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Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:44 am UTC
Yablo wrote:It's ultimately my story. I could blame the cats for waking me up at 3:30 the past couple mornings and not letting me get back to sleep, or I could blame having to stop and start frequently since I generally do the writing at work, but whatever.
The two cheerleaders are intended to be foreshadowing as well as give off a creepy vibe by being normal and yet still almost caricatures. When I pitched the Operation to my players I told them I was going for Enemy of the State meets Stepford Wives.
Also, Atwood is too paranoid to leave his motel room, and the others are too paranoid to meet up with him.
Well, I don't blame you for a dry story, I just got to be fair on a writer I enjoy sometimes. Silly kitties ha-ha. The writing process is a craft and sometimes you got to stop and start again and again. Cheerleaders in fiction are usually either creepy or fetishes materials I have notice? Ha-ha. And I love senses of building paranoia. When people start experiencing mental health symptoms in Cthulhu's Mythos games then... fun and funny who knew?
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 5:16 am UTC
As long as you're being fair and the criticism is intended to be constructive, by all means, be as harsh as you need to. When I write the Operations, my target audience is my group of players, but when I write up the game sessions in this format, my target audience is different. Each requires a different style.
If my players tell me, "we need more research montages where we stare at chalkboards and do math," I need to find a way to give them that experience in the game. When I go to write up the lack of action, I have to find a way to make math and chalk dust interesting.
Incidentally, while I do a lot of planning in advance, I do welcome requests and suggestions from the people who read these write ups. If readers tell me, "we need more research montages where the characters stare at chalkboards and do math," I might try to work that into the game at some point.
Ultimately, I have one story and two audiences, so I have the challenge of presenting the same story two ways.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:11 pm UTC
I wanna see more eats your face off, otherworldly aliens/demons/tentacles monsters pleasey-pleasey Yablo? <3
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:39 am UTC
Ginger wrote:I wanna see more eats your face off, otherworldly aliens/demons/tentacles monsters pleasey-pleasey Yablo? <3
That, I can most definitely do. All the secrecy and paranoia is just a set up for all the horror and terror these agents can handle. They should get to that point next week. Unless they chicken out.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Feb 27, 2018 5:40 am UTC
Update, because playing every other week makes for a long break if you miss two games. We didn't play last time because one player went musk ox hunting for a week, and the rest of us were sick. We didn't play tonight for a few reasons. First, winter in Alaska can make the roads pretty dangerous, and one player lives in the middle of nowhere where roads aren't as well maintained or lit. Second, the player who went hunting caught pneumonia (or a brain parasite), and blood was using his nose as a convenient pathway for sneaking out of his head. Even still, we were planning to play, but the third player failed to return calls or texts over the eight hours I attempted to reach him. All things in total, I decided to pass for another session. Next session should be fine though.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 6:56 pm UTC
... Apparently the brain parasite spread it's larvae around and they ate the players...
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:28 am UTC
Dauric wrote:... Apparently the brain parasite spread it's larvae around and they ate the players...
Something like that. The universe has been conspiring against the game for a couple months (including a particularly sad family situation I posted about in the SB section), but my players and I aren't letting the universe win. As schedules and venues are chaotic at the moment, we've discussed the possibility of moving the game to the Roll20 online tabletop.That would also open the slim possibility of finding players outside of town, though given that we're in the Alaska timezone (at least until my wife and I move back down south), who knows?
Apologies on the delay, but rest assured, we plan to continue, and this thread helps a lot with remembering where things were left off. The important thing is that we've been making efforts to play, and we haven't been dissuaded by life obstacles.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:00 pm UTC
The Bedford Project – Session 3
The shower didn’t do much to calm his nerves, and so Atwood maintained a careful watch out the window through a crack between the curtains. Every so often, he shot a disapproving frown toward the phone. It was about 7:30 PM when he saw the large black man, Kellan Dunn, leave his room and head down to his car. Atwood took a deep breath. He wasn’t crazy about the idea of leaving his room before the rest of his team made contact, but he needed to know what was so important about Bedford, Iowa that DARPA would send the Assistant Director. As Dunn backed his cherry red Lexus out of the parking space and began to drive away, Atwood quickly slipped down to his rental car to tail him.
Dunn was in no hurry, and there were few other vehicles on the street, so Atwood maintained what he hoped was a safe distance. He watched as the Lexus pulled into the parking lot of the HelpLink building and parked next to the white Honda Civic which happened to be the only other car in the lot. No surprise there. That building was the only one in town with a satellite dish, and those industrial air conditioning units on the roof were just big enough to make him suspicious.
He continued past the HelpLink building and was about to turn around when he noticed the red and blue lights in the rearview mirror. His heart skipped a beat, but that was okay because his lungs forgot to take a breath or two anyway. Should he make a run for it? That didn’t work out well for Badagian. He was near the center of town in a rental car anyway. No way was he getting away by running. Any other time, all the camera coverage would make him feel much safer.
Atwood took a deep breath and pulled over across from the diner. He kept his hands on the wheel and watched his driver’s side mirror. The deputy stopped near the back of the rental car and leaned like he was getting a better look at the license plate. Atwood heard the plastic of his taillight smash, and that seemed to confirm his fear. There was nothing routine about this stop. He rolled down the window as the deputy approached and shined a flashlight inside. The name on the deputy’s uniform identified him as L. Funderburk.
“Know why I pulled you over?”
“I have a few guesses.”
Atwood did his best to keep the snarl and fear out of his voice, but he wasn’t sure it worked. After handing over his rental agreement and driver’s license – his real identification since he didn’t have anything else – he waited patiently as Deputy Funderburk returned to his cruiser to run his checks. So that was it. They knew he was an FBI agent. That put him on the list. Now, the only question was whether they were going to try to kill him now or start calling him from random numbers until he killed himself.
That question was answered when the deputy came back with his license and a $150 ticket for a broken taillight. Phone tag, it was, then. Well, screw this town. They might get his money, but they’d never get the satisfaction of his death. He threw the car into drive and headed cautiously back to the motel. His heart and breath may have skipped earlier, but they were making up for lost time now. After locking the door to his room and barricading it with the dresser, Atwood decided he needed another shower and some very light sleep.
Porter was pretty light on sleep as well, and he’d gotten up around 4:00 AM, made some coffee, and started researching. By the time he got his first refill, he had a few relevant items of interest. The Capitol Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland had run an obituary for Captain Rush and a single paragraph a few days ago with the title “Body Found in Bay Believed to be Marine Recruiter.” The Kansas City Star had run only an obituary for Shelley Emmett with no surviving family members listed. The Ames Tribune had run a front-page story following Heathcliff’s arrest. It was light on details, but it promised more information as it came available. It seemed to sensationalize the story, but that was the only story the paper ever ran on it. It made national news, but even those stories seemed to die out after a few days, and nothing substantial was ever reported other than the obvious "tenured professor fired after arrest."
Then there was the Bedford Times-Press. It had a website, but only the day’s brief headlines were available. For a subscription fee of only $32 and an email address, however, he could have access to previous editions and receive an electronic copy of future editions for an entire year. The NSA spook was already connected to the internet through an encrypted chain of proxy servers which changed every five minutes. He also had a refillable gift card for just such an occasion. Now, all he needed was a new fake email address.
A couple of minutes later, Porter was browsing back issues of the Bedford Times. The website was clear and reasonably laid out, but it still had the feel of an amateur website. There were no ads or pop-ups, but there were also no flashy banners proclaiming headlines, and the pictures were all thumbnail size until clicked. Still, it served its purpose. The paper was published on a weekly basis, and the issues were relatively short. They dealt only in items of local interest - mostly bake sales and high school sports - and the articles were rarely more than a paragraph long. It had the feel of a school newspaper.
The most recent edition had a paragraph about the "tragic car accident" on IA-2 east of town, but it spelled Badagian's name wrong - Badaggian. It stated the time of the accident as approximately 9:35 PM. According to police, he was speeding and likely swerved to avoid oncoming headlights.
There were no articles on the other three deaths, but two other articles from past issues did pop out. Merle Vaughn, pastor of the Bedford Evangelical Church of God, hung himself in the church office in 2008. The paper speculated that it had something to do with the fact that he was recently outed as gay. The other article mentioned the fatal electrocution of Steve Gibbs, an Ameritech telephone repairman who was helping bring the town’s phone system back up after the 2010 flood. That could potentially raise the body count to six. Maybe seven if Atwood wasn’t careful. Porter decided that should probably be the first line of business for the day; finding Atwood and regrouping.
Dempsey agreed. Of course, he had just woken up and hadn’t had his coffee yet, so he reserved the right to change his mind before lunchtime. It was Sunday morning. Hopefully, they could get everything resolved today and get out of Iowa before the homecoming game and the Corn Queen Pageant.
Porter and Dempsey resisted the urge to grab breakfast a safe distance from Bedford, and they arrived in town about 7:00 AM. Atwood’s last communication had been the text reporting he was staying at the Skylark Motel. That was just before Dempsey’s burner phone became a literal burner phone. A quick scan of the Skylark on their first pass revealed Atwood’s rental car and a cherry red Lexus a few spots down from it. As they were in the other car provided by FEMA, Porter was okay with pulling up next to Atwood’s car.
Dempsey was about to get out and run up to Atwood’s room, but he didn’t need to. Atwood had apparently been watching. The FBI agent came quickly down the stairs and hopped into the backseat. The agents had no trouble on the way out of town, and while it was highly unlikely anyone could hear them, none of the agents spoke until they were a few miles clear of Bedford. Something about that town hit all the triggers for paranoia.
The first stop was to switch vehicles for the one Porter had rented on his own. Then it was off to the Denny’s in Hopkins. Each agent filled the others in on what he’d found, and then they discussed the situation to put everything in perspective. Porter didn’t like the thought of the Assistant Director of DARPA in Bedford. It didn’t help that he apparently had business to conduct at that HelpLink place. That’s where the answers were going to be. Whatever reasons were behind all the security, surveillance, and secrecy, they were in that building and Assistant Director Dunn’s head.
But how the hell were they going to get in there? It was a good bet there were at least half a dozen traffic cameras with a view of that place, not to mention the electronic eye on the front door and the keycard locks on the side doors. Stealth wasn’t an option. Maybe just walk in the front door during business hours and have a look around? Badges might get them access, but they’d almost certainly get them on the murder list.
Dempsey pointed out Atwood was already on that list, and Atwood pointed out that Dempsey could take this fork and shove it straight up … Porter slapped the table which spilled some coffee but seemed to diffuse the already overly-tense situation.
They all agreed no one was going anywhere alone in Bedford for the time being. Atwood was already on someone’s radar, and to be safe, they were going to assume his calls and internet use were monitored if not traced. The plan, then, was to head back to the safe house and put Gomez and his team to work digging up any and all information on Assistant Director Kellan Dunn and why he might be in Bedford. Anything he could get on HelpLink would be a plus as well.
The waiting was tough, but it was preferable to the paranoia of that damned town. It was after noon before Gomez got back to them with a brief email.
My sources can confirm Dunn had close association with MJ-6, Project PLUTO though details are hard to come by. No connection to Delta Green or any of our operations. I've got feelers out on his Project PLUTO connection. Will let you know what I find tomorrow afternoon. Recommend caution. If you disappear him, he'll be missed.
Porter growled. The other two had a bad feeling, but they were too new to realize the implications. MJ-6, Project PLUTO.
“I don’t know what the hell Project PLUTO is, but MJ-6 is bad news. It’s … It was
a section of Majestic-12. But those bastards were infiltrated and dismantled, and their assets were reallocated. They were Above Top Secret U.S. black budget just like us. DARPA and Majestic … son-of-a-bitch. This ain’t good, gentlemen. Whatever he’s doing there, and whatever is in that building, you can be sure nothing good is going to come from it. Gomez is getting us more information tomorrow, so I say we hit up a liquor store and drink to the dead tonight. We’ll probably be seeing ‘em soon.”
Atwood nodded solemnly, but the Irishman wasn’t convinced. In fact, the way Dempsey saw it, that whole town, HelpLink, DARPA, and whatever the hell PLUTO was could all go screw themselves somewhere very uncomfortable. There was no reason for any of them to die tomorrow. Except maybe Atwood. He was on the list, after all.
No. Porter was finishing the job. So was Atwood. Dempsey sighed and declared none of his team was dying in that hellhole tomorrow without him. On one condition, of course: The Irishman does the liquor shopping. None of this Budweiser swill those Americans like to drink. It was going to be Bushmills 21-Year-Old. Straight. There was a nod of agreement from Porter. Atwood wrinkled his nose, but he agreed as well. He’d much rather have the Budweiser.
With nothing more to do but wait until tomorrow, the agents shared the Bushmills and old war stories while they played poker for pretzels. Morning came early.
Delta Green work aside, Porter’s life had become rather comfortable in recent decades. Whereas he had been somewhat of a risk-taker as a young field operative, his promotion to case officer capped off his gradual conservative slide. With that promotion came the comfort of a nice house, two cars, and a couple of ex-wives. He slept well any other time, but never on a Delta Green Op. When the Program activated him, he knew he was in for light and broken sleep for the duration. He was always the one to make the coffee because he was always the one awake at 4:00 AM.
Dempsey was up in time for breakfast, but the Bushmills had done a number on Atwood. The FBI agent was dead to the world, and it looked like he might be in that condition until noon or so. Porter and Dempsey decided to head out for breakfast, and when Atwood still hadn’t rolled off the couch several hours later, they headed out for lunch, too. The Irishman decided if they survived and worked together again, he and Porter would split the good stuff, and Atwood could have all the Budweiser he liked.
True to his word, Gomez sent an encrypted email just before 3:00 PM. It contained some useful information that Porter immediately wished it didn’t.
MJ-6 PLUTO evaluated all scientific and technological information received from Extraterrestrial Biological Entities. It had a host of sub-projects.
ARC DREAM was a sub-project of MJ-6 PLUTO which handled biotechnology transfers from an alien intelligence known as the Greys. ARC DREAM primarily served a management and bureaucratic function for its own sub-projects.
Sub-Project BOUNCE was designed to develop Super-Soldiers based on alien DNA and anatomy. The goal was to make "clean" soldiers who were immune to CBR/NBC warfare.
Sub-Project CATALYST handled the main body of ARC DREAM research and had become more of a production house which occasionally spun off further sub-projects. Catalyst had perfected the accelerated growth of human embryos and fetuses to adulthood in a period of several weeks. However, the more growth factor used to accelerate development, the greater the risk of biological failure.
Sub-Project CORE had the greatest potential for drastic, world-altering effects. If each experiment is taken separately, CORE simply altered microbes, animals, and biochemistry. Viewed as a whole, CORE provided the advent of a new global ecology; an ecology based on genetic engineering and alien science.
Sub-Project RECOIL had been producing physiologically altered NRO DELTA and MJ-5 BLUE FLY personnel since 1993. The test subjects had been given enhanced strength through the use of advanced steroids and specially designed adrenaline-producing organs. The musculature had to be nanotechnologically enhanced in order to prevent injury from the increased biochemical strength. One RECOIL test subject had even been given a musculature which had been wholly replaced by extra-dimensional myomers. The skeletal structure had also been regrown and gradually converted into a diamond matrix by nanotechnology in order to bear the great weights and stresses imposed by enhanced strength. All this caused great agony in RECOIL subjects which was partially cured by neurosurgery and painkillers.
An ARC DREAM researcher, one Dr. Brian Cherry, is confirmed to have a daughter, Allison, in Bedford, Iowa. He went underground after reappropriation of Majestic assets. Fortunately, ARC DREAM has been shut down, and Dr. Cherry has not resurfaced. Dr. Cherry may have sought out his daughter. If your group finds evidence of ARC DREAM activity, eliminate it covertly. There are elements in governments worldwide which would love to get their hands on Dr. Cherry's research.
As Porter read the email aloud, Atwood opened his bleary eyes and tried to focus on the ceiling. The FBI man swung his feet around and stood up.
“So, we’re talking aliens and genetic engineering? Okay. Let’s forget for a moment that Gomez is suggesting aliens are real, and our government has supposedly been dealing with them like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Whatever the source of the genetic engineering, that’s got to be why DARPA is there. That Assistant Director Dunn guy is in charge of some messed up stuff. I mean, neural implants on soldiers, using plants nuclear threats, remote-controlled insects … Aliens or not, that’s some mad science.”
Porter agreed. He confirmed that aliens were, in fact, real. And genetic engineering for super soldiers was not something he was going to let happen. ARC DREAM was shut down for a reason, and if this Dr. Cherry was continuing his research in Bedford, it was going to stop.
“If we find evidence of ARC DREAM activity … Atwood, you said there was something off about those cheerleaders you got the tickets from, yeah?”
“If you call color-shifting eyes and bee summoning ‘something off,’ then yeah. But I’m not eliminating cheerleaders, covertly or otherwise.”
Dempsey had no such moral dilemma. The Irishman announced he’d be happy to off a couple unnatural athletic supporters as long as it turned out they really were unnatural. But first and foremost, the mad science needed to stop. And to that end, some not-so-mad science might help. He suggested rigging the Brewster Holdings dirty bomb to take out the HelpLink building, but Porter didn’t think it would be enough. The air conditioning units on the roof screamed multiple sub-basements, and what they were after was most likely at the very bottom.
Okay, then. How were they going to get down there? The sheriff had said the police investigation would be on hold until Tuesday if it didn’t wrap up by Sunday night. He’d suggested the whole town would be at the game. If that was even close to accurate, the HelpLink building might be empty, or lightly guarded at worst. Sure, the traffic cameras would probably pick them up entering the building, but as long as no alarms were tripped, they might make it in and out and be long gone before anyone even thought to check the tapes. And if they were really cautious, there might be no reason for anyone to check the tapes at all.
Atwood was on their radar – whoever the hell they
were – and he was expected to be at the game. Then again, he’d bought three tickets and said he had a couple friends in town with him. Score another one for Atwood. Dempsey grumbled.
Well, they couldn’t all go to the game. In fact, Porter said, all three of them would be needed for the HelpLink raid. But what if someone noticed they weren’t there? The tickets had RFID chips. That was it, then. Porter suggested they all attend the game long enough to ditch their tickets at the stadium. They might even do a little recon while they were there. Then they could leave the game and head to HelpLink. Anyone tracking their tickets would think they were still at the game.
Kickoff was at 6:30 PM, but Atwood said the cheerleaders would be getting the crowd pumped up by 6:00. Just in case things went pear-shaped, the agents decided to each take a different car. Porter would drive the car he rented, and Dempsey would drop Atwood off at the motel to pick up the other car. Then they’d caravan to the game, ditch their tickets, and caravan to HelpLink.
The agents headed out a little before 6:00. It was breezy, and storm clouds from the southwest followed them all the way to Bedford. The wind steadily picked up the closer they got, and by the time they arrived, all of Bedford was blanketed in the dark clouds.
The streets seemed deserted. Local businesses were closed, and the few vehicles to be seen were parked in private driveways with two exceptions: a cherry red Lexus RC coupe with Maryland plates and a white Honda Civic were parked next to each other in an otherwise-empty HelpLink parking lot. That was something. Assistant Director Dunn and … probably Dr. Cherry were there, but the building looked deserted. The raid might go smoothly after all.
As the bright lights over the Bedford High School football field come into view, the reason for the empty town was confirmed. Nearly every available parking space for a half-mile around the school was taken. It would seem the entire county had shown up for this game and the Corn Queen Pageant to follow it. Kickoff wasn't for another 20 minutes yet, but true to their word, the cheerleaders could be heard leading the crowd in various chants.
Despite the distractions created by the lights, music, and chanting, the agents were quick to notice the Taylor County school bus with the Taylor County Cornhuskers logo emblazoned on the side. A stocky man leaned against the large front tire next to the door. His face was shrouded by the bill of his trucker hat, but the orange dot of a cigarette shined out from the shadow. On the bus and near the back seats, another man seemed to be yelling angrily into a cellphone and pacing very tight circles in the aisle. The only available parking space within a half-mile happened to be right next to the bus.
Dempsey pulled into that spot while the other two circled the lot and headed off to find somewhere else to park. The smoking man put out his cigarette and approached Dempsey’s car waving his hands in a shooing motion, but the man on the bus calls to him from a window.
"Don't worry about it, Jim. Let him park there. Coach Anderson's not gonna make it anyway. Neither is Cody."
Jim just shrugged and headed back to the front of the bus as the other man stepped out into the parking lot. The Irishman thanked Jim in a tone that was smart-assed even for him, but Jim just narrowed his eyes, spit, and lit another cigarette. The man who had been on the phone continued talking to the smoking man.
"Damnit, Jim. What the hell am I supposed to do now? Kickoff is in twenty minutes. Somebody knifes Cody's tires and keys his car, so he catches a ride with Coach Anderson. Then the coach ties his car around a tree. Now I gotta go out there and coach this team on my own without a damned quarterback? Fuck! I hate this town."
Jim just listened along and made small grunts of agreement. It sounded to Dempsey like the smart money was on the Bulldogs, and maybe someone had made a point of ensuring that. Once Porter and Atwood walked up, the Irishman joined them, and the three headed toward the stadium entrance.
The stands on both sides of the field were packed with supporters of each team. A quarter-mile track of asphalt divided into six lanes encircled the chain link fence containing the football field. The teams were warming up at opposite sides of the field, and each school's cheerleaders were bouncing, swishing, kicking, and cartwheeling on the track in front of their respective team's stands.
A cheerful young man with thick glasses and a Bedford High School Academic Team sweater passed their tickets below a scanner which beeped happily. Just on their left as they entered was a concession stand selling hamburgers, hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, and sodas of all sizes. Atwood took the tickets and dumped them in a trash can, and after Dempsey finished buying a pretzel and a Dr. Pepper, the agents walked back out to the parking lot. The kid in the glasses and sweater called after them as they exited.
"Make sure you have your tickets with you so you can get back in!"
While the parking lot was full of vehicles, it seemed to be devoid of life. It was an odd realization, but it was one that couldn’t be denied. There were no people or animals anywhere around, the trees had all long since lost their leaves, and the agents were alone in the middle of it all. Everyone in town seemed to be packed into the stadium.
The wind picked up even more in a sort of escort as they made their way back to their vehicles. It looked like storm clouds were still rolling in at a frantic pace, packing them more and more densely together. They were churning and swirling directly over the HelpLink building. In fact, as they pulled their respective vehicles into the HelpLink parking lot, they could see a vortex directly above the building. The only electrical activity in the sky was around the vortex, and it caused the dark clouds to light up periodically. Between those times, the agents could make out a clear, starry sky in the eye of the maelstrom of roiling clouds.
As the agents got out of their vehicles, the lightning flashed around the vortex again, and all three agents had their eyes drawn to the sky. As the clouds lit up, they could make out the contrast of something – a ball, a meteor, a van … Something big and dark streaked from the stars directly through the hole in the clouds and into the HelpLink roof. They didn’t have time to comprehend what they’d seen much less take action before it hit.
The sheer force of the impact knocked them flat on their backs from 50 yards away, and it shattered the glass doors and windows of the building. It took a minute or two before the agents could regain their senses and stand up. By that time, everything was quiet again. All that could be heard was the wind and a football game in the distance.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:37 pm UTC
It's the end of the fiscal year here in Alaska, and that means as a governmental accountant, it's by far the busiest time of the year for me. Add to that the fact that my step-kids are visiting for the summer, and it adds up to almost no free time for me. That alone should be enough of an excuse for taking so long to post the finale to the Opera, but wait! There's more! The write-up is about twice as long as my standard session write-up, so I'm going to split it into two parts.
