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Wednesday, 23rd January, 2008, 12:52 PM #31
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 5b – Joe’s Story
When Joe checked on Theresa Kent, she was nowhere to be found. She left with a man, not an unusual sight in New Orleans, and certainly not during Mardi Gras.
Joe got a call on his cell phone. He picked it up.
"Joe? It's Rob."
Joe sighed inwardly. "Yeah?"
"So did the guy comp you?"
"Volk? He's a kook. Or he was one...then something ate him."
"Ate him? What kind of thing ate him?"
"A Mardis Gras float...look, it's complicated. We’re crossing some serious occult territory. I’ll explain when I get back…"
"No, we've got something else. This one's big."
"So is Volk. Did you not hear the part about something eating him?"
"We can argue about that later. We've got a serial killer on the prowl in New Orleans. One Elijah Jackson, a vagrant in Nashville, Tennessee, fled the St. Bartholomew's Shelter for the Homeless. The man who ran the shelter, Father Willard Franklin, was found disemboweled. It was ruled a suicide."
"Who disembowels themselves as a suicide?" asked Joe.
"Not unless they have a katana. The police are considering classifying it as homicide now that more info came to light."
"What kind of info?"
"People have been picked off in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Jackson was spotted there. Since you're in the neighborhood, I want you to find him. Get to him first. I've cast some stones on this one," that was Rob's way of saying he cast a spell, "and something's not right about Jackson. It's important you find him first."
"Okay, but what about Volk?"
"Volk can wait. I'll do some divinations and see if I can pick up on anything. Someone using magic that powerful is a real badass, not someone you want to tangle with."
Joe sighed, out loud this time, and clicked his cell phone shut. He was really beginning to hate New Orleans.
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Friday, 25th January, 2008, 12:59 PM #32
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 5c – Joe’s Story
Finding a serial killer wasn't too hard. It was clear Jackson was taking advantage of the mess that was Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, and that he had been busy. All told, Joe connected five different murders to him. They happened every week or so, like clockwork. With overtaxed resources and a displaced population, finding Jackson wasn't going to be easy.
Fortunately, luck was on Joe's side. Anyone sane in New Orleans kept a weapon with them. The ones who could afford it had sidearms. And someone finally fought back.
The victim was a young African-American woman. After the police interviewed her, Joe met her at her home.
"Ms. Dawson? May I speak with you?"
She was scared but put on a brave front. "I just spoke to the police--"
"Oh, I know." Joe put up one hand. "I'm not with the police. I'm a private investigator." He flashed his badge, hoping she wouldn't read the cornily named "X-investigations" on it. "I'm tracking down the man I think you shot."
Dawson let out a deep, shuddering sigh. "Fine. You can come in for a few minutes. But please be quiet, my grandma is sleeping upstairs and I don't want to worry her about what happened tonight."
Dawson served tea and they both sat down at a flimsy card table. Joe tried to project kindness. When he was built like a fireplug, it was difficult to seem anything but threatening. "So Ms. Dawson, can you explain to me what happened?"
"I was...there was a man. I already described him to the police."
Joe nodded. "Did he look like this?" He held up one photo they had of Jackson.
"Yes, that's him." She looked at the picture curiously. "The police had to use a sketch artist."
Joe flashed her a pained smile. "The agency I work for is often one step ahead of the police. I'm more interested in what you reported. You said you shot your assailant?"
"Y-yes," said Dawson. "I shot him."
"How many times?"
She looked confused.
"Ms. Dawson? How many bullets did you fire at the man who attacked you?"
"...all of them," she said after a moment.
"And he kept coming?"
"No, he seemed...surprised. Angry. But he turned and ran. There was blood pouring out everywhere but he didn't even stumble..."
Joe got up. He had to hand it to Rob, he had a nose for these things. "I see. Thank you for your time, Ms. Dawson. We'll catch him."
"It, you mean," said Dawson quietly.
Joe had to agree with her. "It," he repeated. "We'll catch it."
Sunday, 27th January, 2008, 07:32 PM #33
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 5d – Joe’s Story
Joe arrived at the nearby New Orleans police station. They were understaffed and overworked. It was late.
Joe flashed his badge. "I'd like to see detective Gallagher."
"Sure you would...” The cop's eyes focused on Joe's ID. "Hey, you're with X-investigations! I read that book." The cop winked at him. "That chick they've got on the calendar is hot..."
