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Tuesday, September 30

Last Rites: Part 3a – The Smith Home

Hammer's head was cocked, straining to listen. "Shh!"

Jim-Bean listened too. Laughter from upstairs.

They crept their way to a bedroom. Hammer shined his light on the source of the sound.

It was a Furby, white eyes glistening in the darkness as its beak clicked. “Waa, waylo, koko!” it tweeted. “Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-“

Click! The lights came back on. The Furby was speckled with red.

“-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

"AAAAAH!" screamed Ettringer.

On the bed was Katarina Smith, her body horribly mangled.

The normally calm doctor fled the room, stumbling down the steps.

Hammer sighed. "This is what we get for taking civilians along." [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 11 – Hastur’s Arrival

The next room was a ballroom, one wall of which was made of a succession of tall glass doors, all giving onto a long balcony.

A thousand screaming byakhee lifted into the air as one, a thick black plague. Everything slowed down and there was a feeling of pressure, of resistance, as though one was underwater. Something was forming out beyond the balcony, rising from the lake.

It loomed up over the Palace. Titanic, it blotted out the stars.

Lucius was right. Edwards’ plans were ill laid indeed.

Something undulated, rippled horribly just beneath a patch of what passed for the thing’s flesh. It moved in a rhythm, pulsing in concert with the blood in Kham’s temples. He concentrated on where it was squirming and knew that if he tore his eyes off it for a moment, he would have to stare into its bottomless pits. And he would be lost forever.

Then he felt a release. He became aware of other things. Screaming cultists fell slowly up past the window.

Hastur had taken notice of the cultists who had summoned him. Greeting them, he took them up and fed them to his eyes.

There was a wash of weariness and confusion. The byakhee were a black swarm.

“Run to the garden!” shouted Lucius to Yolanda. Then he was overcome as scores of byakhee fell upon him, rending him limb from limb.

Everything moved in slow motion; screaming, yelling, shouting, pointing, running. Yolanda, panic-stricken, hurried for one of the many doors of the room. [MORE]

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Monday, September 29

Last Rites: Part 2 – The Terror Begins

RUNVILLE, MA—Runville was tiny and isolated. A narrow, lumpy dead-end road wound through dreary marshes that often flooded the road in the winter. Inland, the road joined a state highway.

The town was carved out of the bluff below, well above the sea but the streets were built on tiers like a lopsided wedding cake. Below the fishermen, who lived on the lowest level, was a shingle-covered beach and a sheltering cove. The Springer Mansion was the sole exception, a sprawling manor that included a private dock to the shore. A lighthouse, situated on a notorious shoal a few miles out into the Atlantic, gave a baleful glare as it rotated its all-seeing eye into the chilling fog.

The team arrived at a cabin on the highest level of Runville, starkly illuminated by the lights of the county sheriff’s vehicle.

"This is the town where Robert said the three remaining cultists were hiding out," Hammer whispered to Jim-Bean.

Sheriff Maurice Talbott was on the scene, along with his deputy, Toby Ettringer. A grossly bloody sheet was lifted into a nearby ambulance.

Hammer flashed his badge. "Federal agent. What have we got?"

“Two kids in one of the cabins nearby here," said Talbott to Hammer. "One was knifed in the head, the other looks like her head was crushed.”

He shot Hammer a sideways glance. “If the Feds are snooping around then that confirms my worst suspicions. This is a serial killer we got on our hands, huh?” He shook his head. “Hard to believe a little girl like that could do so much harm.”

"Lucinda Ennis is the suspect?" asked Jim-Bean.

Talbott nodded. “We’ve got all officers, all units and stations within a fifty-mile radius alerted about this wacko kid. Lucy came running into the sheriff’s office, claiming that her father was alive. She said she dug up his body and poured something over it, some crazy potion she got from her boyfriend. Lucy said her father came back to life, but she couldn’t control him. When we didn’t immediately agree to help her, she made a grab for one of our rifles. Locked her ass up. Should have stayed there too.”

“Locked her up? How did she get out?” asked Hammer.

“We were told to let her out.” Talbott took his hat off and scratched his head. “We even took her to the Eternal Rest cemetery to prove that her father was still dead, but that wasn’t enough for her either. Lucy said someone covered up her father’s grave.” Talbott shook his head. “I don’t find it amusing that the nut house Lucy belonged to thought she was responsible enough to be released into the Doc’s care here.”

"What nuthouse is that?" asked Guppy quietly.

"Arkham Asylum," said a familiar soft voice behind them.

Tablott looked over Guppy's shoulder him a glare. “Where’s my manners? This here’s Dr. Alan Ettringer, a psychiatrist from Arkham Asylum. We released Lucy into his custody.”

