Delta Green - All Part of the Job


We picked up another player for this session. Actually, he's a returning player. He'd played Agent SETH in the beginning of the campaign. To make this work, though, we had to shift the game to Mondays. That, and given the fact the write-up is a little more than 1,000 words longer than my usual, means I'm a little late in posting.

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Convergence - Session 2a

As he was preparing to meet Pepper at the Allen residence, Ranger Lakefield had a thought. There was animal activity at the reservoir, and it was a favorite hangout of the local teen population. While he couldn’t confirm the lights had been seen over the reservoir, all reports placed the lights in this direction. He felt a little surveillance was in order, and for an NPS Ranger, surveillance meant game cameras.

He sent Dr. Pepper a quick text before hitting the road for Nashville: Not gonna make dinner. Got a plan.

Pepper sighed. It looked like he’d be questioning the Allens on his own. Then again, there were no other cars to be seen at the Allen farmhouse. He headed up the porch stairs and knocked on the door. Maybe he should have brought something; wine, cake, a loaf of marble rye … Too late for that now. As Mrs. Allen opened the door, he could smell everything. There was fried chicken, apple pie, fresh bread, and he was pretty sure he could even smell the mashed potatoes.

Mrs. Allen took his coat and hung it by the door and asked about his partner. Pepper was sorry to say his partner had been called away at the last minute. Mrs. Allen’s story was much the same; Joseph had to work late, and Jane was out with friends. She hoped he brought his appetite because there was plenty of food for them and all those who were missing out.

Dr. Pepper was more than a little disappointed to miss an opportunity to interview Joseph and Jane, but the food was even better than he’d expected. Wanting to make the most of his time, he steered the dinner conversation as masterfully as he’d steer a riding lawnmower with a broken axle. Still, he managed to learn a few interesting items. Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and though Nancy hadn’t heard from her daughter in a few days, she wasn’t particularly worried. She wasn’t particularly worried that her husband hadn’t been home from work in a week or so. After all, it was tax time for the county. The aldermen were very busy, but soon enough, Joseph would get a break.

Mrs. Allen had seen the lights in the sky at night. The scientist, always the rational skeptic, suggested they might be aliens. She didn’t think so, however. No, they were probably helicopters. Dr. Pepper pointed out the nearest airports were Nashville and Memphis, two-hour drives in either direction. Nancy admitted she hadn’t seen helicopters during the day either, but surely helicopters were a rational explanation. To the scientist, however, this whole thing screamed “aliens.”

Also, while none of the Allen’s or Spivey’s animals had been abducted or mutilated, several of their neighbors had mentioned things. Bob Gaines a few miles down the road toward town had said there was something strange about one of his cows, but Mrs. Allen couldn’t remember just what it was. He’d mentioned it at church a few weeks ago, and so she’d only half-listened.

When they’d finished dinner, and he’d had about all the sweet tea his stomach could hold, Dr. Pepper thanked her and excused himself. Mrs. Allen put together a couple bags of leftovers for him and his partner, and he was all too glad to accept. Once in his car, he backed out of the driveway and headed down the dirt road a little bit. He turned around and parked on the shoulder within view of the Allen residence, turned the radio on and watched for anyone at all to come home.

The DJ had a good voice for radio. It wasn’t obnoxious or subdued. “All right! If you’re where I think you are, it’s probably 7:32 PM. We’ve got a request from Kelly out there in the heartland of Tennessee. Here is Avicii with Wake Me Up!”

Dr. Pepper may have just had a full meal, but the leftovers smelled great, so he decided to have a snack while he listened to the song and watched the house. The song ended, and a different DJ came on the radio. “And that was Fall Out Boy. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark, also known as Light ‘Em Up. It’s 11:43, and you should be in bed. Of course, I’m glad you’re not. Keep that dial tuned here, ‘cause after this hard break, I’m comin’ right back with some big news. Is Jay-Z a time traveler?”

Wait, what? He looked down at the clock on the dash. It sure as hell said 11:43. It was a little darker out, too, and worst of all, the chicken was cold. Screw this town with its super-strong teenagers, and its aliens, and its Murray’s Just-About-Freakin’-Everything.

Still no cars in the driveway at the Allen place, and no lights visible in the sky to the northwest. Dr. Pepper killed the radio and drove off to check the reservoir anyway. No lights from there either. It was midnight now, and there was no way he was staying at Murray’s Shut Eye, so it was back to Nashville. Just after 2:00 AM, he crawled into bed. No sooner had he set his alarm for 9:00 than he passed out.


Convergence - Session 2b

Unlike Pepper, Lakefield had finished his shopping with plenty of time to get some rest. He’d used his government credit card to purchase six infrared-capable game cameras and additional memory sticks. He knew his supervisor wouldn’t think twice before approving the charges, and that was if he even bothered to review the travel authorization. As long as expenditures didn’t stick out, Lakefield’s supervisor was happy to sign off. It was federal money, and under the eco-friendly Obama administration, it was a deep pool of funds for National Park Service business.

He threw his gear into the car and hit the road around 6:00. Alderman Joseph Allen should be ready for him at City Hall by the time he got there. The trip was quiet and uneventful, and when he arrived at the Waynesboro City Hall, the alderman was indeed waiting. Joseph Allen was an exhausted-looking man probably in his early 40s, and while his suit was nice at one time, it didn’t appear to have been cleaned and pressed in quite some time.

After introductions and pleasantries, Lakefield got right to business. He was investigating a possible narcotics connection to the Spivey case. Oh, the alderman assured him, Waynesboro was a small town in rural Tennessee. Teenagers might have a few beers up at the reservoir once in a while, but nothing remotely related to actual drugs.

What about the lights people have been reporting at night? Could those be drug traffickers making their drop-offs? Not likely, but if he wanted to report a crime, the sheriff would be happy to assist. Well, actually, it was the sheriff who had referred him to the alderman. In that case, no. There was nothing to worry about.

And his daughter Jane? She was Billy Ray’s girlfriend, right? But her mother hadn’t seen her in a few days. Mr. Allen yawned with a shrug. She’d turn up. She was a good kid. If there was nothing else, he really did have to get back to work. Tax time for the county, you know.

Actually, Lakefield said, if this was tax time around these parts, he might be interested in buying some land around here. It was beautiful country, after all, and the way tax season falls in Washington State, it complicates his finances. But taxes in May … that might actually be a good investment for him. The alderman agreed, but he really didn’t have time to discuss it. Fair enough. The ranger thanked him for his time and headed back out to his car. On his way out, Lakefield made a note of the fact that Joseph Allen’s car was parked under a large tree and judging by the layers of leaves, pollen, and dust, it hadn’t moved in at least a week.

He drove down to the diner and parked outside. He wasn’t hungry, but he did want to borrow their Wi-Fi. A quick look at the Waynesboro website confirmed his suspicions. Property taxes were due the first Monday of October. Sales taxes were due quarterly, so January, April, July, and October. He wasn’t seeing “middle of May” listed anywhere as a busy season. One other item of interest on the town website: The mayor was one Murray Barnes. It was the mayor’s name – his first name – on half the businesses in town. Gotta love small towns.

Right about when Lakefield was meeting with the alderman, Pepper’s phone rang. He grumbled as he pried his eyes open and tried to focus. It was just after 8:00, and he wasn’t planning to get up for another hour. He answered the phone, but he didn’t sound chipper. The person on the other end identified himself as Special Agent Curtis Atwood. SAC Derringer had attached him to the Waynesboro taskforce. He had been fully briefed on the Spivey case, and he had several gallons of Hexa … Hexafluorace … well, some clear citrus-smelling chemical solution. Evidently, it would turn some contaminant or other purple. Atwood was leaving Knoxville now and would meet Pepper and Lakefield at Waynesboro City Hall at noon. Dr. Pepper relayed the relevant information to Lakefield through text and then got dressed. If he had to be up before his alarm, maybe he could grab some breakfast first.