Joe grit his teeth and pulled a calendar out of his pocket. "Here, this is for you." Silvia's gratuitous calendar had greased more than few palms for Joe in his work. Even though she undermined everything he stood for. "Use it in good health."
The cop grabbed it and whistled. "Nice." He shouted over his shoulder. "Gallagher! Someone here to see you!"
Gallagher eventually came out, all rumpled tie, bags under his eyes, and a cup of coffee in his hand. "Yeah?"
"This here's Joe Fontaine from X-investigations," introduced the cop. "He's interested in the Jackson case." The cop immediately went back to looking at the calendar.
Gallagher snorted. "Buy yourself a cup of coffee," he said. "The case is solved."
"Solved?" asked Joe. "How?"
"Jackson got what was coming to him: a shotgun blast to the abdomen at point blank range."
Joe squinted. "Who shot him?"
Gallagher shrugged. "I'd be lying if I told you I care. The bastard's dead, and that's what counts. We have a lead on a local man, David Charles. But he fled the scene. We're still looking for him."
Joe could tell by the way Gallagher said the last sentence that the New Orleans police department wasn't making apprehending Charles a priority.
"You writing a book?" asked Gallagher.
"I don't write books, detective. I just investigate. My boss, Robert Johnson, he writes the books."
"Love that book, great stuff." He peered at Joe. "You think there's some sort of supernatural angle to all this?"
Joe hesitated. Oh, what the hell, the police weren't going to be much help anyway. "Have you ever heard of the demon Azazel?"
Gallagher shook his head.
"The first appearance of the name Azazel is in Leviticus 16:8. Basically, God orders Aaron to place lots upon two goats, reserving one for God and one for Azazel. The first goat set aside for God is sacrificed. Aaron takes the second goat, the one for Azazel, places his hands on it, and makes confession for all of the Israelites. Then he leads the goat out into the wilderness and leave it there. That's where we get the term scapegoat."
Gallagher laughed. "You learn something new every day! What does this have to do with the Jackson case?"
"In short, Azazel is an eater of sins. And X-investigations believes that there may be a possessed demon hopping from body to body..."
Gallagher stopped laughing. "You're serious?" He took a long slurp of his coffee, put it down on counter where the cop was still leering at Silvie's calendar, and jabbed a finger in Joe's chest. "Do you know how much crazy stuff I see down here? If you haven't noticed, Mister New York City, this is New Orleans. We don't need demonic possession as an excuse to kill each other down here. You keep that up and they'll start saying the loa did it!"
"I didn't mean to--"
"Yeah, yeah." Gallagher pointed for the door. "Get out of here before I change my mind."
Joe got the hint and left. That's when the men in the black van grabbed him.
Tuesday, 29th January, 2008, 12:53 PM #34
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 5e – Joe’s Story
Two men in black suits held both his arms. Sitting across from Joe in the crowded van was a thirty-ish, dark-skinned African-American woman wearing trendy, expensive clothes, John Lennon-style shades, and long dreadlocks. She looked a bit like an executive from a record company. "Mister Joseph Fontaine," she said slowly and deliberately. "It seems we are working together."
"Working together? Who the hell are you?"
"If it makes you feel better, you can call me Ms. Green."
"What's this all about?"
"You and I seem to be working towards the same goal. We need to find whatever it is that's murdering people. And according to what you just told Detective Gallagher, we think you're on to something." She smiled. "Of course, I wouldn't have come out and explained the whole thing to the police."
"They threw me out."
"As well they should. You see, Mister Fontaine, we believe in dealing with these sorts of matters more...discreetly."
Ms. Green nodded. "Majestic-12. We are a clandestine task-force that deals with the elimination and obscuration of preternatural phenomena that pose a threat to our citizens and their country." She leaned forward and put one hand on Joe's arm. "The existence of these phenomena cannot be allowed to come to the public's attention. The damage to society, both physical and psychological, would be catastrophic. So no more talking about Azazel to the mundanes, okay?"
She smiled a shark's smile. It made Joe uncomfortable. He nodded.
"So now what?"
A fire engine shrieked past the van. It was common to hear the sirens of fire and police, day and night, in New Orleans. "The people I work with are a lot like firemen. We put out fires before anyone can smell the smoke. Because of your particular expertise, we'd like you to join our organization. But don't say 'yes' unless you're sure. This is one club you don't get to quit."
"I should probably check with my employer..."
