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Tuesday, 13th May, 2008, 11:27 AM #161
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Darkest Calling: Part 2b – Police Investigations
The Phoenix police kept them for hours before they were finally released.
“Looks like you’re legit,” said Knightly. They were all uncuffed.
She perched herself on a desk in the Phoenix police station.
Guppy looked around. It was a different police station than the one that the Skinwalker had escaped from. ”Hopefully we don’t have to burn this one too,” he muttered.
“What?” asked Knightly.
“Nothing,” said Guppy.
“So what can I do for the mysterious, we-don’t-report-our-budget-to-the-American-people Counter-Intelligence Field Agency?”
“We’re investigating the murder of Kate Draper,” said Blade. “Any information you can share would be greatly appreciated.”
Knightly relaxed somewhat. “Draper’s actually the second victim. The first was a young Papago Indian named Paco Yuma.”
”My people prefer the phrase ‘Tohono O’odham’,” said Blade.
“Oh, right.” Knightly nodded. “So anyway, he was murdered on the Tohono reservation in exactly the same way three days before Draper died.”
“Can we see photos of the body?” asked Archive.
“Sure.” She dug out the file and handed it to Archive. “Why?”
Archive flipped through the pictures. “There.” He pulled out one of them. “There’s a single gray dot painted on Yuma’s left hand.” He clicked on his cistron. “And here’s a picture of Draper’s left foot, with two gray dots.”
“Gray dots.” Knightly rolled her eyes. “What are they teaching you guys at school?”
Hammer cleared his throat. “He’s a friendly, actually…” when he caught her gaze, Hammer shrugged. “It’s complicated.”
“We found this piece of paper in Draper’s car,” said Archive. It showed two stick figures, one with a dot next to its left arm and the other with two dots next to its left leg. “I think we have a ritual killing on our hands.”
Blade furrowed his brow. “There is an old Indian legend that I remember my father telling me. There were five evil underworld spirits that plagued the lands of the Kokoham. A shaman called upon the services of five brave sons and daughters, who traveled with the shaman into the desert. Together they confronted the spirits in their lair. The shaman offered his five sons and daughters as sacrifices in exchange for peace with his people. The spirits accepted the offer.”
Archive tapped on his cistron. “It wouldn’t by any chance look like this, would it?”
On the small screen was a complete picture of five stick figures, including the two from the lower right corner that were on Draper’s notes. There were dots numbering one through five on each of them, with an odd-looking face in the center.
“This is from Chants and Rituals of the Sonoran Indian Tribes, by Janice Fletcher.” Archive turned to Knightly. “Do you have a local map of the area?”
“Sure,” she led them over to a large map of southwestern Arizona. “These two red pins indicate the murders.”
Archive’s eyes went wide. “Are you descended from the Kokoham?” he asked Blade.
Blade blinked. He hadn’t expected that question. “I don’t know…” he mumbled. “My father used to rant about it when he was drunk. I think that’s why Palmer took me under his wing. But there’s really no way to prove it…”
“Can you remember anything about constellations at all? I think it ties to the murders.”
Blade considered the question. “There was a star called Sharnoth.”
Archive tapped away on his cistron. “Got it. Sharnoth is a perfectly aligned pentagram of stars inside the constellation of Gemini, although the middle star isn’t visible.”
Blade turned to Guppy. “Can you correlate the remaining three points with that constellation?”
Guppy tapped more keys. “Tapping into the GPCA in Nebraska…got it.” A map of the Arizona desert appeared on the cistrons. The five stick figures appeared on it, two matching the locations of Yuma and Draper’s murders. Then another virtual overlay appeared, indicating the location of the constellations. The cistron beeped as the remaining three sites flickered.
Blade checked his watch and sighed. “We’re too late. My guess is you’ll find your third victim…” he looked at the cistron and then, picking up a pushpin, speared a point on the wall map a couple of inches to the left of Draper’s murder. “Here.”
Knightly nodded. “I’ll send men to check it out. But that means we know where the next murder is going to take place.”