With his tax research done, the ranger played a hunch. If he were lucky, Jane Allen’s Facebook account and her phone would tell him where she is and where she’s been. It took only a minute, and he had it. Murray’s Shut Eye. The girl was at the motel, and she had been for a few days now. He could see the motel from the diner parking lot, so he just settled in.


Convergence - Session 2c

Once Dr. Pepper made it to Waynesboro, he headed for the Gaines farm. He was interested in seeing just what sort of cattle mutilation was going on. It was about 10:30, but there wasn’t any activity to be seen out in the fields. Pepper was a little surprised when Mr. Gaines answered the door. He was probably in his mid-60s or so, and while he wasn’t out plowing the fields or tending to the livestock, he at least looked the part. The farmer agreed to show Dr. Pepper his cow, Clementine.

He took the scientist out into the field and over to Clementine. He squatted down and pointed to the udder. Or rather, he pointed to a smooth, gray spot where the udder should be.

“Now, you see, this right here … this ain’t right. Now, watch this here.”

The farmer reached out and lightly touched the gray spot, and it quickly expanded to take the shape of an udder. Dr. Pepper had to take a step back and cover his mouth. “This ain’t right,” had to be the understatement of the day, and it wasn’t even lunchtime.

“You wanna see what’s really strange though …”

Mr. Gaines took hold of the dangling gray bits and tugged. They shot out something that looked like milk. Pepper turned away and took slow, deep breaths as he struggled to keep his breakfast down. That wasn’t an udder. So, was that milk? If it was milk, it couldn’t possibly be safe. If it wasn’t milk, what the hell was it? The farmer agreed to let him take a bottle of the liquid, but he frowned when Dr. Pepper told him to keep Clementine away from the other cows and under no circumstances let anyone near that milk.

He was a dairy farmer. Milk was his livelihood. Since Clementine’s transformation last month, she’d begun producing more milk than ever; so much that it took every container he had to hold it all. But he never had trouble selling it at the farmer’s market every week.

Dr. Pepper’s heart skipped at least one beat. He was selling that … the stuff from that … from the retractable udder? He filled every container every week and sold it all? Oh, this was not good. This was not good at all. Without even thanking the farmer, he stumbled back to his car and called Lakefield to give him the news. The ranger took it all in stride and then told the Pepper where Jane Allen was holed up. The agents decided to relax a bit while they waited for the newest member of their task force who should be arriving within the hour.
Once Special Agent Atwood pulled up at City Hall, Lakefield and Pepper met up with him and got him up to speed on everything they hadn’t yet reported to Derringer. Up to and including udders. Atwood gave them each a garden spray bottle with the citrus-smelling solution. He’d also brought six one-gallon jugs for refills. Pepper wanted to test it out, so he sprayed the handles and trunk of Joseph Allen’s car. Not much reaction, but a few flecks of purple did appear with each spray.

The car had been parked here for quite some time, so any residue had likely been weathered. Fortunately, SA Atwood had a few tricks for popping locks. It took no time at all to open the doors on Allen’s car, and the surfaces inside produced far more purple than the outside surfaces. That meant the alderman was likely contaminated. Or Jane was, and she’d been driving his car? Maybe they both were, and that was why they seemed to be avoiding each other and home. Whatever the case, they had leads, and they had a reliable method of detecting whatever was contaminating the town, but they still had no idea what the contaminant was or where it was coming from.

The agents decided on a plan of action. Atwood would check in with the high school and take a look at attendance records for Jane Allen and Billy Ray Spivey. He’d then arrange to do an after-hours locker search with the spray. Billy Ray was obviously affected, and Jane Allen probably was, too. It was as good a guess as any that other teens in town might be as well. Lakefield was going to head to the reservoir and set up his cameras, and Pepper … well, he was hungry again, so he was going to pick a booth at the diner where he could keep an eye on the motel.

Atwood found the office at the high school and flashed his badge. That got him shuffled straight into Principal White’s office. The principal seemed happy to cooperate, but he assured Atwood there was no reason to suspect any of his students of drug use or possession. All the same, Atwood said, he’d appreciate the opportunity to search. Of course, the school would cooperate in any way it could.

Principal White’s secretary brought in the attendance records for Billy Ray and Jane. They’d both been out all last week and this week so far; since Mr. Spivey’s unfortunate accident. Neither the principal nor the secretary seemed overly concerned. They were good kids, and they’d turn back up eventually.


Convergence - Session 2d

Meanwhile, up at the reservoir, Ranger Lakefield spotted a bobcat drinking. Out came the rifle. He picked up a stone and threw it in the animal’s direction. It splashed close to the bobcat’s head, but the animal wasn’t startled. It slowly looked up and at the ranger before stretching and getting another drink.

Lakefield nodded grimly. It wasn’t the reaction he was hoping for, but it was the one he expected. He took aim and killed the bobcat with a single shot. He then headed around to examine it. A few sprays of the solution, and he nodded again. The cat turned purple, and so did the water in the reservoir. In fact, the water in the reservoir turned the brightest, deepest purple he’d ever seen.

He sent a quick text to the other two: It’s in the water. Don’t drink it.

Well, that didn’t sound good. Luckily for Pepper, he hadn’t touched the water in town. Though, he had been drinking all the sweet tea he could get, and that was probably made with local water. The dry heaves came fast and hard, and his stomach twisted. Whatever was contaminating this town – whatever the aliens were doing – was in him. Whatever Clementine’s udder was made of was in him. Whatever Billy Ray’s arms and legs were made of was in him. And yet … he still had an appetite. All he wanted was to get everything inside to be on the outside, but he could still really go for some more fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Dr. Pepper sent a response: I’m compromised. I’m getting a room at the Shut Eye and informing Derringer.

It may have been a tad defeatist, but whatever. They were probably better off if he quarantined himself. The last thing he wanted was to accidentally punch a hole in someone’s chest.

Atwood took things much better; presumable because he’d only been in town an hour or so. Don’t drink the water. Fair enough.

Ranger Lakefield dragged the bobcat a little further from the water and set about rigging his game cameras. He arranged the six cameras so that each one had a clear view of at least one other. That way, he could record activity around the reservoir and also hedge against tampering. Once he’d finished with that, he headed back to the diner to meet up with Atwood.

Dr. Pepper walked across the street to Murray’s Shut Eye and stepped inside. It was well-maintained, as far as small-town motels go. The wallpaper was a bit dated, and the ceiling fan in the lobby was missing a blade, but it should work fine. The clerk behind the desk had fallen asleep and was snoring, so Pepper rang the bell. The clerk stood with a start and cleared his throat. A quick glance outside told the clerk it was day and another glance at a clock told him which part of the day it was.

“Good, ummm … Good afternoon, sir. How can I help you today?”

Dr. Pepper wasn’t in the mood for mundane interaction, so he slapped a couple bills on the counter and indicated that he’d like a room for the night. The clerk was happy to assist, and Pepper even had his choice of room number. Well, of the twelve rooms in the motel, Rooms 8, 11, and 12 were currently rented, but he had his choice of the others.

“Gimme Room 3.”

