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Saturday, 28th March, 2009, 04:35 PM #471
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Player of Hell: Part 3 – Welcome to My Home
A motley parade followed behind the blood-drained graduate student holding out an MP3-player before him: a mystic with a leather patch and two agents armed with a supersoaker and a fire extinguisher.
The MP3 player led Mays through a very bad part of town, but nobody crossed their path. If the denizens of New York City were interested in harassing them, they thought better of it.
Mays pointed at a pile of old boxes behind a locked gate. "She's down there."
Caprice took two tools out of one of his pockets and fiddled with the lock for a moment. It sprung open.
Hammer shoved the boxes inside, which revealed two heavy metal doors. He wrenched the doors open. Steps yawned into the darkness below.
Caprice pushed Mays ahead of him towards.
"Wait, I don't want to go inside!" wailed Mays.
"Don't be such a baby," said Caprice. "We may have trouble finding her down there."
Hammer put his flashlight headgear on and scanned the area.
The room they entered was decorated as a strangely incongruous but tastefully decorated living room. Alcoves all around them were filled with what appeared to be valuable works of art. On the far end of the room was a broken gate, hanging off its hinges.
"She turned to mist, right?" Caprice asked Archive.
"Yes. She could be anywhere."
"Then we have to draw her out." Caprice waved Mays over. "Come here."
Mays edged over to Caprice. "What now?"
"Give me your hand."
"Why?" asked Mays, his voice rising.
Caprice sighed. "Just give me your hand!"
Mays put his hand out. Lightning quick, Caprice slashed his palm with a knife.
"AHHH!" screamed Mays, clutching his dripping hand. "You cut me!"
Hammer rubbed his forehead. "Hot Pants …"
Stumbling away from Caprice, Mays wailed and plunged into the dark gate on the other side of the room.
"What?" asked Caprice. "We have to lure her out!"
Then he ran after Mays.
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Sunday, 29th March, 2009, 01:15 PM #472
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Player of Hell: Part 4 – Coffin Up Blood
Mays ran into the room, screaming hysterically. It was sparsely furnished, with a single coffin at the end of the corridor. Droplets of blood made it easy to follow his trail.
Hammer had both Glocks out. "I don't like this Hot Pants."
"It'll be fine," said Caprice, pumping the supersoaker again. "Just keep an eye out for freaky-looking old chicks."
Mays stopped screaming and slumped in front of the coffin. Archive checked his pulse.
"I think he fainted." He addressed Hammer. "Hold out your pistols."
"Why?" asked Hammer.
"Just trust me."
Hammer held out his Glocks.
"Normal bullets won't work." Taking out a piece of chalk, Archive inscribed a tiny Elder Sign on the hilt of each of them. "This should help."
"Behind you!" shouted Caprice.
Archive ducked as a flaming stream of liquid fire arced from Caprice's supersoaker to the materialized hag, hovering over Mays' unconscious body. The flames struck her back. Her flesh peeled like burning paper.
Hammer let loose with both pistols. "Don't look at her eyes!"
Chanting, Archive held up the leather Elder Sign before him.
The vrykolakas ignored Archive and launched itself at Hammer. Hammer emptied both Glocks into the vampire at point-blank range.
The hag's expression changed from rage to surprise as the bullets punched out her back, spiraling trails of dust and crusted blood.
A gout of flames nearly singed Hammer's hair.
"Watch where you point that thing!"
"What do you want from me?" shouted Caprice, frantically pumping the supersoaker. "You told me not to look at her!"
"Just don't point it at me!"
Hammer dove as the vrykolakas easily closed the distance between them. Claws raked his back as he rolled to his feet.
WHOOSH! Another gout of flames struck the vrykolakas. She launched herself into the air at Caprice, who was frantically trying to pump the supersoaker again.
The vrykolakas landed like a cat, claws and fangs extended. With the vampire looming over him, Caprice gave up on the supersoaker and struggled for his pistol.
The vrykolakas' head exploded. Archive stood with one arm extended, his Glock still smoking.
