Modern/Delta Green - The Beginning of the End (COMPLETED) - Page 41




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    Convergence: Part 13b – Showdown

    The street leaped and shuddered again, harder than before, as if earthquake shock waves passed beneath it. But it was no quake.

    The agents flattened to the ground. Standing was impossible.

    It was coming—not just a fragment, not just another spawn, but the largest part of it, perhaps the entire great bulk, surging toward the surface with unimaginable destructive power, rising like a god betrayed, bringing its unholy wrath and vengeance on those who had dared to strike at it, turning itself into an enormous mass of muscle fiber and pushing, pushing, until the macadam bulged and cracked.

    Along the entire block of Skyline Road, an atonal symphony of destruction reached an ear-shattering crescendo: squealing, grinding, cracking, splitting sounds; the world itself coming asunder. The air was filled with dust that spurted up from widening fissures in the pavement.

    The roadbed tilted with tremendous force. Chunks of it spewed into the air. Most were the size of gravel, but some were as large as a fist. A few were even larger than that, fifty- and hundred- and two-hundred-pound blocks of concrete, leaping five or ten feet into the air as the protean creature below formed relentlessly toward the surface.

    The earth under Hammer lifted and fell with a crash. Lifted and fell again. Gravel-size debris rained down, thumping off his legs, snapping against his head, making Hammer wince.

    A huge slab of concrete erupted from the left and was flung ten feet into the air. It hit Guppy. It slammed across his legs, breaking them, pinning Guppy. He howled in pain, howling so loudly that he could be heard above the roar of the disintegrating pavement.

    Still, the shaking continued. The street heaved up higher. Ragged teeth of macadam concrete bit at the morning air.

    A baseball-size missile of concrete, spat into the air by the protomatter’s volcanic exit from the storm drain, slammed back to the pavement, impacting two or three inches from Jim-Bean’s head. Then the ridge-forming pressure from below was suddenly widened. The street ceased shaking.

    The sounds of destruction faded. Abruptly, the street began caving in. It made a tearing sound, and pieces broke loose along the fracture lines. Slabs tumbled into the emptiness below. Too much emptiness: it sounded as if things were falling into a chasm, not just a drain.

    Then the entire hoved-up section pavement erupted with a thunderous roar, and Hammer found himself at the brink. The pit was ten feet across, at least fifty feet long.

    He saw Guppy. His legs were pinned under a massive hunk of concrete. Worse than that—he was trapped on a precarious piece of roadbed that thrust over the rim of the hole, with no support beneath it. At any moment, it might crack loose and fall into the pit, taking him with it.

    “Guppy!” shouted Hammer. “Hold on!”

    The pit was at least thirty feet deep, probably a lot deeper in places; Hammer couldn’t gauge it accurately because there were many shadows along its fifty-foot length.

    A crisp, cracking noise split the air. Guppy’s concrete perch shifted. It was going to break loose and tumble into the chasm.

    Wham!

    The pavement shifted and began to drop out from under Guppy. Hammer lunged and grabbed hold of Guppy’s collar just as the pavement beneath Guppy gave way. An eight-foot-long, four-foot-wide slab, slipped into the pit, carrying Guppy and Hammer with it. It didn’t crash to the bottom, but instead slid thirty feet to the base and came to rest against other rubble.

    Guppy screamed in pain.

    The spawn came for him. It exploded out of one of the tunnels that pecked the floor of the pit. A massive pseudopod of amorphous protoplasm rose ten feet into the air, quivered, dropped to the ground, broke off of the mother-body hiding below, and formed itself into an obscenely fat black spider the size of a pony. It was only twelve feet from Guppy, and it clambered through the shattered blocks of pavement, heading toward him with murderous intent.

    “Shoot it!” shouted Hammer.

    Jim-Bean took aim and fired. The dart plunged into the spider’s head. It stumbled backwards, wicked fangs gnashing in rage.

    Hammer began climbing, dragging Guppy behind him. He dragged them both up to a flatter part of the pit. The spider’s huge black legs scrabbled for purchase on the ledge.

    Hammer dropped Guppy and drew his pistols. He fired first one pistol, then the other, aiming at the spider’s legs.

    The spider’s legs tore apart, transforming back into protomatter. Sores exploded across its body. Hammer fired more shots into its head and it fell back into the pit, reabsorbed into the protomatter spawn and infecting it further.

    Hammer resumed climbing. Guppy was semi-conscious, which made it even harder.

    The protomatter spawn surged up from underground, gushing out onto the floor of the pit. It looked like a tide of thick, congealed sewage; except for where it was stained by BIOSAN-4, it was darker than it had been before. It rippled, writhed, and churned more agitatedly than ever. The milky stain of infection was spreading visibly through the creature: Blisters formed, swelled, popped; ugly sores broke open and wept a watery blue fluid.

    Hammer cleared the slope of the pit. He shoved Guppy over the edge and then clambered up after him.