The clerk nodded and handed him the key to Room 3 before scooping up the cash. He was about to say something else, but Pepper just grumbled and stalked off down the hall. He opened the door, threw his briefcase at the big, flat, horizontal bit of the table, and looked around. He had a few samples he wanted to test with the spray; a bit of blood from Clementine, some of his own blood, the milk or milk-like substance from the retractable udder, and a water sample from … well, he hadn’t collected a water sample, but there was a sink in his room.

Cow’s blood: Purple. Check.

His blood: Not purple. Score one for the good guys, at least. It still didn’t make him feel any better.

Milk: Purple. On track so far.

Now for some water. Dr. Pepper heard a thump from the bathroom just as he was standing to collect a water sample. He drew his gun and approached cautiously. Thump. Thump, thump. It sounded like metal on metal, but muffled. He turned the knob to the bathroom door and gave it a gentle push to let it open slowly on its own.

Thump. There was something in the wall near the bathtub, and it sounded like it was hitting the pipe. The wall may have shaken a little, too, or it may have just been a trick of the shadows and his mind. But the thump was real. Okay, so screw that. He slowly and quietly closed the bathroom door. He set his gun on the counter by the sink and put a glove on his left hand before picking up the complementary plastic cup. With his ungloved hand, he turned the cold water knob, and the faucet sputtered a little before spitting out a few stray jets of water. Then something thick began forcing its way out. It looked like Clementine’s udder, but it had the consistency of pudding that had been left out overnight.


Convergence - Session 2e

No way in hell was he reaching past that for his gun. As a gray mass of pudding about the size of a loaf of bread oozed out of the faucet and into the sink, Dr. Pepper stepped back. About ten feet should be enough distance. Right?

Wrong. The mass leaped … or maybe shot was a better word? He didn’t really have much time for semantics, but one way or another, the mass was in the sink one moment, and it was across the room and on his face the next. He could feel it oozing into his nostrils and trying to pry his lips and eyelids open. He did his best not to panic, but all he could think of as he fumbled blindly for his phone was something along the lines of “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! I knew it! Aliens! Xenomorph! Facehugger! Chestburster!”

He tapped his phone screen by memory and prayed he was hitting the right spots. He heard it dial, and that was good enough. He tossed the phone on the floor and used both hands to pry the mass off his face. He pushed and pulled with everything he had, and the mass flew back toward the overflowing sink. After blowing his nose to be sure it was all out, he ran for the hall and slammed the door behind him.

Dr. Pepper had to admit that while he was still alive, that whole situation was a decisive victory for the slime. The mass was now occupying the room he’d paid for in advance, and it had possession of his briefcase, phone, gun, and spray bottle. Well played, slime. Well played.

Having heard the struggle on the other end of the phone, Lakefield and Atwood rushed across the street and into the motel. Atwood was flashing his badge, and Lakefield was casually holding his shotgun at the ready. Pepper explained what he could through panicked and gasping breaths, and Atwood ordered the clerk to evacuate the building. The clerk was hesitant and pointed out that Mayor Barnes wouldn’t be happy. Atwood was insistent and pointed out he had a badge, and his partner had a shotgun. Check and mate.

The clerk led them down the hall. Pepper said his partners should go next, and he’d take the rear. Lakefield just shook his head, but Atwood was more verbal.

“No. No, no, no. Hell, no.” And just in case there was any confusion, “No.”

Pepper sighed and followed the clerk to Room 8. Then Atwood and Lakefield brought up the rear. The clerk knocked, and when the door opened, Atwood ordered the occupants to evacuate. The three men in Room 8 gathered up their belongings, mostly cameras and cases of electronics, and they complied. A brief discussion uncovered that they were a documentary film crew from New Jersey that was in town to investigate reports of UFO activity. And no, they hadn’t been drinking the water. They were beer guys.

Room 11 had a towel shoved under the door. The clerk knocked, but there was no answer. Atwood shoved the towel out of the way with his crowbar and had the clerk unlock the door. As it swung open, it was immediately apparent someone had an aversion to light. Blankets were duct taped over the windows, the lamp was on its side with the light bulb removed, and the television had been overturned with the screen down. The light switch on the wall did nothing.

Lakefield went outside, broke the windows, and tore down the blankets with his shotgun. That shed plenty of light in the room. Atwood and Pepper entered and looked around. There was a laptop on the table and a sloshing sound in the bathroom. That was more than enough for Dr. Pepper, so he stepped back into the hall.

With one hand, Atwood took the laptop, and with the other, he pointed his gun at the bathroom door. It was directly across from another door which joined Rooms 11 and 12. He covered both doors while Lakefield moved to Room 12’s window. He broke it with his shotgun and called inside.

“Come on out, Jane. We’re with the FBI, and you’ll be safe.”

There was silence for a moment, and then the door to the room opened. The girl who stepped out into the hall looked like the girl from the selfies on Jane Allen’s Facebook page, except this girl was at least six months pregnant. She wasn’t pregnant as of a week ago according to the picture she’d posted.

Pepper didn’t care. He knew what had happened. Aliens. Aliens and face-hugging slimes. This was stage two. The next stage was chest-bursting, and that wouldn’t be pretty. He stayed out of the way while Atwood escorted the girl outside. Lakefield asked her to sit on the curb for a few minutes while his team finished up inside, and then he rejoined them.

Pepper had just reclaimed his gun, briefcase, and phone. The slime had disappeared, so he had turned off the faucet and plugged the drain. There was now just the matter of the thumping pipes and the slime in Pepper’s room, and then the sloshing in the bathroom of Room 11. Lakefield asked the clerk if there was a boiler room, and the man pointed to a door near the office.

Atwood opened the door and flipped the light switch. A set of metal stairs led down to a concrete basement with at least an inch of water standing at the bottom. The behemoth of an antique boiler in the far corner was corroded, and it was leaking water and gray slime from cracks and loose joints. All concrete and metal, so torching the room wasn’t an option. Atwood turned off the light and closed the door.

“That’s a health code violation. We’re going to have to shut this place down until it’s fixed.”

The clerk didn’t seem convinced, but he shrugged and told him they could take it up with the owner. That meant Mayor Murray Barnes.

I just wanted to drop in and say that I'm super glad that I found this story-hour, and even more so that it is being updated again. Your dry, workmanlike style of reporting is very fitting for the subject matter. I look forward to dread seeing what happens to your poor player characters next


Thank you. I'm glad someone is enjoying it. My players are glad to be getting back to Delta Green, and I'm finding out just how much I missed doing the write-ups. I'd say the style of these write-ups is probably about 50% my personal writing style, 35% because I'm trying to capture the actual feeling around the game table, and 15% because of time constraints and word count.


Convergence - Session 3a

Jane Allen was visibly nervous as she sat on the curb outside the motel. She wasn’t jumpy, but her eyes darted back and forth at any movement. When Special Agent Atwood sat next to her, she inched away. When he smiled and moved to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder, she shrunk further still. Atwood was a Behavioral Analyst, but he didn’t need to be to realize the girl had been traumatized.

Still, traumatized or not, he needed answers. They could do it the easy way or the hard way. He started with some easy questions, and she answered the best she could while keeping a little distance. About two or three weeks ago, she’d been walking home alone from Billy Ray’s house – something she’d done dozens of times – and the next thing she knew, she was in her bed about eight hours later. She was hungry all the time after that.

Only a few days later, or maybe a week, Billy Ray was on that same road when he had missing time. It was just after Billy Ray left town that she realized her belly was growing, but it wasn’t only from all the eating. Her parents would understand, but they’d never forgive her if word got out that their unmarried daughter was pregnant.