The vampire dissolved into a red mist.
"About time," muttered Caprice as he got to his feet. "Where did she go?"
Archive kicked the lid off the coffin. He pointed at the shriveled dead body, mouth yawning wide in a death grimace. "Here."
Caprice picked up the supersoaker and pumped it as he walked towards the coffin. "This will only take a minute."
"Wait." Hammer put one hand out. "This is too easy." He knocked on the coffin's interior. "There's a hollow space beneath this."
All three of them grabbed the edge of the coffin bottom and pulled. It came up and the decoy corpse slid off of it, rattling to the stone floor.
Beneath was the vrykolakas herself, arms at her side. Her eyes and mouth were open in a feral snarl of rage, but she was frozen. Just staring at them.
"She can't hurt us now," said Archive. "It's okay to look at her."
"Who would want to?" said Caprice. He leaned over the coffin. "Boy, you must be really mad at us for breaking up your little file sharing scam." He reached down to pick up Mays' dropped MP3 player and flipped it into the coffin. "Here. You can listen to this in hell."
Then he torched the coffin.
Monday, 30th March, 2009, 11:38 AM #473
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Player of Hell: Conclusion
"So that was a real vampire, right?" asked Caprice, hanging out at the apartment they had rented in New York City. His feet were up on the couch as he flipped through the channels. "Not the illegal immigrant we murdered last time?"
Archive hushed him. "That guy was magically enhanced by the Gaunt. So in a sense he was a vampire."
"Sure," said Caprice. "Whatever helps you sleep at night."
"The point is that we beat it," said Hammer. "And this time it was a real vampire."
"Maybe we're real vampire hunters after all." Caprice flipped through the channels with the remote.
"What about the kid?" asked Archive.
Hammer glared at Caprice, who seemed utterly indifferent. "He had a nervous breakdown. Apparently he's had a history of mental illness and was on serious medication to begin with."
Archive smirked. "If that's true, the vrykolakas was probably tripping on Mays' blood."
"Rule number one for vampires," said Caprice, eyes still on the television, “never bite a hippy.”
"Mays was given a psychiatric evaluation, but I don't think he's going to be talking to the press any time soon – about us, or the so-called vampire."
"Shh!" said Caprice. "Check this out, Archive, it's your buddy!"
"Join us as Simon Magnus gives you a private peek at the strange, bizarre, and unexplained artifacts he's collected from across the globe," shouted the television. "A vial of vampire blood, a vampire teeth necklace, the mummified remains of vampires long extinct, the list goes on. Prepare yourself for the most unbelievable sights on television!"
Magnus himself appeared on screen in full vampire hunter getup. He wore a puffy shirt and monocle and held a wooden stake in one hand.
"Greetings and bien venue," he said theatrically. "Tonight is a special showing of Curse of the Undead, the first Western/Vampire movie!" Magnus threw the wooden stake over his shoulder and it clattered behind him on the cheesy soundstage. "This showing is dedicated to all my fellow vampire hunters, who know that the truth is out there … and it hungers for our blood."
The camera started to pan away but Magnus stepped out in front of it again. "And kiddies, never accept a gift from anyone for free. There's always a price."
Tuesday, 31st March, 2009, 11:47 AM #474
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 36: Dreams Dark and Deadly - Introduction
This story hour is a combination of “Dreams Dark and Deadly” by Michael Szymanski from Cthulhu Now, “Little Slices of Death” by Monte Cook from D20 Call of Cthulhu and “The Truth Shall Set You Free” by Bruce Ballon from Unseen Masters. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
When I learned that both of the Joes would be available to play and we’d have every single player back in action, it was time to bring Guppy back into the fold. I had planned this for months, but I wasn’t sure when exactly to spring the scenario on them.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
- Sebastian "Caprice" Creed (Fast/Smart Hero/Techie) played by Bill Countiss
- Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
- Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero/Field Scientist) played by Joseph Tresca (portfolio banking investing mortgage credit at creepyportfolio.com)
- Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
In the interim, I ran a separate email campaign with my brother as Guppy slowly descended further and further into schizophrenia. I used Fight Club and Dreamscape as inspiration and set up John Grant’s fake business as the Puschky Real Estate from Mugshots Two: Taking Care of Business.
