Thursday, 10th September, 2009, 11:53 AM #601
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Chapter 44: Where a God Shall Tread - Introduction
This story hour is a combination of “Future/Perfect” Part Three by Dennis Detwiller and “Where a God Shall Tread” from At Your Door. You can read more about Delta Green at http://www.delta-green.com. 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 (Jeremy Robert Ortiz)
To my surprise, the agents ended up ranging beyond the scope of the scenario. The players know when scenarios are "open" and "closed" – this was definitely an open scenario, so they ranged far and wide. I brought them back in with the logical conclusion to their actions, which shocked them and put a timetable on penetrating the base.
The base itself turned out to be fairly anticlimactic. After all, if the alarms haven't sounded, things tend to go pretty smoothly. Fortunately, I had a very big series of wrinkles in store for the agents. The question was whether or not they would play along. To my surprise, they did.
Defining Moment: Tracking beacons hidden in gold nuggets suddenly scatter…40,000 feet up.
Last edited by talien; Tuesday, 13th October, 2009 at 11:47 AM.
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Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Prologue
Hammer and Jim-Bean had been circling Hunt Electronics' Duxbury headquarters for over a week with no luck. The place was built like a fortress, but then a gold mine of information fell into their laps. Literally.Aperture Science
We do what we must
Because we can.
For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who are dead.
--Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton
On a gray Monday morning a young 22-year-old employee of Hunt Electronics was detained and questioned by TSA officials at La Guardia Airport in New York City. He was pulled aside in a random search, and quickly drew the suspicion of his interrogators with his evasive answers and nervousness.
"So who's this?" Jim-Bean craned his neck to inspect the nervous young man sitting in the interrogation room.
"Jonathan Emery," said Hammer. "Ready?"
"Good cop or bad cop?"
"Let's switch it up," said Hammer. "I'll be good cop for once."
"Do you even know how?"
Hammer paused to remark "very funny" before opening the door to the interrogation room.
Hammer sat down across from Emery. Jim-Bean didn't.
Hammer flipped through a folder he brought with him. "So…Jonathan, right? Can I call you Jon?"
Emery swallowed hard. "Sure."
"You were on your way to Switzerland with a package."
"Engineering equipment," said Emery.
"Yeah, right. What kind of equipment?"
"Specialty testing devices for a subcontractor in Berne."
"Don't lie to us!" snarled Jim-Bean. "We checked. There IS no subcontractor in Berne. You made arrangements for a car to pick you up at the airport."
Emery was taken aback. His eyes darted back and forth between Hammer and Jim-Bean.
"We found hidden compartments filled with roughly melted gold ingots," said Hammer.
"Nearly one million dollars worth," added Jim-bean. "So Emery, tell us again what you were doing with that much gold?"
"I don't know!"
"Have you made these trips before?"
"Yes…twice a year for the last two years."
Hammer changed tactics. "Tell us about Duxbury."
"What?" Emery blinked. "I work for the New York office. I don't know…the equipment came from Duxbury."
"So you're just the messenger, huh?" asked Jim-Bean. "You took the money without looking inside?"
Emery nodded. "Each time I travelled to Switzerland, I received a cash pay-out of $5,000. It was…I guess in retrospect it was a little exorbitant."
Hammer nodded sympathetically. "That made you uncomfortable, huh? Money like that can be hard to ignore. But you didn't know where to go or who to tell. Surely there were warning signs."
Emery nodded. "By my third trip I was fairly certain I was doing something…do I get protection or something if I confess?"
Jim-Bean loomed over him. "You are in deep trouble, kid. Hunt Electronics is in even deeper trouble. You realize if word of this gets out, that you screwed up, they'll kill you, right?"
Emery went pale. The thought hadn't occurred to him.
"We're authorized to put you in the witness protection program if you give us a full confession," said Hammer sympathetically. "It's the only way you're going to survive this."
Emery slumped in his chair. "Okay, okay. The main give away that something was wrong, besides the pay-out, were the rules — don’t open the cases for any reason, always check the luggage as “specialty equipment”, never let the luggage out of your sight once on the ground, and the final rule — bring the luggage by specialty van to Credit Suisse Bank in Berne."
"What happens at Credit Suisse?" asked Jim-Bean.
"Once at Credit Suisse, the luggage is taken away by attendants, overlooked the whole time by white gloved men with side arms. I get my cash and sent on my way. I thought what was inside the equipment was money or drugs…not gold!"
"When is your shipment due?" asked Hammer.
Emery looked at his watch. "Well I missed my plane…it's been two hours. "
"We could still make it," Jim-Bean said to Hammer.
"Why?" They didn't answer right away. Emery's voice rose. "You don't seriously expect me to…"
"Oh you're going to make the delivery," said Jim-Bean.
"You leave that to us," said Hammer. "We'll take care of the rest."
"You just won't remember any of it," said Jim-Bean.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 1 – Belling the Cat
Emery sat up in a blind panic.
"Oh Jesus…" he looked around.
