Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED)
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  1. #1
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    Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED)

    This story hour is an ongoing account of our D20 Modern conspiracy game. It follows the missions of Majestic-12 agents battling Lovecraftian horrors in a world rife with conspiracy and the occult. I also write a column about action horror gaming in general at titled The Horror! and I'm the National RPG writer for the Examiner. If you're waiting for updates and want to read more from my gaming group see the completed 3.5 D&D story write up:

    UPDATE: I didn't create the below video, but the fact that we both chose the same name for our campaigns is a kind of awesome synchronicity that deserves to be recognized here:

    [ame=""]YouTube- Delta Green: The Beginning of the End Teaser[/ame]

    Rules Systems
    • D20 Modern: This is our primary rules set. We’re trying to stick to just the core rulebooks for now.
    • Character Statistics: The characters' statistics in all their ugly glory.
    • [ame=]Call of Cthulhu d20[/ame]: I created a cultist advanced class, which covers most of the bad guys. All the monsters and spells have been converted to d20 Modern.
    • Delta Green: Many of the scenarios the agents encounter are Delta Green or Cthulhu Now scenarios. However, in this universe, Delta Green has merged with Majestic-12. Majestic-12 is now a lot like Delta Green, broadening its scope to include “preternatural phenomena”.
    • Alien Invasion: The structure of Majestic-12 has its roots in the organization I created for Alien Invasion. And of course, there will be aliens. I’m the author.
    • Conspiracy X: Since the agents work for a much larger organization, I use many of the “pulling strings” rules from Conspiracy X to represent what Majestic-12 can do for them.
    • Blood & Blades: The Profiler’s Guide to Slashers: We’re using these insanity rules from this book as well as some other bad guys as the mood strikes me.
    • GURPS Black Ops: This book provides much of the background for the agents’ training.
    • Dread: I use a variant of Dread with Jenga, which I like to call the Pillar of Sanity. I basically require all PCs to pull from the Pillar when sanity points are lost. This keeps sanity-tracking to a minimum, means only one investigator will go completely nuts in a scene at a time, and keeps the tension high.
    • [ame=]Jenga[/ame]: Jenga's wooden blocks hold up well, despite having fallen in a couple of full glasses on more than one occasion.
    • Blacknet: Our wiki for the agents.
    • Delta Green: Because Delta Green is THE place for conspiracy fiction.
    • Black Ops: GURPS Ops took Men in Black, gave it a dose of steroids, threw in the Colonial Marines from Aliens, and then set them loose on the worst the paranormal world has to offer.
    • Bureau 13: If occasionally this game gets a little silly (*cough* Guppy *cough), I blame Bureau 13. This took the concept of stalking supernatural entities and made it fun and funny, because...because "preternatural" can also be pretty ludicrous when you think of it. In a laugh out loud, oh my god my head is going to explode Joker kind of way.
    About the Agents
    • Game Master: Michael Tresca
    • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero) played by Joe Lalumia: A licensed private detective and master of the mystical arts, Archive wanted to be a priest once. He freelances for X-investigations, a glamorous private detective agency that specializes in the occult. When he crossed paths with the Traveler and mistakenly identified it as a body-hopping demon, Majestic-12 recruited him for some much needed mystical backup.
    • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz: A former British SAS and PISCES agent, Jim-Bean lost his partners to what can only be called "brain spiders." Although he's also psychic, Jim-Bean loathes his abilities and considers the majority of supernatural events to be bunk. He's also a wiseass.
    • Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca: An American-born Indian, Guppy was abducted by aliens once, or so he believes, on an expedition to South America. He has never recovered, losing his girlfriend and his promising degree. Majestic-12 sprung him from the Van Dyson Institute for reasons known only to them. Guppy's the first one to panic, but fancies himself a kind of McGyver.
    • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster: One of the agents who had a former government affiliation, Hammer was on a mission for the CIA when he encountered the "brain spiders." He lost both his partners. Hammer's the most level-headed of the group, and the only trained investigator among them.
    • Jake “Blade” Iron Shirt (Strong Hero) played by Matt Hammer: A Native American bruiser and former Ultimate Fighting Champion, Blade is the only famous agent on the team. Unfortunately, he's famous for all the wrong reasons: his romance with the woman he was assigned to protect, Christine Dee; the birth of their child, Alex; his subsequent divorce and spiral into alcoholism. Blade is desperate to get visiting rights to see his son. Stephen Alzis has an unhealthy interest in Blade's family dynamics as well.
    • Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero) played by Bill Countiss: An American engineer, Caprice is the closest agent who was "normal" before he joined Majestic-12. His fast thinking on his feet has proved useful on more than one occassion, especially when hunting down body-hopping aliens.