    Within only a few seconds, at least a ton of the amorphous flesh spewed out of the hole. All of it was afflicted with disease, and still it came, ever faster, a lava-like outpouring, a wild spouting of living, gelatinous tissue. Even more of the beast began to issue from another hole. The great oozing mass lapped across the rubble, formed pseudopods—shapeless, flailing arms—that rose into the air but quickly fell back in foaming, spasming seizures.

    And then, from still other holes, there came a ghastly sound: the voices of a thousand men, women, children, and animals, all crying out in pain, horror, and bleak despair.

    Three or four tons of amorphous tissue fountained into the pit, and more still was gushing forth, as if the bowels of the earth were emptying. The spawn’s flesh was shuddering, leaping, bursting with leprous lesions. It tried to bud other versions, but it was too weak or unstable to competently mimic anything; the half-realized animals and enormous insects either decomposed into a sludge that resembled pus or collapsed back into the pool of tissue beneath them.

    The thing came toward Hammer nonetheless, coming in a quivering-churning frenzy; it flowed almost to the base of the slope, and sent its degenerating yet still powerful tentacles toward his heels.

    Hammer turned, both Glocks out, but it was too late. Tendrils pulled at him with the strength of ten men, sucking him in like a squid capturing a shrimp. He was instantly surrounded, and suddenly Hammer understood how Beck and Henderson died.

    The protomatter spawn had squeezed them to death by sucking them into its bulk, suffocating, bruising, without breaking a single bone. There wasn’t even the possibility of resisting. Every inch of space around Hammer was filled with protomatter, and it whispered in his ear that it would make him suffer in ways he could never imagine.

    Then the pustule burst around him and he fell out, gasping. Hammer caught a glimpse of Jim-Bean, his air rifle still aimed at the thing, before he hit the ground.

    An incredibly large, gelatinous lake of amorphous tissue lay at the bottom of the pit, pooling over and around the debris, but it was virtually inactive. A few human and animal forms still tried to rise up, but the thing was losing its talent for mimicry. The creatures were imperfect and sluggish. The spawn slowly disappeared under a layer of its own dead and decomposing tissue.

    Jim-Bean stood over Hammer, the rifle hanging limply in his hand.

    “Did we get it?” croaked Hammer. His entire body was one big bruise. It hurt to breath.

    “Yeah,” said Jim-Bean. “We got it.”

    “Guppy?” Hammer rolled over to look at Guppy. His rib cage moved up and down in shallow gasps.

    “He’ll live,” said Jim-Bean. “His legs are busted up. I put a call in for a STREETSWEEP of this whole damn town. Backup should be here soon.”

    “Now what do we do?” Hammer whispered, closing his eyes.

    “Now?” Jim-Bean shrugged. There was no evidence of anything anymore. No evidence of Guppy’s slip-up. No evidence of Hammer’s executions. And most importantly, no evidence of the parasite that was coiled around Jim-Bean’s bones. He held up one of the blue vials of BIOSAN-4 to the sunlight. “Now we get back to work.”

    Jim-Bean put the vial back in his pocket.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Convergence: Conclusion

    The small east-central Tennessee community of Groversville, long the butt of local humor as a hotbed of UFO crackpots and Elvis-sighters was no longer a laughing matter. A virulent plague had ravaged the town and many of the farms in the vicinity, leaving a death toll of well over ninety percent among the human population and near-total loss of livestock in its wake.

    Acting swiftly under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist mobilized several units of the Tennessee National Guard, placing the region under strict quarantine.

    "We feel it's of vital importance to contain this disease within the Groversville community, not only to prevent the spread of contagion throughout the state, but also to more effectively render assistance to those citizens of Groversville so desperately in need of our help in this time of crisis," Governor Sundquist said in a press release on Saturday.

    Dr. Carl Sciebenski, Deputy Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, lauded the Tennessee governor's efforts.

    "Without the cooperation of elected officials, the CDC's hands are tied. Governor Sundquist's prompt response to our recommendation of quarantine may well have safeguarded the lives of thousands," he said in a press conference.

    Dr. Sciebenski went on to indicate that, while the provenance of the disease that struck Groversville was unknown, the apparently new strain of viral influenza, while virulent and deadly, appeared to have a very short life cycle.

    "Forty-eight hours after the initial reports, we were no longer detecting cases of new infection," Dr. Sciebenski stated. "While the tragedy of Groversville will never be forgotten, we are confident that there shall be no re-appearances of this disease."

    No official spokesperson for the town of Groversville was available for comment. No trace of the town's board of aldermen was found, although the town hall was found to be in a state of total disarray when investigators arrived. Likewise, the entire local sheriff's department appeared to have succumbed to the disease that claimed so many. Funerals for the deceased continued through the week.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Chapter 30: The Birdcage - Introduction

    This scenario, “The Birdcage,” is from the Spycraft supplement Combat Missions by Yours Truly. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    • Game Master: Michael Tresca
    • Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
    Because I plan so far in advance, at this point I have five or six scenarios ready to go depending on which players show up. This is a necessity, because sometimes I’m never sure whom I’m going to get. I didn’t realize George was playing until he arrived. Since he showed up first, I decided to go ahead and advance his plotline.