He was dressed in only his underwear, in a bed. In a hotel room. The room smelled of sweat, cigarette smoke, and booze. The sheets were roiled around him.
There was a note on the dresser. A lipstick kiss and "call me" with a phone number he didn't recognize. It was not an American phone number.
Where the hell was he? Think Emery, think! You were on your way to Berne and then…and then…nothing. It was like hitting his head against a mental wall.
Emery's heart pounded as he realized what must have happened. He had been ambushed. Maybe some hooker had gotten him drunk. But most importantly, what happened to the equipment…
Emery tore open the bathroom door. Nothing.
It was all fading away. His excursions to Europe. His suspicious bonuses. His job at Hunt Electronics. It was all over. If he was lucky, he would lose his job. If he wasn't…he didn't want to think about it.
Emery pulled open the folding closet. He was so relieved by what he found there that he sank to his knees.
The cases were there. He tried to lift one…it was heavy. Emery checked the seals. Unopened. The hooker who swindled him wasn't smart enough or interested enough to look inside. Emery didn't even know what was inside. In fact, he was paid to not find out.
Emery's emotions careened from utter despair to hopeful salvation. He had a chance! He could make this right!
He fumbled through the nightstand drawer. "Please tell me she didn't take my…YES!" He pulled out his cell phone triumphantly. It even had one bar left. Just enough, he hoped, to make the most important phone call of his life.
He dialed the number. "Yes. Mr. Brown please."
The operator connected him. "Hello?" replied a sleepy, masculine voice.
"Mr. Brown? I'm sorry to call you like this but I'm in…" his voice cracked. "I think I'm in trouble."
"Emery? Is that you?"
"Yes sir." It all came out in a torrent. "I just woke up in this hotel and I don't know where I am--"
"Easy, easy, Emery. First, answer me this: do you still have the equipment?"
"Yes!" Emery nearly wept. "Yes! Yes, it's all here!"
"Good, that's very good Emery. We'll figure out where you are."
"I want to make this right, Mr. Brown. I really do. I don't know what happened—"
"That's what we're going to find out, Emery. Try to relax. We're going to fix this, but we can only fix this if you calm down, okay?"
There was a pause. "Okay, it looks like you're calling from Moscow."
"I'm in Moscow?" Emery opened the shades and looked out the window. "How the hell did I get in Moscow?"
"Focus, Emery, focus! Do you still have your wallet?"
Emery's clothes were folded across a chair. He patted his pants down. "Yes!"
"Okay, good. I'm increasing the limit on your credit card. You are to transport the equipment to the following airport immediately. We'll send a car."
"Am I flying back to Berne?"
There was an almost imperceptible pause. "Yes. But you have to go right now." Emery's phone beeped. "I just sent you the address to your phone…"
Emery tugged on his pants. "Thank you sir! I won't let you down. I just want to apologize, I don't know what—"
"The best way you can make up for this is to get to that airport immediately," said Brown. "I'll talk to you again when you're on the plane."
Emery stumbled into the rest of his clothes. He stank something awful, but there was no time to worry about such things. His job depended on his efficiency.
A bored bellhop arrived. Emery realized he didn't have any local currency to tip him with. Maybe he could fake his way through it…
With as much business-like aplomb as a disheveled, hung over young American in Russia could muster, he gestured at the equipment. The bellhop nodded and attempted to lift one – then swore when he realized how heavy it was. He started moving slower.
Emery paced. He didn't know how to tell the bellhop to move faster in Russian. He was afraid to leave the room or take his eyes off the bellhop. If he broke the seals, it would be just as bad as if Emery had lost the equipment.
Emery rifled through the rest of the room while he waited…and came up with a pair of scented panties under his pillow. It must have been some night! So why didn't he remember it?
The bellhop finally finished grunting his way through the equipment. Emery dashed off down the hall ahead of him and waited impatiently at the elevator.
Things were moving too slowly. Mr. Brown's directive seemed very urgent, and he was a calm man. Emery felt like his fate balanced on a knife's edge.
Eventually, they made it to the lobby. Emery slammed his credit card down. A similarly bored clerk took it. She came back considerably more energetic; Emery guessed HE was starting to flex its monetary might.
Two taxis were waiting for him by the time the transaction was complete. Finally!
Emery got in. The driver drove like his life depended on it. They pulled up to a private airport bay, right up to the plane itself. The taxi driver started to unload the luggage, but the pilot took it from him instead. With a few brisk words in Russian, the taxi driver dumped the remaining cargo on a cart even as the pilot put it on the plane.
"Hey! Be careful with that!" shouted Emery. "That's sensitive equipment!"
The pilot smirked at him but kept on manhandling the containers. "Get in," he said without a hint of a Russian accent.
Emery clambered onto the plane. The pilot followed soon after and gunned the engine. Emery got the impression they were skipping some airport protocols.
The plane took off. Emery reclined. Thank God, he'd made things right. Just one more thing to do. He reached for his phone…
Strangely, before Emery could pick up, it rang. "Hello?"