    Inspiration and Ideas
    • [ame=]Fall of Cthulhu[/ame]: The league of Cthulhu super villains that “Mister Arkham” put together will make an appearance for sure.
    • [ame=]Lori Lovecraft [/ame]: That’s right, Christine Dee is based off of Lori Lovecraft. Many of her misadventures will find a place in my story hour. She’s the ex-wife of one of the agents, after all.
    • [ame=]Titus Crow[/ame]: Probably the closest parallel in fiction to heroic characters fighting the minions of Cthulhu.
    • [ame=]Cold Print[/ame]: Because I met Ramsey Campbell at World Fantasy Con and he kicks ass. His concept of horror is truly terrifying and modern in ways that traditional Lovecraft sometimes lacks.
    • [ame=]The Dresden Files[/ame]: The inspiration for Joe "Archive" Fontaine.
    • [ame=]Heroes[/ame]: Jim-Bean talks just like Takezo Kensei (and looks like him too).
    • [ame=]Office Space[/ame]: Guppy is a lot like Samir Nagheenanajar, only less angry and more terrified.
    • [ame=]24[/ame]: Curtis Manning is the inspiration for Hammer.
    • Reaper: To get Stephen Alzis down just right, think the Devil from Reaper.

    Welcome to the show. Get ready for a wild ride...
    Last edited by talien; Saturday, 5th April, 2014 at 03:24 PM. Reason: Story Hour Update

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    Chapter 0: Welcome to the Show - Introduction

    This scenario uses Delta Green and Delta Green: Countdown by Pagan Publishing as sources. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    • Game Master: Michael Tresca
    • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero) played by Joe Lalumia
    • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz
    • Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca
    • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
    • Jake “Blade” Iron Shirt (Strong Hero) played by Matt Hammer
    • Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero) played by Bill Countiss

    After the birth of my son, I took a three-month hiatus from role-playing. During that time, the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons was announced at Gen Con, which made me glad that we decided to go in another direction and this time play a modern conspiracy game. The game is a hybrid uniquely tailored to our tastes: we use d20 Modern rules and the campaign setting is as an unholy combination of the Black Ops GURPS supplement and the Delta Green setting.

    This setting follows what seems to be the general consensus on the Internet: the cell style structure of the Delta Green conspiracy would never last in our post 9/11 age. Instead, Delta Green infiltrated Majestic-12, co-opting its resources and broadening its scope to include all “preternatural phenomena.” Enter our heroes.

    What’s refreshing about these characters is that they all eminently flawed. Hank was committed to a mental institution, while Jake is divorced from his wife and estranged from his son. Kurt and Jim both lost their partners, and Joe struggles with the flashy glamour of his pimped up paranormal detective agency. I will of course exploit these flaws to their fullest. There are scenario seeds in all these backgrounds that will be much more relevant to the campaign in the future.

    In addition to the background fiction, I compressed the training outlined in Black Ops into torturing the PCs with Project Outlook and a danger room style free-for-all that helped warm the players up to getting back into a d20 game after three months. I’ve got a good feeling about this story hour. I hope you’ll join us for the ride!

    Relevant Media
    • Delta Green Countdown: Jim-Bean and Kurt’s background are a revision of the short story from Delta Green: Countdown. This is also the source of the Outlook Group tests.
    • Delta Green: Jake’s background draws on Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays.
    • Uttati Asfet: Sebastian’s background in the Sudan.
    • The Stars Are Right: Hank’s background draws on “Nemos Solus Sapit” and Jake’s is from “Love’s Lonely Children.”
    • Unseen Masters: Jake’s background is tied to “The Wild Hunt” and “Coming of Age.” Hank’s background is tied to “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”
    • Resection of Time: Also Hank’s background.
    • Ladies and Gentlemen: by Saliva (AKA "Welcome to the Show"). It’s also the theme song to Last Man Standing.
    • Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: The Doom Room in this supplement served as inspiration for Satan's Playroom.
    • The Rock: Drake is pretty much Sean Connery from this film, only instead of being imprisoned in Alcatraz (that's just a cover story), he's been drafted into Majestic-12.
    • Extreme Encounters: A great source for first-hand encounters of all kinds of torture. I used it as a template to describe the awful things that happen as a result of the Outlook mental endurance tests.
    • Ground Zero Radio: Ground Zero Radio and Clyde Lewis are real, but he was gracious enough to be part of the Alien Invasion supplement. Consider him a replacement for the Conspiracy X television show. For the record, I actually did have a bizarre conversation with Clyde at 12 a.m. one night, just like Sebastian does (only it wasn't about my brother, it was an interview).
    • Mad, Mad House: Palmer is referenced in a conversation with Simon Magnus; I took the inspiration for Palmer from Don the Vampire on this show.
    • X-Investigations: Yep, it's a real agency.
    • Fallen: Joe's hair-brained scheme about the body-hopping bad guy is the plot of this movie.
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 26th June, 2011 at 01:28 PM.