    In Hammer’s case, it’s clear he’s being used as bait. I felt like this scenario was successful in emphasizing Hammer’s character development and personal plotline. The original purpose of the combat mission – to capture four of the worst murderers in America – was ignored for the larger terrorist plot. Or to put it another way, when you work for the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency, you worry more about terrorists than you do criminals.

    And heck, if they’re patriotic criminals, all the better!

    Defining Moment: Even murderous psychopaths love the good ole U.S. of A!

    Relevant Media
    • Combat Missions: For Spycraft.
    • Con Air: A big, dumb movie, but an entertaining plot for an adventure.
    • Train to Miami: You probably know this song as "These Are My Friends Now" in the ad for Left 4 Dead.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Birdcage: Prologue

    I'm on assignment for the FBI, Miami, Florida. Child sacrifice.
    The swamp is deep and warm and old.
    (I'm falling) I think she loves me, I love her too.
    Satan brands, and homemade tattoos.
    You can't believe the things I've seen.
    These are my friends now, these are my friends now,
    these are my friends now, these are my friends now.

    -Train to Miami by Steel Pole Bathtub
    POUND, VA—While most prisoners were evacuated through more traditional forms of transportation, the possibility of a supersarin attack against Red Onion super maximum-security prison required special attention. The criminals were collectively more dangerous than the threat itself. The worst murderers and serial killers were collected onto a Justice Prisoner Transportation System (JPTS) and sent to another super maximum-security prison.

    Agent Hammer, bristling at his new reassignment, stood guard on the 727 known as FPTS 50. It was probably just as well. After the falling out between Hammer and Guppy, he had been reassigned. Guppy claimed Hammer had turned against him, even drew a weapon against a fellow agent; all true of course. But in turn, Hammer claimed Guppy was mentally unstable, endangering the Conspiracy, and sharing secrets with people who couldn’t be trusted.

    In the end, Majestic-12 judged them both guilty. So Hammer was put on a guard duty aboard a prison plane, and Guppy was released on his own recognizance for some R&R while under the care of a mental health professional. Nobody had walked away from the experience clean, not even Jim-Bean. He didn’t talk about it; Hammer only knew that Jim-Bean had to be paired with another agent at all times for any given mission, almost like a chaperon. Sprague never explained why.

    Inside, the 727 was rearranged from its previous commercial seating to allow guards a better view of the entire plane. The criminals trudge past him in single file onto the plane. All of the prisoners wore handcuffs, leg irons and a belly chain secured with a padlock.

    Some of the prisoners had handcuffs reinforced with a black box that covered the keyhole.

    “You’re the new guy, rights?” One of the guards smiled at Hammer. “You look familiar.” His badge read BISHOP.

    “I look like a lot of people,” muttered Hammer.

    Bishop, a clean-shaven younger man, nodded towards the prisoners in line with the black boxes holding their manacles together. “Black-box prisoners always get window seats,” he said. “They're seated in the back, as far from the pilots as possible.”

    Hammer didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded. The passenger manifest was a veritable rogue’s gallery of the worst the penal system had to offer.

    Like a talk show host introducing his guests, Bishop gleefully explained the four worst “black boxed” men who climbed into the plane.

    “This here’s Crazy Freddy.” Crazy Freddy’s wild eyes and hair were unmistakable, the anarchy symbol on his forehead defying anyone who looked at him. “Crazy Freddy convinced his follows to kill a sleeping family.” Freddy stuck his pierced tongue out at Hammer as he passed.

    “Next is George Jones, AKA the Incinerator.” Bishop smirked at Jones. “Tell ‘em why they call you incinerator, Jonesy.”

    “Burned down a building fill with senior citizens,” said Jones, wiggled his red eyebrows.

    The next man to enter stood nearly seven feet tall and the guards had force his head down and push him sideways through the door. He needed no introduction.

    “Smasher,” said Hammer. “I remember you.”

    Johnny “Smasher” Morowitz didn’t make eye contract. A former Football star, weight lifter, and professional wrestler, Johnny had murdered several men with his bare hands for the Mafia. It was all in the news.

    The last man to enter was shuffled in with pantyhose over his head. The guard patted the top of the prisoner’s head.

    “This sterling piece of human filth is none other than Billy ‘Taste-Test’ Bean, a bona fide serial killer!” The other guards bound Billy into his seat with a cargo strap before they removed the pantyhose. “Billy’s a spitter,” said Bishop, to explain the pantyhose.

    “How many people you eat, Billy?” asked Falzon, another one of the guards.

    “Twenty six,” he said, staring with startling blue eyes at the guard.

    “Keeps going up,” said Falzon. “It was twenty five.”

    Billy stared at Falzon. “I’m planning ahead.”

    They each took their posts, at the rear, center, and front of the cabin.