"Emery, are you on the plane?" asked Brown.
"Yes sir," said Emery, grinning from ear to ear. "The equipment's on board. We did it."
"We sure did," said Brown. He sounded a little sad. "Good job."
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 2 – Hairball
"Go, go, go!" shouted Hammer to the pilot.
Jim-Bean and Hammer were already on a plane to Berne. They planned to have eyes on the ground before he got there. They were both exhausted – SPIDER transit outside the U.S. was considerably less luxurious than within America. And given that SPIDER transit was awful to begin with, it meant they were nauseous and exhausted from the endless turbulence required to cross the Atlantic Ocean in record time.
There was no way Emery could pull off wearing a wire. He was too jumpy, too nervous, and simply too clueless to act as their mole. The only way to do it right was to stick to Emery's original plan and maintain his ignorance.
The COCKTAIL worked well. Emery's memory was completely wiped. He didn't remember where he was. In fact, the Majestic boys were a little concerned he might remember nothing at all, given the sudden decision to dope Emery up. But it worked like a charm.
Everything was bugged. The phone, the gold nuggets, even Emery himself. They injected at tracker in his bloodstream.
"All trackers are functioning," said the pilot. They were already in the air before Emery had arrived at the airport. The staff was paid well to delay Emery as much as possible, but it seemed Hunt Electronics paid even better.
No matter, they were still one step ahead of HE. "We need to know his destination," said Hammer. "Wherever he lands, we need eyes on Emery as soon as he steps out of the plane."
"Copy that," replied the Majestic agent on the comm.
They watched the tracking devices on a monitor in the jet. They beepered a comforting staccato with every mile Emery's plane covered.
"Do you think this is going to work?"
"Why shouldn't it?" asked Hammer. "HE is still going to get its shipment."
Jim-Bean looked uncomfortable. "I don't know, it's just that…"
"Don't tell me you've chosen this moment to develop a conscience."
Jim-Bean laughed. "That's not what I mean. I'm just not sure Emery's the type to blow his money on booze and hookers."
"He's greedy," said Hammer. "Greedy people just get worse over time."
"Maybe," said Jim-Bean. "I guess it tells us a lot about the character of a man, huh? They'll probably kill him when he gets there."
"That's why we have to get there first. We'll be ready to take them out. HE just cares about the equipment," said Hammer. "Once they get that back, he's as good as—"
The monitor beeped urgently.
The tracking devices were scattering. They beeped once, twice, radiating outwards from the plane in a circle, thousands of miles above ground. Then they disappeared entirely.
Hammer and Jim-Bean stared at the screen, dumbfounded.
"We lost them sir!" shouted the pilot over his shoulder. "We're getting reports of a plane exploding in the approximate area where Emery's jet was last sighted."
Jim-Bean rubbed his forehead. "They killed the pilot too. Whatever HE's hiding, it's important enough for them to kill everyone and cover their tracks."
Hammer sighed. "Damn it. This means they know."
"And if they know…"
"Then the clock's ticking before they close up shop completely. We're going to have to execute our backup plan."
The plane banked hard. They were heading back to the Atlantic route.
Jim-Bean stretched. "Wake me when we're back in the States."
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 3 – The Week Link
Walter Weeks, a ten-year member of the Duxbury community, opened the door to his modest home. He lived on the outskirts of Duxbury in a small cottage with an adjoining farmhouse.
More importantly, Weeks was a nondescript white male. When he opened the door, a black man was pointing a gun at him.
Weeks dropped his keys. "Take whatever you want! I won't call the police, I promise!"
Hammer frowned. "Why is it every time someone sees a black man with a gun that they think he's trying to rob them?'
"You're not robbing me?" asked Weeks hopefully.
"Actually, we are," said a voice behind him. Cold metal poked him in the back. "Sit down, Walter, we need to chat."
Walter sat down on a kitchen stool. Another man with sandy brown hair and eyes with a hint of blue in them sat down across from him. "Walter, we need to know some things." He casually waved a gun in Walter's direction. "You're going to help us right?"
"What do you want?" asked Walter.
"Answers," said Jim-Bean. "I need to know about you. What do you do at Hunt Electronics?"
"I'm…I'm a chemist."
"And what chemistry do you do at HE?"
"I…I work on chemical samples, looking for valuable substances like gold, silver and platinum."
"What kind of chemical samples?" snarled Hammer, edging closer. "We don't have a lot of time here…"
Weeks flinched. "Don't hurt me! I'm sorry, I'm sorry it's hard to focus…" He broke down into a body-wracking sobs. "P-please don't k-kill me…"
"Oh for crying out loud…" Jim-Bean turned towards Hammer. "Why don't you go search his bedroom?"
Hammer glared at him, but he did as Jim-Bean suggested.
"Easy, easy." Jim-Bean holstered his pistol and patted Weeks on the back. "You okay? You want something to drink?"
He went over the fridge, poured a glass of water, and filled it with some ice. Hammer and Jim-Bean had the opportunity to make themselves at home while they waited for Weeks to return.