“That’s right,” said Blade with a slow smile. He tapped the fourth spot on the map with one finger. “And in three days, we’ll be waiting.”
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Wednesday, 14th May, 2008, 11:56 PM #162
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Darkest Calling: Part 3 – The Elder Stars Ritual
Several motorbikes made their way to the ritual. Blade’s heart sank as he saw it was Native Americans.
There were five men with a shaman at the center, also Native American. He was dressed in ceremonial garb.
“Wait for my signal,” whispered Hammer to the police snipers sequestered all around the site.
Blade looked through his binoculars. “That’s John Takoda. A shaman on the Papago Reservation.”
Takoda was a tall, thin man with parchment-like wrinkled skin and long gray hair tied in a ponytail. He wore jeans, a checkered shirt, and cowboy boots.
They carefully bound the man to the ground. He showed no signs of resistance. Then, lifting a knife over the man’s head, he began cutting into his flesh.
“That’s it, go, go, go!”
The agents rushed forward, pistols out. “Hands up! On the ground, now!”
The Native Americans looked up, surprisingly calm. Takoda put his hands up. “Jacob Ironshirt. You have come, as Coyote foretold.”
“Put the knife down,” said Blade. He pointed the pistol at Takoda.
“You have interfered with things that you do not understand. Our people are to be protected, as will all men, women and children of this earth if I am allowed to complete the rituals of banishment.”
“Down!” shouted Hammer.
Takoda shook his head. “If we do not, the lands will be subject to darkness and death, bringing the time when the stars are right ever closer. Our people have long understood sacrifice, a concept lost to your modern ways.
“This is not the way to do it,” said Hammer. “I’m not going to ask you again!”
“I have volunteers who understand that the interest of the tribe come first,” said Takoda. “But now it seems Coyote has sent you to me to serve a higher purpose.”
Takoda resumed the carving of the man’s flesh on the ground.
“Take him out!” shouted Hammer into his mic.
There was the crack of a sniper’s rifle. Hammer’s pistol flew out of his hand. He swore, clutching his bleeding fist. “Son of a bitch, they missed!”
“They didn’t miss,” said Knightly, striding towards them. “Did I mention I’m half-Papago?”
Guppy shouted into his cistron. “Agents compromised! Repeat: agents compromised!”
Blade turned around in shock. “You?”
“Oh I know I don’t look it. But then, you look pretty damn Native American to me and you don’t seem to give two s**ts about your own people.”
The other police officers forced the agents’ hands behind their backs. Blade looked around. They were all Native Americans.
“This is only going to make us look worse,” he said quietly.
The Phoenix cops forced all the agents to their knees and stripped them of their weapons.
“Save your breath,” said Knightly. “Watch and learn.”
Takoda finished carving odd patterns into the man’s skin. He ended it by painting four dots on the man’s right hand. Then he stepped away and chanted.
Something welled up from the sand. Dozens of its long stick legs crawled out of the sand like a spider, raising up a chaotic, wriggling mass. Mouths opened up from the dark torso, revealing teeth the texture of ice shards, opening into deep throats of blackness that gurgled forth phlegm-soup similar to tadpole eggs. The clicking, beating of woody-knolls across its pulsating shape repeated like Morse code.
The sacrificial victim screamed as the thing shambled closer. Takoda stepped out of the thing’s path.
It moved over the man, who screamed again, his voice drowned out by the clicking. When it slithered away, his torso was scoured to the bone in the same pattern that they had found Draper’s body.
Tears streamed down Blade’s face. Hammer watched stoically. Archive watched with frank curiosity. Guppy kept his eyes closed and looked away.
Another hole opened in the sand on the other side of the corpse. The thing crawled into it and seemed to be flushed downwards, the clicking sound disappearing with a loud pop.
“Now do you understand?” asked Takoda.
“I understand you just killed an innocent man,” Blade replied.
Takoda sighed. “Still your eyes have not been opened. Very well. We will see if you change your mind in three days.” He nodded towards Knightly. “Take them to the well.”