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    Welcome to the Show: Part 1a – Kurt and Jim’s Story

    Ladies and gentlemen please
    Would you bring your attention to me?
    For a feast for your eyes to see
    An explosion of catastrophe

    --Ladies and Gentlemen by Saliva
    CORNWALL, UK -- Agents Young, Grange, and Yolanda encircled Edgar Coleman, father of Lee Coleman, like crows eyeing road kill.

    “Thank you for agreeing to meet with us, Mr. Coleman,” said Grange in a voice that sounded like he was gargling gravel. “I hope you can tell us something more than what you told the U.S. Marshall.”

    Edgar nodded. “You’re here because of Lee.”

    “We’re here to talk to you about the Army of the Third Eye.” Young flipped out a note pad.

    Edgar forced a smile. “Of course you are. But I’m afraid that the government executed a search warrant. All of Lee’s belongings and correspondence with his family was seized.”

    “Surely you remember something,” said Yolanda. It was difficult to resist a brunette with a husky voice like Yolanda. Grange’s means of persuasion were much more painful. But there was no need to tell that to Edgar. Yet.

    The old man leered at Yolanda. He wasn’t THAT old, decided Grange. “There was a phone call. He escaped from the hospital after his self-trepanation. Most of what he said was unintelligible, and the words I could understand didn’t make any sense. My boy told me that he couldn’t come home until he had killed all the ghosts from space.”

    Grange paused. “Did you tell the U.S. Marshall this?”

    Edgar shook his head. “I didn’t tell the Englishman who accompanied them either, a Mr. Cotton. They won’t let me visit him, you know. They cited security precautions—said that Lee is too violent and unpredictable to have visitors or maintain normal communication.”

    “Sorry to hear that,” said Yolanda. “Thank you for your time, you’ll be appropriately compensated.” After Edgar answered a few more questions and Young took down a few more notes, they left the old man’s residence.

    “His story matches Chief Inspector Alva’s account,” said Young. “According to Alva, they were given a script to memorize by a man from MI-5 named Cotton. They used it in their trial testimony.”

    Yolanda’s cell phone rang and she answered it. After a few nods and “uh huhs,” she slapped the phone shut. “We got a fingerprint off of the tray we smuggled out of Lee Coleman’s cell at Dartmoor Prison.”

    “And?” asked Young.

    “It’s not a match,” replied Yolanda with purse lips.

    “So whoever is in that prison isn't Lee.” Young sighed. “We don’t have any other leads.”

    “We do have one other thing we can try,” said Grange.

    “What’s that?” asked Yolanda.

    “I think it’s time to bell the cat.”
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 16th December, 2007 at 03:00 PM.

  4. #4
    Woohoo! My popcorn is on the desk along with my beverage of forced choice, water. I'm looking forward to this.

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    Welcome to the Show: Part 1b – Kurt and Jim’s Story

    Agent Jim Baxter waited patiently inside a land rover outside of the Cullen residence.

    “I dunno, mate,” said his companion, Agent Hugh. “This seems like a bunch o’ baby sittin’ tah me.”

    “That’s exactly what it is,” said Baxter. “What of it?”

    “What’s so special ‘bout this Wade Cullen, anyway?” Hugh held one earphone to his ear. “He’s a wheelchair-bound invalid. He’s not exactly going to run away.”

    “It’s orders from The Gods,” smirked Baxter. That was the term they used for MI-5 men with lofty positions in British Intelligence. “And the orders are to catch whatever comes after our important friend here.”

    “And just wot’s gonna come after ‘im?”

    “Irish Nationalist Republic.” Baxter caught Hugh’s expression. He shrugged. “Ours is not to question why and all that.”

    Hugh snorted in disgust. Before he could begin another sarcastic comment, he put up one finger to silence Baxter, even though Baxter wasn’t talking. “The mics are picking up something. They’re whispering in there.”

    “People whisper sometimes, ya know.”

    “I know that,” muttered Hugh. “But three good-looking Americans walk into this guy’s house? Something’s up.”

    Baxter tapped the mic on his headset. “This is Agent Baxter. Rat is in trap. Repeat, rat is in trap.” He listened for a second.

