Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED) - Page 39
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    Operation Tucker: Part 3e – Into the Web

    Hammer burst into the room just as Tucker loomed over Morrow, who was clutching his thigh in a pool of blood.

    "Tucker!" shouted Hammer. "Put the gun down!"

    Tucker whirled and Hammer fired at his pistol hand. The gun went flying out of his hand.

    Jim-Bean slipped in behind Hammer. He made his way over to Morrow. "You okay?"

    Morrow groaned. Jim-Bean made a makeshift tourniquet out of his burnt and acid-pitted shirt.

    "You're unarmed," said Hammer, pointing both Glocks at Tucker. "Give up."

    "Let me ask you something, Jimmy," said Tucker, not taking his eyes off of Hammer. "When was the last time you took a $#!t?"

    Jim-Bean didn't answer him.

    "Not in a long time, I bet. Me neither."

    He blurred sideways. Hammer pulled the triggers on both pistols, but there was nothing to shoot at it. Tucker closed the distance between them faster than he could blink.

    Two jabs struck Hammer in the ribs, nearly doubling him over.

    Hammer came up and fired, but again Tucker's profile was a blur. Two perfectly aimed punches nailed Hammer in the jaw.

    “They come for you,” said Tucker. “They wipe your memory. But I remember now!”

    The world swam. Tucker grabbed Hammer by the throat.

    “They put things in us, to control us…”

    Tucker’s grip sagged as gunfire raked his back. He lost his handle on Hammer.

    It was the second Hammer needed. He shoved both pistols into Tucker's gut and fired, releasing a full burst of metal death at point-blank range.

    Tucker collapsed to the ground, his stomach smoking. He was whispering something.

    Jim-Bean leaned close to listen.

    "Project…RECOIL," he whispered. "Shoot me…in the head."

    Jim-Bean stood up and fired a single pistol shot into Tucker's forehead.

    "What did you do that for?" asked Hammer.

    "He asked me to."

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    Operation Tucker: Part 3f – Into the Web

    Larry brought the unconscious forms of Guppy, Sarah, and Morgana into the room, one at a time. He looked down at Tucker.

    "So it's over then."

    The lights went out. Then they flashed back on, this time a dim red.

    "Oh no. NO!" shouted Morrow. "Someone reset the system!"

    "That's a bad thing?"

    "Very bad!" said Morrow. "It will incinerate every living thing in the cubes and reset the traps. We have to get to the exit."

    "Where is it?" asked Hammer.

    "I…I'm not sure!"

    Jim-Bean put his palm to the floor. "I know where it is."

    "What's that sound?" asked Larry.

    They were all quiet for a moment. There was a high-pitched whine. It was coming from Tucker.

    Suddenly Tucker's eyes opened, and an odd green light flashed from his irises.

    Hammer picked up Morrow and Guppy. Jim-Bean grabbed Morgana and Larry took Sarah. They ran through room after room until they reached one with a door in the floor.

    The entire place began flashing red and then white in alternating colors.

    Hammer wrenched it open. "Water? You didn't say anything about water!"

    "It's an underwater tunnel," said Morrow. "It leads to a pond on the grounds."

    Morrow held his breath and dove in. Larry looked around in desperation. "Hold their noses. Make them gasp. Then pulled them in right after."

    He slipped into the water with Morgana. Keeping her head above water, he pinched her nose. After a few seconds she gasped for air. As she gulped, Larry dove down into the murky water.

    Jim-Bean did the same with Sarah. He dove after Larry, dragging the unconscious Sarah behind him.

    That left Hammer. He grabbed Guppy and held his nose. The whine from Tucker, even rooms away, had become a deafening screech. Guppy gasped for air. Hammer, cursing Morrow, dove into the water.

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    Operation Tucker: Conclusion

    Bill and Caprice met the other team members at the front of the mansion.

    "What the hell happened down there?" asked Bill. "We felt an explosion…"

    "Tucker went nuclear," said Hammer. "Just like Blade."