By far the best part of this scenario was the role-playing between Guppy, trying to convince the other agents that there was a vast conspiracy, and the rest of the players who thoroughly enjoyed grilling Guppy and not believing him. I was practically in tears I was laughing so hard.
Unfortunately, the momentum established in the beginning of the scenario wasn’t easily sustainable. Several days in one facility made it hard to keep things interesting for everyone, and when the PCs split up it became even more difficult to keep everyone engaged. Archive suffered most of all in this regard, not having official access to the facility, with Guppy a close second as he was poked and prodded but otherwise helpless.
There is a huge reveal at the end of the scenario, but given that the agents already thought Guppy was insane, they’re not sure if they believe him.
Defining Moment: Archive vs. Nina Juarez, intrepid reporter. So much for the power of the press!
- Right Where it Belongs: by Nine Inch Nails.
- Unseen Masters: The source for the scenario, "The Truth Shall Set You Free."
- Cthulhu Now: The source of the scenario, "Dreams Dark and Deadly."
- D20 Call of Cthulhu: The source of the scenario, "Little Slices of Death."
- Fight Club: The inspiration for the Bringers of Sacred Light.
- Dreamscape: The inspiration for the nightmare scenes in the Dreamweb.
- Mug Shots Two: I used maps and characters from this book to flesh out John Grant and his office.
Wednesday, 1st April, 2009, 11:37 AM #475
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
For the past six months, Guppy hadn’t been able to sleep.What if all the world's inside of your head?
Just creations of your own
Your devils and your gods all the living and the dead
And you're really all alone
--Right Where It Belongs by Nine Inch Nails
He stood at a gate counter. An attendant smiled at him. “Check-in for that flight doesn't begin for another two hours, sir.”
Guppy looked with blearing eyes at his watch. Majestic-12 had taken away his cistron. He stepped away and looked at an overhanging clock.
Pacific, Mountain, Central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This was Guppy’s life, and it was ending one minute at a time.
His eyes snapped open as the plane landed. He woke up at Air Harbor International.
Guppy sat next to a frumpy woman. They chatted. Guppy turned to look at his food, took a bite. He turned back and saw…
…a bald man next to him, talking. Guppy took another bite, turned back and it was...
…a businessman next to him. Guppy took another bite, turned back, and it was...
…a business woman next to him.
Guppy’s eyes snapped open.
Turgid silence. Guppy turned to the window.
He saw a glowing light next to the airplane and for a second he could see a grey, bulbous head staring at him through the window. There was a bright light and a feeling of intense heat …
The plane buckled -- the cabin wobbled. People panicked. Masks dropped.
Then the side of the plane sheared off. Screaming passengers were sucked out into the night air, flying past the quivering wind. Magazines and other objects flew everywhere.
DING! -- the seatbelt light went out. Guppy snapped awake. Everything was normal. Some passengers got out of their seats.
From next to Guppy he heard, “There are three ways to make napalm. One, mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice..."
He turned to see a steely-eyed man with a crew cut. “Two, equal parts gasoline and diet cola,” he continued. “Three, dissolve kitty-litter in gasoline until the mixture is thick." He offered Guppy his hand. “Fred Butts. You can call me Freddy.”
"Hank," said Guppy, shaking Freddy's hand slowly. "Hank Gupta."
“You know why they have oxygen masks on planes? Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, we're taking giant, panicked breaths...” Freddy grabbed a safety instruction card from the seatback and handed it to Guppy. “Suddenly, we become euphoric and docile. We accept our fate.”
Freddy pointed to passive faces on the drawn figures. “Emergency water landing, six hundred miles per hour. Blank faces -- calm as Hindu cows." Freddy reached under the seat in front of him and lifted a briefcase. He turned the top of his briefcase toward Guppy. “Open it.”