Unfortunately, this represents the last installment until we manage to get schedules worked out again, and that may be after summer. Still, we do plan to continue.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:47 pm UTC
The Bedford Project – Session 4, Part 1
As the agents regained their senses and rose to their feet, it was Atwood who broke the silence.
“The hell was that? A meteor?”
Dempsey was staring wide-eyed with a grin. At times like this, when he was truly and entirely enthralled, his accent could become heavy and thick.
“Oi don't nu, but if i'd 'av 'ad wan, oi might not 'av 'ad ter leave Éire.”
Atwood blinked at the Irishman for a moment, and his blank expression gradually became one of contempt. When he replied, he lingered on the initial ‘W’ and dragged it out.
Dempsey had either not heard the FBI profiler, or he was ignoring him. Porter clarified the Irishman’s words for Atwood as he started covering the ground to the building.
“He said he doesn’t know, but if he’d had one, he might not have had to leave Éire – Ireland. For the record, I have no idea what the hell that was either, but I don’t hear alarms or sirens.”
No alarms or sirens. Porter saw it as an opportunity. Dempsey saw it as an invitation. Atwood was sure it was a trap. Regardless, they were all sure there were answers somewhere in that building, and now there was an easy way in. The Irishman jogged to catch up with Porter, and Atwood followed but lagged behind. All three agents drew their guns.
The three stepped through the shattered glass doors. The building was eerily quiet. They could hear dripping water and a dull wind near the center of the large room, but the only light came from the light posts in the parking lot and the sliver of moonlight filtering through a large crack in the ceiling.
All three agents lit their flashlights, and each had a different way of holding it with his gun. Porter held his with his thumb closest to the lens and just below the grip of his pistol. Atwood held his with his pinky closest to the lens and to the side of his pistol with his wrists touching. Dempsey held his out to one side and pointed his gun in the other direction.
Beyond the reception area with brochures, newspapers, magazines, and teal couches, the room was essentially just a large secretarial pool. Ceiling tiles in the center of the room had either fallen or were hanging precariously. The crack in the roof had to have been almost 100 feet long, and the satellite dish was hanging inward on a sagging section of roof.
A door on the far wall was labeled ‘Training Evaluation Office,’ and not far from that was the steel door of an elevator. Closer to the agents, another door was labeled ‘Stair Access to Roof and Basement.’ Dempsey and Atwood were about to head up to the roof when Porter stopped them. He said they needed to clear the ground floor first before heading off. Besides, there was something off about that Training Office. For all the security in this town, why did this one door have a standard mechanical lock and no electronics?
Porter led the way, and the other two followed. The NSA spook was the only one trained in this sort of thing, and whatever fell from the sky would probably still be on the roof when they cleared this floor. The door was unlocked, and Porter stood to one side and pushed it open. When nothing exploded, screamed, or shot at them, he whipped around and pointed his gun at the room in general.
Power seemed to be out to the rest of the building, but this room had three computer workstations running at full power. It was difficult to tell at a glance just what the computers were doing, but it was obviously not “training evaluation.” Each computer had three monitors, and each monitor displayed continuously updating graphs, charts, and lists. One monitor also had an open window cycling through live-streaming video from traffic cameras in Bedford. Each workstation had thick cables running through holes in the floor, and Porter said they were likely connected to a mainframe on a lower level.
The three workstations had various personal touches of the workers who manned them; pictures of family members, Bedford Bulldogs Football bobblehead, birthday cards, Bedford High School desk calendar with "Homecoming game and pageant!!" written in red ink on today's date, etc ... The room looked like the typical IT office, just with overly-expensive computer equipment. There was nothing to imply an evacuation any more hurried than your usual end-of-the-workday exodus, but Atwood still didn’t like the feeling he was getting.
Other than the door through which the agents entered, there were two other exits; a concrete-walled stairway in the opposite wall leading up and down and a door to their left with a mechanical lock and a plaque identifying it as the office of a Dr. Clark.
The door to Dr. Clark’s office was unlocked and opened easily to reveal a small, windowless office containing a desk, computer with a single monitor, and a modular shelving unit. Several computer printouts were stacked neatly on the desk, and Dempsey flipped through them. They contained a wide variety of charts, graphs, and lists ranging from a complete traffic-flow map of Bedford to the likelihood of Bedford residents to call phone-sex lines broken down by demographic subcategories. Porter and Atwood would have found all of that quite interesting and important, but the Irishman just yawned and failed to mention it.
Atwood checked the drawers of the desk. In one, he found two brown folders. One was packed with what appeared to be blackmail evidence on Sheriff Taylor; pictures of him and various official-looking people exchanging briefcases and folders for thick envelopes, two years of his bank statements showing countless large cash deposits, and an envelope with a lock of brown hair and a small glass jar of what was probably blood. The second folder contained several printouts of emails between Dr. Clark and people from various .gov addresses and a company called Brewster Holdings. One email from Kellan Dunn marked Top Secret mentioned DARPA projects called Mind's Eye (to develop visual intelligence in machines) and CTS - Combat Zones That See (to "track everything that moves" in a city by linking up a massive network of surveillance cameras to a centralized computer system). Another email mentioned a late-September visit to inspect progress and to meet with someone named Dr. Cherry regarding his research.
Before the agents could discuss the implications, the relative silence was broken by the sound of twisting or snapping steel from somewhere down below and off in the direction of the elevator followed immediately by a crash. Porter spoke in a hushed growl.
“Put it all back. We need to move, and we can come back for it later if we need it.”
The sound came from below, and that’s where Porter wanted to go, but Atwood and Dempsey wanted to check the roof first. Atwood thought it would be good to clear the building systematically from top to bottom; he also didn’t want anything to do with the sound of ripping steel. Dempsey just wanted to see what hit the roof and find out if he could make one. It was two against one, and none of the agents wanted to be the one to go off alone, so the roof it was.
The concrete-walled stairwell from the Training Evaluation Office led up to a heavy steel door. Porter tested the handle and found that it was unlocked on the inside, but pushing it open, he saw that it would lock behind them with an RFID keycard lock if they let it close. Dempsey propped the door open with his flashlight, and the agents stepped out to examine the roof. The wind was starting to settle, and the vortex of clouds directly above the building seemed to be dissipating.
There was a three-foot wall around the perimeter of the roof to prevent accidental falls, and while the HelpLink building was only one story above ground, the entire town of Bedford could be seen from their vantage. The town was dark as far as the eye could see - everywhere except the Bedford High School football field. It appeared for all the world that literally the entire town was there. The wind carried the faint sounds of a marching band which seemed to indicate halftime.
The industrial air conditioning unit was even more imposing up close. It was most definitely too large for a building the size of the HelpLink Training Facility. The satellite dish hung at a precarious angle as it dipped down into the building through the long gash in the roof. Something large hit at an angle very close to the dish and came to a skidding and bouncing halt after almost 100 feet. Whatever it was, it likely weighed at least 500 pounds, and it was probably closer to 1,000. It was also probably a little smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle. A meteor that size would have devastated the town, and besides, it hadn't been glowing; it had been black against the electric glow of the storm.
Following the path of the object's landing led the agents' eyes to the other hole. There had been a second roof-access door near the front of the building where the other stairwell was, but the twisted sheet of steel and electronics which had once served as that door now laid discarded several feet away. Dempsey's assessment was the object had to have come to a stop at least 50 feet away from the stairwell so the impact couldn't have destroyed the door, never mind that it had been ripped outward rather than pushed inward. Either the door had already been in this condition, or something had demolished it. A shiver went down their spines at that assessment. Porter frowned.
“It look like something landed on the roof, picked itself up, and demolished that big-assed steel door to anyone else?”
Atwood nodded slowly with a gulp. Dempsey just looked down at his pistol and sighed.
There were no scorch marks visible anywhere on the roof which lent further doubt to the meteor possibility. The concrete of the roof access appeared to have been toppled backward away from the door while the door itself was pulled in the other direction. Exactly how it happened might have been a mystery, but it would have taken something with the size and strength of a construction vehicle to yank the door free, and whatever did it had left patches of a sticky black residue like battery acid.
Looking down the stairwell illuminated by flashlights and emergency lighting, Atwood spotted a mangled security camera. Dempsey’s quick scan of the roof access through which they'd emerged revealed another well-hidden and intact camera. Given the lack of a door on the other stairwell, the Irishman decided it was safe to retrieve his flashlight.
With Atwood in the lead, the agents carefully descended the concrete stairs. The metal handrails had been severely corroded in many places, and so they were less than useless. They gave the impression that if someone were to put a little weight on them, collapse would be imminent.
The door to the HelpLink lobby from the ground floor stairwell landing was in bad shape as well. The handle, hinges, and other metal components were so severely corroded that they'd likely never work as intended again, though they'd been so weakened that a good kick would probably bring the door crashing down.
From this landing, Atwood could see a body slumped against the wall on the next flight down. The body was easily identifiable as private security by his body armor and other gear. Like the rails and door, everything metal on the guard's person seemed corroded and useless. The handgun in his hand, a Glock 36, looked like it might still be in working order. Once the agents made it down to the body, a closer look revealed brown and black streaks around his mouth. His skin had a slightly bluish tinge, the tongue was swollen and black, and he was covered in brownish-black vomit. The man’s skin was dry, tight, and flaky as if he’d experienced rapid dehydration. Porter was no doctor, but he was a chemist. He gave his diagnosis in a grim tone.
“Call me crazy, but this looks like the fatal side of sulfuric acid poisoning. That would explain the corrosion on all the metal, too.”
Well, yeah. It would explain the corrosion, but Atwood wanted to know just what the hell explained the sulfuric acid in the first place. There wasn’t an explanation for that unless they wanted to go with the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang goes rogue” angle. Dempsey joked that Dick Van Dyke had some explaining to do, but he was met with glares from the other two, so he just shrugged.
Disney-based explanations aside, the evidence seemed to support Porter’s theory. Atwood suggested they all put on gloves just in case, but the other two held up their already-gloved hands. Well, Dempsey held up an already-gloved middle finger, but the message was the same; you don’t raid the enemy stronghold in an overly-secure town under cover of darkness without gloves. Then again, as Dempsey pointed out, it wasn’t like Atwood was going to get added to Sheriff Taylor’s kill list a second time, though he might move up a spot or two.
The initial shock and witty banter out of the way, Dempsey studied the landing. The body was slumped against the wall at the mid-floor landing. He had apparently been running up the stairs from the room below when he turned back toward the room and fired several rounds.
The air down at this level irritated the agents’ eyes and nasal passages. The heavy steel door at the bottom of the stairs had been ripped from its frame with the digital keypad lock still in place. The room beyond was well-lit and apparently running on generator power rather than emergency power like the ground floor and stairwells. There were white flashing lights near the ceiling at regular intervals which appeared to be some sort of silent alarm.
Only a few feet inside the doorway were six lumps of copper with a thick turquoise patina and a scattering of rust. So, whatever they were following could not only dehydrate a man and turn him blue, but it also worked fast enough to rust and corrode bullets. Fantastic.
Several racks of computer equipment lined the walls of the room. It appeared to be a server room with expensive equipment. None of it seemed to have been touched. The only other exits from the room were the other stairwell leading to the Training Evaluation Office and an open elevator shaft. The elevator doors had been removed and cast aside much like the other stairwell doors.
Dempsey questioned whether Bedford really deserved their help. After all, no one in this town had proven themselves to be worth helping. Plus, nothing good went down that open elevator shaft, so nothing good was likely to come back out. It’s not like there was a surprise party at the bottom with birthday hats, Guinness, and Pin the Beard on the Leprechaun. No. There was an evil, flying Disney car armed with acid and who-knows-what-else. Screw Bedford. Screw Iowa.
That last bit got no argument from the other two, but all the same, this was their job. This was small-town America. That alone meant Bedford deserved their help. Dempsey wasn’t so sure.
The Irishman inched up to the elevator shaft and slowly peeked down. The corroded ends of what used to be elevator cables hung in the shaft, and he could see the mangled remains of the elevator car about 30 feet down where the elevator doors to the sublevel had been ripped away. This seemed like the only way down to the sublevel, but no amount of button mashing or security badge scanning would bring that elevator car back up. There were iron ladder rungs driven into the walls of the shaft for maintenance and emergencies, and the ones Dempsey could see clearly looked only slightly corroded.
He sighed and started carefully descending the shaft. He was careful to test every rung before putting his full weight on it. Seeing the Irishman disappear into the depths, Porter followed, and Atwood brought up the rear. The FBI profiler grumbled something about being seriously pissed off if he died in Iowa.
Most of the rungs were still relatively safe, and after a minute or so, all three agents stepped over the landing and out of the shaft on the sublevel. Like the stairwell outside the room above, the air on the sublevel stung their eyes and nasal passages. Beyond the elevator shaft was a wide hallway extending about 200 feet. The concrete floor was littered with the same copper lumps with the same turquoise-patina as they’d found on the floor above, and it looked as if handfuls of rust had been scattered about.
A large steel door at the end of the hall was closed and fully intact. Two bodies were slumped below it. They seemed to have suffered the same fate as the man in the stairwell. A camera in the ceiling at the end of the hall was positioned to capture anything that occurred between the elevator and the door. There was also a panel and computer screen to each side of the door. Porter said they were designed for synchronized handprint and iris scans.
Dempsey gave the camera the same single-fingered salute he’d given Atwood earlier when he had a terrifying realization. Apparently, Porter had had the same realization, because the NSA man spoke barely above a whisper.
“Anything seem off about this door to you two?”
The Irishman nodded.
“You mean the fact that it’s still intact? Yeah. But how?”
Atwood gave voice to the suspicions the other two had already formed. Someone on the other side had let it through.
Dempsey shivered. He then glared at the camera before picking up one of the blue-skinned corpses.
“Right. I’ll get Brainy, here. Atwood, you get Jokey. Let’s muppet these bastards and get the door open. Then we can execute Papa Smurf and get the hell out of here.”
Atwood lifted the other corpse while Porter aimed his gun at the door. Sulfuric acid poisoning, or whatever, at least their hands and eyes still worked. The steel doors slid open. The room on the other side was an odd mix of chemistry lab and surgery room. In the center was a wooden podium with a scroll of some sort clipped to the flat surface and blood-covered pottery shards littering the base.
On the right-hand side of the room, a large black man – Kellan Dunn – lied face down on a steel operating table. His wrists and ankles were held by steel restraining cuffs, and he was naked from the waist up. The flesh of his back had been peeled open, and his spine was visible. He was conscious and not sedated, but he was handling the pain remarkably well. A middle-aged man in a white lab coat stood over Mr. Dunn, and he had just finished injecting something into the man's spine with a nasty-looking syringe.
The only other exit from the room was a single steel door to the left-hand side. It had been ripped from its frame in the same manner as the others, and the agents could see a long, dimly lit tunnel beyond.
Porter stepped into the room with his gun pointed directly at the doctor’s face. Dempsey followed next and aimed his weapon at the man on the table. Atwood stepped in last, dropped his gun, and turned to vomit.
The doctor dropped the syringe and raised his hands.
“Wait, wait! Don’t shoot! It’s not us you should be worried about.”
Kellan Dunn lifted his head enough to scan the room with glazed over eyes that didn't seem to focus before he dropped it back to the steel operating table. Porter growled. He wanted to shoot someone, but now he got to sit through the whole “villain giving away the evil plan because the heroes are too late” cliché instead. At least it would buy time for Atwood to recover. Dunn was strapped down with his spine showing, but they just might need all three guns for this.
“I’m guessing you’re Dr. Brian Cherry? Okay, doc. What should we be worried about instead?”
Dr. Cherry’s leisurely speaking pace contrasted sharply with the urgency of his words. He nodded his head toward the tunnel.
"What you should be worried about went that way. The tunnel lets out on the far side of the HelpLink parking lot."
“Yeah? And we should believe you … why? Tell me why you’re not blue, doc.”
“You’re down here, so you must have some idea why. My associate here needs me, so that thing he called – the thing you should be worried about – let me be.”
Atwood, who had recovered, felt Dr. Cherry's blasé demeanor despite the guns and the open-back surgery in progress indicated a psychological blockage, as though the doctor was suppressing recent trauma or stress by being overly-cold and logical. Much like Atwood himself was doing, actually. Doctor Cherry continued in his same calm tone and leisurely pace.
"You should take a look at the scroll on the podium. It's fascinating reading ... not that there's anything you can do to stop the thing now. It's discharged its duty, and now it collects payment."
Whatever that meant, it sounded bad. Porter was about to press for more details when Dempsey let loose a string of expletives in a heavy Irish brogue. The other two agents jumped at the sudden outburst, but Dr. Cherry hardly blinked.
The Irishman called attention to Dunn and the operating table. The surgical steel restraints and operating table were rusting. Surgical steel was extremely resistant to corrosion and rust, and yet they were rusting. The source seemed to be the man on the operating table, the man whose opened back and exposed spine were healing.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:51 pm UTC
The Bedford Project – Session 4, Part 2
Dempsey fired two rounds, and almost immediately, half of the back of Dunn's head exploded like an egg with a spongy black yolk. The agents froze momentarily. Two rounds from Dempsey’s gun should have killed Dunn, but they shouldn’t have caused his head to explode. Ignoring that fact for the moment, Dunn’s brain should most definitely not have been a spongy black.
As the chunks of brain-mass spattered across Dr. Cherry's face, he hit the ground with a blood-curdling scream. The man frantically clawed at his face in a futile attempt to clear it. That wasn’t quite good enough for Porter. The NSA spook kept his gun trained on the fallen doctor.
Dunn's body went limp and motionless on the still-rusting table. His restraints were now little more than red dust. His wounds still seemed to be healing slowly, so Dempsey took the opportunity to toss one of his special explosive “Irish Coffee” devices into the opening in Dunn’s back before it healed completely. There’s no way that body should be healing like that, and he was sure there was no way it would heal completely … or so he told himself. All the same, it was far better to be safe.
While the Irishman handled Dunn and Porter had Cherry covered, Atwood stepped forward to interrogate the doctor. First, he dropped a towel on Cherry’s head and set a gallon jug of distilled water next to him. It could be tough to get anything useful out of a man whose face was literally melting. Doctor Cherry furiously mopped the black brain-mass from his face and took slow deep breaths to calm himself. Though he’d never say it, Porter admired the man’s ability to withstand pain and remain in control.
Once his face was relatively clear of the acid, Dr. Cherry looked up from the floor and spoke between gasping breaths.
"Look ... I don't know who you are ... or what you want, but ... you just cost me one hell of a steady paycheck. You let me gather my research, and cover me while I get to my car, and I can promise you I'll make it worth your while. I have a few off-shore accounts. How does $5 million each sound? Just to walk away from this. I'll disappear again. Win-win, right?"
Despite the gravity of his situation, the doctor honestly seemed to believe he had the upper hand. Atwood laughed, but the other two agents appeared to consider the offer. Porter was close to retirement anyway; he had another year or two left with the NSA at most, and he wanted to be done with this sort of work for good. And Dempsey … hell, give the Irishman $5 million, and he might almost be willing to trade his Bushmills for Jack Daniels for life. Well, ten years. Actually, make that a year, minus special occasions like his birthday, his mother’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday, and Christmas. Okay, never mind all that. Give him the $5 million, and he’d have a shot of Jack as long as no one was looking.
“You guys can’t seriously be considering …”
Atwood was in disbelief which was odd because he was a professionally trained psychologist. It must have been his young idealism or the fact that no one in the FBI had cause to throw him under the bus for purely selfish or political reasons yet. Either way, both men answered his unfinished question with shrugs. Atwood growled, and Porter rolled his eyes.
“Okay. Fine, kid, but you owe me $5 million. And him, too.”
The Irishman shrugged again and turned his gun on Dr. Cherry who snarled in disgust as he stood up slowly to keep his knees from shaking.
“If you're going after that thing Dunn called down, you can shoot me now. Whatever your plan is, you'll only piss it off. You'd need a bomb capable of leveling a building to have a chance. You might as well let it collect its payment and leave. The beast did its job, and Dunn offered it the town of Bedford; 1,500 souls. You'd be fools to step in the way of that."
He collected a black leather briefcase from a cabinet beneath one of the counters, carefully skirted the black foam on the floor, and headed toward the podium. Porter stopped him with a shout.
“You’d best stop, doc. If I’m not getting my $5 million, you’re not getting to keep that scroll or that briefcase. If you want out of here alive, tell me just what the hell you’re doing in this town.”
Cherry sighed and turned back to face the agents. His eyes darted toward the body on the rusting steel table and back, but if any of the agents noticed, they didn’t turn to look. His voice was still warm, proud, and even excited. He hardly even seemed to notice the deep burns on his face.
"My research has made great strides in recent years. I've been able to cause beneficial genetic mutations with a series of ten weekly injections. One young lady, I injected with a mutagen derived from various bee species, and the results were better than I could have hoped! She can influence and direct everyone in this town! It's exactly what Dunn wanted, and DARPA was paying handsomely for the process. Can you imagine the battlefield potential? Soldiers silently following wordless orders? Covert agents leaving invisible trails and messages? It's pure genius if I do say so myself!”
Porter made a hand gesture indicating the doctor should wrap it up. What he had to say was important, but at the moment, there was supposedly a creature from some deep ring of Hell heading out to catch the tail end of the Bulldogs’ homecoming game.
"Well, anyway ... Dunn wanted to test my research for himself, and he said he had access to a creature of unbelievable power and ability. The only catch was that he wouldn't be available for ten weekly injections; it had to come all at once. That meant the injection had to go directly into his spine, and it had to be pure. The thing he called was terrible, but it obeyed him. He got the material I needed, and he sent it to collect its payment while I prepared the injection."
Porter wanted to pull the trigger, but two things stopped him. First, Atwood stepped in the way and began handcuffing the doctor, and second, there was another string of expletives in Irish brogue which culminated in a single word: “Run!”
The Irishman fled down the hall toward the exit Dr. Cherry had mentioned, and when Porter saw why Dempsey had shouted, he fled, too. Atwood was a little preoccupied, and he was really tiring of Dempsey. It wasn’t until the shadow settled over him and Dr. Cherry laughed manically that Atwood knew it was too late. The table had utterly rusted, Dunn’s wounds had healed, and he was different. His eyes were a shiny black, and his skin was somehow even darker. Even worse, an irritating and acidic aura seemed to radiate from him.
Atwood’s eyes watered and his nasal passages burned. He wanted to run, but he was dizzy. Anything more than the slightest and slowest twitch might cause him to vomit or lose his balance. His knees were weakening, and Dr. Cherry’s coughing laughter sounded miles away. The FBI profiler was starting to lose consciousness. He fell to his knees and then slumped onto his side on the cold concrete. He wanted to run, but he couldn’t even crawl. He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t even whimper.
As Porter and Dempsey ran, the Irishman counted. After a ten-count, he pressed the little red button in his hand. Neither man broke stride, instead following the words of the angel to Lot as he fled Sodom: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee.” They prayed Atwood had made it out.