Jim-Bean was very still. Did Ettringer even remember him? [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 10 – Stopping the Play

The next room was a ballroom, one wall of which was made of a succession of tall glass doors, all giving onto a long balcony.

Ilmarė tentatively advanced into the room. She could see the terrace where the summoning was taking place below her. Steps curled down from the balcony onto the terrace from both left and right. Beyond was the dark water of Lake Hali.

But all of it was eclipsed by the byakhee. There were hundreds and hundreds of the beasts outside, thick on the balustrades, roofs, and walls. Streams of the creatures were still flying down from the sky to join those already present, thickening the ranks each minute. The usually raucous monsters were silent, rapt, facing inwards. They were all focused on a small group of ten men in the center of it all.

“Edwards!” hissed Lucius, “They’re casting a spell to free Hastur.” [MORE]

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Sunday, September 28

Last Rites: Part 1 – The Tape

"Jimbo? Earth to Jimmy-Bean!" Hammer's voice floated through Jim-Bean's consciousness.

Hammer, Guppy, and Archive were seated all around Jim-Bean in office chairs, their faces illuminated by the blank computer screen before him. They looked at him expectantly.

Jim-Bean snapped out of it. "Wha?'

"You've been sitting there staring at the DVD for like a minute. Did you just have a stroke?"

Jim-Bean chuckled, but he was really just buying time to clear his head. The DVD was marked “Arkham Asylum Outpatient Lucinda Ennis.” The author was listed as Dr. Alan Ettringer. It had triggered a memory – more of a vision – and the visions were becoming all too common when Jim-Bean touched things.

Probably part of those "attributes" that Majestic-12 was so interested in. The suppressed memory made him decide that keeping these new visions to himself was the safest course of action.

Hammer took the DVD out of Jim-Bean's fingers and popped it into the DVD player. "Lay off the drugs." [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 9 – Coombs

Coombs was a tall, thin, sharp-featured man with longish, greasy black hair. He wore a worn black overcoat.

After stabbing Yolanda he ran off, disappearing into the ever-shifting maze of rooms and corridors. Kham left the others behind. There was killing to be done that was best performed alone.

They engaged in a game of cat and mouse. Coombs stalked Kham, and in turn Kham stalked Coombs through the hundreds of rooms and corridors.

“You’re dead, Coombs!” Kham shouted, frustrated. “When I find you, you’re dead!”

“Not if I find yew first,” came Coombs’ voice. “Like I found yaaahr farfer.” A door slammed. [MORE]

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Saturday, September 27

Last Rites: Prologue

Jim-Bean was in a room. All he could make out was the silhouette of a figure. He was most obscured by the spotlight near his head, shining through the glass separating the examination room from the doctor’s office.

“Now Mister Baxter, I’m going to ask you again…”

Jim-Bean could make out a nametag: Dr. Alan Ettringer.

“You sustained a shotgun wound at point blank range.”

“Oh yeah? I don’t remember.”

Jim-Bean was strapped down to a table. He couldn’t move his arms, legs, or even turn his head. Something was connected to his temples. There was an odd hum in the background.

“You were cognizant enough to get up, eliminate the target, then make your way to the train’s engine and force the engineer to apply the brakes. You then returned to the location where you were shot and carried on a conversation with your fellow agents.”

“I don’t—“

Ettringer pressed a button and Jim-Bean heard his own voice: “Out of the way…We’ll do this the old fashioned way—“

“Do you remember now?”

Jim-Bean shrugged as best he could in his restraints. “Sounds like me.” [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 8 – Yolanda

They entered the Palace, passing marble-floored corridors hung with portraits, through receiving rooms and great banquet halls, across small gardens and high, cold chapels. The place seemed endless.

“We must head for the terrace, where the summoning is being performed,” murmured Lucius.

There was evidence that a party had taken place very recently. Food and drink abounded, as did flaming candles. There were discarded masks and even some fine clothes.

Scarbelly pointed. “Coombs! Avast, ye scab'r'us swabs! I just saw Coombs!”

“Michael Coombs?” asked Lucius. “Here?”