    "Who?" asked Bill.

    "Former team member,” Hammer said sadly. “It’s a long story."

    "That's why Tucker wanted me to shoot him in the head," said Jim-Bean. "He was trying to stop the bomb from going off."

    "Wait," said Bill. "Where's Sarah?"

    Larry bit his lip. "I called in for a pickup. We had to leave her at the edge of the pond. I tried to save her but…" he shook his head, drenched and shivering.

    Bill blanched. "Poor Sarah…"

    "We would have gotten out of there if it hadn't been for someone resetting the system," said Morrow.

    Bill and Caprice exchanged glances.

    "Must have been a glitch," said Caprice without skipping a beat.
    Last edited by talien; Sunday, 31st May, 2009 at 09:18 PM.

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    Chapter 29: Convergence - Introduction

    This scenario, “Convergence,” is from Delta Green D20 by Dennis Detwiller, John Tynes, and A. Scott Glancy. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    This scenario is as good as action horror gets. I don't know if I can top this: a creepy plot that builds, alien interactions that truly feel alien, players willing to role-play inter-party tension, a surprise twist, and a horrible revelation. And oh yeah, a giant blob wielding a crucifix as a weapon.

    I was unhappy (as I always am) with the scenario outline. There's a communicable disease (protomatter), but the reveal that one of the character is infected is left up to the GM. There's an amorphous shape shifting ooze that never actually makes an appearance unless the agents actively seek it out. There's an alien conspiracy and a cover-up, but it's not entirely clear to the GM as to the state of the conspiracy.

    As usual, rather than the investigation-focus, I shifted the time line along so things in town are much, much worse and stole liberally from Dean Koontz’s Phantoms. The protomatter spawn shifted from hiding under a government building to a megalomaniacal being that thinks it's a god. I shifted the other aliens’ plans from business as usual (odd, since their protomatter spawn is raging out of control) to actively trying to help the agents kill their Frankenstein monster. And since the agents are Majestic-12, there's no competition with Delta Green. As Jeremy put it once, "horror is having all the military force in the world at your disposal…and it still doesn't help you." That's what happens here.

    The other moment is what I call the "Detwiller" moment. Dennis recently explained that A-Cell in Delta Green isn't trying to "win" the war against the Mythos. They're just trying to staunch the wound. Individuals mean nothing: the greater good means all. If there's a decision between an innocent's life and the spread of the Mythos, the innocent loses every time. That was dramatically demonstrated in this scenario in how Hammer (Cowboy) and Guppy (Crackpot) approach the conspiracy.

    I combined descriptions from Dean Koontz' book with some of the action-oriented elements added by the movie. For the record, I saw Phantoms in the theater and thought it was dreadfully boring. But as a book it's much more terrifying. It helps that the protagonist is trained in forensics, which provides plenty of mystery for the agents to investigate what happened to the town's victims.

    Even better, Guppy, Hammer, and Jim-Bean created their own role-playing tension in both relationships and how they handle (or don't handle) the conspiracy.

    Defining Moment: Hammer, faced with a Saucerwatch leak that might spread the truth about the Mythos, plugs the hole…with a bullet.

    Relevant Media
    • Delta Green D20: The source of the Convergence scenario.
    • Phantoms (book): The description of Groversville is largely from this book.
    • Phantoms (movie): The movie was pretty boring, but I used elements from it (specifically the dart guns instead of chemical sprayers) to amp up the adrenaline in the scenario.
    • Heresy: by Nine Inch Nails.

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    Convergence: Prologue

    He flexed his muscles to keep his flock of sheep in line
    He made a virus that would kill off all the swine
    His perfect kingdom of killing, suffering and pain
    Demands devotion; atrocities done in his name

    -Heresy by Nine Inch Nails
    GROVERSVILLE, TN— Groversville was a quaint town. Exterior advertising was restricted to rustic wooden signs bearing each store's name and line of business.

    Hammer edged the Civic through the blocks, moving slowly.