    Two men and a woman exited the Cullen residence.

    “Well?” Hugh asked impatiently.

    “HQ says follow them.”

    The three people got into their car.

    “Follow ‘em?” Hugh was angry enough to toss his cigarette out the window. “Are you pissing me?”

    “Nope. The trap’s not finished bein' laid yet I guess.”

    “Fine.” He started the car up as the other vehicle passed.

    They tailed it for a while. Hugh wasn’t good at many things, but he was great at tailing. The foliage in the Cornwall countryside was so thick that it bent in an arc over the dirt roads. Far from any city, lights were few and far between. Even the sky was invisible under the heavy overgrowth.

    Baxter hated Cornwall.

    “They’re turning off there,” said Baxter. It was the Hunting Fox pub.

    By the time they arrived, the three terrorists were already inside the pub.

    “Yah, I see it, I see it.” He cut the lights and parked the car.

    The Hunting Fox was the only pub for miles around, so it was crowded.

    “Professionals,” said Baxter. “They know what they’re doing.”

    Hugh cocked his pistol. “So we’re going in then, ya? Not waiting for backup or anything like that?”

    Baxter grinned. “Hell ya we’re going in!” He gestured with his own pistol towards the front door. “You go take the front, I’ll go round back in case they try to run for it.”

    “Aye.” Hugh winked at Baxter. “Watch yourself mate. These INR chaps can be slippery.” He holstered his pistol and swaggered towards the front door.

    Baxter, pistol low, snuck around the side. Inside, a good time was being had by all. The place was loud enough that he doubted even gunfire would attract much attention.

    As he turned the corner, Baxter caught the metallic glint of a pistol aimed at his forehead. He whirled and slapped the weapon aside.

    No shot went off, which meant Baxter was facing off against someone who didn’t want to kill him. Right away, anyway.

    He rolled to the ground and came up to his feet before the man could react. Baxter stretched one leg out, sweeping his opponent off his feet.

    Baxter drew his SIG-Sauer P245. He pulled out his ID card from a chain around his neck. “MI-5, ya terrorist bastard…” his voice trailed off as he realized the African-American man he had kicked to the ground was pointing another pistol, a Glock, at Baxter’s stomach.

    “Stand down!” shouted the man prone on the ground. He spoke with all the authority of a man standing on his own two feet. “I’m CIA!” His own ID badge was visible, hanging from around his neck just like Baxter.

    Baxter squinted. “You’re pissin’ me.”

    A pistol clicked at Baxter’s forehead. “He’s not kidding,” said Yolanda. “Put the weapon down. Now.”

    Baxter put his gun down. Grange picked it up as he got to his feet.

    There was the sound of gunfire in the pub. Hugh always was a trigger-happy bastard.

    Young came puffing out. “I think we caught our…”

    “Tail?” asked Yolanda.

    “I was going to say cat, but yeah,” said Young.

    “Where is your vehicle?”

    Baxter shook his head in disbelief. “You INR boys are awfully cheeky, impersonating the Yanks. They don’t take kindly to that.”

    “I don’t have time for this.” Grange walked over to the parking lot. “Throw him in the car, he’s coming with us. We need to straighten this out before we have an international incident.”

    "BEFORE we have an incident?"

    Grange shot Young a withering glare. He ran off to get the car.

    “What are you doing?” asked Yolanda. She still had her pistol pressed against Baxter’s head.

    Young pulled the car up.

    “I’m going to shoot out the tires so there’s no pursuit.”

    Yolanda shoved Baxter inside. “There’s got to be a dozen cars here!”

    Grange popped the trunk and pulled out a sub-machinegun. “I know,” he said matter-of-factly.
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 16th December, 2007 at 03:01 PM.

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    Welcome to the Show: Part 1c – Kurt and Jim’s Story

    “Do you believe us now?” asked Grange.

    Baxter handed the diplomatic passports and federal law enforcement identification back to Yolanda. “We were told that you were a group of Irish Nationalist Republic terrorists recruited from America.” He rolled his eyes. “Great, another Whitehall wank-fest.”

    “Who cut your orders?” asked Yolanda.

    “I don’t bloody know,” muttered Baxter. “Why?”

    “Does the name PISCES ring a bell?” asked Grange.

    “Again with the bell metaphor,” said Young over his shoulder.

    Baxter blinked. “Maybe. I’m surprised you know it.”

    “What about the Army of the Third Eye?"

    "Third Eye?" Baxter looked out at one of the endless farms that dotted Cornwall's roads. "Nutty blokes, they go around trepanning people, something about exposing bugs in the brain to sunlight or something."

    "Sounds pretty crazy," said Young with a straight face.