Ms. Green waved him off. "Already taken care of. You're on special assignment to us. Johnson is smart enough to know that this is a connection worth having. But this is not about Johnson. This is about you. If you want to consult for us, you'll have to play by our rules. Rule one is Deny Everything. Majestic-12 does not exist and neither do preternatural phenomena. Someday the time may be right--but that day ain't today."
Joe blinked. He would have to confirm all this. But the resources of a government organization at his disposal...he could do a lot more than catch possessed serial killers. "I'm in."
Ms. Green smiled her dazzling smile. "Good. Now put this on." She handed him a blindfold.
"Where are we going?"
"You're going to be brought up to Majestic-12 standards," she said ominously.
Joe tied the blindfold over his eyes. "What about the case?"
"There'll be time enough for that," she said. "For now, suffice it to say that there was a meteor shower that fell over West Virginia. Several small meteors were actually found by locals in the rural county of Tucumseh."
"So this thing isn't a demon?" asked Joe.
"Demon?" asked Ms. Green, mocking him. Joe could hear the other men in the van snort in derision. "That ain't the half of it."
Thursday, 31st January, 2008, 12:43 PM #35
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 6 – The Academy
SANGRE DE CRISTO, NM -- 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.
With easy access to fifteen thousand-foot mountains, thick forests, narrow canyons and white-water rapids, the Academy had the rustic charm of a wilderness resort. But it also sported high-tech laboratories, state of the art lecture halls and luxurious dormitories with private rooms.
The first place recruits were assembled in the Academy’s central square, under an imposing monument.
“Welcome, ladies,” shouted the drill sergeant. “You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey into a little place I call home. You? You’re going to call it hell.
“Throughout the next five years, I am going to make you suffer as you have never suffered before. Oh sure, you’re all bad asses, I know, I know. You think it’s not going to be that tough. You think I’m not going to break you. Hell, I don’t have to break a sweat. You’ll do that on your own.
“In the next few years, we’re going to beat you, torture you, terrorize you, and then when you think you’re going to die, we’ll start all over. And if you’re not tough enough, we’re going to kill you. You think I’m kidding, @$$&*#$s? Look behind me.”
The drill sergeant pointed to a four-story needle of the flattest black.
“That spire has the real names of over two thousand cadets and black ops who died honorably in training or duty. The last time you were that person was when you stepped onto this campus. The next time you become that person is when that name is inscribed on the Spire.” He stared ominously. “Some of you will be up there soon. And those of you who aren’t will be envying the ones who are.”
When the drill sergeant left, Hank was excited, just taking in the place with its wooded, campus-like feel. He hardly noticed how the upperclassmen looked at him – the pitying looks he got as he received his uniform and was shown to his barracks. He talked and exchange stories with each other; everyone was easy and confident, all smiles and backslapping.
The centerpiece of the Academy was the campus, a cluster of dormitories and classroom buildings set along narrow cobblestone streets. The buildings were classical in style, made of red brick and trimmed with limestone slabs. The floors were all natural wood or tile, and the place had a musty, nostalgic smell. The only notable exception to the classical feel was the technology center, a stark, blue-black building crouching on the southern end of the campus, ominous and darkly exciting.
A large portion of the property, near the main campus area, had been set up like a move-studio back lot, where fake sections of inner city streets, tenement buildings, subway and sewer junctions, and much more have been built. The recruits called it “Satan’s Playroom.”
Finally, the Commander’s mansion was a majestic log house, posed dramatically on the shores of the Canadian River. Hank had heard that the Commander threw a party once a year, inviting faculty, drill sergeants, and the top ten recruits.
The first few days were a cakewalk, just looking around, scouting it out. Everything seemed about like what he expected.
On the morning of the fourth day, it all changed. That’s when they passed out the schedules.
Saturday, 2nd February, 2008, 12:50 PM #36
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 7 – The Curriculum
Welcome, grunts, to Academy training!” shouted the drill sergeant. “Training is divided into two equally important areas: education and drills. Each day is equally divided. One month you’ll do book learning in the morning, followed by a hearty lunch and drills in the afternoon. The next month it’s the other way around.
“Just in case you dumb jocks think this is going to be a cakewalk—and believe me, it isn’t—you’re going to actually have to crack a book. Several books. Your curriculum includes Basic Science, Parascience, Technology, Philosophy and Logic, Social Sciences, History, Languages, and Literature and the Arts. If you geeks think you’ve got this information down pat, you’re welcome to test out. In fact, we expect you to test out of at least two subjects, because we wouldn’t have recruited your dumb ass otherwise.