    "Is it just me," asked Guppy, "or is this place deserted?"

    On any other mild Sunday afternoon in September, at least a few residents would be strolling along the cobblestone sidewalks and sitting on the porches and balconies that overlooked Skyline Road.

    "It's not just you," said Jim-Bean.

    "So I got a phone call yesterday," said Guppy, pointedly avoiding looking at Jim-Bean. "From Lisa Howell."

    "Dr. Howell?" asked Jim-Bean, arching an eyebrow. "What about her?"

    "We used to date."

    "Oh yeah…she mentioned that."

    "Mentioned that?" This time Guppy looked at him. "When?"

    "On a mission," said Hammer. "Like the one we're on now. Let's stay on topic."

    Agent Tucker, real name Bill Spivey, had killed far more people than the corpses in the Illinois suburbs. His rampage had started well before that, in a gas station just outside of Groversville. In the two weeks since the incident in Willis, Tucker had killed five people.

    "Tucker's last residence indicated he was boarding at the Beck residence before he started his rampage," said Jim-Bean. He had been named mission leader, but Jim-Bean had a much more personal interest in what happened to Tucker.

    The afternoon was fading into evening. The sidewalks, balconies, and porches were deserted. Even in those shops and houses where there were lights burning, there was no sign of life. The Civic was the only moving car on the long street.

    Hammer braked for a stop sign at the first intersection. Highway 135 crossed St. Moritz Way, extending four blocks west. Looking in both directions, there was no one. The next block of highway was deserted, too. So was the block after that.

    They passed the RR Diner at the corner of Vail Lane. The lights were on inside and most of the interior was visible through the big corner windows, but there was no one to be seen. There weren't even any waitresses inside.

    "A diner, empty?" asked Hammer. "Something is definitely wrong."

    The house Tucker stayed at was in the southwestern block, on the north side of the street. Hammer pulled the Civic up to the curb with a squeak of brakes.

    It was a two-story, stone and timber chalet with three dormer windows along the street side of the attic. The many-angled, slate roof was a mottled gray-blue-black. The house was set back twenty feet from the cobblestone sidewalk, behind a waist-high evergreen hedge. A sign stood by one corner of the porch that read BECK.

    The agents drew their pistols. They crossed the lawn to a stone walkway and followed that to the front porch, where, in response to the amber-purple sunset, shadows were rising and opening petals as if they were night-blooming flowers.

    Hammer knocked on the door, but it swung open, unlocked.

    Jim-Bean took an opposite position with Guppy trailing. They pushed open the door and covered the room with their weapons.

    "Nothing," said Hammer, lowering his Glocks slightly. "Let's check out the kitchen."

    The kitchen was a large, high-ceilinged room. Pots, pans, ladles, and other utensils hung from a gleaming, stainless steel utility rack above a central cooking island with four electric burners, a grill, and a work area. The countertops were ceramic tile, and the cabinets were dark oak. On the far side of the room were double sinks, double ovens, a microwave oven, and the refrigerator.

    A woman was lying on the floor, on her back, dead. She stared at the ceiling with sightless eyes, her discolored tongue thrust stiffly between swollen lips.

    Guppy scanned her face with his cistron. Her picture flashed on all their cistron screens. "Hilda Beck," he said.

    The dead woman's face was swollen; it was a round, smooth, and somewhat shiny caricature of the countenance she wore in life. Her body was bloated, too, and in some places it strained against the seams of her gray and yellow housedress. Where flesh was visible—the neck, lower waist, hands, calves, ankles—it had a soft, overripe look.

    Hammer leaned down to inspect the corpse. "Interesting."

    Guppy looked away. "Only you would find that interesting."

    "Guppy, why don't you get me my forensics kit out of the car?" asked Hammer.

    "You don't have to tell me twice!" Guppy walked back out the front door.

    "The bloating isn't a result of decomposition," said Hammer. "For one thing, the stomach should be grossly distended with gas, far more bloated than any other part of the body, but it is only moderately expanded. Besides, there is no odor of decay."