    "If the Army is so harmless, why is PISCES targeting them?"

    "Targeting them?" asked Baxter. "Whatcha mean?"

    Grange turned around from the passenger's seat to face Baxter. "We believe that the members of the Army who were captured are either dead or have been moved to another facility with some anonymous mental deficient left in their place."

    "And we believe that a Mr. Cotton is being controlled by one of these brain spiders," added Yolanda.

    "What you trying to get at, exactly?" Baxter's tone was icy.

    "What I'm trying to get at, Agent Baxter, is that your agency has been infiltrated by a foreign intelligence," said Grange.

    "Are you—"

    "No, we are not pissing you," said Yolanda.

    "Well," said Baxter. "Seems you've got it all figured out, eh? What's next?"

    "We're going back to the U. S. Embassy." Grange rummaged through the glove box. "But we might have to make a stop along the way."

    "For what?"

    Grange handed Baxter back his SIG Sauer. "Because two land rovers are following us."

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    Welcome to the Show: Part 3a – Jake’s Story

    SAMSON, CA -- Despite its name, the Pit wasn't too hellish. The club was nestled in The Grand, and The Grand festered in Samson, California. The Grand was a shabby structure that backed onto a busy set of elevated train tracks. The Pit itself was the largish back room, featuring alternative bands Wednesday through Sunday nights.

    From outside, the hotel was a dreary, seedy-looking building of red brick. Torn, outdated posters advertising past gigs flapped in the wind while trains rattled by late into the night.

    Jake Blade stood outside, tattooed arms folded over his huge biceps. He watched with a disinterested gaze over the Pit's customers. They were a motley collection of retros, sub-cultures, stereotypes, her-beasts, and individuals. Punks, skinheads, and goths were typical, as were the occasional slumming fashion victims. Some people did not attract a single glance--ordinary people who liked good music. Others accumulated stares wherever they went.

    "Hey Blade," waved a particularly sleazy specimen of a man. With his slicked back hair, gold tooth, and ready smile, Graeme Norbert looked pleasant enough. But Jake knew better.

    Jake nodded at the drug dealer. "Hey, Fix." "The Fix" is what Norbert insisted everyone call him.

    "Good crowd tonight?" asked Fix.

    "Think so," said Jake. "Looks like the usual."

    "You get a new tattoo? That one's a name..." he squinted at Jake's left bicep. "Who's Alex?"

    "None of your business," said Jake. The tattoo club had monthly meetings, and Jake had dedicated it to his son, Alex, on his ninth birthday. His visitation rights didn't let him see Alex anymore, his ex-wife saw to that.

    Fix grinned as he leered at the crowd gathering outside. "Listen, I wanted to thank you for pulling that guy off of me last night. He would have pasted me."

    Jake frowned. "He was disrupting the show."

    Fix nodded. "Yeah, the show must go on and all that." He laughed, with a horrible, "heh, heh. But still, I feel like I owe you one. I got some good stash..."

    Jake shook his head. "Not on the job, Fix. You know that."

    "Yah, you're a drinking man, I know." Fix nodded. "Well don't you worry. There's a new drug on the street coming up from South America. They call it Blink. You drop it into your eyes and BLAM!" he spread his fingers, eyes wide at the thought of all that money he could roll in like a maggot in dead flesh. "It's heaven."

    "Keep the sales pitch for your customers," said Jake. "And keep it out of The Pit." That was a bluff and they both knew it. Everyone got high at The Pit.

    "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know." Fix shrugged. "Keep an eye on me, I'm sure somebody'll get jumpy."

    "You shouldn't be here if you can't stand people getting jumpy," said Jake.

    Fix heh-hehed his way into the crowd.

    "Hey, big guy, give us a hand?" asked a man with a shaved head, except for a single lock of green-dyed hair. He sported a pierced nose and heavily pierced left ear, with a light chain connecting the two. He wore heavy boots, tattered leather trousers held together with safety pins, a leather waistcoat, and no shirt.

    Jake fixed his gaze on him. "You're with the band, right?"

    "Yah," he said with an odd tilt of his head. "Karl." He shook Jake's hand. "I'm the drummer of The Rising. We got some heavy equipment out back and we could use some muscle. We're a bit behind and it'd be a real help."

    Jake looked around. At seven o'clock, The Pit hadn't opened yet.

    "Sure." He followed the smaller man around through The Pit to the back.

    "Ah, here we are." A Jamaican man busied himself carrying guitar cases in. Jake reached for one of the drums. "Nah-ah!" said Karl. "Nobody but me touches my drums." He paused and squinted up at Jake. "Wait a minute. You're that guy from Ultimate Fighter, right?"