Weeks sipped it, composing himself somewhat.
"So, where were we? Oh right. Chemical samples. Where are these chemical samples coming from?"
"The Away Team. They located three rich veins of gold and silver, and have successfully played out one of them. It's codenamed AUBURN. You're not really burglars, are you?"
"Focus," said Jim-Bean. "AUBURN huh? Where is this vein?"
Weeks sniffed. "Offsite."
"And where's Offsite?"
"When, you mean. When's Offsite."
"Walter, you've got to be a little more specific." Jim-Bean was careful not to make any threatening moves less Weeks collapse again.
"Millions of years ago," said Weeks. "We're not entirely sure exactly when. Offsite is still two to three years from completion, but the capture of Jonathan Emery at La Guardia airport collapsed the timeline. Now all manner of equipment and material are being shoveled through the gate at a breakneck pace from Duxbury; everything is coming back in greater quantities than ever before. More people, more equipment, more food, supplies and tools."
Jim-Bean sighed. "Wait, wait, wait. So HE is going backwards in time to mine for gold?"
"Yes, using the gate technology we got from the serpent people—"
Jim-Bean's eyes widened. "Oh great. The serpent people huh?"
"Yes, they want their technology back. In fact, one of them tried to sneak into the facility. Ssruthaa, it calls itself, but its been pretending it was Reverend Lully for months. I've seen it twice with my own eyes. The serpent people can assume perfect human form. They've infiltrated human society. "
"How long as has this been going on?"
"The gate? Since sometime in the 1980s. A permanent base has been constructed at some point in the past, and millions of dollars and dozens of personnel have been sent back to populate it."
"Fanatics," muttered Jim-Bean. "And so you all are getting ready to do what, exactly? Move out of this time and into the past?"
Weeks nodded. "The aliens have already taken over everything. The only way you can tell is by looking at their shadow."
A cat meowed from the bedroom. "Don't let him hurt Fluffy!"
"Don't worry, he likes cats." Jim-Bean examined Weeks carefully, like a bug under a microscope. "I'll need your ID badge."
Weeks dug it out of his pocket. "Why are you looking at me like that?'
"Like you're…observing me."
"Don't worry about it. We're going to leave you with some nice men who will take care of you. One more thing though, any hobbies or interests you'd like to share with me? Anything you tell your coworkers about?"
"I-I like to restore vintage cars," said Weeks. "I buy and restore 1950s and 1960s roadsters for resale, been doing it for awhile."
"That's great," said Jim-Bean. He patted Weeks on the shoulder. "You did good. You'll get through this fine."
Hammer came back into the room. He picked at his teeth with a toothpick.
"Where's Fluffy?" asked Weeks, panic-stricken.
"Didn't he tell you?" Hammer said ominously. "I like cats."
Weeks broke down into another blubbering fit.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 4 – Through the Wire
The Duxbury plant was a nearly three-acre section of land located outside of the town proper. Two deep twenty-foot security fences topped with razor wire surrounded it. Every fifth fence-pole was topped by a swiveling security camera monitored twenty-four-hours a day by Hunt Electronics guards, known as Brownshirts.
There was one main gate that was “air locked” — separated into its own section by a series of fences — overlooked by two cement buildings with bulletproof glass that looked surprisingly like bunkers. Only delivery trucks entered the gate.
Jim-Bean, dressed as one of the drivers, drove through the gate. They had intercepted a service truck in record time while he was at a red light; so quickly, in fact, that the whole thing had taken just under two minutes. Although the plant's security was amazing, its reach was only as effective as its perimeter.
Jim-Bean was guided by several of the Brownshirts into a docking bay. He backed the truck in with some trepidation, stopping frequently – he wasn't accustomed to driving big rigs. As Weeks had indicated, the place was buzzing and there was an air of urgency. His hesitation just made him seem like a nervous and overworked employee under the gun. The Brownshirts seemed to take it all in stride.
He just hoped they wouldn't look inside the Box.
The Box was a hastily constructed chamber, large enough to fit a human being, but not large enough to be comfortable. Hammer was crunched up in a hunched position, along with their weapons and an oxygen tank. Most importantly, it was designed to foil any scanners. There was actually a false exterior around the box that provided a faux scan. So long as nobody opened the box, it would pass muster. That was a big "if."
There was also the fact that, eventually, Hammer had to get out of the box before he ran out of air. And it was practically impossible for him to do it on his own.
Once he backed the truck in, Jim-Bean was escorted by a Brownshirt out of his vehicle and into the security building. He swore inwardly as he saw several workers pick up the pallet that had Hammer on it. He hadn't expected the box would be out of his sight so quickly, but everyone was moving fast.
Jim-Bean joined a line of employees entering the plant, one-by-one, who were subjected to a flash of extreme ultraviolet light. They were all lined up against a bright white wall. A security camera was oddly focused not on the entrants but slightly above and behind them. Jim-Bean looked over his shoulder as the bulb flashed.
