain times during the year, arranged in advance with the Assistant Supervisor.

During a field agent's "active duty" period, he must be able to arrive in Caledonia, ready for a mission, within 24 hours of being called. Agents on active duty are paid a small stipend in addition to their pay for missions. Many spend this time in Caledonia, taking advantage of the Quinn Library to conduct research relating to their regular work. Those with appropriate skills can earn extra money between missions by doing research and collections management work. In order to qualify for the M-Force benefits, an agent must be available for missions at least two months out of every year.

Field agent positions are offered at the discretion of the SCU Supervisor as the budget allows. New agent positions are filled through an application and interview process. Once an applicant is hired, he must complete regular M-Force training and a one-month SCU orientation program.

Freelancers

In addition to its regular staff and field agents, the SCU employs a number for freelancers. Freelancers who work for M-Force regularly are offered M-Force training, and a few go on to become SCU field agents. Freelancers fall into two general categories: freelance agents and specialists.

Freelance agents are hired to conduct regular SCU missions when regular agents with appropriate skills are not available. Some of these freelancers are former agents who have failed to meet their "active duty" requirement. Others are associates, partners, and colleagues recommended by regular SCU agents.

Specialists are freelancers hired in support roles--translators, pilots, consultants, and the like. While M-Forcers with appropriate skills are employed in these support roles when possible, the logistics involved (especially for foreign missions) often make it more practical to hire non-agents. The SCU also employs a number of informants to keep them up-to-date on subjects relevant to their missions.

The Special Collection

The collection is divided into three categories: Unusual Materials, Restricted Materials, and Hazardous Materials.

  • Unusual Materials make up the bulk of the special collection. These are books and other items that require special care due to their age, rarity (or, in some cases, uniqueness), or medium--one-of a kind books, stone tablets, ancient scrolls, 1,000 year-old handwritten manuscripts, and the like. A few of the bulkier pieces (such as a 12' tall monolith with inscriptions in an unknown language) are kept off-site in special storage facilities. Many of the materials in this section of the collection have been converted to other formats available in the main library or through the Quinn database. Still, if a researcher can demonstrate a need to study the materials first-hand (to the SC Supervisor's satisfaction), they are accessible by appointment (and with an SC librarian present at all times).
  • Restricted Materials are those that contain potentially dangerous or harmful information. For the most part, this information is in the form of dark magic or rituals designed to summon ancient interdimensional nasties. This section also contains classified materials, ranging from M-Labs research documents to excerpts from secret government files. Only the SC Supervisor and Assistant Supervisor can open the restricted materials room.
  • Hazardous Materials are things like the aforementioned [FIRE AND EVIL] Tome that are dangerous before the information contained within is even considered. While most are guilty of the sort of mind control exhibited by the Tome, a few have more exotic abilities. In general, any book (or scroll, or whatever) that can bite, ignite, cut, poison, telepathically control, or otherwise harm a would-be reader is considered a Hazardous Material. Hazardous Materials are kept in the Vault (see below).

Restricted and Hazardous Materials do not appear in the main Quinn card catalog or research database. Instead, they are represented by a "Consult Special Collections" flag, which turns up on applicable searches. Special Collections keeps its own (heavily secured) database with additional information and a complete inventory of Restricted and Hazardous Materials. This database contains basic information about the materials ("includes ritual to turn Pope into a duck," "contains unreleased information about the Silver Bridge collapse," etc.), but the details can only be found in the books themselves.

The Vault

The Vault is located on (or, to be more precise, below) the grounds of the M-Force supply depot. The above ground portion of the Vault complex consists of a small cinder-block guard shack filled with security monitors. Two guards are on duty here at all times. Behind a heavy steel door in the south wall of the guardroom is a flight of stairs that leads to the vault. This door has two locks, each of which consists of a combination of mechanical and electronic mechanisms. The Special Collections Supervisor and the Quinn Library Director are each in charge of one of the keys to this door. Only the person in charge of the key and his immediate successor knows where each key is kept.

The room at the bottom of the stairs contains more security monitors, which allow a person in the room to keep an eye on what's happening in the rest of the Vault. Another heavy steel door leads into the Vault proper. In addition to the double-lock set-up of the main entry door, this one requires a third key, accessible only to the Director of M-Force.

Both doors lock instantly when closed, but can be opened from inside without a key.

The Vault itself is a complex of small rooms and hallways lined with wall safes. While some hazardous materials can merely be locked up in a safe, most are kept in a properly shielded lock box inside a safe. A few require more elaborate precautions and get whole rooms to themselves. In addition to the containment rooms and safes, the vault contains two study rooms where agents can research Vault materials.

In addition to lots of steel, stone, and locks, many materials in the Hazardous section are further protected by magical spells, traps, marvels of science, and even more unusual precautions. M-Force is very serious about making sure these things don't fall into the wrong hands. The details regarding storage and safe handling of Hazardous Materials are kept in a safe in the SCU Supervisor's office. A separate safe holds keys, combinations, and passwords required to bypass the more mundane security protecting Vault materials. Only Milton Young and George Osbourne know the combinations of these safes.

The Vault is technically classified as a containment facility by M-Force.