She panicked and left the house. That’s when she met Scott Adams. He was a journalist from back east somewhere, and he was in town investigating UFO activity. Mr. Adams bought her some food at Murray’s Diner, and they talked about her missing time and the accelerated growth of her belly. He convinced her aliens were involved and offered to give her a safe place to stay. There was a room next to his at Murray’s Shut Eye, and he rented it out for her. He had told the clerk it was for equipment storage.

Atwood watched her body language intently as she related her story. She was telling the truth, or at least, she believed she was, and that was good enough. He said they needed to check on the baby, so he was going to take her to a hospital for an ultrasound. She refused. He informed her he wasn’t asking and made a grab for her arm.

Jane was unusually quick for a pregnant and traumatized young woman. She leaned out of his reach, stood, and ran. Atwood sighed. The hard way, then.

Lakefield and Pepper happened to glance out the window to see Atwood run after the girl. They thanked the clerk for his time and stepped outside. Atwood should be able to handle that on his own, so they decided it was time to meet the mayor.

City Hall was just a block or so down the street. The building was quiet except for the muffled music coming from the clerk’s earbuds. When the agents entered, the kid turned off his music and removed the earbuds. Lakefield got right to the point.

“We’re here to talk to the mayor.”

“Of course, sir. Would 8:00 AM tomorrow work for you?”

“No. We need to talk to him as soon as possible.”

“Okay, well …”

The kid glanced down at a clipboard.

“I might be able to get you in tonight around … 7:00 PM?”

That wasn’t good enough for Lakefield. The ranger started up the stairs.

“Now works for me.”

When the clerk protested and said he had standing instructions to call the sheriff if anyone interrupted the mayor and aldermen, Lakefield came back to the bottom of the stairs just long enough to toss a pair of handcuffs to Pepper.

“We’re not asking, kid.”

Using Lakefield’s handcuffs and his own, Dr. Pepper confined the clerk to his desk chair and wheeled the kid into a file room. After closing and locking the door, Pepper joined Lakefield at the top of the stairs. There was a small landing, and the door was locked. Pepper knocked, but there was no answer. He identified himself and Lakefield as FBI and demanded to speak with the mayor. A moment later, a voice on the other side of the door told them to make an appointment.

While Dr. Pepper engaged the voice in a discussion of urgency and legality, Lakefield went back downstairs and found a hefty paper cutter. The mayor had still not opened the door by the time Lakefield returned, and so the ranger bashed the knob with three solid hits from the paper cutter.

The door swung slowly open to reveal almost total darkness. The only light in the room filtered in through the slats of the window shutters and only managed to illuminate thick dust in the air. Pistol in one hand, Dr. Pepper took his flashlight in the other and shined it into the room. Both he and Lakefield immediately wished he hadn’t.

Filing cabinets lined the walls, and a large table had been shoved to one side of the room. The rest of the area was taken up by an enormous gray mass similar to the smaller one that had attacked Pepper. This mass, however, was much larger, and it had four faces. The faces all shouted.

“Get out!”


Convergence - Session 3b

That sounded good to the agents, but first, Pepper felt the need to fire his gun indiscriminately. The bullets struck the mass solidly, but the faces continued to shout. The mass began to churn and reform itself. Tentacles or pseudopods stretched out as the thing oozed forward. The door failed to latch as Lakefield closed it. The agents ran down the stairs to regroup. The thing wasn’t following, so maybe they had time.

Dr. Pepper opened the file room and released the clerk at gunpoint. As the kid fled the building, Lakefield grabbed a couple road flares from the car. This building was the oldest, driest, wooden structure in town. Two flares should do the trick. He threw one up the stairs and another into a pile of papers before the agents casually retreated.

They drove a short distance away, waited a few minutes, and then called 911 to report a fire at City Hall. There was no way emergency services would get there in time, and whatever that thing was, it would hopefully die along with the building.

On a hunch, Lakefield got on his laptop and looked into available real estate in the area. He was expecting something south of town to be available since both Jane and Billy Ray had disappeared on the same road. It took only a few minutes before he found what he was after. It wasn’t south of town, but northwest. A little west of the reservoir, a farmhouse had been seized by the county for failure to pay property taxes. That was roughly four months ago, and it fit the timeline perfectly.

He and Pepper were about to check out the farm when Atwood called. He was tailing Jane Allen. She was crossing through yards, dodging between houses, and even sometimes going through houses. She was generally heading south, but she was taking seemingly random turns. He didn’t think she knew he was following her, but he needed a ride for when he made his move. Lakefield told him they were on their way.

Atwood gave a running commentary describing her route, and Jane happened to be in a backyard when the car pulled up. Pepper got out and slid across the hood for dramatic effect. The girl screamed and ran for the back door of the house.

Atwood deftly hopped the chain-link fence and raced across the yard. He reached the girl and got his arms around her just as she started banging on the door. As the FBI man was dragging the girl back toward the car, Pepper slid back across the hood and got in. He had done a quick calculation and determined the likelihood of a random house in rural Tennessee being the residence of a gun owner was roughly 100%.

Once all three agents and the girl were in the car, Lakefield drove away. Atwood handcuffed Jane as a precaution. He felt sure she needed medical attention, and whatever was in her belly needed to be examined. He planned to take her back to Knoxville and put her in a room with Billy Ray to see what would happen. For that, he needed his car which was a few blocks away.

Atwood promised her food if she cooperated, and that seemed to calm her enough to transfer her to the backseat of his car. Knoxville was a four-hour drive, and that meant he would have to reschedule his locker search at the high school.

As the other car left town, Lakefield and Pepper drove north toward the reservoir. Dr. Pepper was still going on about aliens and how the thing at City Hall was proof. Lakefield humored and encouraged him by reminding Pepper he couldn’t entirely rule out the Bigfoot angle yet.

When they reached the reservoir, Lakefield reviewed the photographs from his game cameras. There were pictures of a couple deer, a rabbit, and a black bear, but nothing out of the ordinary. He took down one of the cameras, and they got back in the car. There was suspicious land for sale, and the agents hoped they weren’t about to buy the farm.

The land was covered in about four months of untended growth, but the farmhouse and the barn looked to be in decent repair. Lakefield mounted the game camera on a tree along the edge of the property and focused it on the barn. Once that was done, the agents proceeded cautiously toward the structure.

The large, sliding double-doors were closed, but the doors to the hayloft immediately above were open. Another door in the side of the barn and all the doors from the stalls to the corral were closed as well. Lakefield took up a position to the left of the double-doors with his shotgun ready. Dr. Pepper pushed the doors open, but they opened to reveal a wall of some sort of dark resin. The wall was solid and hard.


Convergence - Session 3c

Lakefield began waving frantically for Pepper to close the door and retreat. Before he did so, the EPA scientist tried unsuccessfully to cut through the resin with his survival knife. The agents got back up to the car and regrouped for the second time in less than an hour.

Whatever was in that barn had sealed the main entrance and had likely done the same to the rest of the ground floor. The hayloft doors were open, so it – or they – could probably fly. Lakefield called Derringer and gave a full report. He requested a support team, but Derringer reminded him the situation needed to be resolved without alerting too many outside people if possible. Lakefield grumbled, but he knew Derringer was right. All the same, he wanted Derringer to have a cleanup crew ready in case his team disappeared. Derringer agreed. It would be a last resort, but if the agents couldn’t handle the situation, something would have to be done.

Back to the barn. They needed a way in, and Lakefield had spotted a ladder behind the farmhouse. They quietly moved the ladder to the barn and rested it against the open loft. They had a quick match of Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who would climb up. Lakefield threw Rock. Pepper threw Paper. Lakefield had a shotgun. Pepper climbed the ladder.