“Aye.” Scarbelly began clomping his way down the hallway. “Yer nay goin' t' get away this time, ye scurvy dog! I’ll gut ye like a catfish!” [MORE]

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Friday, September 26

Chapter 21: Last Rites - Introduction

This scenario, “Last Rites,” is a Cthulhu Now scenario from Last Rites by Ian Winterton. 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 (http://michael.tresca.net)
  • Joseph “Archive” Fontaine (Dedicated Hero/Acolyte) played by Joe Lalumia
  • Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz (http://www.ninjarobotstudios.com)
  • Hank “Guppy” Gupta (Smart Hero/Field Scientist) played by Joseph Tresca (http://www.creepyportfolio.com)
  • Kurtis “Hammer” Grange (Fast/Dedicated Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster

Whereas the last session I had too few players, this session I had nearly the whole gang. This session in particular moves fast, and I wanted to make it a little more personal for the PCs to keep them interested. So I threw in a flashback that I thought worked well in getting the agents interested in a key NPC.

Then I killed him.

I felt it was important both to have the NPC be present and to see him die in a senseless, violent sort of way. I also wanted to deal with Jim-Bean’s psychic powers that have now reached a point where they simply can’t be ignored.

The original scenario wasn’t particularly exciting; it involves a psychic girl hiding in her room while she mentally controls her undead dad. Which would take well-armed agents a whole five minutes to resolve. So instead, I ripped off Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and Freddy vs. Jason to amp the action up to 11. This means Lucinda’s powers go from mildly disturbing to out-and-out superkinetic, and her creepy father becomes a nigh-unstoppable killing machine. With a chainsaw and a machete. I can’t quite express the joy of getting to use one of my chainsaw wielding maniac miniatures.

This scenario moved quickly and the pacing was both fast and violent. On the other hand, dealing with a slasher-type monster makes it near impossible to defeat (I used the revenant template, for anyone who’s interested), and I started to realize that this scenario was more about railroading and less about having much to do. This was reflected in Jim-Bean who essentially froze up as Jeremy tried to decide the next logical move. When one of your players does that, it’s usually a sign that the plot isn’t very clear.

Still, the conclusion was both dramatic and satisfying. It just didn’t have all that much for the agents to do, and it’s something I plan to improve in future scenarios.

Defining Moment: Jim-Bean considers killing a teenage girl in cold blood to stop a murderous rampage. [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 7 – Lake Hali

The journey to the lakeshore ran downhill through residential streets. Lake Hali was as still as stone. On its far shore was the bright Palace beneath the suns, looking a world away.

A path followed the water’s edge and promised to lead towards the Palace, but it soon cut back into the city. Fortunately, there were dozens of boats tied at the quay.

The boards were uniformly built from a polished hardwood, narrow in the beam with high bows and sterns, and with a single tall mast carrying a furled sail of white or pale yellow canvas. Each had further provision for two pairs of oars that were shipped on board.

They clambered in and launched two of the boats.

“The lake seems much bigger now that we’re out on it,” said Ilmarė.

“That’s because it was all ice last time,” said Kham. “This is where we discovered Hastur the first time. All along I thought it was the King in Yellow. But now I know what we really saw. We saw Hastur.”

“Thar be something beneath the surface,” said Prolk.

About a hundred yards away, something big slipped gently beneath the water’s surface.

Long tentacles broke the surface, frothing the water in front of a smooth domed mass. It was heading towards them.

Forty yards

Thirty yards.

Twenty yards.

“Hold on!” shouted Kham. [MORE]

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Thursday, September 25

Gates of Delirium: Conclusion

Jim-Bean was falling, falling, falling through a shaft formed of infinite cubes, all rendered in stark black and white contrast. It seemed as if he were falling forward, but in reality he was falling backwards, away from the infinite lines of Daoloth’s structure, which were so long as to appear curved. It was only as Jim-Bean fell further that the distance became apparent and he could see the structure of Daoloth’s form, lines within lines, coalescing into a cube of sorts. The cube pulsed and rippled as lines shifted within it.

And then he was falling back towards it, through the cube and between the curved strings of cubes strung together, hurtling through a shaft…

Jim-Bean woke up in an apartment. Furniture was overturned, ornaments and knick-knacks scatted across the floor mingled with appliances and utensils from the kitchen. The contents of every closet and cabinet, of every wardrobe and cupboard, lay strewn about the place.

Hammer was already up and about. Guppy was slowly getting to his feet.

Guppy took off the gauze. “This is Rachel’s place,” he said softly. [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 6 – The Sculpture Museum

Reunited with the three orcs, they eventually discovered a small, white building that a discreet sign announced as the Sculpture Museum. All around were manicured gardens dotted with statuary of animals, men, and women—a medusa with its head of snakes screaming, a strange creature clutching a human child to its breast, a perfect replica of a cypress tree next to the real thing—byakhees presented angular wet-black arrangements, folded in upon themselves like bat wings. The last were by the entrance.

As they passed, the creatures shifted, their eyes swiveling jerkily. One clapped its great jaws together.