    Hammer scanned the corpse with his cistron. "The dark, mottled skin does not appear to be the result of tissue deterioration." He flipped on the recording function of his cistron. "I can’t locate any certain, visible signs of ongoing decomposition: no lesions, no blistering, no weeping pustules."

    Jim-Bean stared down at the corpse but didn't move any closer. "And this is different how?"

    "Because they are composed of comparatively soft tissue, a corpse's eyes usually bear evidence of physical degeneration before most other parts of the body," said Hammer. "But Beck's eyes—wide open, staring—are perfect specimens."

    The whites of her eyes were clear, neither yellowish nor discolored by burst blood vessels. The irises were clear as well; there were not even milky, postmortem cataracts to obscure the warm, blue color.

    "It's like she's one big bruise," said Hammer. "I've seen damage like this in car accidents, but there's always worse trauma, like a broken nose, split lips, a broken jaw. She's bruised without any more serious injuries." Hammer looked around in irritation. "What's taking Guppy so long?"

    Guppy came back in. "Hey guys? I tried to raise you on the cistron but I'm not getting a signal."

    "What's the problem?" asked Jim-Bean.

    "It's the car. The engine's missing."

    Hammer stood up. "Someone sabotaged our car in the five minutes we were in here?"

    Guppy shook his head. "No, not sabotaged. The engine is completely missing. Something ripped it right out."

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    Convergence: Part 1 – Santini Residence

    "I can't believe something just ripped out the engine without us hearing anything," said Hammer in exasperation.

    Guppy looked around, eyes wide. "Do you hear that?"

    "Hear what?" asked Jim-Bean.

    "Music. Classical music."

    Across the street, music swelled, faded, and swelled. It was Beethoven. The front door to the house, identified as SANTINI, was ajar.

    The agents made their way over to the Santini house.

    Inside, a light was on in the study, to the left of the foyer. Milky luminescence spilled out of the open study doors, across the oak-floored foyer, to the brink of the dark living room.

    "I think that's…Beethoven," said Guppy. "The Third Symphony, Eroica."

    The symphony reached its stirring conclusion, and when the last note faded, no new music began.

    "Guess the stereo shut itself off," said Hammer.

    There was light in the study, but the other windows were flat, black, and shiny. Someone could be standing just beyond any of those panes of glass, cloaked in shadow, seeing but unseen.

    Hammer made his way into the foyer. The other agents followed.

    The room through the open door on the left was deserted. Two lamps cast warm golden light into every corner of the study.

    To the right, the living room was draped with shadows as thick as densely woven black hunting. At the far end, a few splinters of light gleamed at the edges and at the bottom of a set of doors that closed off the dining room, but that meager glow did nothing to dispel the gloom on this side.

    Hammer found a wall switch that turned on a lamp, revealing the unoccupied living room.

    He crossed to the living room, which was furnished with comfortable beige sofas and elegant, emerald-green Queen Anne wing chairs. The stereo and CD player were nestled inconspicuously in a corner wall unit. That's where the music was coming from.

    "Guess the Santinis went out and left it playing," said Guppy.

    "Sure," said Jim-Bean.

    At the end of the room, Hammer opened the double doors, which squeaked slightly.

    No one was in the dining room, either, but the chandelier shed light on a curious scene. The table was set for an early Sunday supper: four place mats; four clean dinner plates; four matching salad plates, three of them shiny-clean, the fourth holding a serving of salad; four sets of stainless-steel flatware; four glasses-two filled with milk, one with water, and one with an amber liquid that might be apple juice. Ice cubes, only partly melted, floated in both the juice and the water. In the center of the table were serving dishes: a bowl of salad, a platter of ham, a potato casserole, and a large dish of peas and carrots.

    Hammer looked over the meal. "Except for the salad, all of the food is untouched."

    Guppy put his hand over the ham. "The ham's cold."