    "Make sure your seat belt is fastened and keep it fastened,” said the pilot over the intercom. “Do not stand up for any reason unless instructed to do so. If you're seated in an aisle, keep your arms, legs and other body parts out of the aisle. In the unlikely event of an emergency, follow all directions of the flight crew."

    The flight was fairly uneventful despite the tension on the plane. By now the prisoners knew that disobedience was not tolerated in such cramped quarters. It looked like it was going to be a routine flight.

    Bishop returned to staring at Hammer. “Man, you really look familiar.”

    “He was on that terrorist web site,” said Falzon. “The guy who has a fatwa of death on him by Al-Hazzan.”

    “Fat what?” asked the third guard in the back, Billings.

    “Fatwa,” said Falzon. “You know, a religious decree by Muslims. In this case, Al-Hazzan ordered a fatwa to take … Grange, is it?” He peered at Hammer’s badge. “To take Grange out.”

    “Take him out?” asked Billings. "What did you do to them?"

    Hammer didn't answer.

    “He captured Saladin," said Bishop for him.

    That caused everyone to go silent.

    “That means …” began Billings, but then he looked around. “Saladin's not on the plane, is he?”

    “We would know,” said Bishop, checking a clipboard. "He's not on the list."

    “He's not on the plane,” said Hammer curtly. "He's dead."

    “Then why does Al-Hazzan keep asking for him to be released?” asked Falzon.

    “I guess they don’t believe me,” replied Hammer.

    “You think they’d put him on here and not tell us?” asked Falzon.

    The guards all craned their necks, inspecting any prisoner who looked like he was of Middle Eastern descent.

    “Why would they do that?” asked Hammer.

    “I dunno, man,” said Bishop, irritated. “Why ARE you here then?”

    “I’m Saladin!” shouted a white prisoner.

    “No, I’m Saladin!” responded a black prisoner next to him.

    This started a litany of cries either claiming to be Saladin or patriotic condemnations.

    The guards got nervous. This kind of ruckus wasn't usual for them, but they didn't want to delay the flight either.

    “Shut up!” shouted Crazy Freddy. "I know for a fact Saladin's not on board."

    That calmed the others down. "How do you know that?" asked Jones.

    "Because," Freddy looked him up and down, "those anti-American bastards want this homie dead. Putting him in the same plane would be like lighting a big neon sign over our heads."

    Hammer stared straight at Freddy. Freddy unflinchingly returned his gaze.

    "You think Saladin's alive, don't ya Freddy," asked Bishop, who had clearly worked with Freddy for a while.

    Freddy nodded. "Has to be. They wouldn't put this guy on a prison transport otherwise. Saladin's just not here with him."

    "That makes us sitting ducks …" began Falzon.

    “Uh, hey,” interrupted the prisoner who had first claimed to be Saladin. “I think there’s a problem with my box here.”

    The prisoner next to him leaned over and placed his ear to the box.

    “Uh…guys? Guys, this box is beeping.” He smiled nervously, a maw full of dirty yellow teeth. “I know this crap is high-tech and stuff but are these things supposed to beep?”

    Someone shouted from the back, “Oh man, I got gypped! Mine ain’t beeping!”

    This elicited snickers from the other prisoners, but just then the beeping got loud enough that it could be heard over the engines of the plane. It began to beep faster and more urgently.

    Hammer calmly took hold of the rigging near him and braced himself.

    “Son of a BITCH,” snarled Crazy Freddy. He glared at Hammer. "You're bad luck—"

    A loud explosion cut off his sentence as the beeping prisoner's entire seat was engulfed in a fireball. The wall ripped open, exposing the inside of the plane to the tearing winds.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Birdcage: Part 1 – Right Said Fred

    The plane was a mass of chaos. Prisoners screamed, yanked towards the gaping wound in the plane but safely chained to their seats. They were the lucky ones.

    One of the guards, the one who was inspecting the box, disappeared before he could even scream. The other guards, positioned on the far ends of the plane held on for dear life. The two prisoners in the seat that exploded were gone, along with their seats. The warning shrieks from the cockpit were audible throughout the plane.

    Outside, Hammer could make out the terrain whistling below them. He got a glimpse of the wing. It was on …

    “Fire!” shouted Jones, gesturing excitedly with his manacles towards the hole.

    Through the gaping wound in the plane Hammer could make out flames flickering and dancing where the engine once was.

    Hammer grabbed a fire extinguisher, but he couldn't do much of anything but hold on until the plane reached a lower altitude.

    “Prepare for an emergency landing!” shouted the pilot over the intercom.

    “Emergency landing?” shouted Crazy Freddy. “Where? We’re in the middle of freaking nowhere!”

    Hammer caught a glimpse of a dirt road as the plane banked hard. The plane shook and rattled as the pilot struggled to keep it aloft. Outside the hole, the ground rushed up fast.

    Freed from the freezing cold air of a higher altitude, the flames began to lick their way along the wing of the plane. The shrieking of the wind mingled with the crackling of fire as the heat started to reach the main cabin.