Sure enough, their shadows were cast in sharp relief on the wall. Weeks' information was sound – HE was literally jumping at shadows. Jim-Bean relaxed a little bit knowing he hadn't yet been led into a trap.
A Brownshirt handed Jim-Bean a badge. He walked out the other side. Signs everywhere read “ONE BEEP, ONE PERSON” indicating that when passing through doors, each person must wait their turn and swipe their security card individually.
Past the main gate, the interior area of the compound was all carefully maintained. It looked like any other corporate site in the world, except perhaps a bit cleaner than usual. Smooth, asphalt roads meandered all over, connecting all buildings to one another. Signage clearly pointed the way to each building at each intersection.
The two main central buildings in the compound were identical: large industrial buildings built of corrugated steel, concrete, frosted gray windows, steel scaffolding and piping. The building Jim-Bean was specifically interested had a large industrial incinerator jutting from the west side. The chimney from the incinerator spewed spewing a thick, black smoke.
Jim-Bean had Weeks' card secreted on his person, a disguise kit divided across his shirt and pants, and nothing else. No weapons, no comm., nothing. He was going in cold.
Jim-Bean walked quickly over to the warehouse elevator where he last saw Hammer's crate. "What happened to my shipment?" he asked.
The floor manager, sweat on his brow, shook his head. "The usual crap. They're really hustling. I've been pulling double shifts trying to get this all done."
"I really need to pee," said Jim-Bean.
"Yeah, I know. We all need to go—"
"No seriously, I'm going to make a mess on the floor." Jim-Bean hopped back and forth from one leg to another. "I've been holding it because I was working all these shifts and I wanted to bring the shipment in on time before…" he trailed off. Jim-Bean found it prudent to let other people fill in the blanks.
"Before they shut Offsite down, I know. All right, go, but don't tell anybody I let you. They're cracking down hard on us."
Jim-Bean jogged to the men's room. By unfolding and turning the overalls he wore inside out, he was suddenly wearing a reasonable facsimile of a lab coat. It wasn't perfect – there were zippers on the inside if anyone inspected it closely – but it would do until he could steal another one. Fortunately for Jim-Bean, they had found a driver with similar hair color to Weeks'. Jim-Bean had already dyed his hair brown to match. Their eye color, also brown, made that part easy – he was already wearing contact lenses.
He donned Week's glasses. They were the real thing. A prosthetic nose provided a slight hook that was similar to Weeks. He looked just enough like his picture that he could get by. But he was sure it would fail if anyone who knew Weeks personally looked him squarely in the eye.
Jim-Bean took a deep breath and strode out of the men's room. Dressed as he was, he looked like any one of the scientists inspecting the cargo. He made his way over to the main building and couldn't help but suppress a chuckle. HE was so worried about identifying alien shadows that they had underestimated basic social engineering…
"Hey Weeks!" shouted a passing scientist in a similar lab coat. "You get it finished yet?"
Jim-Bean kept walking, but he tilted his head in the same way he'd seen Weeks' do in his interview when he was puzzled by a question. "The 57 Chevy? Just about, still trying to find bulbs for the tailfins."
The other man laughed and nodded. "That's one expensive hobby man, you owe me a drive when you're done!"
Jim-Bean waved him off. Weeks didn't let anybody touch his cars. "Very funny. If this goes well you'll never see it again."
And with that, one agent walked through the front door of Hunt Electronics' fortress while a second agent counted the minutes of his oxygen tank.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 5 – Have You Seen My Red Stapler?
Jim-Bean entered the facility and made a beeline straight for the warehouse. There were no less than three checkpoints, each requiring him to be scanned. He waited impatiently as each airlock closed and another opened, following a long line of similarly dressed people.
Jim-Bean finally made into the warehouse from within the building, entering from the far side. Hopefully he wouldn't bump into the same foreman…
The room that surrounded the elevators was large, about the size of a school gym, but had a low ceiling. Stored materials took much of the room up. A constant contingent of three Brownshirts waited, monitoring traffic.
"I need to track a package," he asked the nearest employee.
"Number please?" asked the polite woman with a blond ponytail. She had a portable scanner with her.
Jim-Bean recited the number stamped on the side of Hammer's box.
The administrator tapped a few keys. "Oh. Yes, that's on the freight elevator. According to tracking it's on Level Two."
Jim-Bean moved as quickly as he could without attracting too much attention. He was on a large warehouse-like level that was sparsely manned. He had to go back out into the corridor and take the personnel elevator down to Level Two.
He huffed and puffed his way into the storage room on Level Two.
Various methane powered front-loaders moved large boxes to storage bays, some stacked as high as twenty feet.
The equipment was more and bigger versions of everything discovered above, as well as crate upon crate. Jim-Bean got a look at some of the labels: M-16A2 assault rifles, anti-tank weaponry, plastic explosives, dynamite, a generator the size of a VW bug, high-tech radio equipment, a 23" telescope disassembled into pieces, an entire military grade field hospital broken down into twelve crates, and more. But there was no sign of Hammer's crate.