    Jake nodded.

    "No taste for the glamorous life, eh?" asked Karl. "What's a big star like you bouncing for The Pit?"

    Jake gave him a look. "Don't ask me about my personal life and I won't touch your drums."

    Karl got the hint. "Nice to have a big bastard like you keeping the crowd quiet, in any case. We could use your help with the speakers..."

    Jake saw what he meant. The speakers were massive. He lifted one in each hand.

    "Damn, he's a strong blighter!" said the lead guitarist. He had bleached blond spiked hair and a padlocked dog collar around his neck.

    Jake carried the speakers in with some effort. The interior decor of the Pit was designer Grunge: walls were painted a deep red and scrawled with graffiti; the threadbare carpets were pockmarked with cigarette burns. Lighting was subdued, mainly reflected from the spotlights focused on the stage. The stage itself was fenced off with wire mesh and flanked by huge speakers.

    "Thanks, mate," said Karl. "If things get hairy, you give 'em a shave, right?"

    Jake smirked. "Sure."

    "Great." Karl laughed maniacally. "Cause it's about to get f**king nuts!"

    God’s Lost Children was the first act up. The show began with a darkened stage. As the drummer slowly pounded the huge bronze gong mounted behind him, the lead singer spoke the opening words from “The Dark Ones Rise,” their most popular album. The bass and drums crescendoed and the audience rose to its feet as the stage was hit with lights and the band broke into its first tune. A thousand laser effects, smoke bombs, and decibels later, and The Pit was a madhouse.

    At midnight, The Rising made their way onto the stage, accompanied by a wail of feedback. The lead singer, named Spider, sported a flaming red Mohawk as well as black eyeliner. He was dressed head to toe in tattered black, relieved only by the silver of his earrings and studded belt.

    The sound was rapidly amplified and distorted, soon accompanied by the introductory notes of the bass guitar, loud enough to resonate in Jake's chest. The pounding drums began next, then the shivering notes of the lead guitar. The beat grew faster, the crowd before the stage began to sway, fists flailing in the air while heads nodded in time to the thundering beat. As the shrieked and desperate vocals began, the crowd went wild. Two hundred people slam danced in front of the stage, hurling and bouncing their bodies about in the crush.

    It took exactly three minutes before trouble started.

    Jake made his way over, parting the crowd like water. He had done this so many times that faces and names became meaningless. There was no time for explanations, nor was there the ability to actually hear any complaints. The assailant lunged out of the pit towards Spider, the lead singer, who had strayed dangerously close to the edge of the stage.

    Spider stumbled backwards, looking as much like a slam-dancer as the victim of a knife attack as blood flashed outwards from his left calf. Jake mentally cursed. It must have been one of the new knives that got past the metal detectors. That, or one of the hot girls hid it in her bra. Security rarely bothered to grope the girls, since they were the bait that hooked men like Fix.

    Jake switched into his Tuskahoma stance, the Native American style he used to win the Real Ultimate Fighting competition.

    As the man thrust his knife with his right hand, Jake zoned to his left into a strong stance—a solid base—parallel to and outside of his opponent's line of thrust. Simultaneously, Jake used his left hand to contact and then intercept the knife hand at the wrist/hand juncture, with his left elbow anchored at his side.

    Jake rotated the man’s wrist counterclockwise to destroy his grip strength. His opponent's grip was weak enough for Jake to strip away the knife, but he knew the man would try his only avenue of escape—swinging the knife across his body and breaking Jake's grip on the weak side.

    Jake stepped forward and stripped the knife with his right hand. Then Jake circle under his arm to affect a lock and dropped to the slasher's left knee, pulling him down. He flipped the man to the ground, leaving him gasping and prone.

    "You're done," said Jake.

    With the smaller man still in his grip, Jake shoved him towards the exit. The slasher was an older, balder man, more appropriate for a library or a porn shop than a dance club. The man wailed all the way to the exit. Nobody could hear him over the din of The Rising, who never stopped playing.

    The man shrieked and kicked. Yep, Jake decided, he was high.

    Jake changed his grip and simply manhandled the smaller guy, grabbing him by the ribcage with both hands. The man's shirt tore in his grip. On his forearm was a stylized coyote-head in the Native American style.

    The man lost his hold on the doorframe and, for the briefest of seconds, it looked as if he smiled at Jake with a full-on grin. It made Jake angry.

    Jake hurled him down the steps. He didn't even look back to see if the man was still alive. But he could hear him: the man howled like a dog.

    For all the noise, the lights, the crowds, the junkies...Jake couldn't get the coyote symbol and the strange man out of his head.