Only, Atwood hadn’t made it out. The FBI profiler was struggling to stay awake while the Thing-That-Had-Been-Dunn towered over him. Without bending, it reached down to him. Its arm elongated impossibly, and just before it grabbed Atwood … eight … nine … ten!
Dempsey’s “Irish Coffee” bomb splattered the creature to all corners of the room. That was it. Even the shrapnel and acid weren’t enough to keep Atwood awake. In his final moment of consciousness, he could just barely hear Dr. Cherry laughing through the ringing in his ears, and he could taste metal.
The concrete tunnel was about 150 yards of acidic air and flickering florescent lighting. About halfway down the tunnel was another breached security checkpoint complete with unhinged and rusting doors, scattered rust and oxidized copper, and two blueish-skinned corpses. At the end of the tunnel were two more dead security guards with the usual signs of a failed gunfight. The bodies were slumped against the wall opposite a rusted mine shaft elevator. It was in rough shape, but it appeared operational.
Dempsey had a few reservations about using what was essentially just a rusted grate, corroded cables, and a pulley. Porter had even stronger reservations about heading back the way they came, so up they went. The elevator control was nothing more than three buttons on a box; one for each direction and one to stop.
The elevator creaked, and the gears ground, but it was apparent whoever had it installed wanted the best quality. Despite the sounds and a few stuttered jerks, the elevator ride was otherwise smooth. It came to a halt at the top to reveal an eight-foot square hole in the landing where a grated floor had rusted away. A steel door had been ripped from its hinges, and it bridged the gap. On the other side of the door-covered hole, the floor was concrete, and there were two more corpses who appeared to have been taken completely by surprise.
The air at the top was fresh, and the night sky could be seen through the open doorway. The storm clouds had dispersed. The small concrete building leading to the elevator was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire, but a sizable hole had rusted away.
Porter and Dempsey paused for a moment and took deep breaths to clear their lungs and nasal passages. The Irishman looked back toward the elevator, but he didn’t have to speak. Porter was thinking the same thing. Atwood wasn’t going to make it. If they made it out of this town alive, they’d have a drink or two in his honor and then another drink or two for good measure.
The men could hear the sounds of whistles and cheering in the distance. That was a good sign, right? That meant the thing hadn’t collected its payment yet. All the same, Porter wasn’t confident, and his words implied as much.
“You know we can’t take that thing, right?”
“Aye. But we can’t just not try.”
“Maybe – and hear me out on this ‘cause I hate myself for thinking it – maybe we can just not try. Not saying those people don’t deserve to be saved, but there’s nothing we can do besides throwing ourselves at it.”
The Irishman frowned, but he nodded in agreement. Porter swallowed hard before he continued. Yeah, he didn’t like what he was thinking.
“It’ll probably all be over before we get there anyway. Maybe we just … you know, maybe we go the other way. We grab that chemical truck and ride it on the rims nice and slow. Not our fault we didn’t make it in time, right? Hell, we tried our best.”
Dempsey was quiet and solemn. He didn’t like the plan, but it made sense. And the NSA spook had an air of experience about him that lent strength to the idea. The agents headed around the HelpLink building to Porter’s rental car.
They sat in silence all the way out IA-2 until they reached the Brewster Pesticide truck. Both men knew the play, and neither felt particularly like discussing it until they had to. Dempsey would take the truck, and Porter would follow at a safe distance.
The pesticide truck’s engine fired right up, but rolling on six flat tires slowed things down. The Irishman didn’t particularly care about ruining the wheels or the road, but the last thing he wanted was a rollover in a 500-gallon chemical weapon. Still, if he had to go out, there were probably worse ways. Hell, for all he knew, this might be his origin story, and he could come out of the rollover with super powers.
The drive back to Bedford was tense for both agents. While saving an entire town would be great, neither man wanted to get to the game too early.
As they reached town and neared the school, signs of the creature’s passing became more evident. All along Taylor Street leading toward the school, the creature had left a trail of incidental destruction. Cars had partially rusted, and in some cases, this had resulted in tires rolling away like tumbleweeds and gasoline leaking into the gutter. The street was mostly dark; the only light was coming from the moon, the stadium lights of the football field in the distance, and a few fallen street lights which were still operational but shining at odd angles.
Though he was pale even for an Irishman, and he was driving slowly, Dempsey’s knuckles were whiter than usual as he gripped the steering wheel tighter than his last bottle of Bushmills. It was difficult enough to drive a truck with no tires and full of deadly chemicals in the direction of the last place he wanted to be. Now he had to drive it through an obstacle course.
As Dempsey carefully navigated the debris scattered across Taylor Street, the stadium lights were a beacon in the relative darkness of Bedford. Just across the street from the school, a jet of water was shooting into the air where a fire hydrant used to be. Whatever Dunn had called down, it had made it at least as far as the high school parking lot. Several light posts in the parking lot had fallen, and many cars had been heavily rusted.
The Taylor County Corn Huskers team bus suffered worse than the other vehicles in the parking lot. To initial observation, it appeared the middle of the bus rusted away leaving two halves. The rear half of the bus had tipped forward leaving the rear emergency exit up in the air. The front half of the bus had done the same thanks to the weight of the massive engine.
No loud sounds were coming from the stadium; no cheering, no collisions, no whistles, no announcer … no screaming. Maybe it was all over? But the scoreboard indicated the Bedford Bulldogs were leading the visiting team by a score of 77 – 3 with 3:13 still left to play in the 4th quarter.
Porter pulled his rental car up next to the truck. The trail of rust and corrosion led straight to the stadium, and the turnstiles had rusted away, but there didn’t appear to be any bodies in the parking lot. Dempsey thought maybe that meant the thing had hit fast and taken everyone by surprise, but Porter pointed out the kid checking tickets at the gate and the people running the concession stand were gone. There didn’t appear to be anyone up in the announcer’s booth either.
The bee girl, then? Cherry had mentioned she could influence and direct everyone in town. Maybe she called everyone together and had them sit quietly while the thing ate? The thought sent shivers down their spines, but they agreed it was likely. Well, just as long as it was gone …
The parking lot side of the field was lined with a concrete structure for the home team’s fans. It was this structure which, until the turnstiles had rusted and corroded away, had guarded the entrance to the stadium. Metal bleachers for the visiting team’s fans lined the other side. Behind the west end zone was the field house with the announcer’s booth above it, and beyond that was the rest of the Bedford High School campus. Beyond the east end zone was a grass field and Madison Street. The entire stadium was enclosed by a chain-link fence.
Now came the tricky part. The truck had to get on the field. The only way that was going to happen was for Dempsey to take it around to Madison Street, and then drive it through the field and the fence. While he was getting into position, Porter would enter on foot. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the stadium, but someone had to be there in case the Irishman couldn’t finish the job.
Both men nodded respectfully at each other, and Dempsey threw the truck in gear. The wheels cried under the strain as he moved into position.
Porter crossed the parking lot quickly until he reached the turnstiles. No bodies, no sounds. As he moved slowly out of the tunnel and onto the track around the field, he became aware of a crunching sound under his feet. There were no cheerleaders in front of the stands, but right where they should have been were hundreds of dead bees; maybe even thousands. The NSA spook turned quickly on his heel - grinding a dozen or so bees to a pulp in the process - and aimed his gun up into the concrete structure. He didn’t bother to count the blue-skinned bodies littering the stands, but if it turned out to be the same number as the population the “Welcome to Bedford” sign boasted, he wouldn’t be surprised. It sure as hell looked like it could be 1,406.
Porter gave a beckoning wave, and Dempsey threw the truck in drive. He managed to gain enough momentum through the field to roll over the thin metal fence surrounding the stadium, and he was able to maintain it enough to get through the other fence around the field.
The Irishman let the truck come to a rest at midfield on the home team side. To his right, he could see a pile of blue-skinned athletes and referees, and beyond that, metal bleachers with more bodies draped about. To his left, he could see the bodies in the stands of the concrete structure and Porter waving. Between Porter and the stands, he could also make out what seemed to be a dense, roiling fog of pale yellowish-pink seeping out of the stands and staying low to the ground. He jumped out of the truck and shouted for Porter to run.
That was the last thought he could spare for the NSA man for now. He had a job to do. Running around to the back of the truck, Dempsey began disabling all the fail-safes and planting explosive charges. They couldn’t kill whatever that thing was, but if all went according to plan, they could at least make it look like domestic terrorism rather than cosmic horror.
Porter didn’t even bother to look. He just ran. He ran out onto the field toward the truck and met up with Dempsey. Then both men ran toward the visiting team’s bleachers. The idea was to keep the truck between them and the thing. Then, when the creature was close enough to the truck, Dempsey would hit the button on the remote detonator. The explosives would open the tank and release the chemicals which the agents hoped would at least make the thing think better of remaining in Bedford.
They made it to the visiting team’s sideline and turned to wait. They could see the fog rolling onto the field. They watched as it closed in on the truck. Dempsey hit the button.
Nothing. He hit the button again, and still nothing. He hit it frantically several more times and still nothing.
Porter closed his eyes and took a deep, slow breath. He knew what he had to do. He knew he had to be the one. Of the two remaining agents, he was the older man, and he was the American. He loved his country as much as he hated his job. There was only one way this ended.
He gave the Irishman a nod and a tired smile before running full speed back to the truck. Back to the thing that killed Bedford. Dempsey let him go. Porter was a good man. He’d be sure to drink twice as much in his memory as he would in Atwood’s.
Dunn’s creature roiled beneath the truck as it seemed to wait for the fresh soul. It was futile, he knew, but Porter instinctively took a deep breath and covered his face with his shirt as he reached the truck. The thick fog seeped out and engulfed his feet. He felt the burn, and even though he held his breath, Porter felt the sting in his eyes and nasal passages. He felt his throat tighten around his swelling tongue. Any moment now, his stomach would turn black and force its contents up that tightened throat, but there would be nowhere for it to go. He would choke as the stomach acid forced its way up and out anywhere it could – eyes, ears, nose, mouth; he could feel it happening already. It would come out with explosive force, so he had to move fast.
Through blurred and stinging vision, he found the detonator. His knees were giving out, and he thought briefly that he could feel his soul being drawn out through his pores. He wanted to give Dempsey one final salute, but his knees buckled. On his way down, he slapped desperately for the button. A series of small detonations told him he had succeeded. He never felt his blue-skinned head hit the grass.
Dempsey saw the truck blow, and then he ran. He wasn’t much for quantum physics, but he’d heard of a guy and his friend Catherine. If he never turned to look, he’d never have to know. As he ran north down Madison Street, he heard the horn from the stadium indicating time had expired. Only in America could the home team be outscored by more than 1,400 and still call it a win.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:04 am UTC
Update: The Roll20 group has been assembled! Actually, it's been cobbled together from the remnants of my Alaska and Kentucky tabletop groups. Still, the result is the same.
Character creation and schedule arrangement will get rolling soon, and the first Roll20 session is set for two weeks from now, Sunday, August 26th. That means updates to this AP will begin shortly thereafter.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:36 pm UTC
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:05 pm UTC
Yeah. That place looks far to clean to be legit. It's interesting, too, how that place is supposedly based in Denver, and the very first Opera in this AP ended with a quick stop at the Denver green box. That, and the end of Session 4 of Fuel of the Gods
featured a second green box in the Denver area. I wouldn't recommend storing anything there.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:28 am UTC
Gotta love scheduling difficulties before the first game with new players. We managed to put a session together Sunday with two of the new players; one character started as Delta Green, and the other did not. Dempsey's player was on a fishing vacation, but he should be back next session.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:29 am UTC
Let’s Learn Aklo
According to numerous studies, speaking two languages fluently has a profoundly positive effect on cognitive skills and health. How much smarter and healthier, then, might someone be if he or she spoke several languages fluently? If Dolf de Jaager is any indication, the answer is simple: Very. The Dutch American linguist was a software engineer for the U.S. State Department who not only spoke several languages fluently but also designed translation software. He was also an extraordinarily brilliant man by all accounts. Even the other members of The Collar Club, a group of people who call themselves furries and wear anthropomorphic animal costumes, would unanimously agree, Dolf was by far the smartest of their number.
Dolf was intensely curious and inquisitive by nature. He was never one to let a mystery go unsolved, and the FedEx package he found on his doorstep one Saturday morning in December provided exactly such a mystery. The sender’s address indicated, in his own handwriting, that he had sent it from the Old First Ward Community Center in Buffalo, NY. That was plausible since he lived in Lewiston, about a half-hour drive north of Buffalo, but he had no recollection of having sent the package or ever going to the Community Center. Neither did Leah, his significant other.
As it was a weekend, and this was an unusual occurrence, to say the least, Dolf brought the package inside and took it upstairs to his home office. He opened the box with a pocket knife from a desk drawer. The contents only served to encourage his curiosity. He found five rewritable compact discs in jewel cases marked sequentially in Sharpie, and the numbers were just as he would write them.
Below the CDs, he found a steno pad with notes in his own handwriting; notes he had no memory of having taken. The written notes appeared to be the sort which a person learning a new language might take; an English phrase on one side and (presumably) the translation on the other side. The notes identified the language as Aklo, but he had never heard of it despite his many years of language studies. He was able to identify specific grammatical patterns, and he felt sure that, given enough time, he could learn to read and write Aklo. As for speaking it … well, maybe that’s what the CDs were for.
Dolf popped the first CD into the optical drive of his computer. The disc contained a single 74-minute .mp3 file which he played. As he suspected, the recording was done in the same format as the written notes; English phrase, translated phrase. It was his voice speaking the words, but he was no longer surprised. He may have had no memory of taking these notes, making these recordings, or mailing this package, but he had had a long night of drinking a few days ago, so … maybe? He didn’t sound drunk on the recording though.
There was an intense blue flash from the tree line outside his office window, but when he looked, he saw nothing. Dolf let the CD play as he retrieved binoculars and his shotgun from the far side of the office. The gun was loaded with birdshot, so it was unlikely to be of much use against anything so far away, but he still felt better with it nearby.
He scanned the trees again, this time with magnification. Still nothing. Whatever it was had gone. He leaned the shotgun against the wall next to the window and returned to his computer. He flipped through the steno pad again. There was a web address written on the last page. It was for a company he’d heard of but never thought much about. The Modern Languages School of America (MLSA) was a correspondence school which taught foreign languages by CD, textbook, and postal exam.
There was no mention of Aklo anywhere in their catalog, but less than an hour ago, someone had started a thread for it on the MLSA forum. The user, MightySkag, posed a question in his initial post: “Anybody else out there interested in learning Aklo?” In the signature portion of his post, MightySkag indicated he also went by the name Heir of Tarzan, and he claimed to have been raised by apes to be the new lord of the jungle. It also stated his location as Buffalo, New York. Dolf created an account and posted a response. He told MightySkag that he, too, was interested in learning Aklo.
Over the next several weeks, Dolf and MightySkag made frequent posts, and a few others joined the thread. They were a varied group, and the only common threads seemed to be that they all lived in or around Buffalo and had received a package from themselves. Only Dolf and MightySkag seemed concerned about that fact. The rest were far too excited about learning this exotic new language.
Dolf had asked a few of his colleagues to look into the identity and background of MightySkag, but it turned out to be unnecessary. One of his coworkers was a big wrestling fan, and he immediately recognized the name. Charlie Skaggs was a professional wrestler based in Buffalo who went by the stage name of the Heir of Tarzan, and he had a match against “Savage” Sammy Sutton coming up. Dolf decided to attend.
The fans were rabid in their excitement, but Dolf paid no attention to them. He was there for Charlie Skaggs. It was easy to see how Skaggs could use a ring name like the Heir of Tarzan. The man was big and built, he was of mixed white and African American descent, and when he climbed the turnbuckle, he could almost fly.
The match didn’t last long. After a brief back and forth to work the crowd up, the Heir of Tarzan sent “Savage” Sammy Sutton running across the ring. As Sammy rebounded and ran back, the Heir of Tarzan had made his ascent. He dove at his opponent, and his shoulder made solid contact. Sammy’s head whipped back. The man was unconscious, but it took a moment for his legs to get the message. The Heir of Tarzan took a knee in a prelude to the pin.
Dolf shouted “Go, Charlie” in Aklo, and that got the wrestler’s attention. The Heir of Tarzan pointed straight at him with a grin and a wink before pinning the comatose Sammy. The next match was between a 700-pound giant named Girth and a much smaller man in a gimp mask known as King Pain. Dolf wasn’t interested, but he held his position.
Once Charlie had cleaned up, he made his way through the crowd to where Dolf was waiting. The two men discussed Aklo briefly, and Charlie admitted he had seen a blue flash as well. They exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and then Dolf squeezed through the crowd on his way out.
The next six weeks passed about the same as the previous five had. The Aklo group on the AMLA forum was up to eight members, and they were all quite active. What the group lacked in numbers, they made up for with enthusiasm.
Winter was coming to an end, and the early-March weather promised great things for the spring. For the Aklo group, these great things were also heralded by a call to meet. Group member Willie Adams, a widower who had retired from both the Air Force and his own small business, proposed the idea on the forum. He would reserve a conference room at the Old First Ward Community Center in Buffalo, NY, and they could practice speaking for a bit before recording themselves for their postal exam. The other members thought that sounded delightful. Only Charlie and Dolf seemed to notice that was the same community center from which they had mailed themselves the packages in the first place, but even they weren’t deterred. This new language was far too fascinating.
Dolf had shared very little new information with the group over the past eleven months; he instead pretended to participate by parroting ideas others had previously put forth. He had noticed language markers linking Aklo to many otherwise-unrelated languages, and he guessed it must be some sort of precursor; an ancient ancestor of most – if not all – other languages. If he was correct, Aklo could provide the U.S. with something similar to a universal communicator.
Of course, he had another theory: It was possibly a nearly-impenetrable code, and this was all a test being administered by the Illuminati. If that was the case, he wanted to be the one to crack it. He wanted to be the first kid to decipher the Ovaltine Message of the Week with his decoder ring. When the doors to the chocolate factory were opened, he wanted to be sure he had his golden ticket. No way in Heaven or Hell was someone going to learn this Aklo stuff before he did.
There was more Dolf hadn’t shared with the group. He had written a program to search the internet for any mention of Aklo. Despite the fact he routed his encrypted signal through several proxy servers around the world, this immediately tripped several red flags in Delta Green computers and put him on a watch list, but he had no way of knowing that.
The program also turned up just what he was looking for. One particular website dedicated to Asian pornography had several mentions of the language in a members-only VIP section, but they were all old enough to have been archived. No way was he putting membership on his credit card, so he bought a refillable gift card.
Once he had access, he found every instance of the word. In every case, it was associated with some combination of the same twelve actors and actresses. They were some type of Asian, he was sure, but just specific ethnicity, Dolf had no idea. From the context, Aklo seemed to be their language, or at least, one of them. One of the actors had an Aklo phrase tattooed on his upper arm. It said, “Go, Bulls!”
Dolf packed up his laptop and the package he’d mailed himself, and he set out for Buffalo. He wanted to arrive early so he could have time to get coffee somewhere in case none was provided. He was the first to arrive, but the room was already prepared. Several folding tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape, and Dolf chose a spot on one end with his back to the entrance. He would still be able to see the entire room thanks to a large mirror directly opposite his seat.
Charlie was the next to arrive, Dolf greeted him. As others began to file in, Dolf saw the blue flash again. This time, he got a good look. It was bright, but it was vaguely humanoid. It was on the roof of the office supply store across the street. Rather than call attention, he excused himself and made his way to the store. The employees were busy preparing to close, so they paid him little attention. No one seemed to notice as he slipped through the door to the stairwell at the back. He headed up the stairs and out onto the roof.
Nothing. Just an empty roof, a low wall around the perimeter, and an industrial air conditioning unit … which was just large enough for a person to use as cover. He readied his camera to capture video, snuck quietly toward the air conditioner, hit record, and whipped around. Dolf came face to (probably) face with what appeared to be a crouching man, except the man was made of bright, blue light.
In fact, he could see through the man if he tried, but it hurt his eyes to look directly at the man for too long. Not that the man gave him much chance. The blue figure was utterly motionless for a full ten seconds or so after Dolf popped around the corner, and then, in what seemed to be a much-delayed reaction, it ran for the wall. Tracers created a disorienting effect on Dolf, but he watched as the thing jumped from the roof to a tree much farther away than the software engineer would be comfortable jumping to.
Instead, he made his way back down the stairs, into the store, and then out of the store as quickly and inconspicuously as he could. Once outside, he was unable to locate the figure. He returned to the conference room to find the rest of the group enthusiastically making their recordings on their laptop computers.
Dolf took his seat and watched the video on his phone in slow motion. There were a few frames where the features of the blue figure were clear enough to make out. It bore a strong resemblance to one of the group members across from him; a former Navy SEAL named Anthony Hash. Dolf suppressed a shudder and emailed the video to his work address before deleting it from his phone. He then began his recordings for the postal exam.
It wasn’t long, however, before he saw the blue figure again. This time, he saw the reflection in the large mirror as the figure passed by the open doorway. The rest of the group was too engrossed in their work to notice anything else. The software engineer paused his recording and went to the lobby. There was no sign of the blue figure, but Dolf was sure it couldn’t have gone far.
As the software engineer nosed around the lobby and other two conference rooms, he heard a crash of glass followed by shouts coming from the direction of the Aklo group’s room. He rushed to see what the commotion was all about, and he was horrified to find out. Tables were overturned, laptops where smashed, and the big mirror on the far wall had shattered. Worse still, a few of the group members had retrieved particularly jagged shards of the mirror and appeared to be engaging in a rumble like something straight out of the West Side Story. Fortunately, there was a little less dancing.
Charlie Skaggs held his arms high over his head and roared at Lois, a 15-year-old Hmong girl who had been the last to join the group. Lois was frothing at the mouth and making threatening gestures with a shard of the mirror. The Heir of Tarzan grabbed another group member, Buffalo University Linguistics Professor Mabel Lively by the bun of her hair and yanked her back. He then lifted the woman effortlessly over his head and tossed her at the Hmong girl. Professor Lively was impaled on the mirror shard, and the girl was knocked unconscious. Another quick motion and Skaggs had snapped the girl’s neck.
Dolf fled outside and called the police. The local first-responders arrived a few minutes later, but by that time, there was no one left alive in the conference room. The only survivors were Dolf and a security guard who had put Charlie down. It also appeared the former Navy SEAL, Hash, had disappeared. Dolf gave his statement to the police, and they asked him not to leave the scene for the time being.
Only a few miles away, DEA Special Agent Carl Clark was enjoying a visit with his cousin. Clark was from Virginia, and he was on vacation. Of course, he was also Delta Green, which meant he was never truly on vacation. His cousin was in the kitchen ordering a pizza for dinner, so Clark had taken the opportunity to check his email. As he was clearing his spam folder, a window popped up on the screen of his laptop. Clark knew his way around computers, and he had taken every precaution necessary to block that sort of thing. This pop up could only mean one thing: an Opera.
The message was nothing more than a television channel and a phone number. His cousin didn’t have a television, so Clark brought up the station’s live feed on his laptop. There was a press conference in progress, and Police Captain James Kerr was relating the known facts. A language studies group had reserved a conference room at the Old First Ward Community Center. There were multiple deaths. He could not comment just yet on numbers, causes, identities, terrorism, or anything else until a proper investigation had commenced and next-of-kin were notified.