"I'm looking for this crate." He was handed the sheet of paper to another clerk.
"Oh, yeah. Did they send you down here?"
"I was told it was on Level Two."
The clerk checked the electronic manifest. "I thought I told Julie to stop doing that!" The clerk rolled his eyes. "There's a tracker in the elevator, and it stops at every floor, but that doesn't mean the doors' open. Somebody is in a hell of a rush I guess, because your crate went to straight to Level Three."
"Are you sure there where it's going to end up?"
The clerk shrugged. "Same problem. Could end at Level Three, could go right down to Level Six. If you hustle you can probably find out…"
Jim-Bean swore and made his way back to the elevator. He punched in Level Five.
"The Girl from Ipanema" played over the elevator music.
Finally, the door opened. Jim-Bean scanned his badge again. This time he passed through formidable steel doors that looked they were built to withstand a nuclear blast.
Jim-Bean telepathically reached out to Hammer. He had been practicing the link for awhile just in case they had a situation where comms were impossible. "Still alive?"
"Yes. Where the hell are you?"
"Navigating the halls of corporate bureaucracy. Sit tight, I'm on my way."
He passed by a series of transparent holding cells. The first contained hundreds of boxed, treated and pinned insect samples, including monstrous creatures nearly two feet long. Each was marked plainly with an identifying number and another marking: "~110 MYA", "~220 MYA", "Unknown".
The next cell contained a dead and dissected dinosaur about three feet tall, splayed on a table with all major organs exposed. It was quite obviously in full working order not too long before. Jim-Bean recognized it as a smaller version of the raptors they had encountered in Hellbend. If they needed proof that HE had access to time gate technology that was it.
He hurried on. The next cell contained a large, humanoid creature covered in gray white hair; dead but untouched. It was approximately seven feet tall, and showed characteristics of humanity and the Great Apes. The tag on its toe read "Unknown Primate, ~1.1 MYA".
Another cell contained a large sinuous shape curled into an oversized body bag. It was unfrozen, but stank of chemicals.
It was the last cell that gave him pause. It contained a bulbous, ten-foot tall shaggy crab/spider sealed in a large transparent specimen case. It had an almost globular torso, with six long, sinuous limbs terminating in crab-like claws. From the upper end a subsidiary globe bulged forward bubble-like; its triangle of three staring, fishy eyes, its foot-long and evidently flexible proboscis, and a distended lateral system analogous to gills, suggested that it is a head. Most of the body was covered what first appeared to be fur.
Jim-Bean shuddered. The thing didn't feel right. He kept on walking towards the freight elevators…
Jim-Bean pulled up short. He looked around. No one had said anything. All the techs were busy passing in the hallway or focusing on their instruments in other rooms.
Jim-Bean reached out with his mind to Hammer. "Was that you?"
"Did you just ask me to free you?"
"I've been asking you to free me for the past ten minutes."
This time Jim-Bean felt the cold intruder in his mind. “I will create a dissstraction…Rhan-Tegoth needsss but to be woken!”
"That was DEFINITELY not you."
Then Jim-Bean saw the source. Straight ahead, inside a vault, was a Plexiglas enclosure. And there, splayed out in an "X" position due to specially designed restraints, was a serpent person. The creature was obviously ill, and was kept alive by invasive medical means.
"Let me go, and I will share with you the power that It will bring me. Iä! Iä! Great is Rhan-Tegoth! Let me go!"
"What is it?" asked Hammer through the telepathic link.
"I think I found Weeks' alien."
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 6 – The Thing in the Cell
"Let me go! It is starving down there beyond that cell door, and if It dies the Old Ones can never come back. Hei! Hei! Let me go!"
The thing was telepathically screaming at him. Its head was facing his direction but its snake-like features were otherwise inscrutable. A Brownshirt stood guard with another scientist checked Ssruthaa's vitals.
"Let who go?" Jim-Bean
"Wza-y'ei! Wza-y'ei! Y'kaa haa ho-ii, Rhan-Tegoth-Cthulhu fthagn-Ei! Ei! Ei! Ei!-Rhan-Teogth. Rhan-Tegoth, Rhan-Tegoth!"
"I get it," Jim-Bean beamed back. "But you don't have to keep ranting about Goths…"
"No, fool! Rhan-Tegoth! You do not trussst me? And yet you trussst the ssshoggoth."
Jim-Bean made his way to the doorway, but there was no way he was going to get inside without some serious firepower.
"Oh, you didn’t know, did you?" continued Ssruthaa. "Ssstupid human. Lasssiter is a ssshoggoth in human form. Now quickly, releassse me from my bondsss! Even now Rhan-Tegoth awakesss!”
Jim-Bean recognized the name. Lassiter was the CEO of Hunt Electronics. But he wasn't entirely sure what a shoggoth was.