Thursday, 15th May, 2008, 11:12 AM #163
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Darkest Calling: Part 4a – The Well
They were driven into the desert far off the main roads and taken to a natural dry well. On the surface, wooden boards covered the well decorated with Indian designs. It was clear they had recently been broken with incredible force from the inside.
They were tossed into darkness. The fall, a good twenty feet, was slightly mitigated by the large amount of soft sand at the bottom.
“Everyone all right?” asked Blade.
“I think…” gasped Guppy. “I twisted my ankle.”
Time came and went.
“I think I found something,” said Archive. He pushed away some sand, revealing a glitter of metal in the few shafts of sunlight that made it into the well. “It’s a woman’s bracelet.”
It read: To Kate, Love Always, Liam.
“Someone will come for us,” said Guppy. “I sent a message before we were picked up.”
“It’s been days,” said Hammer glumly. “They should have been here by now.”
“They’re coming soon,” whispered something hideous in Blade’s mind. “You must escape now or they will kill you.”
“They’ll be coming soon,” said Blade. “They’re going to sacrifice one of us. So if we’re going to make our move, we have to do it now.”
“Do what?” asked Archive. “Climb the sheer wall of the well?”
“I will help you,” whispered the voice.
“I can do it,” said Blade. He took a deep breath. Closing his eyes, he pressed his palms against the plastic zip ties. They snapped easily.
Blade dropped them to the ground. Archive looked at them in disbelief. It looked as if they had been chewed through.
“How did you do that?”
“Never mind that,” he whispered. “I’ll take out the guards and get some help.”
Blade put one palm flat against the wall. It stuck, like he was some sort of spider. He pressed his left hand and similar found purchase. One handhold after another, he slowly but surely climbed the walls that no man could possibly have climbed.
“How is he doing that?” asked Hammer.
“Who cares as long as he gets us out of here!” asked Guppy.
A few seconds after Blade cleared the well, one guard fell into the pit. Another fell soon after. The agents ensured they stayed unconscious.
Then their walkie-talkies started squawking.
Guppy dove for one of them. “Oh crap, they’re checking in!” He panicked. “It’s in…Native American, I think!”
“Throw it up to me!” Blade shouted down to them.
Guppy tried, but it merely bounced off the side of the well. It smashed to pieces as it fell.
“I got it.” Hammer grabbed the second walkie-talkie and hurled it up to Blade.
Blade caught the walkie-talkie and spoke into it in another language.
“That should hold them off for a little while,” he shouted down. “See if you can find something to help you climb up.”
“We’ll tie their shirts and pants together,” said Hammer. He turned to Archive and Guppy. “Strip them and make some solid knots. We’ll fashion rope out of their clothes and throw it to Blade.”
They stripped the two guards’ clothes and made a makeshift rope from them. Guppy suddenly noticed the green flicker of a cistron’s power light in the sand. He dug it out.
“I’ll call for help!” shouted Guppy. He flicked it on. The biometrics read his thumbprint…
Guppy stared at it. “I…I don’t understand.”
“What?” asked Hammer. “What is it?” He looked over Guppy’s shoulder. “Oh s**t.”
“What?” asked Archive.
“We’ve been…” Guppy couldn’t continue. He just held up the cistron, glowing in the dark of the well.
In the darkness the screen was clearly visible. It read: DISAVOWED.
“What does that mean?” asked Guppy.
“I don’t know,” said Hammer.
Blade was talking to someone up top. They couldn’t make out his conversation.
There was no response.
A few minutes later the cistrons began beeping. It read: AGENT COMPROMISED.
Then an explosion rocked the ground.
Friday, 16th May, 2008, 11:28 AM #164
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Darkest Calling: Part 4b – The Well
Blade cleared the lip of the well. The guards were talking amongst themselves, fiddling with the cistrons, trying to figure out how they worked. They were all run by biometrics, fingerprint recognition. The cistrons wouldn’t work for them, but the guards didn’t know that.
Blade came up behind one guard and grabbed him in a choke hold. With a roar, he flung the man into the well. The guard, cistron and all, went hurdling into the pit.