Great. Some nerds got together, and things went pear-shaped. It was possible the Program would only need him to cover the bases and make sure nothing supernatural needed to be covered up, but it was much more likely they had a good reason to believe a cover-up was necessary.
He called the number. The number wasn’t familiar, but the voice on the other end was. It was his handler, a man he knew only as Agent Voss. After confirming that he had seen the news, Clark asked what it had to do with him. He was on vacation. Voss told him an informant on the scene, a firefighter named Sam Misner, had reported a possibly paranormal event. Clark was the only person with Delta Green clearance in the area, and so it fell to him to investigate. He was to survey the crime scene and conceal or destroy any evidence of the paranormal.
There was one known survivor who had recently tripped red flags in Program databases, a State Department software engineer named Dolf de Jaager. So far, de Jaager was not considered a threat, but his interests were suspicious and merited monitoring. He may be a potential recruit, or he may need to be put down.
Clark told his cousin he was going on a beer run and would be back shortly. He then made his way to the community center. Once on scene, he flashed his DEA credentials to the officer guarding the entrance. The officer nodded and stepped aside with only a caution that Clark should not disturb the crime scene while the investigation was in progress.
The conference room was a bloody mess. The bodies had been removed, but there were masking tape outlines and numbered A-frame evidence markers to show where each had fallen. Clark looked around but didn’t see anything unnatural at first; not until he saw sunlight in a large mirror shard. He took a knee and picked up the shard. It was definitely from a mirror, but no matter which direction he turned it, the reflection never moved. It was well past 10:00 PM, and yet the piece of mirror seemed to reflect the room at a point during the day. That was strange, but whatever. He figured the less he knew, the better.
He couldn’t let the Buffalo Police collect any of the shards, though; at least not any which were big enough for anyone to realize they weren’t quite right. He also couldn’t let them catch him disposing of them, but at the moment, the only other person who could see him was the guy Delta Green has told him to watch. As casually as he could, Clark began to break mirror shards into smaller pieces.
He then interviewed de Jaager. The software engineer gave a faithful recounting of the past twelve weeks, omitting only the parts about the glowing blue man. Like Charlie and Dolf, Clark also thought the FedEx packages sounded unusual. Still, de Jaager seemed relatively harmless for the time being, so Clark wrapped up his interview and investigation.
He placed a call to his handler and gave his report. Evidence had been contained, and de Jaager didn’t appear to be a threat. Voss instructed Clark to maintain a watch on de Jaager over the next few weeks. If the software engineer kept quiet about the event and still seemed harmless, Clark should make a recruitment pitch. In most cases, someone in de Jaager’s position would be allowed to remain oblivious if he could stay quiet, and he would disappear or be discredited if not. In this case, de Jaager was the only survivor of a group which had studied Aklo, a language the Program knew to be supernatural. He would be a strong asset.
Clark agreed, but he wasn’t doing anything further tonight. Tonight, he was on vacation. Tonight was for pizza, beer, and family.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:31 am UTC
Reverberations – Session 1
Clark watched de Jaager for about a month before determining the software engineer would be a good fit for the Program. The experience at the community center had unnerved de Jaager, but he handled it well. He had refused interviews with local and national media outlets, and he said nothing of the incident to coworkers or his significant other, Leah. He also refused to forget what had happened. Instead, de Jaager had continued his study of Aklo and was making progress. Either that burning need for understanding would make him a fine asset for Delta Green, or it would be his downfall. Probably both.
Clark had never given the Delta Green sales pitch, but de Jaager made it easy. There was a Special Access Program with black budget funding and a mandate to defend the United States against just the sort of thing which had happened to him? Where did he sign? There was nowhere to sign. In fact, there was to be no written record of the Program at all. Special access, and all that.
Dolf felt that was all he needed to know. Well, that and the secret handshake. Clark knew there was no secret handshake, but that didn’t stop him from teaching one to de Jaager. It closely resembled a game of Patty Cake with a thumb wrestling element near the end. For his part, de Jaager was sure Clark was messing with him, but he wanted to see how far the DEA man would take it.
That handshake was the last contact the two men had for the next two months. It was early June when Dolf got his first call. He was to attend a briefing in Albany, New York the following day.
He arrived at the ordinary, three-story office building about a half-hour early and sat in his car to drink his coffee and watch the people. A steady stream of people in suits arrived for what appeared to be just another day at the office. He didn’t see Clark in the crowd, but one man did stand out.
Damn, did he stand out. While everyone else was dressed for office work in midsummer New York, this guy was wearing a wool jacket and cap. The man was almost pale enough to hurt Dolf’s eyes from across the street.
With no Clark in sight and briefing time approaching, de Jaager headed into the building and found the room. Everything about the building screamed generic office building, and the briefing room was no different. It was an internal room with no windows. There was plenty of seating, a podium, a whiteboard, and a table with coffee and hot water for tea. The pale man nodded and introduced himself as Cualin Dempsey, CIA.
The two men took their seats as another entered. The newcomer was tall and athletic with short hair. He wore a neatly-tailored blue suit.
“The name’s Voss. I’ll be your handler for this Operation. It’s just the two of you for now, but a third will be briefed separately and sent after as soon as he’s cleared. I’ll get straight to the point: Reverb. The DEA is investigating a network of otherwise unrelated gangs engaged in smuggling and drugs. DEA auditors reconstructed some of the network’s financial books from interviews and uncovered financial records. This audit found a disturbing pattern of mid-level ‘employees’ – dealers – vanishing without a trace. A common factor seems to be involvement with a hallucinogen called Reverb, but this drug doesn’t seem to be a part of the network’s activities. We don’t know if these dealers are all in hiding, or if the organization is cleaning house.”
Dolf was new to all this, so he sat quietly and listened. Not Dempsey. The Irishman interrupted the briefing several times to ask questions which Dolf was sure Voss would have gotten to in time. Did the Program care about some drug dealers in … Where were they going? Chicago, and no. The drug dealers themselves weren’t the focus; they were the catalyst and the lead. Then, the Program wanted them to get a hold of some of this Reverb for sampling? Yes, and no. Program chemists had no samples of the new Reverb for analysis, but they might be able to confirm if it bears any relation to the original.
Original? Dempsey was lost, but Voss assured him that if he’d only sit back, shut up, and listen, he would be fine. In the 1990s, Reverb was connected with Chicago Tcho-Tcho street gangs. The Tcho-Tchos, Dolf explained, were a people from somewhere in Southeast Asia. He didn’t know much other than what he had been able to piece together from his research on Aklo, but the impression he got was that they were bad news. Voss confirmed Dolf’s impression.
“The Tcho-Tchos are a corrupted people. Don’t trust them. As for Reverb, it didn’t just get people high. It exposed them to unnatural forces. Your assignment is to confirm whether this new Reverb has unnatural effects, find the source, and cut off the supply. DEA Spec Ops Agent Carl Clark is currently on assignment, but he is being pulled. He will meet up with you as soon as possible. Clark will be your contact with the DEA in general and the DEA auditor specifically. Mr. de Jaager, you are vital to this Operation due to your knowledge and understanding of the Tcho-Tcho language. Mr. Dempsey, you are being assigned for your … rather unique set of skills. The two of you and Agent Clark are being designated Task Force 138. You’ll likely be working closely with each other on future Operations.”
Voss slid a Visa card out toward the agents, and Dempsey quickly grabbed it. The card had a limit of $5,000.00. If more was needed, Voss might be able to get additional funding. Flight, rental car, and hotel reservations had already been made.
To no one’s surprise, Dempsey had a few questions. Voss had short answers.
“First class tickets?”
“Are we getting a BMW?”
“No. A Jeep Cherokee. You will be moving around some of the shadier parts of Chicago, and you’ll be expected to keep your rental from being stolen or stripped.”
“Okay. That makes sense. Are we in the Ritz-Carlton or the Waldorf Astoria?”
“Neither. You have a single room with two beds and a foldout couch at a Motel 6.”
Dempsey glanced at the Visa and then looked over to de Jaager with a wink. Dolf shrugged.
With the briefing concluded, the two men headed for the airport. On the way, they discussed their qualifications and their strategy. Anything shady and drug-related, Dempsey would handle. If the Irishman didn’t get them all killed, Dolf would handle the Tcho-Tchos. It was foolproof!
So, where did they start? Dempsey said the best way to find a new drug on the street was to find a source of marijuana. Once they’d bought enough, the dealer would open up about other opportunities. What they didn’t use themselves, they could use to bribe the drug users they would need to interview.
Dolf was a little skeptical, but the Irishman seemed to think he knew what he was talking about. In that case, the question was still the same. Where did they start? The first combination tanning salon/laundromat they could find. All the best drugs came from tanning salon/laundromats.
Task Force 138 landed at Chicago O’Hare a little before noon. Dempsey took the opportunity to mention how nice it was to see an Irishman’s name attached to the busiest airport in the world, and de Jaager took the opportunity to point out that Butch O’Hare was from St. Louis, and O’Hare was closer to 5th or 6th busiest. Atlanta, Beijing, Dubai … probably Tokyo and Los Angeles, too, were all busier.
The Irishman shrugged and led the way to the rental car counter. Once they’d collected their gear and luggage, they loaded it all into the Jeep Cherokee and headed out. Dolf wanted to drop everything off at the Motel 6, but Dempsey was driving, and he wanted to get to work. They drove around for nearly an hour. They passed by several tanning salons and several more laundromats, each with someone out front who could easily have sold them something illegal. Dempsey was adamant they find a combination tanning salon/laundromat, however. Eventually, they found what they were after: Tan ‘N’ Wash.
It wasn’t the most inviting building, as the bullet-damaged fake brick façade could attest, but it did meet both of Dempsey’s criteria. And the scrawny white kid in the Jim Croce t-shirt out front was their guy. Dolf waited in the Jeep while Dempsey went to make the buy and get some information. The initial marijuana purchase was fast and effortless, and that opened the door for further talk. Dempsey wasted no time asking about Reverb, and that seemed to catch the kid a little off guard.
Dempsey seemed every bit the dumb tourist, so the kid figured he was harmless. He said he didn’t sell anything harder than what Dempsey just bought, but if anyone could point the Irishman in the right direction, it would be High Sally. High Sally didn’t use Reverb as far as the kid knew, but she knew everyone. She could usually be found behind the Salvation Army next to the Tan ‘N’ Wash over on Fulton Street. Dempsey thanked the kid and returned to the Jeep to fill in de Jaager. Another tanning salon/laundromat … Maybe the Irishman did know what he was talking about.
The kid’s directions were excellent. Once they’d found the Tan ‘N’ Wash, Dempsey had no trouble finding High Sally. As before, de Jaager stayed in the Jeep.
Dempsey confirmed that the pale and obviously high woman he was talking to was indeed High Sally, and then he told her the kid at the other Tan ‘N’ Wash had given him her name. He asked if she could point him in the direction of some Reverb, and High Sally said she wasn’t sure if she’d ever heard of that but maybe if she thought about it … or more to the point, maybe if she had a few portraits of U.S. presidents done up in a beautiful monochrome green …?
Dempsey gave her the last $60 in his wallet and the bag of marijuana he’d bought from the kid at the other place. That seemed to help a little. High Sally was now able to remember how Reverb dealers had been going missing lately. She was pretty sure there were a couple who were still around, but just what their names were or where they could be found … Dempsey told her to hold that thought, and he grumbled all the way to the nearest ATM. Then he grumbled all the way back.
When he returned, he gave High Sally another $60. That brought back the names. There was Roofie and Bad Luke. To her knowledge, they hadn’t disappeared. Roofie was Rufus LaRoyal Brown, and Bad Luke was Lucien Riggs. As for where Dempsey might find them … she was trying to remember. Dempsey narrowed his eyes and handed her the rest of the cash he’s pulled from the ATM; $140. Ah, there. That was better. High Sally paraphrased William Blake.
“There, now. It’s like the doors of perception have been cleansed.”
The reference went straight over Dempsey’s head. So, too, did the implication that a druggie in a Salvation Army lot in Chicago might be more widely-read than he was.
He didn’t care. Locations. Did she know where Roofie and Bad Luke were? She did. Roofie had been arrested earlier that morning on charges of heroin possession with intent to sell. Dempsey could look him up at the station down the street. The Irishman briefly contemplated hitting High Sally and taking his money back. Okay, and Bad Luke? Bad Luke was usually at the Tan ‘N’ Wash on Ashland Avenue.
Dempsey thanked High Sally for her time and returned to the Jeep. High Sally thanked Dempsey for his cash and returned to her Hunter S. Thompson novel.
Again, Dempsey related the information he’d learned, but he left out the bit about getting taken for $260. Dolf nodded as he considered the leads. His suggestion was to get lunch, head to the Motel 6, and see just when Agent Clark was going to arrive. If they were going to have a talk with Roofie, a DEA agent would make things a lot easier.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:08 am UTC
This was a short session, but we only had two players, so we got a fair bit done. Next week, we should have three, maybe four. Every time we start a new Operation, I wonder just how badly things will get away from them, and when it might happen. The way I see it, there are several possible pitfalls, and they're equally as likely to hit them or avoid them.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2018 10:38 pm UTC
Reverberations – Session 2
Dolf called Agent Clark and gave a quick, sanitized synopsis of the current Opera and requested assistance. Clark had already been contacted by the Task Force’s handler, Voss, and he had been pulled from his assignment. He was already booked on a flight to Chicago and would be there before dinner time. That was good enough for de Jaager. He and Dempsey had a late lunch, and de Jaager passed the time by researching mentions of Reverb in old news stories.
Once Clark had arrived, de Jaager and Dempsy gave him a more detailed briefing. The next step seemed to be an interview with Roofie, so they made their way to the precinct where the drug dealer was being held. Clark showed his DEA credentials to the officer at the front desk who then called for a Detective Johnson.
Clark and Johnson spoke briefly and reached an agreement. Clark and Dempsey would interview Roofie in Interrogation Room 1 on an unrelated matter, and de Jaager would observe and film the interview from behind the one-way mirror. In exchange for privacy, the agents would gladly turn over any names or leads they gained. Of course, Roofie knew his rights, and so he might not be willing to say anything without his lawyer present, but the DEA agent was confident he could get the dealer to talk freely.
Detective Johnson had Roofie moved to the interrogation room and left the agents to their work. Rufus LaRoyal Brown, aka “Roofie,” was a tall, African American man, but slumped in his chair as he was, he was unintimidating. Clark introduced himself as Agent Plant and was about to introduce Dempsey as Agent Bonham, but the Irishman interrupted with a cover of his own: Tate. Clark shot Dempsey a quick glare. Did he mean Page? Did he not understand that when you choose a cover identity, it should be the name of a rock star?
Agent “Tate” took over the interrogation from there, and he didn’t waste any time before throwing out the word Roofie seemed to feel was coming: Deal. If Roofie answered their questions about Reverb, they would do their level best to get him released.
Not good enough. Roofie sat up straight and leaned forward with his hands folded on the table. An ear to ear grin spread across his face.
“Reverb ain’t illegal. Look, man, they got me in here on heroin charges. Heroin! I don’t mess with that, and they know it. But you. You can get me out of here. You’re the DEA, man. Flash that badge of yours and take jurisdiction. Trust me. Detective Johnson gets off on that sort of thing.”
Dempsey doubled down on his offer. They couldn’t get him released unless his information checked out, but if he would give up some names that turned out to be good, he’d be out on the streets tonight. Again, not good enough. Roofie seemed to feel he had the upper hand.
“I’ll give you the name of the guy I get my stuff from, and I’ll tell you where he is. Then you walk me out that door and tell Johnson he’s got nothing.”
“Sure. You give us that, and we’ll walk you out the door.”
“Guy named Spider J gets it to me. He’s got a room long-term at the Talbott Hotel.”
Neither man noticed Clark go stiff at the mention of Roofie’s source. He knew Spider J. Spider J was Jacob Simmons, a 32-year-old African American veteran of the U.S. Army. He was a former contractor with the heavily militarized security firm Academi which had previously been known as Blackwater. Simmons had done two tours in Afghanistan before being court-martialed for suspicion of smuggling. The charges didn’t stick, and so he received an honorable discharge.
He was also the man responsible for the incident which put Clark in Delta Green’s sights. Clark was running surveillance for a DEA operation targeting an opium smuggling ring. Spider J got spooked and slipped out the back. Clark hopped out of the van to intercept him, but Spider J threw a pinch of something right into Clark’s face. Not long after that, the hallucinations hit, only they weren’t hallucinations. At least, Clark was confident, some of them were honest to goodness visions. He was placed on extended medical and psychiatric leave, and that’s when Delta Green had contacted him. Spider J had dosed him with something they called the Liao drug, a powerful hallucinogen with unnatural properties. The psychiatrists thought he was crazy, but the man from Delta Green believed him. More importantly, the man from Delta Green could get him out and back to work.
Dempsey nodded to Roofie and let him know they’d be back for him if the information was good. Roofie’s eyes narrowed. He was mad, but he didn’t lose his composure or his smile.
“That wasn’t the deal, man, but you know what? I don’t care. You’ll be back in twenty minutes. You ain’t gonna find Spider J at the Talbott.”
Dempsey didn’t listen. He walked out. Clark decided to follow up.
“Why won’t we find him there?”
“He’s not there under his name, man.”
Clark sarcastically feigned surprise.
“You mean, he didn’t check into a 4-star hotel under the name Spider J?! We’ll find him. I know his real name and his aliases.”
“He ain’t there under those either. His girl pays cash for the room. You want to find him, you need her name. You want her name, I walk out that door. That’s the deal.”
Clark wasn’t in the mood to be pushed around by a smalltime dealer. He repeated Dempsey’s words: “We’ll be back for you if it checks out.”
The agents stopped at the front desk to let Detective Johnson know they could have Roofie back and to ignore him if he mentioned anything about a deal. Clark gave Johnson his card in case he needed anything. He told the detective Roofie had named Spider J as his source, but he left out the part about where he could be found. Detective Johnson was pleased enough with the new lead.
Clark used de Jaager’s laptop and his own DEA login to access the NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. Spider J had never been arrested, but he had been investigated, so there were plenty of photographs.
On their way to the Talbott, the agents discussed their leads and their strategy. They had the name of a source, and they knew where to find him – sort of. Dolf would get a room at the Talbott and then sit in the lobby watching for Spider J or anything suspicious. Meanwhile, Clark and Dempsey would check out a popular but shady nightclub called Studio Overground for anyone who might know about Reverb.
First, though, Clark needed to get ready. It had been months since he’d been to a nightclub. He was what he called a recovering bro, and the nightclub scene brought all fratty bro culture screaming back. As Dempsey drove, Clark hopped into the backseat of the Cherokee and put on his cargo shorts, sandals, and oxford shirt being careful to leave the top three buttons unbuttoned. By the time they arrived, his hair was adequately spiky and stiff enough to hold his sunglasses. Dempsey rolled his eyes and asked if Clark was supposed to be Abercrombie or Fitch.
Inside, Studio Overground was dark, and the dancefloor was packed with people dancing to old hip hop and pop rock. Dempsey recognized some of it, but Clark could sing the words to everything from Coolio, Run-D.M.C., and Beastie Boys to Third Eye Blind, Maroon 5, and Nickelback.
Dempsey sat at the bar while Clark mingled. After an hour or so, they had two leads. A waitress and a kid in his early 20s had talked to each other for a couple minutes, and they had mentioned Reverb. Dempsey flagged down the waitress and pointed to a random appetizer on the menu.
“I’ll take one of these, and I was hoping you could get me something special that’s not on the menu.”
The waitress winked and said she wasn’t that kind of girl, but she’d be happy to get his fried spinach. She seemed surprised. Nobody ever ordered that, but then, Dempsey was quite obviously not from Chicago.
Dempsey whispered loudly enough for her to hear over Salt-N-Peppa. What he meant was, you know, something like Ecstasy? Oh, well, in that case … She wasn’t that kind of girl either. When she came back with his fried spinach, he asked about Reverb. Now, she did know about that.
She said it didn’t just get you high; it made time stretch, and it felt like you repeated the same instant over and over. It also made physical activity like dancing much more intense. She didn’t have any to spare, but if Dempsey wanted some, the guy she got it from would probably be in soon. His name was Roofie.
Dempsey thanked her and went for a piece of whatever appetizer it was he had ordered, but it was already gone. Clark had eaten it all, and to make it worse, he got glitter in the ranch dressing. It was probably time to meet back up with de Jaager anyway.
On their way out, Clark’s phone rang. Detective Johnson had something the DEA boys might want to see. Clark asked if Roofie was okay. The answer was a nervous laugh followed by a curt ‘no.’ The two agents hopped in the Cherokee and sped to the precinct.
Detective Johnson was visibly shaken but holding together well. He thanked them for making it so quickly, and if he noticed the glitter on Clark’s hastily donned suit, he ignored it. First thing was first: the cell. The bars of the cell had been bent outward like something the size and mass of a small truck had hit them. The mattress had been flipped and shredded, and the concrete of the walls and floor had deep gouges. It was like an animal the size of that hypothetical small truck had scratched deeply into the cement.
But there was no Roofie, and there was no blood. The detective confirmed Roofie had not escaped, and he waved them to his office. He shut the door, closed the blinds, and hit play on the digital playback of the closed circuit television security footage. Roofie had been lying on the mattress with a smile on his face when he appeared to hear something from the corner by the toilet. He sat up and looked, and then his eyes went wide. He screamed, but whatever he was seeing wasn’t showing on the video feed.
Suddenly, Roofie’s body was lifted into the air like a doll. If there was indeed something in there with him, whatever it was, it tossed him around like he was a pillow before shredding the meat from his bones. Blood, flesh, and bone went in all directions and none all at once. Nothing made contact with a surface, however; it all vanished into thin air, piece by piece, drop by drop, and splinter by splinter. In about twenty seconds, the cell was demolished, and there was no longer any trace of Rufus LaRoyal Brown.
Clark only flinched and shuddered as if he had been watching a movie. Dempsey became visibly angered and muttered something about how it was just like his brother trashing his room all over again. Clark didn’t ask. Whatever it takes to cope …
Johnson didn’t watch. When it was over, Clark said the words the detective was hoping he would.
“Of course, you realize I’ll have to claim jurisdiction for the DEA on this one. I’ll need that video and your word there are no copies. And no one mentions this until my investigation is complete.”
Detective Johnson was only too happy to turn the case – and the explanation – over to the DEA. Clark and Dempsey left to meet up with de Jaager and let him know one of their leads had vanished. Fortunately, they still had others. The kid at Studio Overground might still be there, and he might want to talk, Spider J was supposedly staying at the Talbott in a room paid for by his girlfriend, and to their knowledge, Bad Luke hadn’t yet disappeared.
Clark was tempted to go back to the nightclub, but he really didn’t want to get his bro gear on again, and he’d used all his glitter on the first run. Instead, he would get another room at the Talbott and then take a self-guided tour of the building. Dempsey and de Jaager could take the club.
Once Clark had checked in, he began to walk the halls on each of the Talbott’s sixteen floors and the stairwells between them. Fortunately, he only had to go as high as the fourth floor before he found what he was sure he was looking for. Someone had installed small wireless cameras in inconspicuous places in the hall; two overlooked the hallway itself, and on was pointed directly at Room 412.