Resources

The SCU budget, which is divided more or less evenly between collection management and field work, allows the unit to operate adequately if not comfortably. Like the rest of M-Force, the SCU's real strength lies in the diversity of knowledge and skills possessed by its agents. The only difference is that SCU agents tend to have an even stranger collection of skills than typical M-Forcers.

In addition to its agents' skills, the SCU makes very effective use of contacts. Field agents travel all over the world (both in their regular jobs and their work for M-Force), allowing them to meet a vast assortment of people with useful skills. If the SCU needs to hire a construction team in Cairo or a boat captain in Bombay, there's a good chance that one of their agents knows (or knows someone who knows) just the man for the job. If these freelancers work out, their contact information, location, and area of expertise is kept on file in case their skills are needed in the future. A few freelancers in areas frequented by SCU field teams are able to earn a living working as guides, translators, and informants for the unit.

In theory, Special Collections teams should be among the most well-equipped M-Forcers in the world. Since their office is located at national headquarters, they have easy access to the supply depot and are among the first agents with access to newly EOT-approved weapons and equipment. Unfortunately, since so many Special Collections missions take place outside of the U.S. (and, in many cases, don't require the agents to actually fight monsters anyway), the unit's proximity to the supply depot doesn't do them much good. Experimental weapons and strange devices covered with flashing lights tend to make customs officers a little jumpy.

The SCU also has a time share condo in Rio. George swears that it sounded like a great idea at the time.

Special Collections Personnel

Milton Young

Milton Young, the current Special Collections Supervisor, took over the job following Cassius Riley's retirement in 1975. Young is one of the few Quinn librarians without an advanced degree in Library Sciences--he learned his skills in the army, supplemented by a few night classes. "Uncle Miltie" (which fellow staffers never call him, especially to his face) is a natural leader and is well-liked by the special collections staff despite his occasional grumpiness concerning agents who "don't take the job seriously enough." Milton and computers don't get along very well, and he insists that anything important be communicated to him on paper or in person. (WWPHITM? Morgan Freeman) 

George Osbourne

George Osbourne is the Assistant Supervisor of Special Collections. George is a skilled librarian, but he prefers working with the field teams to wandering around in the stacks. He spends most of his time making arrangements for upcoming missions--assigning agents, making hotel reservations, buying airline tickets, and the like. In this arena, George is extremely skilled at stretching M-Force's dollar. While this earns him points with the administration, it is a cause for fear among the acquisitions agents. It's not unusual for the hotel that George has assured them is "one of the city's finest" to turn out to be a roach-infested flophouse in the bad part of down or for George's "skilled private pilot" to be a drunk with an eyepatch. George drives a Plymouth Scamp. (WWPHITM? Jay Mohr) 

Molly Davis

Milton's secretary, Molly Davis, has often pointed out that she's "entirely too well-adjusted to be working with these people," but for some reason she's still with M-Force after nearly five years. Her repertoire of rolled eyes, slightly disgusted "harumphs," and "why me?" sighs is well known to the Special Collections staff (WWPHITM? Paget Brewster).

Susan Miller

Susan Miller, the senior librarian of the Special Collections Unit, has been with the Quinn Library since 1974 and has worked in the SCU for the past sixteen years. Before joining the M-Force staff, Susan worked for the Smithsonian. Though well past retirement age, Susan remains with M-Force because she can't bear the thought of "sitting around with a bunch of other old people wondering who'll die next." Susan knows every book in the collection well, and can often tell other staffers what page number to look on for a particular piece of information. (WWPHITM? Betty White) 

Jack Sawyer

Jack Sawyer is the science researcher for the SCU. Jack is an M.I.T. alum with degrees in chemistry and engineering. Despite his enormous intelligence, Jack's timidness caused him to get lost in the shuffle when he interviewed for his dream job at NASA. After working a number of boring laboratory jobs that he hated, Jack managed to get a job with Special Collections. In addition to researching scientific texts in the Special Collection, Jack works closely with M-Labs to help keep the materials in the Vault from running amuck. He hopes this will eventually help him get a job as an M-Labs engineer, but for the time being is happy where he is. (WWPHITM? William H. Macy) 

Denise Warren

Denise is the SCU's resident occultist, dividing her time between researching ancient grimoires and figuring out mystical ways to safeguard the materials in the Vault. Denise holds a degree in Magic from the University of California. While the job market for university-accredited occultists is incredibly small, so is the group of people competing for those jobs. Denise took her position with Special Collections immediately after graduation in 1987. Denise has a tendency to assume that everyone knows as much about the occult as she does, and often gets annoyed when she has to explain elementary (to her) concepts to fellow agents. (WWPHITM? Julianne Moore) 

J.J. Renfrow

J.J. Renfrow is probably the only agent to ever become involved in M-Force because he thought he was a monster. After extensive tests, M-Labs determined that J.J. was completely human, but did possess an unusual immunity to psychic attacks--a trait which made him an ideal candidate for a career in the Hazardous Materials research. With considerable difficulty, Milton Young convinced J.J. to take the job. J.J. enjoys working for M-Force, but dreads the occasions when his special talent is needed. "Every time that boy goes into the Vault," Young once said, "he looks like he's walking into the gas chamber." (WWPHTIM? Seth Green)

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File 13: M-Force Special Collections.
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