Scarbelly nearly smashed its head in with an axe. “I don’t like this.”

“It’s a little late for that,” said Ilmarė. [MORE]

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Tuesday, September 23

Gates of Delirium: Part 10 – There’s Something Here

After journeying for hours from room to room, they finally decided to rest.

“Wake up,” whispered Guppy. “Wake up, there’s something here.”

Jim-Bean’s eyes fluttered open.

A putrescent, translucent bag of semisolid flesh trails nests of writhing tentacles shimmered into view. Most of the tendrils are sense organs, but the thickest tendril ends in a cruelly fanged mouth.

“Guys!” shouted Jim-Bean. “Wake up!”

With a sudden roar, the thing tore into Fielding, churning him into a bloody spray.

“Run!” shouted Hammer. [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 5 – The Northern Quarter

As they turned a corner, they came upon a small group of masked figures. As the rest move off, the last turned to greet them.

“And I am Noss,” he said, swaying drunkenly. The masked man doffed a red and green bird mask.

“Sorry, who?” asked Kham.

“Noss. I’m Noss. Didn’t you ask just now?”

“No,” said Ilmarė. “We didn’t.”

“Ah. Well, you look like you’re not from here. Were you born here?”

“No,” said Kham. “But you could say we’re regular visitors.”

Noss nodded. “I’m sure it looks quite different from last time. There is a great festival happening that has given rise to much excitement. A Stranger has come to the city who promises further upheaval—we wear masks in the Stranger’s honor, hoping that all will be to the good.”

“Us too,” said Kham.

“If you need help, I can act as your guide.”

“Actually, we were wondering if you’ve seen some…” Ilmarė hesitated, “ugly-masked people.”

Noss thought for a moment. “I think I can help. Follow me.” [MORE]

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Gates of Delirium: Part 9 – Theoretical Purposes

Jim-Bean opened the next door to see a doppelganger of himself peering back. The duplicate whispered, “Help me, please…”

Blood spurted from the other Jim-Bean’s mouth as he was stabbed from behind.

“Don’t trust him!” snarled Hammer on the other side of the room, a bloody knife in his hand. He had obviously been in a fight; blood dripped from his nose.

Beyond Hammer, odd translucent pillars lurched sideways into the room.

“He’s lying about everything!” snarled the second Hammer.

The parallel Hammer was suddenly beheaded by one of the pillars. The door whisked shut. [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 4 – The Road and the Forest

They came onto a large stage of an immaculate, Coryani-style amphitheater. A semicircle of stone seats rose up into the sky; trapdoors and scene shifting equipment indicated that the theater was still in use.

“Movement,” said Ilmarė. “I think I saw a man with a…”

There was the crack of a pistol shot. Ilmarė spun from the blast.

“Damn humans!” shouted the elorii.

Kham took out both his pistols. “You okay?”

Ilmarė clutched her shoulder, blood streaming between her fingertips. “He only grazed me.”

“Damn Kolter and his crappy pistols!” Kham shook his head. “Every fool with a grudge has one.” He shouted at the pillar. “Come out, you’re outnumbered!”

Ilmarė arched an eyebrow.

“What?” Kham shrugged. “It’s true, we outnumber him.”

A man with neatly cut brown hair, a fat face, and a nervous smile stepped out from the pillar. He was dressed in the typical cult robes of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign. He was tall, but moved with a hunch as though trying to remain unseen. The man placed the pistol in his pocket.

“I’m sorry, I thought you were the creatures in the sky. You’re wearing masks…” He trailed off.

Ilmarė’s eyes narrowed. “Do we LOOK like big alien bugs?” [MORE]

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Monday, September 22

Gates of Delirium: Part 8 – 60659

McNab opened another door. “Holy crap, there’s someone in here!”

The gravity shifted in the room again, forcing everyone to climb sideways once they entered the room. A skeletal corpse clad in tattered rags lay crumpled on the floor. A nauseating stench filled the air.

Hammer inspected the corpse. “It’s covered in mathematical formulae and odd phrases.”

“It’s on the walls too,” said Jim-Bean. “On every available writing space.”

Fielding tapped a part of the wall. “Here’s that number again: 60659. Can you make out what it says on his body?”

Hammer read up and down the length of one arm.

“Daoloth may grant vision to his priests—visions of past and of future, and into the very last dimension, beyond even the twenty-fifth. But the gift of true sight is a dangerous one, for reality is but a fragile illusion, and madness comes quickly with truth.”

“Anything on him we can use?” asked Jim-Bean.

Hammer held up a pen. “Not unless you want to write your life’s story, no.”