The other guard drew his pistol. Blade chopped it out of his hand with an open palm jab.
The guard swung at him, but Blade caught the punch easily in his palm. He squeezed, and the guard screamed as his fist dripped blood.
Hurling him like a rag doll, Blade tossed the second guard into the pit.
Then Guppy started shouting about the guards having to check in. A walkie-talkie sailed over the edge of the well. Blade caught it just as the voice on the other end rose in alarm.
“Everything’s fine,” he said in the O’odham dialect. It was difficult – he had always considered himself Apache. His father was Apache, his mother Navajo. The Kokoham lineage was a myth that Palmer used to tell him when he was a child. It made Blade feel better about himself when his father beat him in one of his drunken rages.
But now Blade had a chance to be a hero. He shouted down for his teammates to find something to help them climb up. If they tied the clothes of the guards together…
Up top, nearby cacti suddenly lurched forward, grabbing Blade’s arms as if they were refugees from some Wizard of Oz set.
Out of the darkness strode John Takoda and his men. They were all there: Knightly, the renegade police officers, the entire tribe had turned out to see the last sacrifice. They watched in complete silence.
“Your O’odham needs some work,” said Takoda quietly. “Why are you fighting your destiny?”
“Fighting?” Blade snarled. “Give me my hatchets and I’ll show you fighting.”
“You do not understand.” They tied him up again, his legs too this time. Then they tossed Blade into the back of a jeep. “Think of the dark spirits you have defeated.”
“He’s trying to trick you,” whispered the voice. “Don’t listen to him.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” snarled Blade.
“I think you do. First you defeated the Traveler. Then Thin Jack. Then the Skinwalker. I dispelled the Festering Shambler. There is but one more spirit and one more sacrifice to be made. Will you not go honorably?”
The jeep bounced along as they drove out to the spot of the sacrifice.
Blade growled. “This is not about honor.” He strained at his bonds. “This is about survival. There is no fifth creature! You’re just killing innocent people for no reason!”
“Kill them,” whispered the voice. “Or they will kill us.”
The jeep squealed to a stop. Takoda’s men lifted Blade out and strapped him down to the ground.
“You will be my high priest.”
“I disagree,” said Takoda. “And deep in your heart, you know the truth. Coyote knows it. Your ancestors know it. Palmer knew it. These sacrifices are why you succeeded. They had to happen, or you would not have defeated those spirits.”
“You will call down the shapes of night to worship me at the times of year.”
“There’s no fifth spirit!” shouted Blade, flailing at his bonds. “This is a bunch of supernatural garbage!”
“You will prostrate yourself before me and in return you will survive when the earth is cleared off for the Great Old Ones.”
Takoda began carving symbols into his flesh. Strangely, it didn’t hurt at all.
“You will go beyond the rim to what stirs out of the light…”
“Are you so blinded that you do not see?” He reached into a small pot of gray paint and placed five dots on Blade’s forehead.
“There’s nothing to see!” shouted something that was not Blade’s voice. It came from one of his palms.
Takoda shined his flashlight on Blade’s open palm. A fanged maw had erupted there like a wart, teeth and a long tongue trailing bloody saliva as it shrieked.
“YOU are the final spirit,” said Takoda sadly. “And the final sacrifice. You are both man’s destruction and salvation.”
He began chanting over Blade’s body.
Blade’s body shuddered. With a roar, he easily snapped the bonds.
The shaman looked down in surprise as an open palm gripped his face, tearing off his nose. He was tossed aside effortlessly.
Bullets thudded into his flesh. The police, the Native Americans, all of them fired, screaming, shouting. It wouldn’t help them.
He was power incarnate, unleashed at last, not in a whimpering pedophile’s body but a strong, healthy one that could withstand some abuse.
He was no longer Blade. He was no longer Kokoham, or Apache, or Navajo.
He was Y’golonac, and he would stride forth from the loneliness of the aeons to walk once more among men.
He tore the shaman in half just as the beeping started. It was in his head. The transformation was almost complete. He wouldn’t need the head soon anyway…
There was the mournful howl of a coyote.