    Hammer sprayed the flames, dousing several prisoners in the process who swore at him. And then suddenly grass and trees whistled past the opening as the plane hit the ground hard.

    The plane pitched violently and the world spun, rolling end over end over end. Hammer was tossed about like a rag doll, bouncing off cages, prisoners, and seats.

    The gut-wrenching fall finally stopped, punctuated by bubbling and gurgling. Hammer struggled to orient himself as it slowly dawned on him what had happened. The prisoners were all hanging from the ceiling …

    Water rushed through the hole. The plane was upside down in water.

    The prisoners resumed their clamoring for release, banging ineffectively against their chains.

    "Keys!" he shouted. But there was no one conscious enough to help.

    The guards were all unconscious and the pilot, judging from the silence from the front, was dead. Hammer pulled the four guards out through the emergency exit, two at a time. The rising water made it easier to float their unconscious bodies out.

    "You're not going to just leave us here?" asked Freddy, panic in his voice. The water was up to Hammer’s waist.

    Hammer glared at him as he floated out with the other two guards.

    A moment later he returned with a shotgun. "I can't find the keys," said Hammer flatly. He advanced on the upside down Freddy.

    Freddy closed his eyes and turned away. "Make it quick."

    The shotgun blast exploded in front of him. Freddy opened one eye.

    Hammer had shot the chains off of Freddy's feet. He fell into the water, sputtering.

    "Now help me with the others," said Hammer grimly.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Birdcage: Part 2 – These Are My Friends Now

    As Hammer and Freddy ushered the prisoners onto the shore, a truck pulled to the side of the road. Ten Middle Eastern men got out.

    "We need help!" shouted Hammer. "There's men still inside …"

    He trailed off as he spotted the sub-machineguns.

    "Man I hate being right," whispered Freddy behind him.

    The terrorists fired their weapons in the air. “Where is he?” shouted the leader.

    Hammer had tucked his pistols in the belt beneath his shirt. Now he was glad he did.

    "Get ready to run for it," said Hammer out of the corner of his mouth. But when he looked back, Freddy was gone.

    The terrorists grabbed the four guards and rounded up the remaining prisoners, ignoring the screams of the men still in the plane.

    "You! Agent Curtis Grange," said the leader, smiling. "Where is Saladin?"

    "He's dead," said Hammer, staring the man down.

    The leader shook his head and took out a pistol. “I know Saladin is alive. Your government has been keeping him. So I ask you again, where is Saladin?"

    "If he's alive, they didn't tell me," said Hammer.

    The leader nodded sympathetically. "I understand. You are a victim of the American government’s lies as much as I am." He turned without hesitation and shot Collins in the head.

    The terrorist holding Collins rolled his corpse down the muddy slope. Hammer looked away.

    "Jesus!" shouted Billings, snapped out of his stupor by the gunshot. "Tell him what he wants to know!"

    "Do I have your attention now? Good. Now you will find out where he is using those wonderful government contacts."

    "Did you check the plane?" asked Hammer. "He could be in there."

    The leader leered at Hammer. "You're playing games with me, yes? I know you know Saladin. You captured him. I know all this." He held up Hammer's cistron to his ear. "Make a call."

    Hammer dialed a number.

    "Hello Agent Hammer," came SINNER's cheerful preadolescent voice. "What can I do for you?"

    "I need to know where Saladin is," said Hammer, trying to keep his voice steady. "It's very important."

    "I'm sorry Agent Hammer, you're not cleared for that information."

    "SINNER, listen to me …" he began. The phone disconnected.

    The terrorist leader laughed. "Women, eh?" He turned and fired a bullet through Billings' head.

    "Oh God!" wailed Falzon, also awake. Bishop just looked angry.

    "You are running out of companions," said the leader. "Life is very unfair."

    Hammer's phone rang. He didn't answer it.

    "Aren't you going to pick that up? Maybe it's your girlfriend." The leader prattled on. "You should pick it up!"

    Hammer picked it up. "Hammer," he said.

    "Hammer it's Jim-Bean! Listen, I just got word that your flight went down. Is everything all right?"

    "No," said Hammer, staring at the terrorist leader.

    "Also, we think Saladin—"

    Hammer cut him off. "Listen to me very carefully," said Hammer. "I need to know where Saladin is. Right. Now."

    "Oh," said Jim-Bean after a moment of silence. "So things are really not all right, are they?"

    "No," said Hammer.

    "I see. Let me get back to you—"

    KABLAM! Falzon's blood and brains spattered Hammer.

    "$#!t!" swore Bishop. "I'm going to kill every one of you f#*kers!"

    The terrorist leader took aim at Bishop with his pistol. But Bishop didn't give him the chance. He charged headlong into him, knocking them both down the muddy slope towards the burning plane.

    Hammer ducked low and drew both of his pistols, firing simultaneously. Two of the terrorists went down.

    Prisoners roared into the fight, strangling, grappling, biting, and clawing the terrorists. Hammer made his way up the slope and fired again, killing two more.