Once in the loft, Pepper looked around. The entire interior of the barn had been coated and reinforced with the resin. There were soft lights of various colors and frequencies coming from somewhere down below, and so he peeked over the edge. He had been preparing himself for this the entire time, and yet he was still not ready.

In one corner were various machines that looked somehow biological in origin. Two of the devices had vats of liquid, and a human body floated motionlessly in one of them. There were several flat slabs of the same resin which lined the walls and ceiling, and they appeared to be tables. All of this was secondary in Pepper’s estimation. More important, he decided, were the six child-sized, gray humanoids with long, wiry limbs, almond-shaped heads, and large, black eyes. Aliens! He was right all along.

Dr. Pepper held back a shout and crawled back out of the loft and down the ladder. He was motioning for Lakefield to retreat, and for the third time in an hour, the agents regrouped after a retreat.

“Aliens! I told you! Aliens! The thin, gray kind. There were six of them in there. And a human body in a tube.”

Lakefield had seen some strange things in his time so aliens might be a possibility. Or they might be something worse. He needed to take a look for himself, and he was taking a gas can and flares with him. The ranger slung his shotgun over his shoulder and carried the flares and jug of gasoline up the ladder into the loft.

He ventured a look over the edge of the loft just to get his aim, and he found that Pepper’s account was mostly accurate. The one difference was that the human body was not in a tube. It was on a slab now, and the little, gray things were gathered around it. That’s right … a little closer. Now, say cheese!

Lakefield lit the flare and tossed it along with the gasoline right into the center of the grouping. Almost immediately, the creatures simply stopped moving and hung motionless like powered down robots or discarded dolls. At the same time, large pieces of the resin wall began peeling themselves off with a loud buzzing. Those gray things weren’t the only creatures in the barn! And he suddenly felt himself wishing they were.

The new creatures had been camouflaged against the walls. They were large, spongy crablike things covered in fungus and resin, and there were six of them. When they moved, it was sometimes fluid and sometimes stuttered as if they were cutting in and out of three-dimensional space. They didn’t have wings that he could see, but three of them seemed to fly anyway. They landed in the loft forming a semicircle around him with the loft doors at his back. A fourth darted below the loft toward a dark corner of the barn, and the remaining two just faded from view.

Pepper saw these two fade into view on the roof of the barn. He screamed and shot at the one on his left. It was a perfect shot, center mass, only … the damned thing flickered at exactly the wrong moment, and the bullet passed clean through.

Lakefield scowled at the three arrayed against him and leveled his shotgun at the one on his left. He pulled the trigger and scored a direct hit. A spray of pellets and spongy flesh splattered against the resin wall. Score one for the good guys.

The buzzing increased in volume, and one of the things dashed toward Lakefield with a shiny, black object in its arm-like appendage. The object sliced through him and he felt himself cut in places and directions he didn’t realize he had. Everything went red and then black as he felt most of his upper body slide away from the rest of him. The buzzing faded soon after.

Dr. Pepper heard the shotgun blast at the same time the two creatures dove at him. They each had a long baton that hummed almost as loudly as the creatures buzzed. He didn’t have time to wonder what they were, however. One of the batons brushed his flesh, there was a sizzle-crackle-pop, and Pepper had disintegrated.

Three hours later, Special Agent Atwood arrived at the FBI office in Knoxville. SAC Derringer took Jane Allen into protective custody and promised to get her medical attention. When Lakefield and Pepper hadn’t reported in by the next morning, Derringer told Atwood not to wait up. The Spivey case was closed.


With a couple days to go before the game, I had to switch gears. One of the players was going to make it this week, but then he'll be on vacation for a month or so. Rather than have a player start an Op and miss the middle and end, I decided to try for something I hoped could be resolved in one session. Another player missed the game, though, so we weren't able to have the discussion about whether to continue with two agents for a couple sessions or just take the holidays off. I hope to have that figured out soon, but I think I'll be good either way. I know my wife wouldn't mind having me home for the holidays, so to speak.


Whereabouts Unknown - Session 1a

The summer months in Knoxville were always busy for Special Agent Atwood, but there was almost never any overtime authorized. The days of late May and early June blurred into routine, and he spent much of his free time reading. This month, the FBI profiler’s focus was social and cultural anthropology. Next month, it might be anyone’s guess.

One Monday morning in mid-June, SAC Derringer quietly invited him to a briefing room. There was a young man in a blue-and-white striped shirt and wool jacket reclining in a chair at the table. The man’s bright red hair poked out is tufts from beneath his cap, and it stood in contrast to his pale skin.

Atwood raised an eyebrow. This was a first for him. A wool jacket in June. In Tennessee. It was at least 75 degrees outside already, and the forecast was calling for mid-80s by afternoon. His psychologist’s mind began its analysis. The man couldn’t be cold, so it wasn’t for warmth or fashion. He had a handgun, but it was openly displayed, so he wasn’t afraid to show he was armed. The extra layers, Atwood decided, must reflect a need to insulate himself from his surroundings. This man was either trying to hide something, or he was very insecure. Maybe both.

Derringer made the introductions. The man was Cualin Dempsey, an Irish-born contract employee with the CIA. As of this morning, and for the purposes of this Operation, he was also an FBI consultant. Dempsey tipped his cap with a grin and sat up straight. Atwood took a seat at the table, and Derringer jumped right into the briefing.

“Migdalia Valladares is an associate professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College in Hannover, New Hampshire. Two years ago, she assisted in decrypting an untitled 18th-century text that dealt heavily with the astrological and topological secrets of gates and other magics. According to her colleagues, she became obsessed with the document. Eventually, she took a sabbatical to further her work.

“Three weeks ago, she was reported missing by her family. The FBI office in Boston was called in to assist with the missing persons case, but nothing had been turned up until yesterday. Ms. Valladares used a credit card to pay for a pizza in the town of Westmore, Vermont. Locals in Westmore reported Valladares had come into town regularly over the past year or so, though, in recent months, her visits were becoming increasingly rare. She had taken up residence at the White Caps Campground at the southern tip of Lake Willoughby.”

SAC Derringer paused for a moment while the agents caught up with their notes. He had a tendency to roll through the facts of a case more quickly than his audience could process them, and it was a habit he’d spent a career trying to break.

“Ms. Valladares has been renting Cabin 17 at the White Caps Campground for the past fifteen months. The Program was alerted when FBI agents from the Boston office reported radio and electronic interference coupled with what they called ‘objects of an occult nature.’ They were told to stand down as specialists were being sent in. You are those specialists.

“Determine the current circumstances of Ms. Valladares and if she is a danger to the Program, the United States, or herself. She is 51 years of age, 5’8”, 140 lbs. She has brown hair and eyes and is of Hispanic descent. By all accounts, she is a quiet and bright woman who lacks any obvious vices or personal complications.”

The Irishman interrupted with a question about her personal habits. SAC Derringer wasn’t used to being stopped in the middle of a briefing, but he didn’t let it show. He replied that she was a very thorough, neat, and organized person who kept a Spartan office. Dempsey nodded and scribbled something on his steno pad. The senior agent concluded the briefing without much ceremony.

“You are booked on an 11 AM flight from Nashville to Montpelier by way of Philadelphia. A rental car will be waiting for you, and you have a room at the Capital Plaza Hotel.”

Atwood and Derringer took a little time to get to know each other on the drive to Nashville and the flight to Vermont. Atwood decided his initial determination on the Irishman was accurate. Dempsey composed no fewer than 20 crude and/or insulting limericks about Atwood, but he shared them only with his steno pad for the time being.