And then Y’golonac/Blade remembered fear.
Saturday, 17th May, 2008, 11:22 AM #165
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Darkest Calling - Conclusion
The Academy was nestled comfortably into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at the tail end of the Rockies in northern New Mexico. It had the bearing and appearance of an old-world military academy, with the scenery of the mountainous American Southwest.
Caprice, Jim-Bean, Archive, and Hammer acted as pallbearers, solemnly bringing a memorial coffin to the Spire. They marched a path, flanked by Majestic-12 agents, a four-story needle of the flattest black.
Christine and Alex were there, flown in under secrecy. They didn’t know where they were, and wouldn’t have been able to identify it if they tried. They were only there as a result of Drake’s intractable stubbornness, who promised that Outlook could wipe their memories later.
It was the right thing to do, he said.
They tried to find his family, but Jake’s father wouldn’t respond to their calls. His brother was missing. His mother was long dead. And so only Christine and Alex stood in testament to what little family Jake had left on Earth.
Archive cleared his throat. As the only team member with any religious background, it fell to him to speak of the dead.
“Jacob Ironshirt, known to us as Blade, died as he lived. He was loyal to his family and friends, and protected them both when they needed it most. He reached rock bottom and, through sheer force of will, crawled his way back into the light. And now, his journey is complete. Jake can rest in peace knowing that he died, not as a TV star, or as a father, or as a CIFA agent, but as a hero. He will be immortalized in our hearts. May God rest his soul. Amen.”
“Amen,” said the agents as one.
Drake solemnly wrapped up the American flag and presented it to Alex. The boy, eyes wide with tears, took it without comment.
Rifles were fired. And then on a television screen, it was revealed that Drake’s name was etched into the Spire, joining the other two thousand cadets and agents who died in the line of duty.
When it was over, Christine and Alex were whisked away without saying a word. The Outlook team would be gentle, they promised. They would only remember him as a military hero, killed while on reservist duty in Iraq. Drake threatened to kill them if either of them so much as had a headache.
Drake was waiting for the agents in his office. He poured a shot of scotch for each of them.
“To Blade,” he said, tears in his eyes. It rattled the other agents. They had never seen anything but rage from the old man.
They clinked their glasses. “To Blade!”
They all downed it at once. It was strong stuff from his special stash.
“What happened back there, Drake?” asked Hammer. “We got a message we were disavowed?”
Drake put down the shot glass. “You were. If those @$$holes in Majestic-12 had their say, they would have dropped the lot of you.”
“So what happened?” asked Caprice.
“I fought tooth-and-nail to get you reinstated,” he said vehemently. He poured another shot of scotch and poured it into the glasses of everyone within reach. “That’s what I do. I protected my men. I’ve lost plenty in my command. But not that way. Nobody should go that way.”
“So it’s true?” asked Guppy fearfully. “We all have bombs in our heads?”
Drake stared at the wall. “I didn’t believe it. There have always been rumors of a new failsafe. But I didn’t believe them.” He downed another shot. “I should have.”
Guppy rubbed his temples. “So they could blow us up at any time?”
Drake plunked down his shot glass and grabbed the pull. He took a long pull from it. “Not my problem anymore.”
He walked towards the door.
“Not your problem?” Hammer peered at him. “Where are you going, sir?”
“I quit,” said Drake. “Your new case officer starts on Monday. I hear he’s a real hard ass.”
The agents all stared at each other in shock as the door closed behind him.