    "Whatever happened here happened fast," said Hammer grimly. "Damn fast." He touched the casserole dish: it was still warm. "The food was put on the table within the past hour, perhaps only thirty minutes ago. Check for signs of a struggle."

    Jim-Bean pointed at an overturned chair. It was lying on one side, a few feet from the table. "Somebody got up in a hurry." The other chairs were upright, but on the floor beside one of them lay a serving spoon and a two-pronged meat fork.

    "There's a napkin over here," said Guppy. A balled-up napkin was on the floor too, in a corner of the room, as if it had not merely been dropped but flung aside.

    "Saltshaker's overturned," said Hammer. But it was all small things. Nothing dramatic. Nothing conclusive.

    "None of this is making sense," said Jim-Bean. He put his hand on the table and closed his eyes. "Let me see if…"

    He gasped, twitching, and slumped off the table to the ground.

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    Convergence: Part 2 – The Flashback

    Jim-Bean was driving through wooded country in Tennessee. While trying to get his bearings, he saw a pulsing white light level with the horizon visible through a tightly packed copse of trees. He cautiously approached.
    Suddenly, Jim-Bean felt cold. He abruptly realized that he was standing naked in a dimly-lit domed room, his SIG and equipment gone.

    On the floor of the room were multiple human objects: a rusty jack-in-the-box, a broken 1950s wristwatch, a tattered and rotted knapsack. On the walls, which seemed to be made of a clay-like material, were tiny purple sigils.

    Jim-Bean examined the sigils and touched one. A blue light flared for a moment and he jumped away from the wall. The metallic floor had changed—it was clear like glass, and through it dozens of Grey bodies could be seen lying prone, seemingly entombed.

    YES,” a mechanical voice said from behind him.

    Jim-Bean whirled to see three Greys standing in the chamber—which apparently had no entrances.

    The three spoke in unison, walking at exactly the same pace towards him.


    Jim-Bean attempted to back up, but his willpower slowly drained until he found himself standing at near-attention as the Greys poked and prodded his body with odd instruments that he couldn't see. His entire body was numb.




    "What are you talking about?"

    IT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND,” all three Greys shouted simultaneously. “WE ARE FROM OUTSIDE. WE HAVE COME FOR YOU.

    "…for me?" Jim-Bean found himself shouting back at them in spite of himself.


    "Needed how?"

    Jim-Bean awoke with a gasp, staring up at Guppy and Hammer.

    "You okay?" asked Hammer.

    "Yeah," said Jim-Bean. "Just…"

    "Another one of your hunches?" Hammer finished for him.

    Jim-Bean struggled to his feet.

    "No," he said, staring at Guppy with new found appreciation for his paranoia. "One of his."
    Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 03:42 PM.

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    Convergence: Part 3 – The Sheriff's Office

    Hammer opened the door and stepped inside the sheriff’s office. Locating a wall switch, he snapped on the overhead lights, only to see a corpse on the floor.

    Hammer read his badge. "Paul Henderson." Henderson's corpse had dark, bruised flesh. Swollen. Dead.

    Guppy ran his name through the Blacknet database. "He was a Majestic-12 undercover agent."

    "He's in the same condition as Hilda Beck." Every visible inch of the deputy's flesh was bruised. The body was swollen: a puffy, distorted face; the neck almost as large as the head; fingers that resemble knotted links of sausage; a distended abdomen. Yet Hammer couldn't detect even the vaguest odor of decomposition.

    Guppy looked away. "I can't stare at his face. "

    Unseeing eyes bulge from the mottled, storm-colored face. Those eyes, together with the gaping and twisted mouth, conveyed an unmistakable emotion: fear. Like Hilda, Paul Henderson appeared to have died suddenly—and in the powerful, icy grip of terror.

    "His sidearm isn't in his holster," said Hammer.

    "It's over here," said Jim-Bean. The pistol was on the floor, near the body. A .45-caliber revolver.

    Hammer picked up the pistol and examined it. The cylinder had a six-round capacity, but three of the chambers were empty.