The agents arrived Edward F. Knapp State Airport in Montpelier a little after 3 PM, and before they could head to the White Caps Campground, Dempsey wanted to stop at a few hardware and department stores. If they weren’t on an Op, Dempsey’s purchases otherwise seem normal, but under the circumstances, the fact that they could all be used to make an explosive device was not lost on Atwood.

From Montpelier, it was an hour-and-a-half drive to the campground. Lake Willoughby in June was a beautiful sight. It was a long body of water with low mountains edging it on either side. The sun was beginning its descent, but it would be a few hours yet before sunset. The lake was dotted with kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and swimmers. Several columns of smoke from campfires and grills filled the sky.


Whereabouts Unknown - Session 1b

Dempsey rented Cabin 16 and immediately went to set up a camera for surveillance on the cabin claimed by Ms. Valladares. Atwood’s badge earned him the key to Cabin 17. He asked the clerk a few questions about Ms. Valladares, and he learned she’d always paid cash on a monthly basis and generally kept to herself. That was nothing new, as far as the clerk was concerned. People came to the campground for a variety of reasons, and it was really none of his business. She was always cheerful and respectful, so there was never any problem. Her car had been gone since yesterday.

The agents regrouped to investigate Cabin 17 together. As Atwood pushed open the door, they were assaulted by a pungent odor and hot air. The cabin was a mess. The bed had been stripped, and it was covered by a large map of the region. The map was covered by a clear plastic board upon which many lines and notations had been added with marker.

Every piece of electric equipment, except the coffee maker, had been tossed in the bathtub. The table near the front window was buried beneath piles of books and papers, and moldering take-out food was stacked on the dresser. This was nothing like the description of the neat and orderly woman about whom they were told.

Dempsey was about to sweep the room for hair, blood, fingerprints … whatever he could find to show Ms. Valladares was actually the one staying in this cabin, and to determine if she had been staying here alone. Before he could find much, however, he sliced the meat of his left thumb on a steak knife which had been hiding beneath take-out containers. It stung, but it didn’t cause any lasting damage. Still, there was blood, and he was going to need a bandage. He informed Atwood and left for his cabin.

Atwood removed his jacket and tie, and he hung them from the open door. He put on a pair of latex gloves and began a thorough search of the room. Being a behavioral analyst, this wasn’t his area of expertise, but he’d seen his share of crime scenes.

It took an hour or so to sift through everything in a rushed yet systematic manner, and he managed to find several things of interest. The first thing he found was several sheets of copier paper with the text of a computer program. He wasn’t a computer guy, so he had no idea of its intended purpose.

Next, he found a staple-bound monograph titled “Wisdom of the Hyperboreans and their Magicks.” Hyperboreans … weren’t they from Conan? He shrugged and read a little further. The manuscript claimed to detail the creation of portals and gates to connect points across great distances. Okay, well that sounded a little more interesting than anthropology textbooks. It may be a bit dense, and there seemed to be a lot of math involved, but still, it was definitely of interest.

The third manuscript he found was a stack of photocopied pages from Janus Cornelius Wassermann’s “The Occult Foundations.” There were highlighted sections which discussed the theory that the fabric of reality itself was weaker in certain places. That made sense. It was like how the wall between the spirit world and ours would become thinner on ancient battlefields or in deep forests.

Under that pile of papers, he found the object he was pretty sure he was after. It wasn’t occult, per se, but he could see how the boys in Boston might have thought so. It was a clay disc about 8” in diameter with various astrological symbols etched around the perimeter and on the face. It was meticulously detailed but seemed to be otherwise mundane.

Atwood took out his phone to take pictures of the disc, but he couldn’t get the phone to cooperate. Something was interfering not only with his cell signal, but it was also interfering with the phone itself. The interference weakened the further he moved the phone from the disc, and so he determined it was the source. Clay shouldn’t do that though, right? Maybe there was something inside the disc that was jamming things. He shrugged and placed the disc in his briefcase. That seemed to help.

With the source of the electronic interference contained, Atwood turned his attention to the large map on the bed. There were points marked and lines drawn between them. There didn’t seem to be a pattern, but judging by the topography, he would guess the lines signified what Alfred Watkins called ley lines, paths of spiritual or magical energy. If that were the case, each point where lines intersected would be a strong nexus of power.

Looking at it through that lens and taking into account the manuscripts he’d found, he guessed Ms. Valladares had found a way to ride these lines from point to point like a subway train. It would also be significant, then, that there was a roughly half-mile diameter area at the center of all the lines where none of them passed. It was possible this area was a sort of magical void, but he felt it was more likely the opposite. Atwood suspected this area between the lines was more likely a concentration of energy with the perimeter acting as a sort of fence or dome to hold it all together. That had to be where she’d gone!


Whereabouts Unknown - Session 1c

He set his briefcase outside and went back to take a picture of the map. He then grabbed his coat and tie, his briefcase, and the manuscripts before rushing next door to Cabin 16. As he entered, he found Dempsey putting the finishing touches on what he was sure was an improvised explosive device of some sort. He wasn’t sure why they might need that or why the kid was tinkering with it, but it was something to keep an eye on.

Atwood explained his theory to the Irishman and was more than a little surprised to hear that the kid not only agreed with him, but Dempsey also seemed to know a fair bit about ley lines and magic himself. Astrology eluded him, but magic and ley lines were the stuff of every Irish lad’s bedtime stories.

If the center of those lines was where she’d gone, that’s where they were going to look. Dempsey checked his camera one last time to be sure it was recording and had a clear view of Cabin 17 in case anyone came back. The agents then drove west down an old state road. They had a few hours of light left.

They’d only been driving a few minutes when Atwood noticed frost on the ground and the trees. It was 70 degrees at the campground, and a couple miles west the thermometer display on the dashboard was telling him it was 30 degrees and dropping. Another mile or so, and the frost was so thick it almost looked like it had snowed. Now the Irishman’s sense of fashion seemed to have been incredible foresight. Atwood turned the heater up and drove on.

Eventually, they came upon an abandoned Ford Fiesta, the same car Ms. Valladares drove. Atwood pulled the SUV off to the shoulder of the frost-covered dirt road, and the agents got out. The car was every bit as messy as Cabin 17. Fast food containers and plastic water bottles littered the backseat. The keys were still in the ignition. A trail of footprints led away from the car and into the woods.

The agents began to follow the trail. They hadn’t made it fifty yards inside the tree line when Dempsey slipped and fell nose first down an embankment. Atwood rolled his eyes and suppressed a sigh as he watched the Irishman tumble to the bottom. Dempsey laid motionless for several seconds before raising an arm and giving a thumbs-up. This was presumably to tell Atwood he was uninjured, but the profiler took it as his cue to leave the dead weight.

He continued to follow the footprints to a white clearing at least 100 yards in diameter where he found a thermos of cold coffee, a commercial star chart, and surveying equipment. There was also a circle of silvery powder in the frost which seemed to circle the entire clearing. Atwood wasn’t sure what the powder was, but it held significance for whatever ritual Ms. Valladares had performed. He took out the disc, and the glyphs were glowing faintly. He hadn’t noticed anything in the etchings that might cause that sort of reaction, so he decided it was some sort of magic. That also helped him explain the electronic interference.

The clearing was flat except for something jutting up in the very center. Atwood was just taking out his binoculars when Dempsey caught up. The agents took turns looking at the thing. It looked like a hole with a mound next to it, but they couldn’t be sure, so they followed the footprints closer. They stopped about twenty yards away when it dawned on them what they were seeing.