"Listen, fool! Listen hard! It has heard me, and is coming. Can't you hear It splashing out of Its tank down there at the end of the hallway? It is amphibious, you know--you saw the gills. It came to the earth from lead-gray Yuggoth, where the cities are under the warm deep sea. It can't stand up in there--too tall--has to sit down or crouch."
There was a splashing, padding or shuffling, as of great wet paws on a solid surface. A noisome animal stench poured into Jim-Bean's nostrils. Sudden baying followed sniffing and snorting. A trumpeting noise assailed his ears.
Jim-Bean whirled, his hand going for his pistol. The pistol he didn't bring with him. It was safely secured in the crate along with Hammer and the rest of their equipment.
Something fumbled with the latch of the heavy cell door, patting, pawing, pushing. There was a thudding on the stout metal, which grew louder and louder. The stench was horrible.
The Brownshirt in Ssruthaa's room looked up and so did the scientist. They were looking past Jim-Bean.
Heads popped out of offices to peer down the hallway. Three Brownshirts, calling the disturbance in on their shoulder walkie-talkies, approached the doorway warily.
The assault on the door from the inside became a malign, determined pounding like the strokes of a battering ram. There was an ominous shrieking--a tearing--a welling fetor--a falling cell door—and a black paw ending in a crab-like claw reached around the corner of the cell.
“The portal below isss your only hope of essscape, and only I know how to control it. You cannot go back the way you came. To do ssso isss to face death.”
One of the Brownshirts screamed and ran the other way. Two of them opened fire.
Unfurling like a giant spider, a bulbous, ten-foot tall shaggy crab-like creature stepped out into the hallway. It was the thing that Jim-Bean passed before. He thought it was dead. Apparently so did Hunt Electronics.
The thing crouched and sprung on one of the Brownshirts, pinning him with its arms. The long hairs that Jim-Bean took to be fur were actually a dense growth of dark, slender tentacles, each tipped with a mouth. Dozens of them clamped onto the man's face. He shrieked as two sunk into his eyeballs and scooped them out.
More Brownshirts came running. Scientists fled down the hall. Time and space seem to warp around Rhan-Tegoth like a rock creating a series of concentric waves in a pond. Belatedly, red alarm lights and buzzers begin to wink and sound.
Jim-Bean pounded on the door. "For God's sake let me in!"
The scientist opened it first and then ran past him down an intersecting hallway. The Brownshirt swore and dragged Jim-Bean in with him.
"Stay behind me!" he shouted, pistol out. "And stay away from that thing!"
Ssruthaa watched Jim-Bean with unblinking eyes. "Untie me," it said telepathically.
Jim-Bean took a step closer.
"Hey!" The Brownshirt swung his pistol around. "I said get away from that thing!"
Jim-Bean put his hands up. "Easy, I was just checking its restraints."
There were muted screams outside and the retort of automated gunfire, muffled by the thick door and Plexiglas window.
"You're not authorized to do that. I wouldn't even be in here if it wasn't because we're clearing for Offsite. I shouldn't have even let you in here." The Brownshirt positioned himself between Jim-Bean and the door. "I think you should leave."
"Did you see that thing out there?" shouted Jim-Bean. "It's coming this way!"
Sure enough, Rhan-Tegoth was making its way down the corridor, bisecting Brownshirts with its huge claws and dragging its gruesome bulk along the corridor as it went.
The guard's gaze, trained on Jim-Bean, flicked away for a second to focus on the thing. Seeing it approach, he took a step back…
Ssruthaa's head extended over two feet outwards from its restraints, clasping over the Brownshirt's head. The Brownshirt screamed inside the cavernous mouth. It was cut off by a horrible gurgle as he was decapitated.
The round shape of the head passed into Ssruthaa's gullet. "Jussst what I needed."
The restraints unclasped themselves. "Come. We must leave here."
"Where are we going?"
"To the gate, where elssse?"
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 7 – On the Menu
Ssruthaa transformed right before Jim-Bean's eyes into the Brownshirt he consumed. Jim-Bean picked up the guard's pistol. Ssruthaa passed by several weapons on the floor, left by Brownshirts who fled in utter terror.
"Don't you want a gun?" asked Jim-Bean.
Ssruthaa sneered at him with his human features. "I am far more formidable without your mortal weapons," he said without a hint of his lisp.
They left the corridor with Rhan-Tegoth behind. People ran madly past them, heedless of the disguised intruders, who looked like nothing more than a scientist and a Brownshirt.
They reached the first security desk. Behind the desk was a woman, valiantly struggling to pull herself up from the floor. She was horribly emaciated, her clothing and pantyhose hanging in bags from her near-skeletal frame, her feet little more than bone and tendon. Her sallow gray skin had blackened in places and gone pulpy in other spots.
“Be…beware!” she croaked.
The woman grasped the edge of the counter and tried to pull herself up, only to have her hands pull loose from her wrists with vile squishes and plops, and flop independently on to the floor.
“Be—“ she teetered there for a moment, desperately trying for control, then sighed almost sweetly, fell backward, and collapsed. Her hands still quivered and twitched on the tile floor. “Be…be-ware!”