  8. #8
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    Welcome to the Show: Part 3b – Jake’s Story

    Jake's next job was the Katakomb on the other side of the U.S. in NYC. The Rising was so impressed with his performance that they hired him as security.

    It was a seedy downtown Gothic nightclub in the Soho district, at the northwest corner of Prince and Mercer streets. Unlike The Pit, the converted warehouse was open seven days a week. It was a two-floor building done in Gothic fashion, with prominent references to dynastic Egypt's cat goddess.

    Ducking through the entrance flanked by carved sarcophagi, Jake entered a twilight grotto that combined the decor of a mausoleum and a bar from hell.

    The red lighting was extremely dim--practically non-existent. It came from Gothic black metal sconces holding crimson light bulbs. Papier-mâché props lined the walls, depicting Egyptian architecture of the tombs.

    The ceiling was painted as an obscene Sistine Chapel, with skeletal demons as angels and God portrayed by a vampiric devil, reaching out to clutch the throat of a man reclining on a cloud. Several more sarcophagi, upright and bolted to the floor, were scattered amongst the tables flanking a small dance floor.

    Music boomed. The Rising was playing in front of a Sphinx that filled most of the north wall, sitting under the head and flanked by the two paws that projected toward the dance floor.

    The people inhabiting the labyrinth of darkness wore black flowing clothes. Their faces were white as death, and their eyes shone from dark pits of black eye makeup. Some had fangs. Many were drinking, dancing, and doing drugs while leaning against statues of the cat goddess Bast.

    Up close, most of them seemed to be adolescents. Some anorexic females cavorted by, dressed in nothing but thin leather strips and thigh-high boots. One winked and smiled at Jake, showing a fanged mouth.

    "Are you an Indian?" she lisped around her fangs.

    Jake looked down at the little wisp of a thing. "Native American, you mean?"

    "Yeah, sure."

    He was feeling charitable. "I'm Tohono O'odham."

    The waif blinked. "Is that a band?"

    "No," said Jake. "It's a tribe. My family is from the Tohono O'odham Reservation. It's on Arizona's border with Mexico."

    "Oh," said the girl, eyes wide. "That's soooo interesting. I believe Native Americans are so spiritual..."

    The Rising finished their set and dispersed to the bar. Charnel Dreams, the next band, stepped up to the platform.

    Jake muttered something and pushed past the girl to the bar. He had to protect his clients.

    "Cor, can you believe that guy?" said Karl.

    "Who?" asked Jake.

    Karl ordered a beer and nodded in the direction of the lead singer of Charnel Dreams. He was a handsome, with dark blond hair parted in the middle; his forelocks hung down over eye very slightly.

    "Anton Merriweather," said Karl. "Charnel Dreams’ first album, True Orders, went to number seven on the College Music Journal's rankings."

    "And their single Come Again got airplay on college radio for weeks last summer," said Spider.

    "Wasted on these people," said a pale, thin man with a closely trimmed goatee beard. He wore a strange Indonesian cap and was dressed in a dark black leather coat.

    Jake moved to insert himself between the stranger and the band.

    "Naw, it's all right Jake," said Karl. "Lookit, you're Simon Magnus, right?"

    Simon toasted his glass in affirmation. "In the flesh, you might say."

    Karl slapped Jake's shoulder with the back of his hand. "Magnus here, he's got a movie..."

    "A documentary," said Simon, enjoying the reaction.

    "That's right! I think it was...The Nosferatu! Loved that!" Karl slithered past Jake and patted Simon on the back. "Good stuff! Buy the man a drink!"

    Simon chuckled. "Unnecessary." He swished the red liquid in his glass. "And no, this isn't blood. I am partial to red wine, can't stomach beer."

    "Whatcha doin' here, then, Magnus?" asked Karl. "Hunting vampires?"

    Simon chuckled again. "It'd be a perfect cover for the real thing, don't you think? I'm doing a documentary on the hemophages who drink blood. The closest thing you'll get to a 'real' vampire in here is Master Palmer." He indicated his target with a nod of his head.

    Palmer was tall, dark and skinny, with dark black hair, a thin beard, and a mustache. Like everyone else in the club, he was dressed all in black. He was chatting with a man in a brown overcoat with a fedora on his head.

    "He sucks blood then?" asked Karl, fascinated.

    "Quite! He has three brides he feeds on, actually," said Simon. "He was most famous on Mad, Mad House, if you've seen that show."

    "I loved that show!" shouted Spider. "That was the one with all the freaks living in one house, right? Crazy stuff. The witch was hot."