It wasn’t a hole and a mound. The earth and air had turned in space. It was as if a twenty-foot-diameter invisible sphere half in the ground and half out had rotated roughly 30 degrees counterclockwise and forward. The dirt revealed both inside and outside the sphere looked perfectly smooth. The footprints led directly to the edge of the area, and they continued inside the sphere, but they, too, were shifted. Atwood tossed a rock in the direction of the sphere, and as soon as it entered, it disappeared from its point in space and appeared roughly 30 degrees to the right. It was still heading toward the center of the sphere, but its trajectory had altered. Space inside the sphere was tilted.

The footprints led to the center and stopped. Okay, so … she was gone. That’s all there was to it. She wasn’t coming back. Or, as Atwood pointed out, it was probably for the best if they ensured she never came back. He planned to disrupt the circle of powder, but Dempsey knew that wouldn’t be enough; the ley lines would still converge. This area would still hold power, and someone else could do what Ms. Valladares had done. No. They had to disrupt the ley lines themselves.

The agents headed back to the abandoned car and drove it to the clearing. Dempsy couldn’t rig it to explode with what he’d brought with him, so he did the next best thing. He aimed the car at the sphere and placed a weight on the accelerator. When he put the car in gear, it drove right where he hoped it would, but the result wasn’t quite what he expected.

When the car entered the sphere, everything – car, air, dirt – the whole sphere rotated wildly like a giant hamster ball. The car was thrown straight up into the air and fell back to earth. Dirt, rocks, and snow were thrown in all directions, and the glyphs on the disc faded.

That was that. Migdalia Valladares of Hannover, New Hampshire had driven into the Vermont woods and abandoned her car in a clearing. If the boys in Boston wanted to follow her trail from there, best of luck to them.
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Just a quick holiday update. The plan is to get back to the game on the 15th, so regular updates should resume after that. We'll have at least two of the three players, and at the moment, I'm contemplating a slow-developing (at first) police procedural sort of Op with an occult hook to draw Atwood in. Ranger Lakefield's player has made an old-school NSA spook, and given that he's a longtime Shadowrun player and real-life chemist, it should add nicely to the group's overall level of professionalism and tradecraft.


The Bedford Project - Session 1a

Atwood and Dempsey had gone their separate ways. While Dempsey returned home, Atwood called in a couple weeks of leave and remained in Vermont to test a few theories on the disc and ley lines. The rest of the summer passed quickly, but not quite a week into autumn, both agents were activated again. They were to report to Federal Office Building 10A in Washington D.C. for an operational briefing on Friday, September 27th.

Neither agent was an accountant, but even they knew the governmental bean counters were easily stressed this time of year. The federal fiscal year ended on the 30th, and that translated into deadlines for reimbursement requests and added scrutiny on expense accounts. If travel and unusual financial activity could be put off for a month or so, everyone would calm down, but that’s not how Delta Green worked. Fortunately, a Delta Green taskforce typically had black budget funding, and that meant fewer questions if any.

The sky over the nation’s capital was a beautiful and endless blue. Standing in rather stark contrast, the designated meeting place was a dull and endless tan with nine floors of identical windows. The U.S. flag outside Federal Office Building 10A snapped rhythmically in the wind as each agent arrived in turn.

The interior of the ground floor was split with a post office to the right and the familiar metal detectors and security checkpoint of the Federal Building to the left. Once through security, the agents had been directed to a large meeting room on the third floor.

Standing outside the door was a tall, thin Hispanic man in a dark suit. As each agent arrived, he matched them to a photograph and name on his clipboard before standing aside to allow them to enter.

The meeting room was large but otherwise identical to a thousand others in Washington alone. There was a long wooden table with several chairs designed to be just uncomfortable enough for a person to remain awake through an all-morning meeting. On the table was a round speaker connected to a desk phone for conference calls. One wall had maps of the U.S. and its territories, while the opposite wall had whiteboards, a clock, and a large flat screen monitor. The wall with the door had photographs of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers, and FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate. The opposite wall had several windows overlooking C Street and Hancock Park.

Dempsey arrived first and had his choice of seating. When Atwood entered, he was a little disappointed yet unsurprised to see the Irishman. It wasn’t long after Atwood’s arrival before the third and final member of their taskforce showed up. Mark Porter was a man in his 60s who radiated experience. Just what sort of experience wasn’t clear, but it didn’t matter. If it could happen, this guy had either seen it, done it, or caused it at least once.

As Porter entered and took a seat, the Hispanic man from the hall followed and closed the door behind him. He paused for a moment before placing his briefcase on the table, rolling the combination locks, and opening it with a click.

“Good morning, everyone. I am Supervisory Special Agent Gomez. I trust you’re all quite interested to know just why you were selected for activation, so I’ll get right down to it. A number of federal personnel have died after spending some time in Bedford, Iowa.”

Atwood said something about being sure to never go there, but Gomez ignored it.

“Following the possibly questionable death in Bedford of Neil Badagian, an FCC investigator, our computers turned up the long-forgotten suicide of Jerry Heathcliff, after publishing an article on Bedford in 2004."

Agent Gomez produced a sheet of paper with an excerpt from the article and allowed the agents to pass it around.

Bedford, Iowa: The New Muncie?
by Jerry Heathcliff (Iowa State University)
American Demographer Summer 2004 pp. 961-977

Excerpt: At the turn of the century, sociologists studied Muncie, Indiana as an “ideal type” of the American mentality. Demographically speaking, Bedford, Iowa is an even more accurate picture of modern America. Bedford’s breakdown of income, age, gender, and employment groups is identical to that given by U.S. Census data for the nation as a whole. Bedford’s demographics have matched national trends for 25 years. This should make Bedford an ideal subject for follow-up studies. Only in racial breakdown does Bedford not match national averages, since it is nearly all-white.

"Heathcliff was a sociology professor at the Iowa State University in Ames. On July 15, 2004, nearly two months after his article appeared in print, he committed suicide rather than be fired from the University; evidence of his obsession with deviant pornography was found in his home. Nobody knew how his unsavory interests had become known to the University, as the whole matter seems to have been hushed up.

“Heathcliff had served in Vietnam as a State Department analyst from 1971 to 1973. The coincidence raised a red flag and triggered a subroutine in the computer; it cross-checked all federal government files for deaths following overnight stays in Bedford, Iowa as determined from itemized expense accounts. Two more deaths turned up, bringing the total to four in nine years, far above statistical norms.


The Bedford Project - Session 1b

"Heathcliff was the first. The second, Shelley Emmett, was a researcher with the Census Bureau, based in Kansas City. She visited Bedford four times between October of 2005 and March of 2006. On April 10, 2006, she failed a drug test, showing signs of cocaine and marijuana use; she was fired a week later. Unable to find a new job and suffering from clinical depression, she died of exposure aggravated by alcoholism on December 5, 2007.

"Third, Captain John Rush was a Marine recruiter stationed in Des Moines in 2011-2012. He visited Bedford several times during his tour; following a painful and expensive divorce, he committed suicide by jumping off his sailboat in Chesapeake Bay on February 17, 2013. The only common factors in the deaths of Heathcliff, Emmett, and Rush are their presence in Bedford, and a large number of late-night phone calls they received in the two months previous to their deaths. Tracing the numbers, where possible, turns up nothing -- a random scattering of business, cell phone, and personal phone numbers. Either the calls are coincidence, or someone is cleverly covering their tracks in the system.

"The latest victim is Neil Badagian who died in an automobile accident on the night of September 25 on the business highway just outside Bedford. Forty-five minutes before his fatal crash, he placed a call to his older brother, John Badagian, who works for the NSA. In that call, he said he’d uncovered something 'more in your line' than his; what he meant is unknown."