Now, the question was whether the occupant of Room 412 was paranoid and rich or if he was paranoid, rich, and tech savvy. Clark went back to his room and powered up de Jaager’s laptop. He connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, and from there, it was a simple matter to find all other devices connected to it. He determined there were the three cameras he’d seen in the hall and one other.
Whoever had installed the cameras had neglected to change the default password, and so with a few keystrokes, Clark had a live feed from all four cameras. The fourth was overlooking the fire escape. The cameras weren’t recording directly, though; they were transmitting. That meant he couldn’t watch anything but the live feed without access to the device to which the cameras were transmitting. He could, however, start a recording of his own.
Once he had that in place, he called de Jaager. Nothing was panning out at the nightclub. Dempsey had come on too strong and spooked the kid. They were headed back to the Talbott.
The agents decided to settle in for the night and get some rest. Dolf took the first shift monitoring the video feed, and Clark took the second. Dempsey refused to do his share and flopped onto one of the beds. The night was uneventful until partway through Clark’s shift. At around 3:00 AM, the cameras picked up a woman exiting the elevator on the fourth floor. The footage was grainy, but she seemed to be Hispanic and in her 30s or 40s.
The woman stopped in front of Room 412, placed her right palm on the door, and bowed her head. She seemed to mutter something, and then she disappeared. A few minutes later, she reappeared on the fire escape seemingly out of thin air. She had something like a briefcase or laptop in her hands which she tossed into the alley below. Then, just as she had appeared, she disappeared. A moment later, the woman appeared once more in the hallway and headed for the elevator.
Clark wasn’t sure what he had just seen, but it was a live feed, so the footage hadn’t been edited. He had been knocking back the Red Bulls like water, so he was sure he wasn’t just tired. He woke de Jaager and showed him the replay. The software engineer confirmed he saw what Clark saw.
On his way out of the room, Clark shoved Dempsey hard enough to wake him up. He pointed to de Jaager and then headed for the alley. The Irishman rubbed his eyes, yawned, and moved to get a look at the replay of the video feed. After seeing it once, he went to check the lobby.
In the alley, Clark found the remains of a laptop computer. It appeared to have been sturdy, but a four-story drop onto concrete caused significant structural damage. Clark was confident; this wouldn’t be his first time salvaging a hard drive from a laptop. He gathered up the pieces. While he worked to pull what he could from the drive, Detective Johnson might be able to pull fingerprints from the case and keys.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:51 pm UTC
Reverberations – Session 3
Something had happened in Room 412. Hispanic women didn’t just teleport into and out of hotel rooms to destroy laptops. Dempsey figured it was just a Chicago thing. Whatever the case, they needed to know what happened in there. The laptop hard drive might give some answers, and since Clark was going to be playing with computer stuff anyway, he could also watch the camera feed. Dempsy and de Jaager would handle the breaking and entering. The earpieces from Clark’s kit would allow the three to stay in contact.
After a quick regroup in their room, Dempsey was set to take the elevator down to the fourth floor, but de Jaager suggested the fire escape. Room 412 was on their side of the building, so they’d just have to go down three flights. Also, given it was 3:00 AM, it was probably darker outside than in the hallway.
Clark cracked open another Red Bull and waved them off without looking. Of course, the fact Spider J had dosed him with pure Liao drug only a couple years earlier had nothing to do with his staying in the room; he had work to do. Not just anyone could be trusted to monitor four camera feeds while performing forensic analysis on a damaged hard drive. Dolf could, and he could do it every bit as well as Clark, but that was beside the point. Clark had already settled in the chair and opened a Red Bull.
The Irishman and the Dutchman stepped out into the fire escape while the American sat at the computer with a case of energy drinks. Dempsey felt sure there was a joke in there somewhere, but there was a job to do. Breaking and entering. Good work if you could get it.
The blinds were drawn, but the window to Room 412 was unlocked and open slightly. The room was dimly lit, but the early Chicago morning was darker. Through the gap in the blinds, they could just make out a large African American man slumped in a chair. The agents readied their guns. Dempsey could hold his own in a bar fight as long as he only had to look after himself, and de Jaager wasn’t exactly a 98-pound weakling, but this guy was former U.S. Army.
Dempsey quietly slid the window up far enough that they could fit through. He made no announcement before stepping in and holding the man at gunpoint. It was Spider J. The drug dealer didn’t seem surprised. In fact, he seemed a little out of it. The glassy eyes and the pipe in Spider J’s hand prompted Dempsey to state the obvious. The dealer was high.
Once Dolf was through the window, he, too, pointed his gun at Spider J. Dempsey ordered the man to put his hands in the air, but Spider J only smiled and said something about a reptilian in a silk robe and a dinosaur out the window.
He didn’t resist when Dempsey handcuffed him or when de Jaager took the pipe from his hand and placed it in a plastic bag. Dempsey checked the dealer for weapons but only found empty shoulder and ankle holsters.
The agents began searching the room for a stash of Reverb or Liao. While they looked in cabinets, under beds, and between mattresses, Spider J’s demeanor took a turn. He began to babble something about pulsing lights and energies intersecting. Dempsey and de Jaager had a little trouble following, but it sounded like these energies were full of malice; like the vision he was describing was of the essence of evil.
The agents continued to toss the room looking for drugs.
Spider J held up his still-cuffed hands with his pinky fingers together like the American Sign Language sign for ‘book.’ He deliriously described two surfaces converging, and … something coming out of the line where they met. He sounded terrified.
“It’s … It’s like all the evil of the universe. It’s concentrated. It’s alive. It’s … It’s hungry.”
The agents continued to toss the room looking for drugs.
Spider J shrieked.
“No, no, no! No! It sees me! Why? Why can’t I come back to myself? Please!”
Dempsey continued to toss the room looking for drugs. Dolf paused and raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, God! It’s in my brain!”
Spider J rose into the air, lifted by the same invisible force that had lifted Roofie. Just like Roofie, Spider J’s body was shaken back and forth like a doll in the teeth of a giant, invisible, rabid dog. Blood and flesh scattered in all directions, winking out of existence just before hitting a surface.
Dempsey continued to toss the room, but now he was looking for a fire extinguisher or something else he could use to reveal an invisible creature. This guy called himself a drug dealer, and yet he couldn’t be bothered to have several bricks of cocaine the Irishman could slap together like chalkboard erasers?
In a matter of seconds, Spider J was no more than a rapidly splintering cyclone of bone fragments. That was good enough for Dolf; he was willing to call this avenue of the case closed. Unfortunately for Dolf, as soon as he turned away from the swirling carnage, he saw it. Looking directly, it was invisible, but in the peripheral vision, he could see it. The thing was composed of a seemingly infinite number of sharp, glittering fragments of space and time which moved, rotated, swirled, shattered further, and reformed. It was like the mirror shards from the community center had risen up to form a vague dog- or cat-shaped creature with no real structure of its own; only distorted reflections from all angles and directions at once.
The software engineer let out a very unmanly yelp before running for the door to the hall. He slammed the door shut behind him. It may have been preoccupied and possibly too large to fit, but there was no sense giving that thing a chance to follow. As for Dempsey, he had hands. He could open the door himself. The real question was whether or not the Irishman was smart enough to run. Three gunshots in quick succession told Dolf all he needed to know about that.
Dempsey had fired at the invisible creature that was destroying Spider J in the bloodiest possible way. No sooner had the gunshots faded than what remained of the drug dealer hit the floor. Dempsey could feel whatever it was studying him. There was no way he could have missed, but he had missed. Maybe a full retreat was in order. He turned toward the window, but that proved to be a mistake. Just like de Jaager before him, he saw the beast.
The Irishman wasn’t sure from where he pulled the instinct, but something told him to duck and roll backward at the same time. As he did, he saw a thousand razors of distorted space dart toward where he had been only a moment before. He didn’t get away clean, but he wasn’t sharing Spider J’s fate just yet. He had avoided the worst of it, but the shards had still nicked him in thousands of tiny multi-directional cuts like a head-to-toe shaving accident. As he rolled to his feet and ran for the door, Dempsey stumbled. It felt as if even the bottoms of his feet were covered in tiny cuts.
Dempsey fired twice more before slamming the door behind him as he made it to the hall. Dolf winced when he saw the Irishman, but neither man spoke. Instead, they ran for the stairwell and took the stairs down as quickly as they could. They had just passed the second-floor landing when Dempsey saw the creature again. It shot out of the angle where the two walls met like water forced by intense pressure through a tiny crack. Dolf didn’t see the beast, and so he ran straight through it. He paused only briefly, making damned sure not to look when he heard Dempsey make the same shrieking cry Spider J had made. Then he continued down to the lobby and out the front doors. He had a plan, and he hoped Dempsey would survive long enough for it to work.
Dempsey watched de Jaager run straight through the creature as if it wasn’t even there. Hundreds of shards stretched from the thing like an octopus growing new tentacles. Once again, they darted for him, and this time he wasn’t so lucky. He felt the razors slice his flesh from everywhere at once, and he could see pieces of himself carved away in chunks and strips.
He made a desperate lunge for the door on the second-floor landing a few steps above him, and he was able to turn the knob. As he flopped into the second floor hallway, the wood chipper scene from Fargo played through his head. Wasn’t it a character named Carl that got put through that? And yet the Carl in his group was nice and comfy with his laptop and Red Bull. The Carl in his group should have been the one raiding Spider J’s room anyway. The Carl in his group was no Steve Buscemi for damned sure. Screw you, Carl. This mess should be you.
Dempsey played dead. He had no idea if the creature would be fooled, but the three surprised and horrified hotel guests in the hall were. They screamed and ran, leaving Dempsey like a pile of roast beef in his own blood. It seemed Chicago had its pros and cons: Fire a gun five times in a nice hotel, and no one investigates; get shredded by a giant, invisible razor-tiger and fall into a pool of gore, and no one helps. On the bright side, he had lived long enough to have that thought.
Dolf jogged at a quick pace and checked every alley he found. It didn’t take long for him to discover a particularly filthy and miserable-looking man slumped against a wall. He wasted no time producing the pipe from his plastic bag. He offered the man $100 to smoke what was in the pipe, no questions asked.
The man may have been a junkie, but to his credit, he still balked at the offer. It was only momentary, and the promise of money won out over the potentially dangerous mystery high. Couldn’t be too much more dangerous than some of the stuff he’d done. The man asked for the money upfront, but de Jaager countered with an offer of half in advance, and half after. Dempsey would undoubtedly disapprove of the delay for negotiation, but de Jaager felt the man might be too sketchy. He handed over the pipe, a $50 bill, and a Bic lighter.
The man eyed the residue on the pipe and searched the Dutchman’s face for any sign of trickery. Seeing only impatience, the man shrugged and took the biggest hit he could. Dolf nodded and thanked the man as he traded the second $50 bill for the return of the pipe. He told the man to keep the lighter.
He had enough time to jog halfway back to the Talbott before a scream from the alley drowned out the light traffic on State Street. He felt a sharp pang of guilt, but he didn’t let it slow him down. If Dempsey were still alive, he’d be in desperate need of medical attention. Dolf yelled in a loud whisper to ask the Irishman if he was still alive. The response over the earpiece was hushed and delayed.
“Aye. I’m still alive. Not going to die without a bottle in my hand. I think the thing left. I’m heading down to the lobby. Get me to the hospital.”
Dolf decided not to mention what he’d done, but he did tell Dempsey he’d have the Cherokee running. He also asked Clark not to move from the camera feed. That suited the DEA man just fine. Crack went another can of Red Bull.
The hotel lobby was empty, and the clerk at the desk was preoccupied with stringing together a chain of paperclips, so Dempsey made it out to the vehicle without causing a scene. Dolf drove to the hospital and stopped in the ER drop-off zone. It was probably for the best if an Irishman walking like a broken Slinky arrived without an escort. Besides, there was blood all over the front seat of a rental vehicle. They couldn’t possibly return it that way.
Dempsey shambled through the doors and down the hall to the ER desk. The nurse on duty was quite professional, and she didn’t so much as flinch. Then again, it was the graveyard shift at a hospital in Chicago. He probably wasn’t even the worst thing she’d seen that night. He was able to fill out the paperwork well enough to be admitted, and the nurse assured him he could take care of the rest of it after surgery. Two orderlies helped Dempsey onto a wheeled bed and took him down the hall. He tried counting the ceiling tiles as they passed, but he only made it to five before losing consciousness.
Dolf looked online for an all-night auto detail shop and decided to go with The Guild of Mute Mechanics. They sounded like they could keep a secret, and they were open at all hours. He paid the $400 in advance and handed the keys to a fair-skinned man of indeterminate ethnicity, and then he went across the street to a diner designed to look like an oversized train car. He drank an hour’s worth of coffee while watching out the window. As soon as he saw the Cherokee appear in the parking lot across the street, he threw a few dollars on the table and left.
Once back at the hotel, de Jaager told Clark everything that had happened before falling over on his bed and immediately passing out. Clark tossed an empty can on the pile, opened another Red Bull, and kept working. Spider J had gotten what was coming to him, and Dempsey had taken the heat. Maybe it was the Red Bull, but Clark almost felt like he could fly.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2018 8:47 am UTC
Reverberations – Session 4
Thomas Edison would take six half-hour naps throughout the day, and Leonardo da Vinci slept for 20 minutes every four hours. Nikola Tesla slept for two hours every night. If they’d had Red Bull, they might not have slept at all, and then Carl Clark wouldn’t consider them lazy amateurs.
When de Jaager awoke around lunchtime, Clark had just finished his forensic analysis of the laptop hard drive. The computer appeared to have been used solely for surveillance camera feed monitoring and storage. Over the past few days, there had only been two visitors; the Hispanic woman and an African American woman who kissed Spider J when he opened the door.
Clark ran the faces through every database he could. The Hispanic woman remained unidentified, but the other woman was Tanyika Tillerson. She was unemployed and was not known to have any involvement in drug trafficking other than the fact she seemed to only date people who did have such involvement. Her last known address was Room 412 at the Talbott Hotel.
All three agents had lunch about the same time; Dempsey got Jello and what the nurse swore was Chicken Cordon Bleu, and de Jaager and Clark headed to a place called Leng in a neighborhood controlled by the local Tcho-Tchos. Leng was a restaurant which served traditional dishes from all over Asia. Clark knew the place because the owner had been a person of interest in a DEA investigation years ago. It was the same investigation where he had met Spider J, though this wasn’t the place.
The restaurant was busy but not packed, and the staff was an assortment of many different Asian cultures. They all looked the same to Clark, but de Jaager could easily tell the Japanese from the Laotians, the Chinese from the Vietnamese, and the Tcho-Tchos from anything else. The Tcho-Tchos were notably smaller, and they just looked … off. It was hard to explain, but there was something about them that didn’t seem natural.
The Tcho-Tchos at the restaurant seemed to be working in a management or security capacity. They watched everything without expression, except for two who spoke Aklo in hushed tones closely enough that de Jaager could hear. He was able to make out phrases and words well enough to infer the rest of the conversation from context. The two were concerned about the Reverb-related disappearances of so many drug dealers, but it wasn’t because the Tcho-Tchos were doing the smuggling or manufacturing. They didn’t seem to know who was behind the recent resurgence of Reverb, but they wanted whoever it was to die in the second-most terrible of ways. Evidently, the most terrible way would be for a dog from somewhere called Tindalos to come for you. That was probably the invisible razor-tiger which mauled Dempsey.
It sounded like the Tcho-Tchos had nothing to do with Spider J’s Reverb operation, so the agents finished lunch and headed out. The next stop was the police station to talk with Detective Johnson. The detective wasn’t in much of a talking mood, but he was able to tell them where they could find the last known Reverb dealer in Chicago, Bad Luke. As it turned out, Bad Luke was likely to be at the Tan ‘N’ Wash near their hotel, but he always had a few armed thugs with him. Detective Johnson said the best way to get a word with Bad Luke would be to identify themselves as law enforcement; his men wouldn’t shoot. They thanked the detective for that handy piece of information and headed to the Tan ‘N’ Wash.
The detective was right. Bad Luke and three armed guards were out front just standing around. They evidently didn’t see the sign in the window which said ‘No Loitering Allowed.” Dolf waited in the Jeep while Clark went to talk with Bad Luke. The thugs stiffened as he approached, and their hands moved closer to openly-displayed pistols. Bad Luke only smiled. It was Luke’s turn to stiffen a bit when Clark showed his DEA badge.
Clark eased the tension by promising he only wanted to talk. He was investigating the disappearances of Reverb dealers, and he had some information Luke needed. It wasn’t the sort of thing they could talk openly about, but if Luke would just follow him over to the Cherokee … Maybe it was something in Clark’s voice, maybe it was the expression of genuine concern on his face, but Luke trusted him enough to follow. No, you know what? It was probably the traces of glitter in his hair and the fact Luke’s men had guns ready. That was more likely. Either way, Bad Luke followed and got in the back seat.
Clark and de Jaager told him what had happened to Roofie in a locked cell. The same thing had happened to Spider J in his hotel room. Luke was the last one, and the same thing was probably going to happen to him, too. The dealer took the news remarkably well. He’d heard rumors from people he trusted, so he was prepared to believe the agents. Reverb was a big money maker, but it wasn’t worth being ripped to oblivion. Besides, Spider J was the source. With him gone, it wasn’t like Luke could get more. Or … could he? No. Clark let him know in no uncertain terms that Spider J’s contacts were not going to be made available. Luke shrugged. It was worth a shot.
One more thing. Clark wanted to know where Spider J mixed the Reverb. That, Bad Luke didn’t know. He would meet Spider J at the Talbott for all their transactions. He kept it all in a black duffel bag, and the bag was never out of reach. Clark and de Jaager shared a quick, quizzical glance. There was no bag in Spider J’s room. The Hispanic woman hadn’t left with one either. They thanked Bad Luke for the talk and wished him the best of luck.
After the dealer went back across the street, they were going to stop by the hospital to check on Dempsey, but they quickly scrapped that plan. Dolf had been watching the live feed from the security cameras, and he saw Ms. Tillerson enter Room 412. The new plan was for de Jaager to call Dempsey to check on him while they headed back to the hotel. The hospital said Dempsey had checked himself out as soon as he saw what they called chicken.
As it turned out, the Irishman was waiting for them in the hotel lobby. The thousands of tiny nicks on his face and hands were bright pink, but he otherwise hid his injuries well. Dolf was in a hurry and either missed Dempsey or ignored him on the way to the elevator. With two quick bro-nods, one upward and the other directional, Clark both acknowledged Dempsey and told him they were headed to the elevator. The implication was that he should follow.
In the elevator, Clark and de Jaager briefed Dempsey on the situation. Spider J’s girlfriend was in his room, and she might be the only person who knew the dealer’s operation well enough to give them something to go on. Dempsey asked if they had a lead on the invisible dog, but the other two just shrugged.
Clark knocked on the door, but he was met with silence. A second knock and he could hear quiet shuffling on the other side of the door. It took several minutes of reassurance and persuasion, but eventually, Ms. Tillerson let them in.
She was wary of talking to federal agents, but Dempsey told her they were with the CIA, and that meant they had no jurisdiction on U.S. soil. They couldn’t arrest her or Spider J if they wanted to, which they didn’t. They had some bad news about Spider. He was dead. The thing that killed him was … Ms. Tillerson cut him off.
“Wait. The thing?”
“That’s right. The thing.”
She asked if the thing was an invisible dog, and the agents all nodded. She knew about the hound? She didn’t seem to believe it, but she did know about it. Spider’s contacts in Tibet warned him some kind of dog from a place they called Tindalos might come for him if the stuff he was buying from them was improperly handled. They told Spider if the dog came for him, he should immediately meditate on either an empty void or a perfect sphere, and that might ward the thing off. If he was in a group, they should all meditate on the same thing, or it wouldn’t work.
Clark asked if it was Reverb he was buying in Tibet, but she shook her head. No. It was a dark purple flower they called Liao. Spider had been bringing it into Chicago and mixing it with MDMA. Clark explained that was 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as Ecstacy. Dempsey narrowed his eyes disapprovingly and called Clark a nerd.
Ms. Tillerson nodded. She said Spider J would mix a tiny bit of the Liao and some MDMA in gelatin capsules, and then he’d sell it to the dealers who had been disappearing lately. Clark asked where Spider J mixed the Reverb, and Ms. Tillerson said he had a small condo he used only for mixing batches of Reverb. She gave them the address but told them they wouldn’t find anything. Spider never left anything but the furniture there. The agents thanked her and asked if she had somewhere else to stay. She did, but she had no way to get there, so Clark offered to take her. Ms. Tillerson accepted a ride to a Burger King near where she was headed, but she didn’t want to show up with obvious cops. None of the men could fathom what she could mean by that. In their estimation, they couldn’t look less like law enforcement.
The agents dropped her off and headed to the address she’d given. On the way, they agreed to meditate on a perfect sphere at the first sign of glittering razors. The condo was the leftmost of four in the same building. It was thin, but it was two stories. The door was locked. The window next to it was locked as well, but it was poorly latched. Dolf jiggled the window a bit and loosened the latch enough to open it. He climbed in, closed the window, and opened the door from the inside.
There wasn’t much to the place, and Ms. Tillerson’s description was accurate. The bottom floor was a living room and kitchen. The living room held only a couch, coffee table, and 55” plasma television mounted to the wall. Dempsey took the kitchen while Clark headed upstairs. Dolf searched the living room.
Dempsey didn’t expect to find anything in the kitchen. As he searched, he recited the Old Mother Hubbard nursery rhyme with himself cast in the title role.
“Young Agent Dempsey went to the cupboard to give the poor dog a bone, but when he got there, the cupboard … was full of gelatin capsules and Yuban coffee?”
Clark shouted down the stairs that there were a bathroom and an empty bedroom with no furniture. Dolf shined his flashlight inside a vent near the ceiling, but it was empty. Or rather, it was empty until he looked away. Then his peripheral vision caught something shiny, glittery, and razory.
All three agents immediately dropped to the floor and sat cross-legged while meditating on a perfect sphere. Nothing happened, and nothing continued to happen. They weren’t sure how long they had to concentrate because they’d forgotten to ask.
It didn’t matter anyway. The sphere in Clark’s mind eventually began to expand and contract, pulsing to the beat of a random bit of house techno which popped into his head. It was still kind of a sphere, though, so maybe he hadn’t totally screwed them.
Clark’s pulsing rave sphere elongated into a puffy cylinder, and so he gave up. He imagined several more puffy cylinders, and then he watched as his mind arranged them in a vaguely humanoid shape and put a sailor’s suit on it.
“Uh, guys … I just want you to know that if the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man crushes this place, I …”
“Nice thinking, Ray.”
Dolf’s delivery was unamused, but it was evident he’d seen Ghostbusters enough times to quote it.
Dempsey opened his eyes and stood cautiously. He was done with this place, especially if a razor-marshmallow tiger thing was going to show up. They’d met their objectives, right?
Determine if the new Reverb has unnatural effects. Yes, it did. Find the source and cut off the supply. Check. That was good enough for the Program, and so it was good enough for the Irishman. The others agreed, and they left in haste. Back to the hotel to report their success to Voss, then they’d get a good night’s sleep and hit the airport in the morning. Goodbye, Chicago. You can keep the dog.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Nov 03, 2018 12:15 am UTC
Observer Effect – Session 1
Task Force 138 had reached consensus. They were done with Chicago. Morning came, and the city hadn’t been destroyed by the spongy, sweet physical manifestation of Gozer the Gozerian. That fact was, of course, bittersweet for the agents, but it meant they were still alive, so that was a plus.