    Hammer ducked, raking gunfire as the terrorists fired wildly at the mob of prisoners, heedless of hitting their own. He made his way to the other side of the van.

    The terrorists sprayed the van with bullets, panicked. With their leader down in the muck, they were as disorganized as the prisoners. Something popped and hissed in the van's undercarriage.

    Hammer backpedaled away, firing as he went to keep the terrorists near the van. They ducked for cover behind the vehicle.

    Hammer recognized the van. Before the team had switched to more inconspicuous vehicles, he practically lived out of one of those vans. And he knew where the gas tank was.

    Hammer concentrated bursts from both of his Glocks. The high-pitched shriek of gas igniting was the only warning the terrorists got as the van exploded.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Birdcage: Conclusion

    Hammer struggled to get up, sputtering in the muck. The explosion had thrown him off the side of the slope, down into the welcoming arms of the cold mud. The soft landing had saved his life.

    The others were not so lucky. All of the terrorists and some of the prisoners who had been near the van were blown apart from the explosion. The terrorist leader was dead in the muck, his skull crushed in by some incredible force. For some reason his hand was missing. Bishop's corpse lay next to him. Who had killed whom was unclear.

    A pair of guard's boots appeared in his field of vision. Hammer looked up.

    It was Crazy Freddy. "Well if it ain't our national hero!"

    Jones, Morowitz, and Bean were all standing around him, armed with shotguns and pistols. They wore ill-fitting guard uniforms. Blood was spattered on Morowitz and Bean’s clothes.

    Hammer started to reach for his pistols, but then realized that one of them was dangling from Freddy’s hand.

    "Don't bother," said Freddy. "I think you've had enough heroics for one day, huh?" He leaned down on his knees to put his face in Hammer's field of vision. "Tell you what: whaddaya say we let bygones be bygones? You're one of them CIFA boys, right? We ain't terrorists. Hell, I'm a Goddamn red-blooded American patriot! We all are!" Freddy looked up at his companions. "Ain't we boys?"

    "Damn right," said Morowitz, the first thing he said the entire trip.

    "Right," he looked back at Hammer. "You saved my life. You saved all these boys lives. You don’t know me from Adam. But when trouble came, you took care of it." Freddy smiled, almost fatherly. "You’ve been screwed by the system as much as we have. Only we deserve it." He stood up. "So I tell ya what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna let you live. You deserve to. Probably the only decent thing I done in my whole life." He smirked.

    Freddy looked up suddenly. Then he left Hammer's view. The boots tramped off.

    "Watch your back, soldier boy. We'll look for you on the front page …"

    Hammer got to his feet. The four convicts were gone.

    Jim-Bean waved to him from a black helicopter. Hammer limped over to it.

    "You okay?"

    "I'll live. But there are four wanted men on the loose somewhere out there."

    Jim-Bean shrugged. "Are they terrorists?"

    Hammer shook his head, climbing into the chopper. "The terrorists are all dead."

    "Then I don't care. Leave it to Alabama law enforcement. We got more important things to do!"

    The chopper took off as two more emergency choppers and a police chopper landed below them.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Prince is Dead: Introduction

    This scenario, “The Prince is Dead,” by Adam Scott Glancy and John Tynes, is from the d20 Delta Green rulebook. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!

    Our cast of characters includes:

    • Game Master: Michael Tresca
    • Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
    • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
    • Sebastian “Caprice” Creed (Fast/Smart Hero/Techie) played by Bill Countiss
    This is one of the rare scenarios I played straight. I didn’t tweak the plot; I just let the players have at it. One thing I did do is carefully plot out how Valiant’s powers work using D20 Modern/D&D psionics, which was helpful, because the ending got very hairy very quickly. In fact, if the scenario has a weak point, it’s that Valiant’s powers seem to be very much a plot device rather than an actual game effect. But that tweaking aside, the plot played out as explained in the scenario.

    Jim-Bean’s psychic powers mess things up a wee bit, of course, but since I had done some extra work in introducing Jim-Bean to Enolsis early and fleshed out Enolsis with the information for the Neo-Scientologists from Critical Locations, I was able to provide a much better perspective on what was going on than I would if I just suddenly introduced Enolsis and Valiant in the scenario.

    The ending fight, often criticized as a superhero battle, complete with flying bad guys and telekinetic bolts of force, pretty much played out as a Michael Bay film. It was a very different scenario, a bit of a refreshing change from the usual creeping horror style of play. As one player muttered, “did they catch all that on tape?

    Defining Moment: Jim-Bean decides to turn Valiant’s psychic powers against him, but it backfires.

    Relevant Media
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    The Prince is Dead: Prologue

    Feeling unknown
    And you’re all alone
    Flesh and bone
    By the telephone
    Lift up the receiver
    I’ll make you a believer

    -Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode
    ST.LOUIS, IL—The St. Louis branch of Enolsis was located on Delmar Blvd., in University City. It was in a storefront right on the sidewalk, surrounded by coffee shops, bookstores, clothing shops, and so forth. The store had a glass front covered with posters, so it was difficult to see inside. The posters were well-produced and covered with pictures of people meditating, clouds, and various other restful scenes. There was even one fanciful poster of Enolsis faithful (crystals dangling from chains around their necks) flying like angels over a majestic mountain range.