Sunday, 18th May, 2008, 02:38 PM #166
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 10: PX Poker Night - Introduction
This scenario, “PX Poker Night,” is a D20 Call of Cthulhu scenario from Dungeon Magazine #96 by Dennis Detwiller. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers! Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
There’s an odd trend in D20 Delta Green scenarios: they seem torn between making the conflict about pseudo-sci-fi topics and blatantly supernatural, magical beings. For an example, see the other introductory scenario for Delta Green, Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays, where a supernatural Coyote helps the agents out. In PX Poker Night, it’s a dimensional shambler.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero) played by Joseph Tresca
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero) played by George Webster
- Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero) played by Bill Countiss
PX Poker Night has a lot of great ingredients but not much guidance on how to use them. There are no less than twelve characters (not counting the agents, who replaced three of them) that handle the day-to-day duties of Platte Air Force Base. Encountering each of them takes a considerable amount of work, but I really wanted to flesh out their personalities so there were some good foils to role-playing against. I basically just fast-forwarded through the various shifts, wherein one PC got to hang out with one NPC each day. A short amount of role-playing ensued to allow them some time for dialogue. Once all nine were introduced, it was time to introduce the poker game.
I toyed with the idea of playing an actual poker game, but role-playing with the various characters took up plenty of time already, so I just skipped to the crazy event. The other problem I noticed is that the scenario doesn’t provide information in an easy-to-find fashion. Breaking into the armory where the weapons are stored--probably the most important part of the scenario--is obscured as part of a map key.
I debated about adding in the dimensional shambler, but since the agents had already encountered one from before I decided it was time to reintroduce a recurring villain. And the dimensional shambler also provided an excellent form of menace that guided Guppy right into his worst nightmare.
This was one of those games where not everyone showed up, leaving us with just three agents. That’s not usually a problem if all three are stalwarts of sanity. Except one of them is SO NOT.
Defining Moment: The defining moment came when Guppy went bonkers. This was the first time the Tower of Sanity actually collapsed. Mind you, he had it coming…the crystal generator was making everyone bonkers anyway, and it just took a little shove to push poor Guppy over the edge. Of course, being alone with aliens in the dark will do that to you.
- The Warning: by Nine Inch Nails. You don't hear songs that talk about alien contact very often, much less from NIN. But here it is!
- Dungeon Magazine #96: The source for this scenario. You can also get it for free by joining the DG mailing list.
- Oddcast Virtual Host: Need a talking creepy grey alien but don’t want to role-play it? Oddcast has the answer: pick the virtual avatar, pick its voice, and then type in what you want it to say.
Monday, 19th May, 2008, 11:21 AM #167
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
PX Poker Night - Prologue
NORTH PLATTE, NB--Guppy, Hammer, and Caprice were stationed at the Platte AFB with no explanation. One step up from a military prison, the Spartan base consisted of a dozen buildings and two airstrips in the middle of a Nebraska wasteland some twenty miles from Marion, the nearest town.Some say it was a warning
Some say it was a sign
I was standing right there
When it came down from the sky
--The Warning by Nine Inch Nails
They had been given their assignments by cistron, which were promptly taken away. Weapons too. Their assignments were spread across the base, and never together. Guppy came upon his first denizen of the base tinkering with a Chevy Blazer 4x4.
Guppy extended his hand to a trim, wiry redheaded man with blue eyes and a freckled complexion. “Name’s Hank,” he said with a smile.
“O’Shea,” he responded. “Second Lieutenant Mike O’Shea. I’m Executive Officer here at Platte.”
Guppy smiled again. “That is wonderful. Then perhaps you can tell me who is in charge here?”
O’Shea gave him a sideways glance. “You don’t know? You really are new. That’d be Major Louis Sprague. He’s base commander.” He looked Guppy up and down. “And he don’t like foreigners.”
“I’m just as American as you!” said Guppy, getting defensive. “I eat hamburgers and wear jeans and—“
“Hamburgers?” asked O’Shea. “I thought you people didn’t eat cows.”
“No,” said Guppy. “I eat cows just like any red-blooded American.”
“Your accent’s awful thick.”
Guppy sighed. “Look, perhaps we are getting off to a wrong start. I merely want to know what we’re supposed to be doing here. I’m honestly not sure and you’re the first person I’ve met here.”
O’Shea shrugged. “There’s a reason for that. The base staff consists of only twelve airmen.” He nodded at the buildings around them. “So we don’t use much of the place. Once or twice a month, the Air Force flies decommissioned surplus aircraft to the base. It’s the only time we really have to get moving. Sprague doesn’t like it when we don’t hop-to. It’s his way of letting you know your place.”