“Take a look at your schedules. Ah yes, I’m lookin’ at you, creampuff. I see the look on your face. The drills look hard? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
“There’s three kinds of drills in your first year. Stamina, Severe Exposure, and Mental Strain. You’re going to start out with ten-mile runs, then marathons, and finally a triathlon. Swimming, cross-country running, bicycling, and mountain climbing. The second part of stamina training involves standing still for extremely long periods of time.
“After a nice twenty-mile run, there’s nothing like a couple of days in the wilderness without food or water! We’re going to send you to Summer Camp. We’re gonna spring this one on you three times a year, and you won’t know when. There’s only an eighty five percent survival rate, tough guys, so gird your loins.
“Finally, there’s the mental stuff. That includes isolation tanks, torture…you’ll see what we mean. Don’t worry yourself, Romeo, I’ll be gentle.
“During this time you will receive ten excuses a year to place out of any drill for any reason, no questions asked. You just get marked as absent. I don’t need to tell you that nobody has remained at the Academy for a single day after an eleventh absence.”
“Now for the good news: After six months, when you’ve finally had all you can take, we’ll send you on furlough to some out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas. Everything is paid for; it’s a regular a week in paradise. Trust me, you’ll need it.”
Monday, 4th February, 2008, 12:50 PM #37
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 8a – Stress Simulation 2.5
Jake woke up in his old apartment. Which was odd, since the last thing he remembered he was working for Majestic-12. There was no way he had dreamed it.
Back when he used to drink, Jake had hallucinations while he was lucid all the time. But that was all behind him. He was going to make good money and cash in that plane ticket to see his son. Jake was sure he could convince Christine to let him see Alex if he had a steady job.
The television was blaring those emergency broadcast messages. Color bars were on the screen. It’s what had woken him up.
Jake leaned forward and looked around. It was his old apartment in Chicago. What the hell?
It had to be a test.
The television flickered back to a news broadcast. “…a small nuclear explosion,” said a distraught report, her hair matted from what looked like blood. Smoking rubble was behind her. “I’m here in Washington, D.C. The death toll is believed to have reached over ten thousand citizens, including most of the House, the Senate, and the President.”
The screen flashed to footage of wreckage and bodies. The reporter broke down weeping at the end of the emergency broadcast as the screen went back to the emergency standby message.
A siren blared in the distance. Jake got up. He was dressed in nothing more but his boxers.
It wasn’t the sound of a normal siren. It was the type used for major emergencies like hurricanes. Or terrorist attacks.
Jake heard people talking excitedly outside his apartment door. Doors slammed all across the apartment complex. People were evacuating.
Jake looked out the window. A police car came to a screeching halt outside of the apartment. The cop put a megaphone to his lips.
“EVERYONE, PLEASE STAY WHERE YOU ARE.”
The panicked stampede outside of Jake’s door stopped. People whispered in urgent voices.
“GET BACK IN THE BUILDING.”
Jake went to the door and flung it open. His neighbors gave him haunted looks, slinking back into their rooms.
Jake walked down the steps. The cop was ushering people back up the steps.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re under attack, not sure by what,” he said. “Please get back into your residence and stay there. We can’t afford a riot.”
“I need to get out of here,” said Jake. The sirens blared more insistently around them.
“Sir,” the cop eyed Jake warily. Jake was a big man. “I’m going to have to ask you to return to your apartment.”
“I’m not staying here.” Jake took a step forward down the steps.
The cop reached for his taser. “Sir, I am not going to ask you again. Get back in your room.”
Jake closed the distance between them with a leap. He reached under the cop’s arm and deflected the taser away from him as if it were a knife. Jake wrested it away from the smaller man.
The cop fell backwards down the steps. He shouted into his walkie talkie. “This is Johnson, I need backup!”
Jake tasered him.
He took the cop’s pistol, then looked around. There was probably a shotgun in his car. That would be useful too.
Jake jogged out of the apartment complex. The skies were blood red. The sirens continued to wail. People kept looking up as they were ushered into shelters. Even the emergency personnel kept glancing upwards.
Jake was doing the same thing when a Humvee screeched to a halt in front of him.