When Guppy opened the lid, he saw quaintly wrapped bars of soap. “Soap -- the yardstick of civilization.” Freddy reached into his pocket. “I make and sell soap...” He handed Guppy his card: THE PAPER STREET SOAP COMPANY.
“If you were to add nitric acid to the soap-making process, one would get nitroglycerin. With enough soap, one could blow up the world, if one were so inclined.” Freddy snapped the briefcase shut. “We are defined by the choices we make.”
Freddy went to the curtain dividing First Class, slapped the curtain aside and sat in an empty seat.
Guppy looked at the card. It had only a phone number.
Thursday, 2nd April, 2009, 11:31 AM #476
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 1 – Another Dream
Guppy was back in the terrible world that he had dreamt before. He knew he was dreaming, but the experience was very lucid.
"You're dreaming," Guppy said to himself. He pinched and kicked himself, but he couldn't seem to wake up.
Guppy woke up with a strong feeling of fear, the bed sheets soaked with perspiration.A horde of Grey aliens came rushing from an alley. Guppy ran.
He ran through the devastated bone yard of the city. As the things began to close on him, he turned, filled with the knowledge of some great secret.
The horde halted as their eyes fill with fear. Guppy called upon a great cosmic power, and light shined forth from the heavens.
The Greys screamed as they burst into flames.
Guppy laughed and kept on laughing until a huge lobster with wings appeared.
"Thizzz izzz but a dream," it buzzed "I zhall dezzztroy you in the waking world before you can focuzzz zzzuch power."
He looked at his alarm clock in the small apartment, where he was on mental health leave. He wasn't considered dangerous, just in need of some vacation time. Still, he had a caregiver who checked in on him from time to time.
Guppy was taking a mild sedative, or so they would have him believe. He had to check in with his caregiver occasionally, but other than that he was pretty much on his own.
He was late for his meeting with Rachel. Guppy hopped in the shower, threw on some clothes, and took the subway over.
She was sitting at a table by herself. Nobody looked at her.
Rachel flashed him a wan smile. “I'm glad you came."
"Sorry, I overslept." Guppy sat down across from her.
"It's okay, what I have to tell you was worth waiting for." She leaned forward. "Ever since my experience with Blink, I’ve been having…” she struggled with the word, “hallucinations. Or dreams. Or nightmares. I’m not sure. But I’ve been having them. I know you’ve been having them too.”
"Yes. Yes, I think…" Guppy rubbed his forehead. "I think it has to do with my abduction."
Rachel nodded appreciatively as Guppy confirmed her suspicions. “It’s because we were in Daoloth. It’s opened our perceptions. We do not have much time.”
"Much time?" Guppy swallowed hard. "Why? What's going to happen?"
“There are only a few of us out there, battling against the forces you have begun to see. Your powers are great, greater than you know."
"Me?" Guppy squeaked. "What kind of powers?"
"You have the gift of second sight. They allowed you to get glimpses of what is happening. You need to see it all. Until then, it will be hard for you to tell whom to trust—you will find some of your closest friends turning on you. You must remain free. I will give up my life for you, if need be.”
Guppy's brow furrowed. What Rachel said made sense. The dreams had been haunting him. Hammer HAD turned on him. He was being watched, he was sure of it. And that whole trip where he met Freddy … was that a dream? Or had he really been traveling?
“If you want answers, then continue to do what you are doing," said Rachel. "Majestic-12 is working with the Greys. All the food you eat and beverages you drink have been spiked with hallucinogens. Change your diet and wait a few days. I’ll be back then.”
Guppy looked down at the sandwich he didn't remember ordering. Now that he thought about it, he had only been drinking water and eating some small bits of food. With all that had been going on, he seemed to have been neglecting his meals.
"Change my diet to what?"
"Boiled rain water, grass, rice, and natural honey. It has to be all natural. Recycling and purifying your own liquids is also an option."
Rachel looked around. "It's not safe here. I have to go. I will contact you again soon."
And with that she left.