Dempsey had wasted no time leaving the hotel in the morning despite the fact his flight wasn’t due to depart until 11:00 AM. He was at his gate and waiting by 9:15. It seemed there was no shortage of people wanting to leave Chicago, but for whatever reason, there also seemed to be many who actually wanted to be there. Maybe they just had connecting flights.
The DEA would likely want to know the situation, and so Clark decided to stay another day and write up some sanitized reports for the official file. He also practiced forming a perfect sphere in his mind, because he felt he might be right after Dempsey on the invisible razor-tiger’s hit list. He hadn’t shot at the thing, but he had been dosed with the Liao drug.
De Jaager’s flight was later in the day, and so he went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. He sat in a booth and turned the empty coffee cup he found there right side up to let the waitress know he’d be having some. It wasn’t because of the coffee – at least, he didn’t think so – but as soon as he had taken his first sip, he was assaulted by swiftly-vanishing memories almost like waking from a nightmare. He could have held on to the memories if he’d wanted to, but he felt it best to let them fade. Besides, the whole restaurant was looking at him.
Had he screamed out loud? The waitress seemed to think he had, and for a good 20 seconds at least. She was nice, but she looked worried. Dolf apologized.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that – how can I put this? – Well, I’ll just come out and ask. Did you give me decaf?”
The waitress stared in bewilderment for a moment before indicating that she had not. He had the regular, caffeinated coffee they always serve.
“Then it must be instant coffee.”
“No, sir. It’s Yuban.”
“Ah, then no flavor crystals … You know, I think I’ll pass on breakfast. Thank you.”
Dolf tossed a $5 bill on the table and exited as casually as he could. He couldn’t explain what had just happened, but he needed to tell someone. He went back up to the room only to find Clark had experienced the same sort of fading nightmare effect at the same time.
Clark’s phone rang. It was a Chicago area code, but he didn’t recognize the number. He was still a little out of breath when he answered. The woman on the other end asked him to attend a briefing at 3:00 PM. Without waiting for his confirmation, she gave him an address and hung up. Was that Delta Green? The fact de Jaager’s phone rang immediately after and showed the same number told them it was. After hanging up, De Jaager called Dempsey.
The Irishman confirmed he had been detained by TSA for screaming uncontrollably just as he was about to board his flight. He was fine now, and he thought he could still make his flight as soon as he answered the call coming in on the other line. De Jaager told him he and Clark would be seeing him at 3:00. Dempsey was confused until the woman on the other line told him pretty much the same thing. So … more Chicago. Excellent. Someone or something out there hated him with a passion. He was sure of it.
The agents all met at the address they were given. It was a plain office building much like the building where they’d had their briefing for the previous Op. There were two women waiting in the briefing room. The first was a quiet and businesslike Asian woman with an ID badge identifying her as Inspector Hua of the Department of Energy hanging from a lanyard. The other was a middle-aged woman with weary eyes. She introduced herself as Carpenter, their case officer for this emergency operation. It had been her voice on the other end of the calls that morning. Once everyone was seated, Carpenter began the briefing.
“Thank you for coming on such short notice. As I said, this is an emergency, and you were the nearest agents. You will be heading to the Olympian Holobeam Array. It’s a new, high-tech physics lab not far from Fermilab, and it is run by a handful of academic researchers from MIT and the University of Chicago. The Array is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and a private consortium of donors and venture capital firms, most notably Olympian Advances, Inc.
“The Array’s website says it’s built to study the theory that space itself is a sort of three-dimensional hologram cast on a two-dimensional surface … whatever that means. The Program has determined the Array secretly uses technology derived from Air Force research programs defunded years ago. The Air Force projects were too dangerous to continue and were terminated, but during that process, certain elements were reclassified, privatized, and sold to some of the same donors who sponsor the Array. The Program has an interest in that technology.
“At 10:00 today, the Array went online for the first time. The history of the Array’s technology and certain other anomalies indicate an incursion of unnatural forces at the Olympian Holobeam Array. You will go to the Array, isolate it by shutting down its communications with the outside world – including cell phones – and stop the incursion.”
At that point, Carpenter paused to hand out Department of Energy ID badges and two sets of keys. Each agent received a badge with his face and someone else’s name and employee number. They were also being provided with an unmarked DOE-issued sedan and an unmarked DOE-issued cargo van.
Clark took the keys to the van while de Jaager claimed the sedan. Dempsey announced he’d be in the van because he would need workspace during the drive. Clark immediately tried to trade vehicles, but de Jaager was already welcoming Inspector Hua to Team Sedan. Once the travel situation was decided, Carpenter continued the briefing.
“You have clearance under the cover of an inspection team for the Department of Energy tasked with reviewing the site and its records for wrongdoing. There may be specific documents or pieces of technology in the facility this clearance does not cover. You will have to make do. These cover identities were constructed in a hurry, borrowing names and employee numbers of retired or deceased DOE employees. They won’t stand up to sustained investigation.
“The Program has pulled strings in the DOE to classify the investigation such that no real DOE agent – let alone police or private citizens – can come near it without risking prison. Though, if an emergency at the site attracts first responders, there is no telling whether they will obey that restriction.
Carpenter gave the agents a cheap burner phone preloaded with a single phone number. They could use it to contact her if necessary, and they were to destroy the phone after the Operation.
As the briefing was nearing its end, music came from Carpenter’s pocket. Evidently, her ringtone was the first verse of the theme song from the television show American Dad. She was either a true patriot, or she had a sense of humor. The weary expression on her face implied the former. She answered the call wordlessly, listened for a moment, and then hung up.
“An unexpected power surge shut down power to the Array a few minutes ago. I don’t know how or why, but I wish you good luck.”
Carpenter allowed no time for questions as she gathered her belongings and exited the briefing room. A few short minutes later, the agents were on the road heading for the Olympian Holobeam Array. The drive wasn’t far, but thanks to traffic and construction, it took about an hour. On the way, Dempsey worked unsuccessfully on a batch of “Irish Coffee,” and Clark kept an eye out for razor-tigers and the Michelin Man in a sailor suit. In the sedan, de Jaager tried to engage Inspector Hua in conversation, but the soft-spoken woman wasn’t much for small talk. She was, however, busy researching the Array and Olympian Advances on her laptop computer, and she had found some interesting items.
The Array seemed to be run with a skeleton crew. For a project like this, there were far fewer staff than she would expect, and they were mostly high-ranking experts without a single intern to do the drudge-work. She had heard of the lead researcher, Dr. Jaime Campbell of MIT, too. Dr. Campbell had a reputation as a crackpot, but she had an extensive history of projects affiliated with the Air Force, and over the years, she had garnered extraordinary support from private-sector underwriters like Olympian Advances.
The sedan was in the lead as they turned off the main road and onto an unlabeled driveway leading into the woods. The only indications they were going the right way were the Google Maps application on de Jaager’s phone and the partially-obscured sign reading “Authorized Personnel Only.” Beyond that sign, the road wound back and forth through the woods for a hundred yards or so until it ended at a steel gate with a thick concrete wall on either side extending out into the woods.
An external security kiosk stood outside the concrete wall. It was manned by a single guard – a fit Hispanic man in his forties whose name tag on his khaki uniform identified him as Officer Gonzales. The man smiled out from beneath a tan Stetson hat as he approached the sedan. He checked ID badges and returned to the security kiosk. A few moments later, the steel gate slid open. Gonzales gave the agents a thumbs-up.
Beyond the gate, a short drive through the woods led to a wide, paved clearing with a small, gravel parking lot to the right. There was a large, main building with another security kiosk outside the front doors, and beyond that was what Inspector Hua said was the Array itself. The Array consisted of a cluster of small, plain concrete buildings connected by an intersecting set of 60-foot-long tubes arranged in a ‘T’ shape.
The agents hadn’t noticed security cameras outside the wall, but inside, they were everywhere, and they were obvious. They decided to check in at the second security kiosk. This one had a bank of video screens, and as they approached, the woman monitoring those screens came out to greet them. She was in her thirties, and while she was polite, she wasn’t quite as cheerful as Gonzales had been. She identified herself as Officer Henson, and she checked IDs just as Gonzales had.
Once Officer Henson confirmed everything was in order, she told them where to find Dr. Campbell’s office. Dempsey and Inspector Hua followed the directions and entered the main building through the front door. Clark and de Jaager asked to see security footage for the day. Officer Henson made a quick call to Dr. Campbell’s office to clear the request before showing them to the security kiosk and the bank of monitors.
Even at 4x speed, a full day of recording from a dozen cameras would take more time and attention than they could spare, but fortunately for the agents, they could limit their search to the time between two specific points. They checked the grainy footage starting at 10:00 AM, and at the moment the Array was activated, every camera showed nothing but static for a few seconds.
To a less-tech savvy observer, it might be easily overlooked, but Clark and de Jaager were both computer guys. To them, the static stood out as strange. If the signal had been dropped, there would be no image at all, just blank frames. The static meant electromagnetic interference, but there didn’t appear to be anything strange happening at the time.
Once the video feeds resumed, everything appeared normal. There were static interruptions again at 11:05:47, 12:11:34, 13:17:21, and 14:23:08. The timecoding on the security footage evidently used the 24-hour clock. Each static interruption lasted for a few seconds each time. At 15:28:55 – while the agents were nearing the end of the operational briefing – the feed went black, but the black screens still showed the same static interference for a few seconds. That shouldn’t happen if the power surge had knocked out all the electronics and the cameras weren’t operational, and yet, there it was.
The video feed resumed at 15:50:58 when power was restored. At that point, the camera in the engineers’ office showed a man sleeping or unconscious on a couch. Officer Henson identified him as Dr. Takagawa, one of two engineers at the Array. One other thing stood out to de Jaager: someone was missing. Before the power surge, there had been eight people on-site, six staffers and two security guards. Now, there were seven.
Clark rolled the footage back to just before the power surge, paused, and counted. De Jaager was right. A woman was exiting the lab just before the surge, and when power was restored, she was gone. Officer Henson identified her as Dr. Helen Klinger and said she hadn’t seen Dr. Klinger leave. Dolf asked her to radio Gonzales at the front gate, and Gonzales said nobody had left the facility. That meant this Dr. Klinger was on the Array grounds in an inconspicuous place, or she had actually disappeared.
De Jaager thanked Officer Henson for her time and tried to keep her attention while Clark made a few quick clicks and keystrokes. He was able to find out the computer had a subroutine in its programming which would transmit the day’s footage to a particular IP address at midnight every night and then delete the oldest day of stored footage. It stored 72 hours of footage at any given time. Clark made note of the IP address, and then he, too, thanked Officer Henson for her time.
While de Jaager and Clark were involved in what Dempsey called nerd work, the Irishman and Inspector Hua met with Dr. Campbell. The director of the Olympian Holobeam Array was a gray-haired African-American woman. She was as thin as a stick, but she seemed anything but fragile. Dr. Campbell was very businesslike in her demeanor.
Inspector Hua got right to the questions. How many staff were here today? All of them. This was the first day of operation, and it was far too important for sick days. There were three researchers (Dr. Campbell, Dr. Philip Black, and Dr. Helen Klinger), two engineers (Dr. Ishi Takagawa and Evan Kozac), and one IT support specialist (Jingfei Tsang). There was also a janitor who services the offices three times a week, but he was not scheduled for today.
What caused the power surge? Dr. Campbell had no idea, but it had to have been something outside the facility. In the hours the Array was in operation, had they learned anything? The Array had collected data, but it was too soon to know what to make of it, if there was anything of value to be learned from such a small sample. Tsang would be in the lab going over everything now. That was all Dempsey and Hua had for the moment, and so Dr. Campbell called the junior engineer, Evan Kozac, to show them around and assist them. Evan was a wiry man in his forties with nervous eyes, and he seemed to have a habit of humming to himself. The humming was a brief series of atonal, nonsensical notes, but they were consistent.
As they exited Campbell’s office, de Jaager and Clark met up with them. After introductions, de Jaager asked about the unconscious man in the engineers’ office. Evan explained he had found Dr. Takagawa unconscious in the Atrium of the Array shortly after the power surge. He had managed to bring the doctor back to consciousness long enough to walk him back to the office, but Dr. Takagawa was incoherent and passed out again.
Evan led the group to the engineers’ office where Dr. Takagawa still slept. De Jaager, who was no doctor, felt for vital signs and found nothing. He announced the man was dead, but Clark pointed out the slow, even rise and fall of the man’s chest. Okay. So, he wasn’t dead. That was good news.
Dempsey, who was also no doctor, examined the man. There was no evidence of injury; no blood, no swelling, no perspiration. Dr. Takagawa seemed to be resting peacefully, so Dempsey shook him gently. When the man didn’t wake up, Dempsey shook more violently and called his name. Still nothing.
Evan assured them he’d tried all of that, but Takagawa only woke long enough to stumble to the office. Dempsey wasn’t buying it.
“Damnit! This man probably has a concussion. And even if he doesn’t, he obviously needs medical attention. You need to call 911 right now, and if you don’t, I will!”
Clark, de Jaager, and Hua all shook their heads as casually but forcefully as they could to remind him they didn’t want emergency services or first responders anywhere near this Op.
“Uh, or, you know … maybe we could let him sleep a bit and see if he wakes up on his own. But I’m watching you, Kozac. Something’s not right here.”
The other three agents spoke over each other in an attempt to redirect the conversation. Realizing it was better for one person to ask a question at a time – and better still for that person to be the one who had conducted an investigation like this in the past – Clark and de Jaager stopped to let Hua take over.
“Mr. Kozac, what can you tell us about the technology used by the Array?"
“Well, I could get killed for telling you this, but …”
Evan grinned to show that he was at least half-joking, but even still, he leaned forward conspiratorially and spoke in a hushed tone.
“In a nutshell, the Atrium’s lasers detect jitters in space-time, and the computer – we call it Dee – records the data and makes it comprehensible.”
“Can we see this technology and your computer, Dee?”
“Well, I’d be happy to show you around the Array and the lab, sure, but you can’t open up the laser array’s casing. The technology is extremely expensive, fragile, and precise. Also, Dr. Campbell says you’re not cleared for it. Same goes for Dee.”
Inspector Hua nodded in understanding. Dempsey, Clark, and de Jaager nodded to each other in the silent agreement that they were, indeed, going to be inspecting every inch of that laser and the computer.
Hua had another question. Once the Array had detected enough of these jitters in space-time, what use would that data be? Again, Evan started with his disclaimer about potentially being killed for telling them. He then explained it might be easiest to think of it as a very compact particle accelerator, but really, it caused quantum reactions that would fold and spindle space-time itself. Keying that beam to patterns of data detected by the Holobeam might open brief, controllable gaps in reality.
Inspector Hua nodded some more.
“Then, you might produce instantaneous movement or communication.”
Oh, good. At least someone here was following. Clark and de Jaager were both highly-intelligent and well-educated, but they weren’t physicists. They managed to catch the main idea, and when Hua gave her summary, they, too, nodded in understanding. Dempsey just shrugged and called them all nerds.
The agents decided to let Dr. Takagawa rest for now, and Evan suggested passing through the lab before heading out to the Array itself.
The lab consisted of seven computer workstations. Only one workstation was currently in use. Jingfei Tsang, as Evan introduced her, was a Chinese-American woman in her thirties, and she seemed so intent on watching the data flowing across her screen that she failed to even acknowledge anyone else was in the lab.
Evan explained that Ms. Tsang loved the computer, Dee, like a junkie loved drugs. He gestured to indicate a well-ventilated cabinet near the woman. It certainly seemed unremarkable; a typical rack of processors and motherboards connected to several workstations.
Again, as Hua was the experienced DOE Inspector, the other agents let her start. Ms. Tsang answered questions without looking away from the monitor. She told them several interesting things. During the hours it was operational, the lasers of the Array didn’t jitter with purely random movement which would be represented by white noise when plotted as data on a graph and converted to sound, but with strange, unexpected pulses. She indicated the data streaming across her monitor as if that would clarify, but she seemed to be the only one who could make any sense of it.
Ms. Tsang continued to volunteer information, consciously or not. She had had Dee generate an audio feed from the data, and she gladly played the result. It was a strange and eerie series of atonal whistles of various high frequencies. It was the same pattern as the tones Evan hummed unconsciously, but the tones were much higher. These tones were also punctuated by very low-frequency pulses that were barely audible to human ears but rattled the computer’s speakers. Clark and de Jaager, who were watching the graphed patterns while listening to the audio, instinctively felt a connection between the two, and they felt a connection to an unseen and unknowable aspect of reality.
There was more. While the Array was offline, Dee was powered by the backup generator. The computer showed anomalous readings. The tones were gone, but the pulses were still there. They were much weaker, but they shouldn’t have been there at all. Ms. Tsang explained it meant either there were unexpected energy sources leaking into the carefully isolated sensors, or else the sensors were damaged and reading phantom signals – a point Evan strongly discounted.
Whatever the case, when graphed visually, each pulse looked like an energy signature that began slowly, in low frequencies, and rose in speed and frequency over the course of about one second, until it vanished. An audio representation, which Ms. Tsang was all-too-happy to play, sounded like a drumbeat that rose to a thin whistle.
De Jaager asked if the Array was still picking up the signals after its reactivation, and Ms. Tsang indicated it was. Oddly enough, they were coming more rapidly now than they were in the morning, and they had more energy.
While listening to the exchange, Clark tried to see inside the vents of the computer casing. It looked pretty standard – well, except for the obelisk. It was hard to see it through the vents, but in the center of all the computer parts was what looked like a deep black obelisk, about two feet tall and maybe six inches around. It was run through with veins of softer black where computer cables plugged in.
Clark gave de Jaager and Dempsey a directional bro-nod to tell them to take a look inside the machine while he took over questioning. He asked Ms. Tsang to tell him about Dee, and she was quite happy to do so. Olympian Advances had custom-built Dee to present data from elaborate physics experiments in a more-easily comprehensible form. Dee was a crystal-matrix quantum supercomputer. Data was stored in a crystal framework and retrieved by lasers. It was several decades ahead of state-of-the-art. In a way, Dee wasn’t just processing data; it was thinking. It was constantly updating and rewriting itself to adapt the Array to environmental factors and improve its precision and sensitivity. It was also a good thing it wasn’t connected to the internet, because if any computer could start World War III, Dee would be the one.
It all sounded like technobabble to Dempsey and Hua, but it made even less sense to Clark and de Jaager. They knew computers, and what Ms. Tsang was describing shouldn’t be possible. It just shouldn’t work. But Ms. Tsang was happy to demonstrate. She spoke into a microphone and asked Dee to explain several difficult things from engine tuning to baking a soufflé at high altitude.
The answers Dee gave were detailed and very clear, but it wasn’t enough to convince Clark. He asked if he could direct a question to Dee. Evan tensed up, and Ms. Tsang hesitated, but she was so proud to show off the computer that she allowed it. Clark’s question was interesting: Where was Dr. Klinger right now? Dee’s response sent a chill through the agents.
“Dr. Helen Klinger has decohered out of this reality.”
Right. Not dead. Not abducted by aliens. Didn’t step out for coffee. Decohered out of this reality. Pretty much any other response would have been preferable.
If Evan and Ms. Tsang had heard the response, they didn’t show it. Evan simply gestured to the door leading outside and to the Array while he hummed the same atonal notes as always.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:51 am UTC
Apologies for letting this go so long without an update. Schedules, holidays, football season, etc ...
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:53 am UTC
Observer Effect – Session 2
Clark and de Jaager stepped outside, and Evan followed. Dempsey and Inspector Hua remained in the computer lab to … well, they weren’t sure just yet. Inspector Hua felt interviewing the final remaining Array staffer, Dr. Black, would be good, and the Irishman wanted to blow something up. He had three doses of “Irish Coffee,” his term for the improvised explosives he carried. Those should be plenty to destroy a computer, and then they could all go home.
Evan led Clark and de Jaager across the asphalt to the Array. A portable clean room – a tent of thick, clear plastic sheets with a blower and filter to clean the air – had already been set up covering the door to the concrete hut which housed the Array’s laser. The engineer was positively beaming with pride as he opened the heavy steel door and allowed the agents access.
“This is it! This is where the magic happens!”
Evan closed the door behind them, and just as he did so, he, Clark, and de Jaager were all struck by brief but sudden vertigo. Along with that, the agents also had a fleeting sense that everything they were experiencing was unreal. It was hard to explain, but it was almost as if they were actors on a television show or characters in a novel; like their reality wasn’t real, or at least like it wasn’t the only one. Professor Pangloss and Candide would have agreed. Though if this truly was the best of all possible worlds, what sort of twisted and uncaring god would have them in Chicago for back-to-back Operas with no rest? Surely, Voltaire would have approved.
De Jaager felt an instinctive awareness of something pressing against the fabric of reality as if trying to force its way through the membrane between dimensions. Not only that, but he also sensed that this awareness itself somehow made a breach more likely. Rather than provide assistance to whatever terrible thing was trying to get through, the Dutchman immediately dropped to a sitting position and concentrated on a perfect sphere. No way was he letting Gozer take Chicago.
Evan raised an eyebrow and gave Clark an inquisitive look. Clark just shrugged.
“Mecca. Must be prayer time.”
That seemed good enough for the engineer. The Array staffers were actually very inclusive for such an exclusive group.
The men out at the laser Array weren’t the only ones to experience vertigo. Back in the computer lab, both Dempsey and Inspector Hua felt it, too. Ms. Tsang looked a little dizzy for a moment, but she never took her eyes off the monitor, and when the feeling had passed, she gave no indication of having noticed it. Dempsey’s bad feeling about this Opera was steadily getting worse. He didn’t understand all the science or technobabble, but he was sure everything stemmed from the talking crystal obelisk masquerading as a computer.
He was just about to rig a dose of “Irish Coffee” to it when a blood-curdling scream echoed from outside the lab in the direction of the offices. He told Hua to keep an eye on Ms. Tsang, and he went to investigate. Dr. Takagawa had awoken, and he now stood on shaky legs in the hallway. Dempsey approached cautiously.
“Dr. Takagawa, what happened?”
“My eyes … Everything is going dark.”
For a Japanese man in his 60s, Takagawa only had a slight accent. He was visibly terrified. As his knees wobbled more and more, the engineer was forced to lean on the wall for support. Dempsey spoke into his sub-vocal mic to let the other agents know Takagawa was awake and his vision was fading fast. Clark responded that they were on their way. Evan remained behind to check on the laser, but he assured them he would follow in just a minute.
Whatever was going on here, Dempsey didn’t want to touch Takagawa, but he did want to help. He told the old engineer to follow the sound of his voice, and he backed slowly toward the computer lab. When Clark and de Jaager reached the computer lab, Dempsey had just backed in. He took a few more steps back, and Dr. Takagawa fell through the doorway and came to rest face first on the concrete floor of the lab.
Ms. Tsang paid no attention to the collapsed engineer, so Clark paid all of his attention to her. The utter disinterest was appalling. Clark was a recovering bro, and where he came from, people were supposed to at least feign interest or mock.