    Jake rubbed his forehead. "When do you guys get a chance to watch television?"

    "Tivo!" Karl and Spider shouted together, clinking their glasses.

    Jake froze as he saw the stranger duck a swing from Palmer. "Excuse me."

    The Rising parted as Jake strode towards the two combatants.

    The man in the brown overcoat raised one hand. Something sparkled in the dark red light as it was lifted overhead.

    Jake snatched the wrist, stopping the motion. But instead of the smooth flesh of an arm, he felt fur. He twisted the wrist, but no knife fell from it. It looked like...claws.

    The figure grinned up at him with white jaws beneath its fedora. Jake yanked hard and the figure whirled, leaving him only holding the overcoat. Whatever it was ducked into the crowd.

    "Bloody cyanthropes," muttered Palmer around his fangs. "No business being here."

    "Cyanthrope?" asked Jake.

    "Guy thought he was a coyote. Wanted to show me that dogs beat vampires every time."

  9. #9
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    Welcome to the Show: Part 3c – Jake’s Story

    Jake was standing naked under the night sky in the chill desert mountains. He heard a coyote howl and turned to see a large coyote staring down at him from a nearby boulder.

    The coyote tossed its head, turned away, and led Jake towards a cave. Somehow, he knew it was a sacred cave.

    The pair wended their way down fissures in the mesas and rock hills until they arrived in a cave mouth, from which ran a shallow stream.

    Jake's nostrils were suddenly assaulted by the smell of blood--the stream was running red.

    The coyote howled mournfully. Jake got the sense that something dark and malevolent was stirring in the cave.

    Wind, with the stench of an abattoir, rushed from the cave mouth as a flailing shadow began to emerge.

    Jake woke up in a cold sweat. The experience made it official. It was time to call his shaman.

    "Hello?" asked Palmer Valor over the phone.

    "Hi Palmer. It's..." he almost said Jake. "Jacob. Jacob Ironshirt. I know it's...what time is it there?"

    "Eleven o'clock. Jacob Ironshirt? It's been ages! How have you been?"

    "I've been...okay."

    "And your brother, Thomas?"

    "I haven't spoken to him in a long time," said Jake with a hint of regret.

    "That's too bad." Palmer's voice was sympathetic.

    "Listen, Palmer, I wanted to speak to you about something."

    "This sounds serious. Is everything all right with your family?"

    "Yes, fine."

    "You had a son, didn't you? Why don't you ever bring him by the reservation?"

    "Christine isn't very interested in our culture." Jake avoided talking to Palmer for precisely this reason. He left out the part about having lost visitation rights. "But that's not why I called."

    "Okay, I'm listening."

    "I've been having...visions. Visions of an animal."

    "Of Coyote, your totem," said Palmer with a note of clarity.

    "How did you know?"

    "Coyote has always been your family's totem. But like Coyote himself, your family has a penchant for trouble."

    "Tell me about it," muttered Jake. He explained the visions he had seen: the tattoo, the strange cloaked figure, and the dream.

    "Your father is not doing well since the accident," interrupted Palmer. "You should visit him."

    Jake's father, Robert, still lived on the reservation. His mother died in a drunk-driving crash five years earlier. Robert was the driver.

    "You're a kind man," said Jake, "I know how bad it is. He doesn't want to see me."

    "That does not mean he doesn't need you. Or your brother."

    "So you've heard from him too?"

    "He's left a long string of pregnancies in his wake," said Palmer. "Vandalism. Public brawls. Last I heard, he had become a petty thief."

    Jake sighed. "He's moving up in the world."

    "He does have a girlfriend at least."

    "Look, Palmer..."

    "I know, I know. You called because you are looking for an answer to your visions. But I am telling you the answer."

    "And that is?"

    "I've told you already. You are not adhering to our ways. Coyote has gone far to see you, deep in the city, which he doesn't normally like. But there is a part of the city Coyote does like. He likes its trash. And if you are having waking visions, it is because you are dealing with trash."

    Jake huffed. "That's not very--"

    "Listen to me, Jacob. You learned the way of the Red Warrior, but you used it to make money. You have a brother, a father, a son, but you do not see any of them. These are not the way of our people. Do you know why Coyote has come to you? Because you would not come to him. Coyote is giving you a warning. Something will call you back soon, something terrible. Come back of your own volition or come because of tragedy."

    Jake sighed. "Thanks. That's helpful. I'll try to book a flight out soon."

    "Until we meet again, may the Great Spirit make sunrise in your heart, and may your moccasins make tracks of many snows yet to come." Palmer hung up.

    The mournful cry of a hound howled in the distance.

  10. #10

    I like this story very much!

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