Friday, 3rd April, 2009, 11:21 AM #477
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams Dark and Deadly: Part 2 – From Bad to Worse
After two days of Rachel's new diet, Guppy began to see things differently. The skyline often looked distorted, as if the skyscrapers were made of towering columns of bones. The beings that watched him in a crowd look like strange toad-like beings. The images of the dead were almost always flashing out of the corner of his vision.
On television, Guppy heard messages directed to him: “Obey, zzzerve, and you zzzhall die quickly; rezzzizzztance zhall be met with unending agonizing torture.”
The TV anchor people were cadavers, their flesh melting off their bones; however, they still gave out the news in raspy whispering voices…” Guppy stopped watching television after that.
He got an early morning phone call from Rachel to meet at a busy nightspot, Club Apocalypse. They used to go on dates there, many years ago.
“Come alone,” said Rachel, whispering over the phone. “You can’t trust your teammates. Hammer is not on your side. He’d sooner eat your brain than smile at you.”
As Guppy traveled, many people were going about their business, oblivious to what seems to be around them. Although some buildings seemed normal, others clearly were not.
The alleys were strewn with human bones and decaying corpses. Many structures on the street were built out of bone and human skin. There were large pits off the sides of the street from which he could hear wailing. Many other buildings seemed to have fallen into ruin. The sky was a dark, turbulent smoke color.
Was this the future? Or was it the present, cloaked by an illusion?
At one point, a group of Greys walked by, carrying whips. They seemed to be herding naked humans towards the pits, hurling them in. A short time later, a human-sized winged-lobster sucked the entire face off of a beautiful naked woman it had grappled. Guppy remembered what happened to Sheriff Oakley and hurried along.
Almost at the nightspot, he stopped when a terrifying structure came into view. Constructed of odd stalactites made of fungus, it almost resembled a hand with fingers that looked like sinister towers. A glowing red light emanated from the top of the palm, sending shivers down Guppy's back.
He made his way inside. The bouncer nodded to him and let him.
Club Apocalypse was busy. There was the occasional scream of agony from places around the bar, and Guppy saw people being dragged out by Greys. The rest of the crowd acted as if nothing was happening.
Where was Rachel? Guppy started to sweat, feeling nauseous. Bile rose in his throat.
Guppy stumbled towards the men's room and made it just in time. After heaving into the toilet, he wiped his face, washed his hands, and exited the bathroom.
Rachel was by the doorway, stepping out of the darkness. She held a drink.
“Glad to see you made it. Get a good look? See what is going on? We’ve been invaded.”
"So that's all real?" asked Guppy, wiping the sweat from his brow. "This is what's actually going on?"
“The Greys actually serve those lobster-things…you call them alien dogs. They are called Mi-go. They are using us as cattle, raiding our DNA so they can reproduce. And they are remaking our world in their image. They are splicing the DNA into some of us using protomatter. It’s been happening since the 1960s. They’ve taken over key government officials and politicians to carry on their work…and all of Majestic-12. Think about it: why do they keep sending you on those missions? You keep destroying Grey work in the CIVILIAN sector. That’s because Majestic-12 doesn’t want to SHARE!”
She sighed. “The Greys have been dumping protomatter into food and drink to cover their invasion, just like in Groversville. Only they got smarter. Now it covers up what’s really going on. Just a few people classified as nutty survivalists remain immune. You and me, because of Blink…I guess we’re lucky.” She laughed bitterly, and there were tears in her eyes.
"We have to stop it," said Guppy, trembling. "But how?"
“The only way we can get around them is to alert the world – not by telling them, they’d never believe us anyway. We have to SHOW them. Show them by destroying the world they hold dear, by making it makes less sense. Once we shake the foundation, it will prepare humanity to see it. We can perform the Light of Sacred Truth, and then they will ALL see the world for what it really is.”
"There are so many of them …" began Guppy. The very thought of resisting made him tired.
“We can’t do it alone," said Rachel. "We need other followers to summon the Sacred Light. You alone have the power within you to summon it. Show them the truth, and then, when the time is right, you must summon the Sacred Light. You’ll know when.”