Dolf rushed to Dr. Takagawa, and though the Dutchman had no practical medical knowledge, he moved to feel for a pulse. He stopped short, however. The fluids in de Jaager’s hand began to glow a faint bluish-white. As Dolf pulled his hand back, the engineer looked up at him with cloudy, unfocused eyes. As the man spoke, his saliva displayed the same faint glow as Dolf’s hand had.
“Please … A hospital, please … Call my wife and children …”
Yeah … de Jaager hadn’t been on the job long, but it had been long enough to know the engineer could never be allowed to leave or to talk with anyone outside the facility.
Nope. De Jaager drew his pistol and shot the crawling man between the eyes. Dr. Takagawa’s head popped like a cyst, splattering brain matter and faintly-glowing fluids all over. That was not like the movies; it was surreal and yet all too real. It was the right thing to do. It put the man out of his agony and secured a potential breach of the Operation.
Still, he had just shot a man. In the face. He even thought he could taste brain. Brain may or may not have sprayed into his mouth. Even if it hadn’t, de Jaager was pretty sure some of it had found its way into his nose and tear ducts. There might be bits of another man’s brain touching his brain right now in some revolting meeting-of-the-minds that probably wouldn’t even make it into a Lloyd Kaufman film. Of course, he knew it didn’t work that way, but Dolf wasn’t thinking straight at the moment. All he wanted to do was get away.
Clark had seen cold-blooded executions before. It was part of the reason he preferred to run surveillance rather than go undercover. Even when the victim had it coming, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Takagawa had to die. Clark knew that, but it didn’t make the situation easier. He tried to block out reality by focusing on the waves and pulses scrolling across Ms. Tsang’s monitor instead.
Dempsey wasn’t a fan of execution either, but business was business. Besides, Dr. Takagawa’s sacrifice provided the cover he needed to dose the computer, Dee, with “Irish Coffee.” As he slipped over to the rack of computer parts that housed the crystal obelisk, he told Clark to hold Tsang. Rather than do as the Irishman instructed, Clark instead looked up from the monitor with an inquisitive expression.
As Dempsey secured the explosive device to do the most damage to the computer, Ms. Tsang stiffened and then whirled in her office chair. She seemed to sense Dee was in danger, and so she leaped from the chair and tackled Dempsey. In the struggle, a button was pressed. A bomb exploded. Somewhere in the distance, a Dutchman screamed.
When the dust settled, and the ringing in his ears had faded, Dempsey stood and assessed the damage. He’d taken a gash to his shoulder, but he’d be okay. He couldn’t say the same for anyone else in the room. Tsang was dead. Clark was dead. De Jaager was dead. Inspector Hua was unconscious, but she was bleeding out and would probably die without medical attention.
Dempsey sighed and shot her twice with his pistol. Now, Hua was dead, too. And the computer … Dempsey sighed again. The crystal was still intact.
Two figures appeared in the doorway, standing over the fallen Dr. Takagawa. It was Dr. Campbell and a man he didn’t recognize. Probably Dr. Black.
The two scientists stood in horror as they took in the sight. Dempsey just shrugged and used the hesitation to shoot them both. The man dropped, but Dr. Campbell was only grazed. She turned and fled for her office.
As Dempsey stepped over bodies and through pools of blood, he tried not to think about anything at all. Maybe the bomb was a mistake, but maybe Clark should have listened to him. Either way, his team was dead, and most of the Array staff were dead. He might as well eliminate the rest and go back to finish off that damned computer.
Campbell slammed the door to her office, and Dempsey heard the click of the lock as he reached it. That was cute. Locking an office door. These people may be smart, but they could have used some Active Shooter training. He put a round into the door just below the knob, and then he kicked. The door swung open in time for him to see Dr. Campbell duck behind her heavy wooden desk.
He could hear a desk drawer slowly slide open, but he didn’t have time for games. Three quick steps and he had a clear shot. Dr. Campbell never had time to grab whatever she was reaching for. Next was … Who was left? Just Evan? Dempsey stepped out into the hall and had only a moment to realize he’d forgotten someone - the security guard from the kiosk with the cameras. Officer Henson greeted him in the hall with a frown and three bullets. Maybe it was more than three, but three were all he lived long enough to count. Dempsey slumped against the wall and slid down as everything turned red and then black.
Moments later – or maybe eternities later? – the agents all screamed as memories faded. Clark and de Jaager were in the Array, and Evan had just closed the door. Dempsey and Hua were in the computer lab. They were all right where they had been when they’d felt vertigo.
Clark, Dempsey, and Hua let the memories fade like barely-remembered dreams, and they couldn’t fade fast enough. De Jaager wanted to let the memories fade, but something told him he needed to remember. He froze, staring at his feet and thinking. Remember. Remember.
And remember, he did. Only, he remembered so damned hard that he remembered things he’d tried to forget before. Yes, he remembered shooting Takagawa, and he remembered dying in an explosion … He had died. He had died in an explosion. Yet, here he was. And this wasn’t the first time.
Just after the team had wrapped up the Reverb investigation and were preparing to head home, they got an emergency call from Carpenter. They had a quick briefing, and they were sent to the Array at night. The staffers were already insane and murderous. Then, something broke through. Something vast, black, shapeless and mindless, but alive and potent, ripped a hole in the sky over the Array. Thunderous blasts and shrieks of power answered the feeble pulses echoed by Dee. The thing in the sky swept out and absorbed everything into itself.
And he “woke” screaming at 10:00 A.M., hours before, in the hotel restaurant, remembering almost nothing. He called in the barest details to Delta Green. The Program sent the team to stop the disaster — and they failed. Late at night, the great power behind reality broke through again, absorbed everything again.
And he “woke” screaming at 10:00 A.M., hours before, in the hotel restaurant, remembering almost nothing, not even the barest details. The Program sent the team to the Array again.
And now, here they were. Again. Only, this time they “woke” screaming already at the Array, already with the Operation in progress. They were stuck in Groundhog Day, but the timeline was accelerating. If they failed, they’d probably get another chance, but who knew how much time they’d lose. Eventually, failure would be permanent.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:53 am UTC
Observer Effect – Session 3
This had to end, and it had to end now. Clark didn’t seem to remember what had just happened, but de Jaager remembered enough for the both of them. This time, he didn’t sit to meditate, and he didn’t wait for Dempsey to call.
“Come on. Takagawa’s awake, he’s going blind, and I have to give him something.”
Again, Evan raised an eyebrow and gave Clark an inquisitive look, and again, Clark just shrugged.
“He called his psychic this morning.”
That answer, too, was good enough for Evan. Clark and de Jaager hurried back to the Computer Lab, and Evan remained behind to tend to the laser.
Dempsey was in the process of prepping a dose of “Irish Coffee” when de Jaager and Clark entered and passed through the Lab on the way to the hall. De Jaager went straight for the engineers’ office, and Clark followed. As they entered, Takagawa was just starting to stir, and de Jaager put a stop to that. Two bullets to the face, and this time, he was careful not to let anything get in his mouth.
Clark was entirely unprepared. Dolf did say he had to give something to the engineer, but if anything, Clark was even more surprised than Takagawa. What now? Did de Jaager know something he didn’t? Was he next? Was he going to be called upon to uphold the Body Disposal clause of the Bro Code? Clark readied his gun. He wasn’t sure just what was going on, but he was willing to bet there would be more bullets, and he wanted to be on the shooting team.
Without eye contact, de Jaager stepped out into the hall. Clark followed him back to the computer lab. They entered just in time for another wave of vertigo and the accompanying sense that nothing was real, or at least, that everything that was real to them wasn’t all that was real. As vertigo faded, de Jaager could again feel something pressing against the fabric of reality. Clark, Dempsey, and Hua either didn’t feel it, or they were blocking it out. Either way, that was probably for the best.
If Gozer the Gozerian wanted Chicago, he’d have to down a shot of Dempsey’s “Irish Coffee” first. The Irishman had just finished placing the charge when Ms. Tsang blindsided him with a vicious snarl. The woman had torn herself away from her monitor with such speed and force that neither de Jaager nor Clark could react in time.
Dempsey was tackled. A button was pressed. A bomb exploded. Somewhere in the distance, a Dutchman screamed.
Moments later, the agents all screamed as memories faded. Clark and de Jaager had just stepped into the computer lab from the hall, Inspector Hua was standing against the far wall watching Ms. Tsang who, for her part, didn’t seem to notice she had screamed, and Dempsey had just finished planting a charge of “Irish Coffee.”
As Ms. Tsang turned from her monitor, de Jaager emptied the clip into her back. She fell lifelessly to the concrete floor, face first, just like Takagawa had when de Jaager had killed him the first time. Dempsey and Hua blinked in surprise, but Clark had just seen Takagawa eat two bullets as he was waking up. He had to do something about de Jaager, or everyone was going to die. He raised his gun and pointed it at the back of the Dutchman’s head.
Before he managed to pull the trigger, he heard footsteps from the hall. Dr. Campbell and another man were rushing to the lab, so Clark shot them instead. He still had no idea what was going on, but at least he was doing the shooting.
Dempsey ignored all the shooting; he’d process it all later if necessary. He indicated he had two more doses of “Irish Coffee,” and de Jaager told him to set one up in the atrium with the laser. De Jaager led the way.
Clark paused to catch his breath. He could sure use something to calm his nerves; a beer, a Rum and Coke, a Red Bull … He heard more footsteps in the hall. Officer Henson ran in from the security kiosk outside, pointed her gun at Clark, and yelled for him to drop his weapon. There had been enough shooting, but it sure seemed like that was the only way out. Must be a Chicago thing.
While Clark was assessing his quick draw chances, he thought he saw – no, he did see – two people appear out of thin air behind Henson. The first was a wild-eyed and wild-haired woman in a lab coat, and behind her, a man in loose-fitting khakis and a collared shirt with a tie but no jacket. The man carried a pistol pointed down and away but ready.
The man seemed only momentarily surprised by his newfound situation. He lunged forward and locked his free arm around the wild-eyed woman’s neck while he aimed and fired his pistol at Officer Henson hitting her between the shoulders. Officer Henson fired at Clark and hit him in the chest. Clark fired at the man who shot Henson, but he hit the wild-eyed woman between the eyes instead.
The man dropped his now-dead human shield and fired again. He hit Officer Henson as she was falling to the ground, and then the next round put Clark down.
With de Jaager’s assistance, Dempsey found the best position for the Atrium’s dose of “Irish Coffee.” They exited the concrete hut and headed back toward the main building. The Irishman held the remote detonator over his head and angled it behind him. He pressed the button with a dramatic exaggeration.
The man who had killed Clark had just stepped out of the main building as the atrium exploded in a concussive shower of concrete and steel. Again, he was unfazed by the situation. He calmly walked forward with his pistol angled down and away. Dempsey and de Jaager both drew their guns and held them in the same manner, stopping about 50 feet away. The newcomer stopped as well and called to them.
“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but it looks like we’re on the same side. That’s some nice work, but I don’t think taking down the laser is gonna be enough.”
Dempsey scoffed. Of course, it would be enough. The laser was what was causing … well, whatever bad thing was happening. He wasn’t too clear on that point, but he did know the laser had to die. The computer, he could take with him and destroy later. Dempsey responded by paraphrasing what President Reagan had called the nine most terrifying words in the English language.
“We’re from the government, and we're here to help.”
The newcomer nodded and cracked his neck like an action movie villain before a fight.
“Yeah. Me, too. You can call me REDLIGHT.”
REDLIGHT was Captain Cramer Gump, INSCOM “Black” Ops. REDLIGHT had also been dead for more than two years. His cell leader had sacrificed him to a wendigo in the middle of a cold, Alaskan winter. None of these men knew that, however. De Jaager and Dempsey were involved with the legitimate Delta Green program, and this REDLIGHT came from a reality where his cell leader, ROSE, hadn’t sacrificed him. She had sacrificed REAPER instead while REDLIGHT passed the time in a remote cabin with RICHARD.
Dempsey felt there was something a little off about this REDLIGHT guy. Whatever it was, the Irishman didn’t trust anyone who hadn’t been in the briefing room that morning. Hell, he wasn’t sure he even trusted the people who were in that room.
He raised his gun as quickly as he could, but Dempsey hadn’t counted on the possibility the man they faced was no more than a human brain in an alien-engineered body. REDLIGHT had shot them both dead before de Jaager could even shout for Dempsey to stop.
After an indefinite period of nothing, Dolf screamed. He was in the restaurant on the first floor of the Talbott Hotel, and he had just finished his first sip of coffee. Everyone was staring at him. This all seemed familiar, and he didn’t like it. Something told him he needed to remember, and something else told him to forget. He’d taken advice from the wrong shoulder before, and he usually knew the difference. Forgetting seemed like the right choice, and so he let the memories fade.
Clark screamed as well, and at the same time. He, too, was back at the Talbott Hotel, and he was staring at the paperwork he’d been filling out regarding the Reverb investigation. There were rapidly fading memories or dreams, but they involved math, so he let them go.
Like the other two, Dempsey had screamed, but he was about to board a flight at O’Hare Airport. After reassuring the TSA officials who responded to the disturbance, he boarded and found his seat; First Class, seat 4A. The man in the seat next to him looked tired and just a little off. He was dressed in loose-fitting khakis and a collared shirt with a tie and no jacket.
As the Irishman leaned his seat back, the other man warned him the flight crew would only make him put it upright again before takeoff. Dempsey narrowed his eyes with a sneer, and the other man shrugged.
“Suit yourself. But as long as we’re going to be on this flight together, we might as well talk. You can call me REDLIGHT.”
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue May 28, 2019 10:12 pm UTC
Future/Perfect – Session 1
One year. Well, not quite one year, but summer had transitioned through other seasons and the northern hemisphere once again prepared for its arrival. In Chicago, Task Force 138 had failed many times to save the world, and each time, the world had ended. The world in which the agents now found themselves was the real world as far as they knew. To them, they had successfully stopped the resurgence of an unnatural drug and headed home. The memories of their many failures at the Holobeam Array were sealed behind the deepest doors their minds could create. They were nightmares. Sometimes, they were half-seen flashbacks, which only self-medication could ease. But the world – this world where the Holobeam Array had never existed – went on. It survived by virtue of not needing Task Force 138 to save it.
The agents had returned to their homes and jobs. They forgot – as best they could – about Chicago, about the Program, about each other. Well, de Jaager and Dempsey forgot about the others. Despite his best efforts, Clark couldn’t forget Dempsey. Someone that pale and always dressed in heavy wool no matter the temperature might be memorable, but that wasn’t why Clark found it hard to forget. Instead, it was because Clark worked for the DEA. Evidently, the Irishman had decided to embark on a cocaine binge that would make Rick James jealous, and he wasn’t always as subtle as he thought.
More out of a sense of self-preservation than adherence to the Bro Code, Clark spent several hours from June through April covering trails that would lead to Dempsey because those trails might link Dempsey to him.
The rise of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kept de Jaager busy. There was always demand for advances and refinements in linguistic software engineering, and there was nothing quite like national security to drive that demand ever forward.
Of course, no matter how they struggled to forget, to immerse themselves in their jobs, to better (or worsen) themselves, Delta Green always called again. The Program did just that the on a Sunday afternoon the following May. Something wasn’t quite right in California, which might be an enormous understatement, but it could also be applied to any other state. This particular something, however, dealt with what the FBI had designated a serial killer. Details would presumably be in their briefing at the Bakersfield, California FBI office in the morning. Special-Agent-in-Charge Kevin Slater ran the field office, and he had Delta Green clearance.
The sky over southern California was a beautiful, deep blue without a cloud in sight. Thermometers everywhere boasted a perfect 72 degrees. Of course, it was only 8:30 AM. The forecast called for temperatures to hit the mid-90s; not record highs, but high enough to make everyone with a desk job appreciate their lot in life.
Special-Agent-in-Charge Slater had the weary look of a man just short of retirement. Whether or not that was the case, and despite the recent Bureau-wide relaxation of the dress code, SAC Slater was still sharply dressed in a black suit and tie. As Clark and Dempsey arrived, Slater waved them toward a room he called his Sea Cabin. Clark guessed the SAC had been in the Navy, but Dempsey was pretty sure the man just liked pirates. As the agents grabbed coffee and took seats around the long wooden table, the stance Slater took at the podium – hands behind his back, chest out, feet shoulder-width apart – supported Clark’s theory.
SAC Slater got right to the briefing. He took a manila folder from the podium and dropped it on the table in front of the agents. Clark opened it and examined the contents while the SAC explained them.
“Clifford Potter, age 68, was a retired steelworker and local treasure-hunter over in Furnace Creek. His mutilated body was found March 5th less than a quarter mile from the ruins of the old Hughes Electrodynamics plant. Cause of death was blunt and cutting trauma, and time of death was placed between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM. It was ruled a homicide by the county coroner, and a nearby Bobcat light construction vehicle was tentatively identified as the murder weapon. Potter had rented it at his own expense, and he had been digging around at the abandoned lot for some reason. The local investigation dried up after about a week.”
Furnace Creek. Dempsey didn’t like the sound of that. He’d packed nothing but heavy clothes, and he was pale, even for an Irishman. After the past year, Clark wondered if Dempsey was actually just clear and full of coke.
Slater dropped another manila folder on the table and continued.
“Lorraine Minor, age 36, was reported missing in Furnace Creek on the night of April 24th. Her body was discovered by Furnace Creek Sheriff’s Deputy Lucas Androzy. The deputy was drawn out into the desert by a gathering of buzzards. Ms. Minor had to be identified through dental records. There wasn’t much else left. Even parts of her skeleton were missing.”
The picture in Potter’s folder was a black-and-white portrait. The photograph of Ms. Minor was in color and showed her in the desert with her arm around the waist of another woman. The file identified the other woman as Ms. Minor’s partner, Emily Warren.
Clark and Dempsey agreed that a Bobcat light construction vehicle made an odd choice of murder weapon, but they weren’t sure how that caught the Program’s interest. They didn’t wonder long. SAC Slater unlocked and opened a briefcase at the base of the podium and produced a thick, leather folder tied closed with a leather strap. He dropped it on the table just as he had the manila folders, but this one landed with a solid thud. Despite the heavy sound, Clark found only a single 8x10 color photograph depicting what looked like a burnt orange-colored wallet with featherlike buds sprouting from one end.
“After the second victim was found, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department asked for help. I assigned the case to Agent Grunberg, and he found that stuck to the underside of the construction vehicle. He sent it to the nerds at the Program lab in San Diego, and all they could come up with was that it came from some kind of unknown bird. Now, I saw that thing, and it didn’t look like it came from any bird I’d ever seen, so maybe the nerds are right. They usually are.”
The SAC took two black wallets with badges and FBI credentials from his inside jacket pocket and gave them to the agents.
“As far as anyone knows, you’re FBI from Washington, D.C. until this is handled. If that’s not good enough for someone, refer them to me. Grunberg and I are in the Program, so anything and everything can be run through us. Just keep it quiet. The boys at the home office in Sacramento might look in at any time. Check out an SUV and get moving. I want daily reports, and if they’re not in person, you’d sure as hell better use some codes.”
That seemed to conclude the briefing since SAC Slater then took back the photograph of the feathery wallet and locked it in his briefcase once more before exiting the room unceremoniously.
The 4-hour drive from Bakersfield was uneventful, and the agents arrived in Furnace Creek at about 1:00 PM. It was hot, but it was going to get hotter. Many people might secure lodging immediately, but not the agents of Task Force 138. According to the sign as they entered, Furnace Creek had 24 residents. Dempsey suggested a revised population of 22, but the sign did look old and sun-bleached, so it might no longer be accurate. Regardless, there were three campgrounds, two small hotels, and a bed and breakfast, so they didn’t consider lodging to be their biggest concern. That distinction fell to lunch, and they had just passed a place offering fry bread tacos and shaved ice.
Once lunch was behind them, the agents felt they could concentrate on work. The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office was in Independence, but there was a small station in Furnace Creek. The building wasn’t large, but it was economical in its use of space. Sheriff Alfred Mann was at the Furnace Creek station when the agents arrived. He was big and burly, but he seemed friendly enough. He expressed appreciation that the FBI had agreed to take over the investigation. His office wasn’t equipped for this sort of thing, it was just himself and Deputy Androzy, murders just didn’t happen around there, etc …
The sheriff informed the agents Deputy Androzy had handled the Potter investigation, and when the deputy had found Ms. Minor, they turned everything over to the FBI. He referred them to the deputy for any questions. The sheriff’s office would assist in any way they needed but would otherwise stay out of the way.
Clark thanked the sheriff for his time, and the agents went to speak with Deputy Androzy. The deputy was young, and while he wasn’t exactly eager to assist the FBI, he was willing to do what he could. Something in the deputy’s manner led Clark to wonder if that willingness to help would persist after the sheriff went back to Independence.
Deputy Androzy had the case file ready and on his desk. It contained crime scene photos which were clear but still obviously not professional. The photos from the Potter scene showed a body shredded and mangled near a construction vehicle in a cleared area surrounded by debris and the ruins of a building. The photos of the Minor scene showed a few broken and shattered bones scattered across a small patch of desert.
He told the agents what he knew. Potter was a local treasure hunter who had taken an interest in the old Hughes Electrodynamics plant a couple years ago. He would rent the Bobcat from the Furnace Creek Gas Station for days at a time, and he would come back with truckloads of brass, bronze, and copper. He swore it was like a gold mine, but no one seemed to be interested.
Jarvis Greene was the one who found the body. His grandfather, Montgomery Green, owned the gas station, and Jarvis worked there. According to Jarvis Greene, when Potter failed to return the Bobcat on time, he called and received no answer. He went to Potter’s house, and again, no answer. It was when he went out to the old electrodynamics plant that he found the body.
Emily Warren was Lorraine Minor’s girlfriend, companion, partner … Deputy Androzy wasn’t sure what the polite term was, but the other residents just referred to them as “the lesbians.” There was nothing disparaging meant; it was just the most accurate way the Furnace Creek residents had to describe them. The women were actually very well liked. They were artists; Warren was a painter, and Minor was a sculptor. Ms. Minor had recently begun working with what she called “desert wood” sculptures, and she would go out in the evenings to collect materials. She had gone out on the night of April 24th, but she never returned.
The agents thanked the deputy. As they were leaving, Deputy Androzy asked them if they had any ideas and where they thought they might go next. Dempsey wasn’t about to give out any information. As far as he was concerned, everyone was a suspect. Clark wasn’t sure he wanted to give out too much information either, but he didn’t want to draw suspicion for lack of cooperation. He said they planned to check out the Bobcat at the gas station and take a look at the rental records to see who had been using it lately. Androzy nodded and added that he checked the rental log as part of the Potter investigation. Only Potter had rented it in the last couple years, and he’d been doing so a lot. He didn’t know if anyone had rented it since it had been returned to the gas station following the investigation.
The Furnace Creek Gas Station was a rickety two-story house with a gable roof. The front half of the first floor had been converted into a store. Two old gas pumps sat out front on simple concrete blocks beneath a sun-bleached Coke sign and faded ads for long-forgotten products.
Inside the store, the agents noticed a strong smell of marijuana. A young man with dreadlocks leaned back in his chair behind the counter. His feet were propped on the counter next to the register. He smiled and nodded at the agents when they entered. His smile disappeared instantly when the badges came out. Dempsey waved a hand to calm him.