    Taking a deep breath, Jim-Bean pushed open the door.

    Inside was an open area about twenty feet wide by forty-feet long, covered with mats and rugs. At the back of the store sat a slightly raised platform. On the wall behind the platform was a large tapestry, black on a gold background, depicting two cupped hands holding a crystal. Along the walls were displays of the various pamphlets, books, and audio and video tapes sold by Enolsis to help their membership “find their true light.” To the right was a desk with a cash register and computer.

    “Hi!’ chirped a woman at the register. Her nametag read: DIANE. “Can I help you with anything?”

    Jim-Bean had a pamphlet in his hand. “I read that you help focus psychic potential.”

    “Oh yes!” chirped Diane. That’s all she seemed to know how to do, chirp. “Dr. Knightsbridge is doing intakes today as a matter of fact.” She handed Jim-Bean a form. “Just fill this out and then Dr. Knightsbridge will do some basic tests.”

    “Tests?” asked Jim-Bean, swallowing hard. Jim-Bean wasn’t sure why he had come, but more and more he needed some way of grappling with the stress of his burgeoning powers.

    Jim-Bean sat down. The forms were painstakingly long. He scribbled nonsense in for most of it.

    Diane ushered him into the back room. A minute later was a tall man in his late forties entered, with a neat beard and moustache, and black hair with distinguished gray streaks. He was dressed in a dapper suit.

    “Hello,” he said, shaking Jim-Bean’s hand. “I’m Dr. Knightsbridge.” He sat down behind the desk to face Jim-Bean. “What brings you here today?”

    “You have classes on focusing your psychic potential,” began Jim-Bean.

    “Ah yes. Certainly, we can test your thetans and see how you do.”

    “Test my what?”

    Knightsbridge smiled patiently. “I’ll explain it. But let me give you a tour of the facilities first and then we can get started.” He rose and led Jim-Bean out of the room.

    “Enologists, as we call ourselves, believe that human beings should progress spiritually just as quickly as they progress physically and technologically. The rapid growth of technology and population, though, has brought with it too many distractions, and the human spirit is faltering.”

    The Enolsis office consisted of rooms with one-way mirrors, sensory deprivation tanks, dark rooms, quiet rooms, and a room with a pool of water.

    “We believe that a human’s personality determines how well that person copes with life. Improve the personality, and you improve that human’s ability to deal with life. You see, humans have an Analytical and a Reactive mind. Too much of what happens to humans—pain, fear, anger—causes a response in the reactive mind. Were the analytical mind allowed to react, a human could deal with such things rationally and therefore effectively.”

    Knightsbridge opened the door to one of the monitoring rooms and let Jim-Bean entered first. Then he entered and closed the door behind him.

    “Enolsis will help you strive for a state of Clear, in which the individual sheds his reactive mind. However, we believe that being a Clear is just a step to another state of mind: Aware.”

    He handed Jim-Bean a hospital gown. “Please put this on.”

    “Why?” asked Jim-Bean suspiciously. Stripping meant removing his weapon as well as his cistron. He didn’t like that idea at all.

    “Your clothes and possessions will remain untouched behind the screen. We get a lot of fraudsters who come in with the intent of debunking us. We have to be sure you’re not carrying anything for the results to be one hundred percent accurate.” Knightsbridge smiled. “You understand, I’m sure.”

    Jim-Bean took the gown. “Sure.” He had already come this far …

    Ducking behind a screen, Jim-Bean changed into the gown as Knightsbridge continued.

    “Awares are able to tap into humankind’s collective subconscious—the platform upon which the analytical and reactive mind stand—to accomplish even greater things. Theoretically, an Aware can read minds, move objects telekinetically, and see the future—though, of course, no one, not even Director Downing, has reached that stage yet. We’ll be testing what stage you should enter Enolsis by gauging your thetans. That will tell us how far along you are.”

    “What’s a thetan?” asked Jim-Bean, stepping out from behind the screen.

    “Oh, right.” Knightsbridge took out a metal detector and ran it over Jim-Bean. “Body thetans radiate negative energy. Everyone has them, and the goal of Enolsis is to rid you of them in an attempt to get to the Clear stage, and eventually the Aware stage.”

    He led Jim-Bean to a seat where an odd looking machine sat on a table. It had two metal handles hooked up to what looked like an electric meter. “This is an E-meter. It will measure your body thetans.” Knightsbridge turned on a video camera, as well as an automatic camera. “The video camera is for our records, but the other camera will take snapshots using Kirlian photography. Now, hold these two handles please.” He handed Jim-Bean the two metal bars connected by wires to a blue machine with a meter on it.

    There was a loud piercing noise. Jim-Bean let go of the handles.