“What kind of aircraft?”
“Helicopters, trainers, and even some jets. They find their way here before being sold to foreign governments or as scrap. We park the aircraft in the graveyard,” he jabbed a thumb northwards, “Then we mothball them to remove fuel and lubricants and seal up the planes’ mechanical accesses to protect them from the elements.” He looked around. “Annnd that’s pretty much it.”
“Wow,” said Guppy. “That sucks.”
“Yeah, welcome to hell. This place is pretty much the last stop on the road to dishonorable discharge. What you in for?”
Guppy frowned. “A member of my squad died.”
O’Shea’s expression softened. “Sorry to hear that.”
“What about you?”
“Me? I like speed.” He flashed a white grin. “I had my driver’s license revoked for street racing. Then I violated my CO’s order not to drive without a license.” He shrugged. “I hope I can get out of here soon.”
“I hear you man,” said Guppy. “What do we do out here then when there are no planes?”
O’Shea grinned. “Hop in and I’ll give you a ride back to base.”
Guppy climbed into the 4x4. “So I don’t suppose there are any police out here.”
“Hell no,” said O’Shea, gunning the engine. “In fact, I think one of your buddies is security. And since I don’t see him around…”
Before Guppy could protest, O’Shea peeled out with a battle cry of “YEEEEHA!”, hurdling him into the back of the 4x4.
Tuesday, 20th May, 2008, 11:14 AM #168
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
PX Poker Night: Part 1 – Frank Long
Hammer stood off to the side, watching the only other African-American on the base as he opened the door to the air traffic control room. They nodded at each other.
“Frank Long,” he said.
“Kurtis Grange,” said Hammer. There was no point in using their agent codenames. Everyone on the base seemed to assume he was with the Air Force and he wasn’t inclined to disabuse them of the notion. He only hoped his comrades were smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
They sat at their respective posts as the machinery beeped and whirled around them, watching the sun set.
“What’d you do to get stuck in a place like this?” asked Hammer.
“You know. Got a divorce. Got into debt. It affects a man.”
Hammer nodded. “Knew someone like that. Good man.”
“Yeah? He on the base?”
Hammer shook his head. “He’s dead.”
“Wow. Too bad, man. Sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, he had everything going for him. Had turned his life around. I try to look out for his widow and his kid.”
Long nodded. “We didn’t have kids at least. I got transferred out here when my place burned down.”
“Burned down, huh?” Hammer peered at the bald black man. “What’s your job here?”
“Fire/Rescue,” said Long with a straight face. “I used to be a firefighter.”
Hammer didn’t say anything.
“You play poker?” Long said to break the silence.
“Yeah, I was in some really big games in Vegas, back when poker was all the rage. Saturday evenings at eight p.m., rain or shine, is PX poker night on the base.”
“Poker night huh?”
“Yeah. It’s not actually held at the Post Exchange anymore. We play in the bare-bone remnants of the NCO club. Even the Major plays.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Hell yeah!” Long slapped his thigh. “That’s the high point of my week, man. Between that and Baywatch, we keep busy. That…and you can win money from that son of a bitch Sprague.”
Hammer smirked. He liked Long already.
Wednesday, 21st May, 2008, 11:13 AM #169
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
PX Poker Night: Part 2 – Randy Campbell
Randy Campbell was a fit, well-built, singularly unattractive man. And he had the unpleasant privilege of being stationed with Caprice on guard duty at the front gate.
“Hey,” said Caprice.
Campbell glared at him.
“So what do you guys do here all day?”
Campbell didn’t even look at him this time.
“Not much, huh?”
“When we piss off Sprague, we get guard duty. And I get stuck with you.”
“Hey whatever man.” Caprice held up his hands. “I’m just trying to make small talk.”
“Yeah, well you talking less helps me focus on other things besides the fact that I’m stuck here with you.”
Caprice looked around. There was nothing for miles. Then he walked towards the door.
“Where you going?”