“Don’t worry kid. That’s not why we’re here. I think that’s legal here anyway.”
Clark shook his head and indicated that, while it wasn’t legal recreationally, he was sure the kid had a prescription. Anyway, as Dempsey had mentioned, that’s not why they were there. They were investigating a couple murders, and part of that investigation involved an inspection of the Bobcat construction vehicle and the store’s rental log.
The rental log was nothing more than a few sheets of paper on a clipboard hanging on the wall behind the counter. The young man handed it to Dempsey. Just as Deputy Androzy had said, the log showed only Potter’s name appeared on the first couple pages of the log. Dempsey nodded and handed the clipboard back.
“Thank you, Mr., ummm … What did you say your name was?”
“Jarvis. Jarvis Greene. My grandpa owns this place.”
“Jarvis. You’re the one who found Potter’s body?”
The man nodded as he showed the agents to the concrete pad where the Bobcat was parked. Clark began inspecting the vehicle while Dempsey continued the conversation. The young man’s answers matched what the deputy had told them. Dempsey mentioned they might need to speak with the owner of the gas station at some point, and Jarvis said that should be fine. His grandfather was very old, however, and he spent most of his time upstairs where it was air conditioned. It would take him several minutes to get downstairs, so the agents should call ahead before they arrive.
Clark was no forensic scientist, so he wasn’t sure what to make of the splatter patterns, but there was still a significant amount of dried blood on the underside of the vehicle as well as traces over the front left. There was also a transparent film spattered lightly in various places and more heavily concentrated near the engine. Again, he was no nerd, but he did know a thing or two about mechanics. That fluid which left that film when it dried wasn’t any fluid which should have come from the Bobcat.
Dempsey wasn’t sure what to make of it either, so he scraped some of the film into an evidence bag before Clark could recommend latex gloves. Maybe the guys at the lab would know more. The agents thanked Jarvis for his cooperation and headed back to the car.
They could see how a trained deputy and a coroner might not be able to envision the murder, but the agents had perspective in the form of a photograph of a burnt orange-colored chunk of leather with featherlike buds. Once back in their car, they discussed their theories.
Dempsey suspected Potter and Minor were killed by a harpy. Clark had only heard that term when a former supervisor would complain about his mother-in-law, and he wasn’t sure how she’d be involved. The Irishman clarified that a harpy was a mythological creature that had the head and body of a woman and the wings and talons of a bird.
Clark felt that was the most ridiculous explanation he’d ever heard, and he countered with his own. Weresnakes. The murders happened at night, and snakes were common in the area. The photograph they saw was obviously a scale – never mind the buds. Deputy Androzy also seemed pretty interested in where they were going and what avenues they were planning to investigate. Clark suspected Androzy was a member of a … werewolves would have a pack, werelions would have a pride, weresheep would have a herd … What would weresnakes have? Well, it was something to look up once they got settled into their room. They drove off toward the Sunset Bed and Breakfast, arguing the whole way over who had the worse theory.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue May 28, 2019 10:13 pm UTC
It's been a while, but I'm back to updating. If anyone is still here, welcome! I hope it's worth the wait.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Sat Jun 01, 2019 1:50 am UTC
I remember reading through this whole thread a few years ago! Looks like it’s time to do it again!
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:55 pm UTC
Peaceful Whale wrote:
I remember reading through this whole thread a few years ago! Looks like it’s time to do it again!
Wow! I appreciate the enthusiasm, for sure.
That would be quite a feat, too. I keep a copy of the entire thing in Word and .pdf, and even ignoring commentary and other posts, the write-up alone just hit 170,000 words. By the end of the current Opera, it should have a higher word count than Fellowship of the Ring.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:06 pm UTC
Eh... I can do it... but could you possibly link / upload the doc? This forum was not designed for reading books
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:06 pm UTC
Peaceful Whale wrote:
Eh... I can do it... but could you possibly link / upload the doc? This forum was not designed for reading books
Definitely. My work computer is giving me issues at the moment, but I'll get it uploaded tonight, and I'll see about editing a link to it into the first post of this thread like I did with the Table of Contents.
I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of that in the five years I've been running the game and doing the write-ups.
Edit: And here
it is as of right now. The link in the first post will be updated as the PDF is updated.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 9:21 pm UTC
Scheduling conflicts have slowed us down but we haven't been stopped. We managed to play Sunday, and an update is coming soon. I wrote about 1,000 words on my lunch break.
Re: Delta Green - All Part of the Job (Call of Cthulhu AP)
Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:44 pm UTC
Future/Perfect – Session 2
Dempsey tossed his bag casually in his room and peeked his head into Clark’s room to see what his partner was talking about.
“I would have figured you for a Velcro man.”
Clark looked up from his laptop. He had wasted no time unpacking. He had questions which only the internet could answer.
“No. I mean a knot is what you call a group of weresnakes. Well, it’s what you call a group of snakes, so it stands to reason it’s what you’d call a group of weresnakes.”
Dempsey wasn’t so sure. A knot seemed like a rude thing to call a group of creatures that could actually be tied into one. He’d sure never call a weresnake that to his face, but he would have no problem encouraging Clark to do it.
“I’m pretty sure a group of snakes is called a nope.”
“You’re thinking spiders.”
“Well, I am now. Thanks.”
Clark was all too happy to have helped. Despite the fact it was the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the world, the agents decided they could unpack later. They were burning daylight. Clark refilled his canteen with Red Bull and clipped it to his belt. On their way to the SUV, they gave a polite wave to Mrs. Bradley, the elderly woman who ran the Sunset Bed & Breakfast with her husband. Mrs. Bradley returned the wave and reminded them dinner would be at 6:30 sharp if they were interested.
Because Deputy Androzy was a weresnake, Clark reasoned, he probably didn’t do a particularly thorough job in his investigations. He had given them the keys to Potter’s house, but Clark figured there would still probably be something to find there. Maybe they should also take a look at where Potter had been digging at the old Electrodynamics plant. Dempsey was pretty sure interviewing the lesbians should be the first order of business.
Lesbian, singular. Clark had to remind Dempsey one of them was their second victim. Okay. That particular interview moved down his list a couple notches, but the Irishman still felt it was an angle they needed to cover at some point. Clark agreed.
Potter’s house was on the northwestern edge of town. It was almost as far to the center of town from his home as it was the ruins of the Hughes Electrodynamics plant. His closest neighbor was about a quarter of a mile in the direction of the town.
The house was a lime green, single-story building with a gabled roof. They had keys, but the agents decided to do a quick sweep around the perimeter first. The windows were locked, and the blinds were down, but it didn’t seem like anyone was inside.
Around back, the agents found the wooden doors of a root cellar. The doors must have been installed in the past few years because they showed little sign of weathering. They couldn’t open the root cellar since it was held shut with a padlock.
They decided to come back for the root cellar after checking the house. Dempsey would go in through the back door, and Clark would take the front. When they were in position, they each counted to three before opening the doors, entering, and coming face to face with each other. Evidently, the two doors were directly across from each other on opposite sides of a well-kept living room.
Like the living room, the bedroom and bathroom were also tidy and free of anything resembling a clue. The kitchen was the only room in the house with a lived-in feel. Where the rest of the house might pass a military inspection, the kitchen was merely neat. On the table, Clark found an old boom-box, two books, a pair of lead-lined leather work gloves, a small black device like a remote control with a digital display, a notepad, a Master Lock key, and a series of twenty-four cassette tapes.
Dempsey went through the refrigerator and cabinets, but he found only canned and boxed food. He shrugged and sat at the table.
Clark picked up the first tape. It was hand-labeled “Monty Interview – 1 of 24.” He put it in the boom-box and pressed play. The agents listened to the tapes while they examined the rest of the items.
“We talkin’ about Hughes?”
“Yeah, Monty, if that’s okay?”
“Sure. Why the Hell not? He said people would talk about him someday.”
“Sure. Said he was going to change the face of the Earth with what he was working on down at the plant. You know what? I believed him.”
The gloves were heavy and lined with lead. They were covered in red dirt that didn’t match the surrounding desert. Dempsey pointed out they were the sort of gloves an X-ray lab technician might use to handle radioactive materials. That would explain the remote control. It was probably a Geiger counter.
“Did you ever see what went on below the plant?”
“Nope. I never did. He never really went down there either. He just stayed in his office – the Bathysphere, we called it. It was all decked out strange. I heard it cost a couple million to put it together. It was hermetically sealed with big rubber-lipped, cast iron doors like a damned battleship.”
“Yeah. It was all lit by those klieg light jobbies; you know the ones? Man, it cooked in there, 110 degrees, sometimes 120 easy. He liked it. Hell, he loved it. He just sat at this weird desk and drew his plans and cooked. No one but me and him could stand it. I was in the South Pacific for a chunk of time, you understand; Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands … Even I found it uncomfortable after a while.”
“What was he working on?”
“I don’t really know; except he said it would change the world. The man worked freehand, from memory, just drawing out things that looked like blueprints from scratch – I mean with a damned pencil and some paper, and that’s it. He just sat there and rattled it off like he was doing crosswords.”
“What did it look like?”
“They’re hard to explain. Oh, he wrote in this weird code. It looked like math; like symbols. Then he’d redo the whole thing in English when it was ready to be built.”
“So you don’t think English was his main language?”
“I don’t know. He looked white. He looked like he was from Europe or something. He seemed normal, but once or twice I heard him speak in this language …”
“Can you describe it?”
“Well, it sounded like some sort of South Seas lingo. Like something from New Guinea, or something. I heard some in the Corps, you understand.”
“Did he know you overheard him?”
“Did he ever say anything to you about it?”
“Yeah. He said to forget it. He said he could speak twelve languages; that it was a gift. He could write in them, too.”
The books were textbooks, and they looked well-used. The titles didn’t help Clark’s growing unease; Radioactivity and Geology: An Account of the Influence of Radioactive Energy on Terrestrial History
, and Radioactivity and Its Measurement
. The books did fit the emerging theme, however.
“So, his personal habits, they were strange?”
“Well, if he had any personal habits. He never slept. I only caught him dozing once. The guy only ate vegetables; only specially prepared stuff. It was flown in every morning by courier from Los Angeles. He’d only eat it if I washed it by hand. He knew when I didn’t do this. I don’t know how.”
“So, he was odd?”
“Odd ain’t the word. But he was a good boss. Then again, I was used to the Corps. Anything seems good after the Corps.”
“So, he was a good boss?”
“Do you think you could go into that a bit more?”
“Sure. Don’t get me wrong. He hated everyone; all the guys who worked for him. He never once said a kind word to anyone. Conversations with him were always about three sentences. He’d ask you a question, you’d answer, and then he’d berate you. But he was always right, and he rewarded loyalty and consistency. I had that stuff down from training. I did everything he asked down to the letter; by that time it was second nature.”
“So you think he liked you?”
“Nah, he tolerated me. You understand?”
“Did he ever go outside?”
“Once or twice that I seen. He wore these old goggles – Bakelight goggles with black-out glass – when he went.”
“Yeah. He could see just fine in the dark. He walked around after hours, sometimes, in the rooms surrounding his office, in the dark.”
“So, he wore them whenever he was in sunlight?”
“Yeah. He liked the heat, he liked the lamps, but something about the sun bugged him. Not his skin; just his eyes.”
The notepad was battered and swollen as if it had once been water-logged but had since dried. The poor state and legibility of the writing supported that assessment. Potter had taken hundreds of notes, but hardly anything was clear. There were what appeared to be measurements of distance as well as cryptic phrases like “… machine parts: gold, silver …” and “… be radioactive …” The last page of the notebook showed a simple drawing of what looked like an odd pool with sockets – sockets evidently measuring precisely 2.718 inches by 2.718 inches – in the border. There were wavy lines drawn in the center.
“So, he didn’t like blood? You said something about that earlier?”
“Yes. I cut myself once while preparing his lunch, and when I walked into the Bathysphere, he got up and started screaming at me. He was really, really mad. Really PO’d. He stood away from me like I was contagious.”
“What was he yelling?”
“For me to get out. To come back later. That he wasn’t hungry. That my blood made him sick.”
“So you were bleeding a lot?”
“That’s the thing. I didn’t bleed hardly at all, and just on one finger I wrapped in gauze.”
“So, he saw the bandage.”
“Nah. I had the hand with the cut on the door. He couldn’t see it.”
“Then, how did he know?”
“I think he smelt it.”
This Hughes guy must have been pretty strange if those tapes were accurate. Dempsey was starting to come around to the weresnake theory. Hughes preferred the dark, and he liked heat lamps. Snakes like heat lamps. His sense of smell was incredible, and snakes had some of the keenest noses in the animal kingdom.
Tongues. Clark told the Irishman snakes smelled with their tongues. Well, Dempsey wasn’t so sure about that, but whatever. Clark also pointed out snakes weren’t exactly vegetarians, but it sounded like Arthur Hughes was. Still, heat lamps. Clark agreed there was a similarity, and he still liked his weresnake theory. It was something to keep in mind.
Clark took the Geiger counter and the Master Lock key, and the agents headed out back to the root cellar. Dempsey swung the doors open and looked down. The cellar had dirt walls reinforced by wooden supports. A set of slate steps led the way down.
Clark went down first, gun out, and once at the bottom, he pulled the chain dangling from an uncovered lightbulb in the ceiling. The bulb came to life and illuminated the roughly ten-foot square cellar. The cellar was empty, and the soft dirt floor had been meticulously raked. It looked somewhat like an uninspired Zen garden with only parallel grooves. A rake rested against the near wall at the foot of the stairs.
Well, Dempsey wasn’t about to go messing with a dead man’s Zen garden. That’s how you get bad karma. He was about to head back up the stairs when he noticed a clicking sound from the Geiger counter. Clark suggested Potter may have buried something in the dirt and raked it over to hide it. That may be, but if he did, Dempsey reasoned, it appeared to be something radioactive.
Clark shrugged and followed the trail until the counter clicked the fastest. If anything here was radioactive, it wasn’t strong enough to be dangerous in small doses. Clark began to dig, and it only took a moment before he found something.
He pulled a large jar from the ground, and Dempsey immediately wished he hadn’t. It was full of some sort of liquid, but it was what floated in the fluid that made the Irishman flinch. It looked like a dragonfly curled in a death position, and it was at least two feet long. Clark was a little bothered by it, but on seeing just how badly it affected Dempsey, he reverted to his bro days. He teased Dempsey by pretending to throw the jar to him a few times.
The Irishman was not amused. His older brother had tortured him with a dead dragonfly when they were younger, dangling it over young Dempsey’s head or setting it on his shoulder. The incident ended when Dempsey’s brother forced him to eat the thing. Nope. Clark could put that right back in the ground or send it off to the nerds at the lab. Clark laughed and set it aside for the moment.
There was one other thing in the hole; a Ziploc bag with a golden cube. The cube was a little less than three inches on each side, but it had to weigh almost 15 pounds. Either it was gold-painted lead, or it was actually gold. Clark wasn’t sure this much gold should be radioactive. He probably should have studied harder for his Physics class instead of partying. Either way, it had to be worth millions of dollars if it was real. Clark suspected the cube might actually be 2.718 inches, and if so, it would match the measurements of the sockets from the drawing in the notepad.
The edges and corners were rounded, and there were odd symbols etched into each face. Clark thought he knew some of them, or at least he recognized the style. It had been little more than a year since the tragedy at the community center in Buffalo. That was where he met and recruited the State Department linguist Dolf de Jaager. What was it de Jaager called the language they were learning? Anglo? He knew that wasn’t right, but it was close.
Dolf hadn’t been assigned to this Operation, but he could help. Clark took pictures of each face of the cube with his phone and sent them to de Jaager. He received a response on the first before he’d even sent the last. Aklo. That was the language.
The etchings each had a few different translations. One translation would indicate direction – north, south, east, west, middle, and time. Another would indicate relative position – first, last, above, below, transition, and before.
Dempsey wasn’t so sure the second set of translations made sense. Why would one stand for before if another stood for first? Clark didn’t care too much. They had a two-foot-long dragonfly and a multi-million dollar radioactive cube to hide. The nearest Green Box was probably in Bakersfield, so the back of the SUV was going to have to suffice for now.
Their next order of business was to speak with the old man at the gas station, Montgomery Greene. Clark was pretty sure he was the Monty from the interview tapes, and if so, maybe he had an idea about what happened to Potter. While Clark called the gas station to set up an interview, Dempsey stashed the dragonfly and the cube in a compartment in the back of the SUV. He placed Potter’s leaded gloves over the cube. It might not make much of a difference, but an ounce of prevention, and all that.
The drive to the gas station was quick, but ever with the air conditioning on full blast, the SUV didn’t seem to cool off. It was like sitting in an oven with a dragon breathing in their faces.
Montgomery Greene was old. He looked to be in his 90s, at least. Clark assured him they wouldn’t take much of his time. They just had a few questions.
He was the Monty from Potter’s interview tapes, and Potter interviewed him because he developed an interest in the history of the Hughes Electrodynamics plant after poking around the ruins looking for scrap metal. Potter interviewed him because he was the only living person in town who knew the owner, Arthur Hughes. Hughes was a little creepy, and he was involved in revolutionary and groundbreaking science, but to Monty’s knowledge, no, he wasn’t performing “mad science.” No, Hughes wasn’t a harpy or weresnake skulking around Death Valley murdering people who got too close. He had died in the explosion that destroyed the plant back in ’52.
Now, the old man had some questions for them. Were they serious? They were just covering all their bases. Were they high? No, sir. That was illegal without a prescription. Did they watch too much Scooby Doo? Well, Clark did, but that was beside the point.
The agents thanked Mr. Greene for his time, and Clark bought a few Red Bulls on their way out to the SUV. Lorraine Minor’s house was nearby, so they headed over to speak with Emily Warren, Ms. Minor’s partner. That interview was even shorter than the one with Montgomery Greene.
Ms. Warren was still grieving and understandably upset. There wasn’t anything she could tell them that they didn’t already know, and so the agents thanked her for her time and offered their condolences.
They drove out to the ruins of the Electrodynamics plant. That seemed to be their only unturned stone. If this Hughes guy wasn’t a harpy or a weresnake, and if he really did die in the explosion more than sixty years ago, maybe he had been working on something which was responsible for the deaths. Sure, Monty had said Hughes wasn’t performing mad science, but they only had three theories, and one of them was bound to be right.
The plant was destroyed, but maybe the Bathysphere could still be accessed. It was underground and supposedly structurally sound. If Hughes was a harpy or a weresnake, and he had somehow survived all these years, the Bathysphere would be the place to find him. If he had been a mad scientist, maybe he had Jurassic Parked a monster that Potter released. Harpy, weresnake, dinosaur … could be worse. Could be a razor tiger from Chicago. Clark tried to meditate on a perfect sphere just in case.
The plant was little more than rubble, broken concrete slabs, and twisted metal struts. There were some old typewriters and filing cabinets mixed with the debris. It was easy to find where Potter had been working. It was a cleared spot about twenty or thirty feet in diameter covered in Bobcat tracks, footprints, Dr. Pepper cans, and candy bar wrappers. The Bobcat had broken the ground in a few places, and the dirt it revealed matched the dirt from the leaded gloves from Potter’s kitchen.
It was the hottest part of the day, and the agents couldn’t find stairs or an elevator shaft which might lead underground, so they went back to sit in the SUV. Even an oven with a hyperventilating dragon was preferable to the midday sun in Death Valley.
They decided to drive around the area and see if anything jumped out at them, literally or figuratively. It took only a few minutes for them to find what they were looking for. Not quite a mile northwest of the plant, the ground dropped at least twenty feet in a modest slope. At the bottom of the hill, the desert morphed into a garden of bright green speckled by tiny red fern-like flowers. A muddy stream ran along the base of the slope, and it was coming from a large culvert.
The concrete culvert was about twelve feet in diameter, and it led underground in the direction of the Electrodynamics plant. Water from the plant was spilling into Death Valley and creating a ditch teeming with life. That sounded like mad science. Clark half-jokingly said they could cross harpy and weresnake off the list, but they should watch out for dinosaurs. It was at that exact moment when Dempsey found what seemed to be an enormous footprint in the mud. It was only a partial print, and neither of the men was an outdoorsman, so they couldn’t tell what had created it. Still, it had to be huge. Dempsey guessed it was maybe 1,000 pounds, but he had no basis for that estimate.
The clues seemed to lead into the tunnel, and Clark’s Geiger counter clicked its agreement. Clark headed into the culvert, but Dempsey thought he might prefer to stay outside. If there were a real-life Jurassic Park in there, he’d take his chances with the sun. But Clark was welcome to his flashlight if he wanted it.
If Clark was going into that tunnel alone, he did, in fact, want the flashlight, but he only had two hands. He needed one for his gun, one for the Geiger counter, and now one for the flashlight. Grumbling, he turned the volume up on the Geiger counter and put it in his pocket. He paused for what he hoped was a dramatic moment before giving Dempsey an upward nod. He then headed into the tunnel.
The culvert had a slow rush of water about two inches deep, and the walls were covered in deep green moss a little higher than his waist. The tunnel was mostly straight, but it did curve and weave a little at points. It wasn’t long before Dempsey and the sunlight had faded.
At first, Clark thought his Geiger counter might be echoing until he came upon a small recess. In the alcove, he found two overturned milk crates. A device which probably began its existence as a radio sat on one of the crates, and it was clicking cheerfully in unison with his Geiger counter. The other milk crate held a motorcycle battery, and its nodes were connected to the device by thick wires. Potter had died months ago, but Clark was sure a device like this wouldn’t require much power, and a motorcycle battery could probably do the trick for quite some time.
Clark was sure this tunnel led to the answers, but he wasn’t going to find them alone. He turned back and called Dempsey in. The Irishman wasn’t too eager to go, but he grudgingly followed. Not far past the alcove, the culvert opened into a large, concrete room filled with water and odd plants. It looked like this room had once been two rooms until the reinforced dividing wall collapsed.
Clark shined the flashlight over the wet, jagged rubble of the dividing wall. The other side was just as green and full of odd vegetation. Dempsey thought he saw something in the far corner, and Clark shined the light back. It was a large archway of deep black stone tilted forward at a slight angle and pinned in place by debris. Most of the top and right side of the archway were clear, but the majority of the left side was covered.
Clark scrambled carefully over the jagged wall, and Dempsey followed after a slight hesitation. Once on the other side, the agents crept closer to the archway. Judging from the part visible above the debris, it resembled the drawing from the notepad. There was a square slot about the height and width of the gold cube and maybe two-thirds as deep. If they were to slide the cube into the slot, it should protrude almost an inch. That would be enough to remove it easily.
Also, if this was the inspiration for Potter’s drawing, that would imply there were two other 14-pound gold cubes beneath the rubble. They weren’t moving that debris without heavy equipment, though, and really, that wasn’t their assignment.
All of that was secondary, anyway, to the interior of the archway. It was filled with a deep gray mist that swirled and drifted around. It would twirl and twist, almost hypnotically, and then it would congeal into tiny collections of clouds which would dissipate into more swirls. The mist never drifted far from the archway before evaporating.
So, that was it. Mad science. The agents had thrown out three theories and rolled the dice. And yet, somehow, they weren’t feeling lucky.