    Hammer sniffed the cylinder. "It was fired today. Maybe even within the past hour."

    Hammer pushed through the swinging gate in the wooden railing, moving into the area that TV cops always called the "bull pen." He walked down an aisle between facing pairs of desks, filing cabinets, and worktables. In the center of the room, he stopped to scan the pale green walls and the white acoustic-tile ceiling, looking for bullet holes. Hammer didn't find any.

    Hammer turned to the desk where the gooseneck fluorescent lamp cast light on an open issue of Time. A brass nameplate read SERGEANT PAUL J. HENDERSON. This was where he was sitting, passing an apparently dull afternoon, when whatever happened had ... happened.

    Along the back wall of the room, there were two bulletin boards, a photocopier, a locked gun cabinet, a police radio, and a teletype link.

    Guppy tinkered with them for a minute. "Mother trucker. None of it works."

    "There's a gun cabinet here," said Jim-Bean. "It's locked."

    "You find any keys on the body?"

    Jim-Bean shook his head.

    The phone rang, scaring the bejesus out of Guppy who almost fell backwards.

    They stared at it for a moment while it rang.

    With a trembling hand, Guppy clicked on the speakerphone.

    "…dealing with," spoke an alien, buzzing voice. There was static and then "…has been a long time and we have many things to do and you are not sure what you are doing. Stop now. Stop now.

    It repeated. Guppy held up his cistron and recorded it.

    The phone hung up.

    "Let's keep moving," said Hammer.
    Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 17th March, 2009 at 03:43 PM.

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    Convergence: Part 4 – Ameley Goods

    They proceeded along Skyline Road, moving alternately through shadows, yellowish sodium-glow from the streetlamps, darkness, and phosphoric moonlight. Regularly spaced trees grew from curbside planters on the left. On the right, they passed a Stuffer Shack and Merle’s Auto Body. At each establishment, the agents paused to peer through the windows, searching for signs of life, finding none. Ahead, there was a pool of light from Ameley Goods.

    Ameley Goods was a clean, white building with a blue-and-white-striped awning. In the rear of the budding, back in the part where the ovens were, light poured through an open door, splashing one end of the sales room and indirectly illuminating the rest of the place. Small cafe tables stood to the left, each with a pair of chairs. White enamel display cases with glass fronts were empty.

    Hammer tried the door. It was locked. He gestured to Guppy, who stepped up with his lock picking tool.

    A few spins later and the door opened. They made their way towards the lit room in the back.

    They entered a huge kitchen, which smelled pleasantly of cinnamon, flour, black walnuts, and orange extract. The bakery was well equipped with double sinks, a walk-in refrigerator, several ovens, several immense white enamel storage cabinets, a dough-kneading machine, and a large array of other appliances. The middle of the room was occupied by a long, wide counter, the primary work area; one end of it had a shiny stainless-steel top, and the other end had a butcher's block surface. The stainless-steel portion was stacked high with pots, cupcake and cookie trays, baking racks, Bundt pans, regular cake pans, and pie tins, all clean and bright. The entire kitchen gleamed.

    On the other side of the piled cookware, in the middle of the butcher's-block counter, lay a large disk of pie dough. A wooden rolling pin rested on the dough.

    "AAH!" shouted Guppy, pointing.

    Two hands gripped the ends of the rolling pin. Two severed, human hands.

    Jim-Bean sighed. "Anyone want to bet what's in the ovens?"

    "I don't want to look!" said Guppy, and it was clear he meant it.

    Beyond the butcher's-block counter, set in the long wall on the far side of the room, were three ovens. One of them was huge, with a pair of solid, over-and-under, stainless-steel doors. The other two ovens were smaller than the first, though still larger than the conventional models used in most homes; there was one door in each, and each door had a glass portal in the center of it. None of the ovens were turned on.

    Each contained a severed head.

    Ghastly, dead faces gazed out into the room, noses pressed to the inside of the oven glass. One was a male. White hair spattered with blood. One eye half shut, the other glaring. Lips pressed together in a grimace of pain. The other was s a female. Both eyes open. Mouth gaping as if her jaws had come unhinged.