“Get down on the floor and put your hands on your head!” It was a National Guardsman in combat fatigues. He looked like he couldn’t be more than twenty years old.
“I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Jake.
The guardsman lifted his automatic rifle. “Put the weapon down!”
Jake rushed past him, clearing the Humvee so that it was between him and the soldier.
The soldier muttered a curse and was about to pursue when more people streamed out of the building, bolstered by Jake’s actions.
Jake kept jogging. He had to get some more intel. The emergency crews were only following orders. But the National Guard was already out in full force. Something bad had gone down and he had missed it. Back when Jake was drinking, he would blackout for days. It felt like one of those days.
But no, he was sober. If he ever wanted to see Alex again, he would stay that way for good.
Jake was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t realize that people were running past him in the opposite direction.
They were so scared that it was a silent terror. People ran full out, sweat streaming from their brows, mouths open. Obese women and elderly men, all of them running in horror from something that was so terrible they could only respond by running for their lives.
Jake teetered on the edge of an abyss. A smoking crater abruptly appeared before him. Buildings sagged inward like melted toys over it. There was something in the center, a black obelisk of some sort.
Jake ran forward, heedless of the body parts around him. An explosion? But if it were a nuclear explosion he’d be dead already.
Jake skidded to a halt. There, sticking out of the center of the crater was the tail end of a man-sized missile. A counter clicked a march towards zero, marking every few seconds with a high-pitched beep.
“Jesus,” said Jake. He turned around and started running with the same fear and terror that had gripped the people he passed on the way in.
There was a flash. It was like a bolt of lightning illuminating the sky, a thousand times brighter than full daylight. And then all went white.
Wednesday, 6th February, 2008, 12:57 PM #38
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Welcome to the Show: Part 8b – Stress Simulation 8.5
Jim woke up slowly, blinking a few times, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Nothing happened.
Jim wasn’t sure where he was or how he got there. The last thing he remembered was doing training exercises. But where was he now?
He uncrossed his arms and tried to sit up, banging his head on something directly above him. As he rubbed his bruised scalp, his fingers brushed against a rough wooden surface. Jim tried to feel around in the dark, but he was barely able to move his arms; his elbows scraped against the rough enclosure.
Jim struggled to not panic. He traced the outline of what was confining him. It felt unmistakably like a narrow wooden box—a coffin.
“Uh, excuse me?” he asked to anyone who would listen. “I appear to be trapped…”
Jim pounded on the lid and yelled, hoping that someone would hear him. But all he did was bruise his fists and use up precious oxygen.
“Oh for the love of…hello? HELLO?”
He tried to angle his body so he could kick at the lid, but it was no use—there was barely enough room for him to turn over, let alone swing his leg.
Jim considered his options. He was trained in dealing with oxygen depravation. A quick calculation in his head said he had two hours in the box before all of it was depleted. But he had no idea how long he’d been unconscious, breathing the air.
His heart was racing a mile a minute and he was sweating. That meant he was consuming more air. He had to calm down.
Jim rummaged through his pockets for something, anything, that would help. But there was nothing. He was in his fatigues in training. Had he died on the training field? He remembered what the drill sergeant said…Majestic-12 training was so bad that the cadets really DID die.
Desperate, he pounded on the lid and screamed at the top of his lungs. Then he decided to conserve energy by holding his breath, but that didn’t help either – it heightened his anxiety and caused him to hyperventilate.
As the carbon dioxide built up in his lungs and blood, Jim’s breathing became more labored. Then something whirred near his face. A cool breeze snapped him out of his stupor.
Air! Beautiful, glorious air!
For a moment he was so grateful he could have cried, just basking in the feeling of the wind on his face. But then it slowly dawned on him that coffins didn’t come with fans. They had buried him on purpose. This was a test.
Well Jim wouldn’t give those bastards the satisfaction. He’d show them that PISCES men were made of sterner stuff.
Then the fan shut off.
Thursday, 7th February, 2008, 03:08 AM #39
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I just wanted to pop in and say that I'm really enjoying this story hour.
Well-written, interesting characters, and great update rate. Plus, I really like Delta Green conspiracy stuff.
Thursday, 7th February, 2008, 03:59 AM #40
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Thanks! The scenes you're currently reading are the "Outlook Simulations" from the Countdown book. As you might have guessed, Majestic-12 has incorporated this kind of mental torture into their training program. Wait til you see what happens to poor Joe...the MJ-12 friendly has it the worst.