Agent Gomez produced another sheet of paper from his briefcase and placed it on the table.

NSA Telcom Transcript
2227 hrs EST 25 September 2013

Incoming call to Chevy Chase, MD home number of JOHN BADAGIAN from cellular phone number registered to NEIL BADAGIAN; packet retrace places origin of call within 15 mile radius of Bedford, IA cellular tower.

(conversation begins)
NEIL BADAGIAN: John, pick up. Pick up, John. It’s Neil.
NEIL B.: Look, I don’t have time to go into details right now. I’m in Iowa, in a town called Bedford, on FCC business, and I think I’ve found something more in your line than in mine.
JOHN B.: My line? What are you talking about? Are you drunk, Neil?
NEIL B.: Look, I don’t have time. Call me back at the scrambled number in exactly one hour, okay? I can’t stay on too long.
JOHN B.: Should I call anybody else?
NEIL B.: Not until I can fill you in. An hour. I’m deadly serious.
JOHN B.: One hour. Right. Take care, Neil.
NEIL B.: You know it, John.
(conversation ends)

(Case officer notes: Neil Badagian apparently had access to a cellular scrambler with its own number; no further calls were received or made on either of Neil Badagian’s cellular phone numbers. John Badagian did not report the call until after learning of his brother’s death. John Badagian was unable to complete any calls to Neil’s numbers, receiving only a “cellular phone not in use” recording.)

“John Badagian claims not to know what, if anything, his brother meant. Your job is to find out. Seats have been booked for you on the noon flight to Des Moines. You should arrive by 4:30 PM local time. If you have any gear you don’t want going through the TSA checkpoint, I will ensure it’s waiting for you in the trunks of your rental cars at the Des Moines airport. If you have cover identities, I strongly suggest their use. For those of you who may be a little newer to the job, I can provide FBI or DHS consultant’s credentials. Any questions?”

Of course, there were questions. What were the specifics of Captain Rush’s divorce? What was the name of his sailboat? Was he successful in recruiting anyone from Bedford? Speaking of which, what was a Captain doing handling his own recruitments? When, exactly, were each of the victims in Bedford, and where did they stay? What is John Badagian’s job at the NSA? Did the agents all have to be on the same flight? And if so, who got the window seat? Was there any special funding to be had … just in case, of course?

John Badagian worked for Unit F6, the Special Collection Service which works closely with the CIA. This revelation caused both Porter and Dempsey to nod in apparent understanding, though this was probably for different levels of understanding. The agents were booked on the same flight, in the same row, and they could decide for themselves who sat where.

As for special funding, SSA Gomez placed two credit cards on the conference table. There was no cardholder name on either, but they both displayed the logos of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Dempsey was quick to snatch both cards in one fluid and well-practiced motion like a Las Vegas Blackjack dealer. Gomez informed them each card had a spending limit of only $3,000, and receipts would have to be provided for any purchases, but he would ensure accounting staff asked no questions. With the end of the federal fiscal year only a few days away, they had bigger things to deal with anyway. Even still, he cautioned, the money attached to those cards was disaster relief funding. Every dollar they spent was a dollar that couldn’t go to the victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, or volcanoes. Dempsey just gave Gomez a sly wink and shot a finger gun at him like they were sharing some private joke.


The Bedford Project - Session 1c

Both Porter and Dempsey had items they would prefer not be checked by the TSA. Gomez said there were two FEMA equipment containers waiting for them in the parking garage. Anything they placed in those containers would be transported to Des Moines for them without questions.

Atwood used the in-flight Wi-Fi as much to do some preliminary research on Bedford as to have an excuse to ignore Dempsey. Everything looked normal enough at first – population 1,440 as of the 2010 census, the county seat of Taylor County, Iowa – but then he began to notice a rather obvious pattern. The sheriff was Woodrow “Woody” Taylor. Three of the five members of the Bedford City Council were Taylors. Several of the businesses in town were Taylor-this or Taylor-that. Both construction companies in town – Bedford Erectors and Taylor Drywall – were owned by Robert and Samantha Taylor, two of the three Taylors on the City Council. Atwood didn’t like the implications there one bit, but Porter pointed out it’s not uncommon for a small town to be dominated by one or two powerful families. Atwood grumbled something about telling that to Murray, but the reference to the events in Waynesboro, Tennessee were lost on the veteran spook.

Upon landing in Des Moines, the agents picked up their rental cars and FEMA equipment trunks. While they decided on a course of action, they received an encrypted email from SSA Gomez with a little more information obtained after the briefing.

Jerry Heathcliff
Expense Account: Three nights at the Walkright Inn in Bedford, reimbursement for mileage in personal vehicle, per diem

Shelley Emmett
Expense Account: Two-night stays at the Skylark Motel in Bedford on four separate occasions, rental car from Des Moines airport, replacement battery and USB adapter for laptop from Computer City in Bedford, per diem

John Rush
Recruited thirteen young men from local high school: Three went to Camp Pendleton, two to Marine Corps Base Quantico. One each went to Logistics Base Barstow, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Stone Bay, and Air Station Yuma. The other four were stationed overseas; two at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan and two at Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.

Per divorce documents: The wife, Emily Rush, accused the captain of being unfaithful to her with a woman, Allison Cherry, from Bedford.

Expense Account: Three separate two-night stays and four week-long stays at the Skylark Motel in Bedford, long-distance calls (to his office and to his home phone) charged to his room

Neil Badagian
Inspecting the wireline and wireless telecommunications network. He stayed overnight at the Motel 6 in Bedford.

Expense Account: Nothing charged

That changed things a little. The plan the agents devised was for Atwood to track down Captain Rush’s ex-wife and see what more she could tell him while Porter and Dempsey spent disaster relief money.

According to the divorce decree, Mrs. Rush got the house, and it was right there in Des Moines. Atwood needed a disguise, and he decided not to ask when Porter produced a complete Marine Corps battledress uniform. The spook had three suitcases of various disguises.

Dressed as one Lieutenant Wilson of the U.S. Marine Corps, SA Atwood made his way to the Rush residence. It was a beautiful two-story house with a chain-link fence in a quiet neighborhood. Atwood placed his right hand on the fence for a moment to allow the cold metal to chill his hand for effect, and he then knocked on the door.

Emily Rush answered after a moment. She was pretty enough for a woman in her mid-40s who wasn’t expecting company. Atwood introduced himself as Lieutenant Wilson and asked if Captain Rush was at home. Of course, he wasn’t, and Mrs. Rush seemed a little annoyed that he’d even ask. She even refused to shake his carefully chilled hand. Atwood then asked when he’d be home, and she replied with a wry smile that this was no longer his home and that even if it were, he’d never be returning.

Well, that was too bad. Captain Rush, he said, had recruited him straight out of high school in Bedford, and he … That was apparently exactly the wrong thing to say, and as a trained psychologist, he sensed it immediately. The woman’s eyes instantly narrowed, her lip curled slightly, and she even pushed the door closed a bit more. For all his acting, there was no sympathy Atwood could elicit from this woman, and he felt it. He thanked her for her time and apologized for the intrusion before returning to his car and heading to the Des Moines Hilton to book a couple of rooms. The agents had all agreed not to stay in Bedford until they’d had a chance to scout it out.

While Atwood was interviewing Mrs. Rush, FEMA had apparently purchased two drone quadcopters with powerful cameras and a virtual reality setup for control. Disaster relief funds were also evidently needed for pressure cookers and other bomb-making materials which should land someone on several watch lists. Their shopping spree concluded, Dempsey and Porter grabbed dinner, also on Homeland Security’s tab, and returned to the hotel.

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