    A flashlight beamed in Hammer's face. He spun, Glocks up.

    "Freeze! Weapons down!" shouted a voice with a Tennessee drawl.

    Two men, silhouetted in the darkness, had their revolvers out.

    "We're CIFA," said Hammer. He had both hands on Glocks, so he couldn't pull out his badge. "Guppy, show them."

    Guppy took his own badge out and held it up in the flashlight beam.

    "CIFA, huh?" The flashlight beam angled downward as the sheriff inspected the badge. "Counter-Intelligence Field Agency. This must be some serious $#!t our little town got itself into if the Feds are here."

    "You have no idea," said Jim-Bean. "And who are you?"

    "I'm Dan Oakley, Groversville's sheriff. My compatriot here is Deputy Stu Wargle."

    Stu gave a cursory look around, clearly freaked out by the decapitated heads but unsure what to do about it.

    "You were in town when the attack happened?" asked Hammer.

    Oakley shook his head. "No sir. We were out on another call. Was on the phone with Henderson. Line went dead in the middle of conversation. By the time we got back, the entire town was empty. If you boys are here, I'm guessing this is a terrorist attack, huh?"

    Hammer slowly nodded. "Definitely an attack of some sort."

    "Gas maybe?" Oakley looked around.

    "I don't know no gas that does this," said Stu, pointing at the heads. "If these are terrorists, they are some seriously sick #^(&ers."

    The power flickered.

    Oakley looked around. “I’m gonna go outside, and I’m going to get on the radio, and I’m going to figure this thing out." Oakley handed Guppy's badge back to him. “I recommend we stick together for now.”

    They walked out into the street.

    "You should have asked me first," Guppy to Jim-Bean.

    "Not this again." Jim-Bean rolled his eyes. "Asked you first about what? We're not dating!"

    "That's not what she said…"

    "Well whatever she said, it's not true. She saved Hammer's life, I saved hers. Hell, she's gave the note to Hammer, not me."

    "A note?" asked Guppy, his voice rising. "She didn't mention anything about a note!" He looked accusingly at Hammer.

    "Oh no, don't get me involved in this," said Hammer, hands up in defense. "Besides, the note was for Jim-Bean, not me."

    "She didn't mention a note," grumbled Guppy. "Let me ask you something, sheriff. Would you be okay with your deputy dating your ex-girlfriend?"

    Oakley looked at Guppy in disbelief. "Well," he took off his hat and scratched his head as they walked. "I don't—"

    Three piercing screams tore through the conversation. Lights flickered on and off, the firehouse siren roared, a church bell rang. The siren wailed, and the bell rang, and the lights began to flash again; shop lights, streetlights on and off, on and off so rapidly that they created a strobe-like effect. Skyline Road flickered; the buildings seemed to jump toward the street, then fall back, then jump forward; the shadows danced jerkily.

    "Mother trucker!" shouted Guppy, covering his ears.

    Oakley and Stu drew their revolvers, trying to point everywhere. They stood back to back with the agents as all of Groversville went berserk, shrieking and flickering, for nearly a minute.

    Then the lights went out and all was silent. Only one light was on in the town.

    “That’s the Merle’s Shut Eye Motel,” says Oakley.

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    Convergence: Part 5 – Merle's Shut-Eye Motel

    Merle’s Shut Eye Motel was surprisingly sophisticated, with deep caves and elaborately carved cornices, mullioned windows flanked by carved white shutters. Two carriage lamps were fixed atop stone pilasters, bracketing the short stone walkway. Three small spotlights spread dramatic fans of light across the face of the motel.

    The front doors opened onto a small, comfortably appointed lobby: an oak floor, a dark oriental carpet, light beige sofas, a pair of Queen Anne chairs upholstered in a rose-colored fabric, cherry wood end tables, brass lamps.