Dying, she rapidly decomposed into stinking dust, ash, and bones.
"What the hell is going on?" asked Jim-Bean.
"The presence of a Great Old One can have unforeseen side effects," said Ssruthaa out loud in human form. "Combined with Mother's Milk, it is warping this reality."
As if to prove his point, they encountered a female researcher on the floor in the hallway, twitching and rolling. She had torn away most of her clothes, revealing a body covered with dozens of random eyes. All the eyes were human, complete with lashes but not eyebrows, staring and panic-stricken; they were windows forcing her into dozens of random, conflicting universes. Mist rose from her body, signaling the beginning of quick decomposition.
Suddenly, a man burst through the double doors to their right, wheezing and gasping. He wore not a stitch. His skin had peeled loose from his body in big, hanging flaps, revealing glistening red wet muscles and yellow globs of fat beneath. He threw his head back and bellowed, spreading his arms wide--all eight of them--like a giant spider made of red meat. Eyes bulging, he charged.
Ssruthaa stood his ground. When the man was almost upon him, his right hand and arm blurred forward at incredible speed, explosively smashing the madman's skull. Bone chips, skin, and brains splattered the area; the target—his face almost obliterated from the impact—bounced back, staggered, and collapsed, dead before hitting the ground. Acrid fumes rose from him as he too began to quickly decompose.
"I'm starting to see your point about not needing weapons," said Jim-Bean. "Now if you don't mind we need to make a slight detour…"
"Where?" asked Ssruthaa.
"I have to pick up someone else." Jim-Bean navigated his way to the freight elevator.
"How many people are you releasing in this place?" asked Ssruthaa indignantly.
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
God Shall Tread: Part 8 – The Gate
A fully armed Hammer followed Ssruthaa and Jim-Bean down to the Level Six. Little attention was paid to them. It was a busy level. People ran down the hallways, many in odd jumpsuits, combat boots, gloves and helmets.
The final level underground was a maze of pressure locks, airlocks, huge, reinforced steel and carbon bulkheads and more. Colored lines meandered on the ground and on the walls, leading particular groups through the maze of rooms.
As Ssruthaa led them towards the gate, moving through various rings of airlocks, the air pressure, humidity and temperature seems to shift. Near the center, humidity was nearly eighty percent, and the temperature was approximately ninety-eight degrees.
"I don't like this," Hammer said to Jim-Bean through the telepathic link. "How do we know we can trust—"
"You have no other choice," Ssruthaa interrupted their mental conversation.
Hammer's eyes widened but he said nothing else, inwardly or outwardly.
Finally, they gained access to the Gate room, an enormous room the size of a concert hall, filled with equipment, personnel and the Duxbury gate.
It was immediately recognizable — it was identical in every way to the Hellbend gate.
The gate was a thirteen-foot wide by thirteen-foot high tall stone archway with slots on the left hand side of the large portal. The stone was odd—it was a deep black soapstone-like substance with an almost metallic quality, unidentifiable by modern science. The slots each fit a 2.718” gold cube. The archway was filled with a deep gray mist; much like steam, which did not seem to drift far from the door. There was something odd about the way the smoke drifted; it occasionally seemed to twirl, twist and congeal into tiny storm-like collections of clouds; and it never drifted far from the stone doorway before evaporating.
Next to the gate was a small, odd, wheel shaped device covered in Aklo writing. It was obviously an alien device retrofitted to a human constructed machine that operated the gate. Huge, thick power cables ran from the device up into the ceiling of the Gate room.
Ssruthaa disconnected the cables with his bare hands. "Fools," he snarled. "You have no idea the power you trifle with."
Several Brownshirts whirled. "Hey, get away from there!"
There was another trumpet behind them. Rhan-Tegoth was coming.
"Did that thing…take the freight elevator down here?" asked Jim-Bean to nobody in particular.
The Brownshirt opened fire on the Rhan-Tegoth in the hallway. From their position they weren't yet able to see the Great Old One, but they could feel its heavy steps through the floor plates.
"Rhan-Tegoth knows of the Gate," said Ssruthaa, concentrating. "Now be quiet while I calibrate it…"
He closed his eyes and the gate whirled to life. The same strange mist filled the opening. "Go now!"
"You first," said Hammer.
Ssruthaa opened his eyes and shrugged. Then he dove through the gate, disappearing into the enveloping mist.
"We can't let that thing through," said Hammer.
"I know," said Jim-Bean. "And I don't know what's on the other side of that gate."
Hammer frowned. The screams and gunfire were getting closer. "One way to find out." He took the satchel from Jim-Bean and pointed at the gate. Jim-Bean nodded and dove through.
Hammer set the charges on the entire satchel of C4. He tossed it near the edge of the gate.
One scientist had the presence of mind to tear away from Rhan-Tegoth's approach and see what was going on with the gate. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Putting Hunt Electronics out of business." Hammer dove through the gate just a second before the charge went off.
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