"What about you?"
Rachel frowned. “The Greys already tried to blow up my apartment. The cops say the pilot light might have gone out, letting out just a little bit of gas. The gas could have slowly filled the condo. Seventeen-hundred square feet with high ceilings, for days and days. Then, the refrigerator's compressor could have clicked on...” She looked around suddenly. "I have to go…it’s already too dangerous for us to be seen together…”
She fled back into the darkness of the club.
Saturday, 4th April, 2009, 12:07 PM #478
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 3 – The Bringers of Sacred Light
Guppy looked up at the street sign. He had called the phone number on Freddy's card and it led him to here, Paper Street. It wasn't really a street, more a dirt road.
A stockade sat on one side, facing a lone house on the other. The rest of the land was grass and weeds. It was a grand, old three-story, long abandoned.
Freddy was there, waiting for him. He was dressed in fatigues and splattered with paint. "Come to check on the troops?" He grinned. "Come on in, let me give you the tour." He led Guppy to the stockade.
The stockade looked just like the cavalry forts portrayed in movies about the Old West. It boasted four guardhouses and two small guard posts on either side of the gate. The entire compound was made of tarred pine logs. The two largest buildings had two floors, the upper levels serving as barracks. A kitchen and mess hall were located beneath the married couples’ barracks, with a storage area under the single persons’ barracks.
Freddy led Guppy to one of the barracks. Triple-decker bunks cluttered the barracks, as many as could fit into the space.
They entered the kitchen. Freddy grabbed beers from the refrigerator. "Want some?"
Guppy shook his head.
Freddy shrugged and popped one open with his teeth. He took a few swigs.
Guppy noticed rope and rappelling tools on the table. Freddy nodded towards the living room, hefting a case of beers. "Go on in, we're celebrating."
Guppy hesitantly entered the room. Several other guys sat in front of the television, chanting quietly, all dressed in fatigues and also splattered with paint.
Freddy came up behind Guppy. “You are not your job,” he chanted.
“You are not your job,” said the others together.
“You are not how much money you have in the bank.”
From upstairs, a buzzer sounded.
"New recruit," said Freddy. "Come on, let's see what he's got." Freddy led Guppy up to the sentry post.
A young man stood at the gate, staring ahead in subordinate military style. He wore black pants, black shirt, black shoes, held a paper bag, with an army surplus mattress rolled-up at his feet.
Freddy stepped up beside Guppy to look the kid over.
"You're too young,” he shouted down at the kid. “Sorry."
Freddy pushed Guppy back inside the sentry post and shut the door. "If the applicant is young, we tell him he's too young. Old, too old. Fat, too fat. If the applicant waits at the door for three days without food, shelter or encouragement, then he can enter and begin training."
"Doesn't that seem harsh?" asked Guppy.
"Harsh? We're fighting a war here!" Freddy shook his head. "There's no room for luxuries. Each applicant is asked to bring the following: two black shirts, two black pants, one pair of black boots, two pair of black socks, one black coat, and three hundred dollars."
"Why three hundred dollars?"
"Personal bury money," said Freddy. "Come on, let me show you a project we're working on."
A half-dozen of survivalists were preparing a square of the backyard inside the fort. They pulled weeds, cleared rocks; worked with shovels and rakes. They carted away wheelbarrows of rocks and carried in sacks of fertilizer.
Everywhere Guppy went, survivalists rendered fat and made soap. They pinched herbs, adding them to the mix. They added vodka. Off to the side, a couple survivalists stirred a vat of rice.
Freddy led Guppy to his office. On the wall was a big bulletin board with hundreds of driver's licenses; a sign above it read: "HUMAN SACRIFICES."
"Human sacrifices?" asked Guppy nervously.
"They only look human," said Freddy.
In the office, Freddy made a mark on a chart. Survivalists shuffled papers and news clippings. Walls were lined with files, each labeled with a street address, under individual signs: "Mischief," "Disinformation," "Human Sacrifices," "Arson."