“Me?” Caprice paused. “I haven’t seen any of my buddies for days and I find it a little weird that Sprague keeps splitting us up. So I’m going to go find them.”
“No you’re not. You’re stuck here with me.”
“You obviously got it handled,” said Caprice with a grin. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back before the end of the shift.”
“I don’t think so,” said Campbell threateningly. He stood up from his chair. “Now plant your ass back in the seat. Or else.”
“Or else what?”
“Or else I beat the crap out of you until you piss blood.”
“You’re going to have to wipe for me then,” said Caprice.
He ducked just as Campbell threw a punch, hitting the door. He swore, shaking his fist.
“You should get that looked at. I’ll get back to you later.”
“You’re dead meat,” said Campbell. “When Sprague finds out about this…”
“He’s not going to find out about it. I’ll keep quiet,” he nodded at the dent in the door, “about you striking an officer.”
Caprice closed the door behind him.
Campbell stared at the door. “He’s no officer…” he said, a little unsure of himself.
Thursday, 22nd May, 2008, 11:25 AM #170
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
PX Poker Night: Part 3 – The Air Traffic Control Tower
To Hammer and Guppy’s surprise, Caprice opened the door to the air traffic control room.
“What are you doing here?” asked Guppy, half-standing up.
“Happy to see me?” asked Caprice. “I decided to check on you guys. I haven’t seen any of you since I got here.”
Hammer nodded. “Today’s the first time we got stationed together.”
“You think they’re separating us on purpose?” asked Guppy.
Caprice nodded. “Yeah. Where’s the rest of the team?”
Hammer shrugged. “Wherever they are, they didn’t make it here.”
“They’re trying to split us up,” said Guppy mournfully. “Mother trucker.”
Caprice walked over to the guard rotation sheet. He flipped through a few of them. “Look at this…we’re not together on any of the rotations!”
“Except this one,” said Hammer.
“And they took away our cistrons and weapons,” said Guppy. He slumped over the console.
“Not all of them.” Hammer patted his back where he concealed his Glock.
Guppy looked up. “We have to get out of here. I wonder if we can make a run for it…”
“Run for it?” Caprice snorted. “You know this isn’t a prison right?”
“How did you get here, anyway?” asked Hammer. “Aren’t you on guard shift?”
Caprice shrugged. “I didn’t feel like it.”
“Sprague will be pissed,” said Guppy.
“What’s he going to do to me…”
They were interrupted by the screech of a truck’s brakes, audible even from the distance at the air tower.
“Uh oh,” said Guppy.
Caprice snatched up the binoculars they kept ready at the console and peered through them. “That’s interesting,” he said after a moment.
“What?” asked Hammer.
“See for yourself.” He handed the binoculars to Hammer.
A large dark van bearing USAF markings and about the size of a UPS delivery truck had pulled up to the main gate of Platte AFB. The driver, a plain-looking man in a suit, waited patiently while Campbell, the sole guard at the gate, talked on the phone.
“You better get back there.” He handed the binoculars back to Caprice. “I think he’s calling Sprague.”
A Chevy Blazer shrieked to a stop in front of the door. Sprague hopped out, and through the binoculars, Caprice could tell he was clearly shouting.
“Too late,” said Caprice.
The van was let in the front gate; it parked near the administration building. Sprague’s 4x4 followed behind them.
Two men in USAF uniforms stepped from the van and stood on each side, taking up guard positions. The man in the suit exited the van to confer with Major Sprague in private.
“I don’t like this,” said Caprice.
“Two guards on the van, in full body armor and carrying M-16s with M203 grenade launchers. That’s an awful lot of firepower for an Air Force base in the middle of nowhere, don’t you think?”
The man returned to the van and the guards mounted up. It drove out to an isolated area of the airfield near the mothballed aircraft. Once the van was parked, the guards emerged again and the lights came on in the van. And so it sat, unmoving.
“Think Campbell ratted you out?” asked Hammer.
“All personnel to the NCO club,” blared Sprague’s voice over the intercom. “And Creed, get your ass to HQ.” There was a pause. “NOW.”
“Yep,” said Caprice.