    The registration desk was off to the right. A bell rested on the wooden counter. A passkey was on a pegboard beside the mailboxes.

    "Hear that?" asked Guppy.

    They could make out the faint notes of an old-style song, sung by a woman.

    "Sounds like a radio or television is on upstairs," said Oakley.

    They crept their way up the steps, weapons drawn. Hammer tried the handle to the room. It was locked. On a count of three, he kicked open the door.

    Inside was a small radio playing the faint tunes. A woman lay in bed in a negligee, facing away from the entrance.

    Hammer shut off the radio.

    Jim-Bean moved to inspect the body, but Stu beat him to it. "I got this one," he said.

    The woman was obviously dead. Her features seem melted, as if they were dripping right into the pillow. Although she seemed like a younger woman, her features were oddly aged.

    Oakley rattled the bathroom door. "Locked."

    "Guppy?" asked Hammer.

    Guppy went to work. The lock popped open a second later.

    It was a windowless bathroom with a mirror. Written on the window were the words: SCOTT ADAMS - THE PROTOMATTER SPAWN.

    "Is that…" said Guppy hesitantly, "…blood?"

    Hammer inspected the writing. "Looks like it was written in lipstick."

    "Well hell, that don't make no kind of sense," said Oakley. "There's no window to the room. The door was locked from the inside."

    Hammer rifled through the contents of the bathroom medicine cabinet and sink. Just under the mirror was a bottle of Mennen's Skin Conditioner, lime-scented aftershave, a man's electric razor, a pair of toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, hairbrushes, and a woman's makeup kit.

    "No lipstick either," he said. "From the looks of it, there were two people in this room."

    Jim-Bean cocked his head. He heard jingling from one of the other rooms. "Guys, I heard a noise."

    With his SIG out, he padded into the hallway. Hammer followed behind him.

    Unlike the other rooms, the door was open.

    "Was that door open before?" asked Oakley, trailing behind them. Guppy and Stu brought up the rear.

    Hammer and Jim-Bean covered the entryway with their pistols. Jim-Bean peeked in.

    A pile of objects was stacked on the bed in the center of the room.

    "Looks like somebody's stolen loot," said Jim-Bean.

    Hammer moved closer to inspect them. He could make out a gold tooth and buttons.

    "This is very interesting," said Hammer. He eyed the two civilians. "Does any of this look like it belongs to people in town?"

    Oakley pawed through the pile. "Yep." He held up a wedding ring. "This is Barry's," he said sadly. "It's got his wife's name on it, Laura."

    "What the hell is a pacemaker doing in this stuff?" asked Guppy. "That should be inside somebody, right?"

    “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Stu laughed, his voice cracking. “Now this guy, this guy’s got edge.”

    "Stu, Guppy, calm down," said Hammer slowly. "Take it easy. Let's all go downstairs."

    They crept back down the steps to the lobby.

    "Whoa!" shouted Guppy. "That was NOT there before!"

    A severed hand holding a tube of lipstick was on an end table, directly in the fall of light from a rose shaded lamp. It was so prettily lit that it seemed almost like a piece of artwork on display. The lipstick was held firmly between its thumb and first two fingers.

    The radio was back on upstairs, playing music.

    "What the hell is going on?" asked Guppy, panicking. "How is this thing getting around so fast? The aliens can't be—"

    "Guppy," said Hammer firmly. "Remember where we are and who we're with."

    Their argument was suddenly punctuated by the scream of a woman. “Help!” she shrieked just outside the front door of the hotel. “Help me!”

    Stu ran out, pistol at the ready.

    "Stu, wait—" said Hammer. He came out a second behind him, pistols at the ready.

    Stu was gone. His pistol spun on the ground, still loaded.

    “That's it," said Hammer. "We're retreating back to a defensible position." He turned to Oakley. "What's the most secure place in town?"

    "The sheriff's office," said Oakley slowly. He picked up the spinning pistol and scanned the night sky.

    "We're hunkering down until daylight," said Hammer. "Let's go.”

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