"What is this?"
"This?" said Freddy with a sweep of his hand. "We are the Bringers of Sacred Light."
"I don't understand," said Guppy. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because you told us to." The other men laughed. He handed Guppy a folder. "These are your targets. We're ready to move on the Protomatter Stewards now. Take a look."
There were four files. Archibald Denton, Larry Tolkien, Malcom Trent, and John Grant.
Guppy flipped through the files and stopped on the last one. There was something about John Grant that evoked a feeling of terrible rage. Guppy didn't like the look of him.
"Grant," said Guppy. "I'll take care of John Grant myself."
Sunday, 5th April, 2009, 11:37 AM #479
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 4 – Change Agent
Hammer was just about to drop Archive off at his apartment when his cistron and Caprice's beeped at the same time. It was an urgent message from Sprague.
Archive had the door partially open when Hammer slammed on the gas, hurling him back into the car and slamming the door shut.
"What the—I thought you were dropping me off!"
"Not anymore," said Hammer.
"It's Guppy," said Caprice, reading off the cistron. “His apartment exploded."
"Was Guppy hurt?" asked Archive.
Caprice shook his head. "There was a body, but it wasn't Guppy's. The STREETSWEEPER team got there too late. It was Rachel Hayward, Guppy's ex-girlfriend. Forensics determined Hayward was dead for weeks."
"Where's Guppy now?"
"Guppy's last access on BLACKNET was to look up John Grant, who went to the same elementary school as Guppy. Sprague thinks he's going to attack Grant where he works, at Puchsky Real Estate in the Uptin Arms Hotel."
The cistrons beeped again.
"Now what?" asked Archive.
Caprice sighed. "And there's the alert to all the OTHER agents to catch Guppy."
"Great," snarled Hammer, dodging in and out of traffic. "If Warner's Delta boys get to him first…"
"Warner would just love that," said Caprice. "Guess we'd better get to Guppy before he does something stupid."
"I'm not sure if I should be on this mission," said Archive. "This sounds like an inter-agency thing."
"Don't worry about it," said Hammer. "You can cover our backs when we go in."
They arrived in Peterboro four hours later. Hammer pulled the card over in front of 142 East "A" Street.
Hammer was about to get out of the car when a message from Jim-Bean crackled over the comm. "Took you guys long enough. You may want to see this."
A video feed flashed on their cistrons.
"We interrupt this program for a NEWS ALERT," said a reporter in front of a news desk. "Global News Network received an anonymous tip that the mysterious Indian agent, responsible for rescuing Indianational Flight 270, was recently spotted entering the Uptin Arms Hotel in Peterboro."
"Son of a BITCH," swore Hammer. "Someone tipped them off!"
A grainy picture of Guppy flashed on the screen. "The mystery agent single-handedly saved four hundred passengers by skydiving out of a jetliner over Warsaw, Poland," continued the reporter at the news desk. India has unofficially claimed responsibility for this heroic agent’s actions, but many feel the U.S. is responsible. This network’s research has been thwarted at every turn – our files were destroyed in a mysterious fire and our archives were hacked. Someone doesn’t want us to find out the identity of this man."
Archive looked around. "There. That unmarked white van. It's got satellite equipment on the top. That's got to be a GNN van."
"We’ve dispatched our best reporter, Nina Juarez, to the scene to find out more. After all, we just want to express our thanks to the four hundred people and the thousands more that would have died if it weren’t for this man’s actions."
Hammer loaded his Glocks. "I don't have time for this."
"I’ll take care of it," said Archive. He whispered a chant to himself and stretched out one hand towards the van, eyes closed.
"We're going to go to a live feed. Nina?"
The cistrons flashed with a scene from the news van. Nina Juarez, a pretty Latina reporter, spoke to the camera inside the van.
"Thanks Chuck," said Nina. "I'm inside the GNN van as we prepare to enter the Uptin Arms Hotel. We have reason to believe the mystery agent is inside." She pulled open the door to the van.
Across the street, the agents could see the van opening.