    “I-I’m sorry,” said Knightsbridge. “The machine must not have been tuned correctly.” He fiddled with some knobs. “Let’s try it again.”

    The meter went wild. Knightsbridge’s brow furrowed. He furiously scribbled some notes.

    “What?” asked Jim-Bean after releasing the handles again.

    Knightsbridge leaned back in his chair. “I don’t normally tell new members this, but I think given the circumstances you should know.”

    Jim-Bean leaned forward. “Know WHAT?”

    “The average person has quite a few body thetans. It’s complicated, but thetans are a lot of the negative energy left over from the past. What we don’t tell members until they advance in our classes is that these are actually alien thetans. In other words, due to some ancient battles in human history with extraterrestrials, we have traces of it in our bodies in the form of thetans. But you …”

    “Yeah?”

    “You have over ninety percent body thetans. That’s unheard of. I’m going to recommend you sign up with us right away. Change back into your clothes while I have Diane fetch a schedule.”

    Jim-Bean went back behind the screen to change as Knightsbridge left the room. He was going to have to destroy those tapes of their conversation. Later.

    Knightsbridge returned. “We have daily meditation exercises are at 6 p.m., weekly discussion and consciousness-raising sessions on Thursday at 7 p.m., and on the first of the month at 7 p.m. a group meeting of all Enolsis local members for a focused meditation.”

    Fully dressed, Jim-Bean emerged from behind the divider. Knightsbridge handed him the schedule.

    “I’ll be there,” he said.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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    Prince: Part 1 – Training

    True to his word, Jim-Bean returned.

    Dr. Knightsbridge introduced the new class. As the coach, he would take them through the exercises. Jim-Bean paid the requisite fees for the classes, although he never told Enolsis where the money came from and they never asked.

    The daily meditation exercises at 6 p.m. focused on concentration. After introducing himself to another slightly confused man in his mid thirties, Jim-Bean sat down in front of him, eyes closed, for the required time. He could hear him breathing, creaking in his fold-up chair, and the sound of the other students sequestered in their exercises. He sat with eyes closed for two hours, not moving or twitching.

    That was the warm-up. The next day, he sat with his eyes open for hours, not moving or twitching, staring at the other man. If he moved, sneezed, coughed, or twitched, Knightsbridge would shout. “FLUNK!” and explain why. Then he would say start, and the test would begin again.

    The third day was worse. Knightsbridge tried everything to get him to react. They screamed all sorts of abuse at Jim-Bean, but he had gotten very good at tuning them out.

    “You’re ready,” said Knightsbridge. “It’s time for your first class.”

    Class consisted of reading dialogue from Alice in Wonderland until he could read it confidently, in a monotone, without embarrassment.

    "Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,"' the Mock Turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic--Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."

    “Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

    “The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed "Off with her head!"

    "Tut, tut, child!" said the Duchess. "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

    Then they introduced the “acks,” short for acknowledgments: okay, good, thank you, alright, or fine. Jim-Bean was instructed to make these acknowledgments in a new unit of time, as if it was the first time had heard of it. He was judged for his believability.

    The next week, Knightsbridge read Alice in Wonderland again, responding with half-acknowledgements, such as ``Mmmm hmmm'' or ``Uh huh'.”

    The week after that, Knightsbridge asked, "Do birds fly?" and "Do fish swim?" Jim-Bean didn’t answer. He then repeated the question using the phrase: "I will repeat the auditing question." He continued like that until Knightsbridge answered his questions.

    “Why are we doing this, exactly?” asked Jim-Bean.

    “One day you’re going to be a coach,” said Knightsbridge with a twinkle in his eye. “And you’ll need to keep a person in his chair through the power of persuasion.”

    Jim-Bean’s brow furrowed. “Physically, you mean.”

    “Absolutely,” Knightsbridge responded without hesitation. “In fact, you must be ready to restrain the person if he chooses to leave.”

    “And if I wanted to leave right now?” asked Jim-Bean.

    Knightsbridge smiled. “I would restrain you.”

    Jim-Bean focused intently on him. “How about now?”

    Knightsbridge cleared his throat. “You can of course leave at any time you want, but part of the training is to reinforce the inevitability of development –“

    “Right, right,” said Jim-Bean. “I’ve been taking these classes for awhile. When do I get my crystal?”

    Knightsbridge hesitated. “Of course, of course, you’ll need it for the upcoming group meditation.” He fished a pouch out of his suit jacket and then dumped a crystal into his palm. “Here is your Realizer.”

    The Realizer was basically cylindrical, about two inches long and the diameter of a quarter. It was rough-hewn, pointed at one end and cut straight at the other, giving it a vaguely phallic appearance. To Jim-Bean’s untrained eye, it looked like quartz.

    “Meditate on it every day like we taught you in class. It will help focus your energies. Then we release them as a group at our meditation session.”

    “Sure,” said Jim-Bean. He put the crystal around his neck. It felt right.

    Then he left and never went back.
    Mike "Talien" Tresca

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