"Archive…" said Hammer. "Guppy's not the only agent she's going to get on camera…"
Nina shrieked on their cistrons. There was a flash of water streaming down the front of the camera. Nina screamed and fell out of the van, her hair plastered against her face from the sudden downpour that appeared inside the van. Electrical equipment sparked and hissed. Then the feed went blank.
"We seem to be having technical difficulties…" began Chuck at the GNN desk.
Hammer grinned. "I knew we wouldn't regret bringing you along." Then he and Caprice joined Jim-Bean at the entrance to Puchsky Real Estate.
Monday, 6th April, 2009, 11:27 AM #480
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Dreams: Part 5 – Mental Estate
A crystal dragon greeted Guppy in the lobby of Puchsky Real Estate. Mr. Grant’s secretary was a gorgeous Japanese woman with an icy stare.
"Hello," said Guppy. "My name is Hank Gupta. I'm here to see Mr. Grant."
His secretary greeted Guppy icily. “Mr. Grant is extremely busy. Can I ask what this is about?”
Guppy leaned forward. "This is about a special situation that he alone can deal with."
The secretary sneered. "One of those meetings." She pressed the intercom. "Mr. Grant, a Mister Gupta is here to see you?" She hung up the phone and addressed Guppy. “Mr. Grant is expecting you,” she said flatly. “You are not permitted weapons beyond this point.” She unlocked a drawer in her desk and looked in Guppy's direction.
Guppy held up his hands. "I don't have any weapons."
In truth, his pistol and cistron had been confiscated when he was put on mental health leave. He had to hack his way into Blacknet just to get Grant's information.
The secretary led Guppy into an oak-paneled conference room with comfortable chairs and an expensive marble tabletop.
Two large men in suits entered the room and stood on either side of the head of the table. John Grant entered.
Grant was a mountain of muscle. His clean-shaven face was scarred and he wore a permanent scowl. His hair was in a buzz cut style. Grant was dressed in a pinstriped suit.
“Hanky, sorry to keep you waiting," he spoke with a Brooklyn-Italian accent. "Can I get you a drink?” he offered. John snapped his fingers and his bodyguards immediately began mixing Guppy a drink. “I understand you have a mysterious business proposition for me.”
"I need to speak to you privately," said Guppy, taking a seat across from Grant.
Grant nodded towards his bodyguards. "Fix yourselves drinks, boys." He turned back to Guppy. "I don't know what you're into, Hanky. But you're in way over your head. I haven't seen you since elementary school, and now I see you twice in one week. The guy you were hanging out with, he's bad people. Did he owe you money too?"
Guppy didn't know what the hell Grant was talking about. "No, forget that. I think you're in grave danger. There are these…aliens. They have taken over the world…"
Grant leaned back and laughed. "Oh man, Hanky. You look like something the cat threw up. Are you high? You need money for drugs, is that what this is about?"
"You're not LISTENING," said Guppy urgently. "I think that you're caught up in some sort of invasion—"
Grant sighed and took a pistol out from behind his back. He placed it on the table. "Hanky, look. People come in here to either give me money or ask for money. You're doing neither, so at this point you're starting to look like some crazy junkie wasting my time. And nobody wastes my time."
Grant's eyes flicked to his phone. A light was flashing urgently.
"Someone tripped the alarm." Grant stood up, pistol in hand, and pointed it at Guppy. "This some kind of trick, Hanky? Boys," he ordered his bodyguard, "secure the door! Who are you fronting for?'
Guppy threw up his hands. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
"We'll see." Grant pressed the speakerphone without taking his eyes or pistol off of Guppy. "Lillian. Lillian? What's going on out there?"
"We have you surrounded," came Jim-Bean's voice, with a thick British accent. "Put your weapons down and come out with your hands up."
"You gotta be kiddin' me—"
"We have a sniper trained on you right now. He can put a bullet in your head. I repeat, put your hands—"
Grant smacked the off button on the speakerphone. "We're getting out of here, but not before I clean up this little mess." He took careful aim at Guppy's forehead.