The corpse begins to rot away right before their eyes.

Jim-Bean took the pen from Hammer. “Just in case it’s a short story.” [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 3 – The Road and the Forest

They emerged onto a broad walkway lined by porticoes that were in turn backed by large buildings. The buildings had no visible doors and their windows were set high up in the smooth walls.

The majority of the city boasted buildings of a uniformly fine quality, well designed and constructed, and in perfect repair. The streets were clean, there were well-tended trees and open spaces, and there was no kind of objectionable noise or bustle.

“It’s eerily calm,” said Ilmarė. Occasional snatches of music or singing could be heard, although the source was impossible to identify.

Several residents, all masked, suddenly appeared at adjoining windows in one building and leaned far out. One was pointing behind them, while the others strained to see what the masked man was indicating. There was a shout of recognition, a shrill scream, and some slightly hysterical laughter.

Ilmarė squinted. “It’s the Phantom of Truth, all dressed in white.”

“Just like in the play,” said Kham. “We’re going to have to find the palace before that party happens.”

“What play?” asked Prolk.

“It’s complicated,” said Kham. “Suffice it to say that Carcosa is as much a place as it is a mindset. When you read about it, you become part of it.”

Ilmarė frowned at Kham. “And it becomes a part of you.” [MORE]

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Sunday, September 21

Gates of Delirium: Part 7 – Third Watch

McNab opened the door on the opposite room.

“Yowza. Things just got interesting. There’s a girl in the other room. I’m going in…” He suddenly shrieked as he nearly fell through the door.

Jim-Bean grabbed hold of McNab’s belt and pulled him back. He could see what McNab was reacting to. There was an unconscious woman in a red dress and heels on the floor.

As they climbed in, she woke up.

“What? What the hell? Where am I? Who the hell are you people?” She looked around. “I must have had more to drink last night than I thought.”

Hammer made introductions. “Who are you and how did you get here?”

“I’m Amy. Amy Spencer. I was seeing Doctor Tarrou to deal with work stress. He prescribed me these eye drops. The last thing I remember was putting two drops in my eyes and then I woke up here.” She looked the motley crew of people up and down. “How the hell did I get here? Have we been kidnapped?”

“I’m starting to see a pattern,” said Jim-Bean.

“Don’t ask me to explain what this place is,” said Hammer. “I don’t entirely understand it myself. We’re trying to get out of here together.”

McNab grinned. “You’re welcome to join us!” [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 2 – The Road and the Forest

The black mirror of the loch stretched out—a long, thin cut between the mountain ridges that contained it. Edwards’ house stood on the loch’s eastern end.

“For a laird, his house is not as impressive as I imagined,” said Ilmarė. It was a largish two-story stone hunting lodge, rather ugly. Two wagons stood in front of it, almost completely hidden by snow. No footprints or horse tracks were visible.

A thin, white mist rolled up from the water and around and past the house. There was no noise, no lights no movement.

As soon as they moved, the mist thickened around them. Visibility quickly lessened, but as it did they caught a glimpse of something new. There was a new structure—a large, white arch that looked ceremonial. It was completely incongruous in surroundings.

“It’s happening again,” sighed Kham.

They became aware of other buildings around them. The mist was gone. Even behind them there were streets. They stood in the middle of a city, a city that did not belong there. In front of them, the large ornate arch was topped by elaborate statuary depicting a pair of lions rearing and fighting.

“That wasn’t thar a moment ago,” said Scarbelly.

“The whole city wasn’t there before,” said Ilmarė.

The house was no longer visible. Neither was the loch. It was clear that the sky no longer belonged to Arcanis. Though it appeared to be night, with stars everywhere, there were also two pale suns low in the sky that bathed the city in a pearl light.

“We’re back in Carcosa,” said Kham. He seemed resigned to his fate. “Only this time it’s not frozen over. They must have finished another summoning ritual.” [MORE]

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Saturday, September 20

Beware the Chronophage!

I get it...this guy made a neat clock based on some other guy's clock from long ago. But what he doesn't address is why he turned the grasshopper, which sounds like a quaint little keeper of time and is at best a stylized representation in the original clock, to an alien, reptilian-like locust of DOOM, complete with stinger, a red maw, and huge fangs. The thing has to be five feet long at least.


He invites you to witness him releasing it on an unsuspecting public. Isn't that how every supervillain gets his start? Don't say I didn't warn you...

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Gates of Delirium: Part 6 – Hypercube

They moved quickly from room to room, the gradual encroachment of the shimmering wall giving chase. They finally cleared four more rooms, for a total of ten. Fielding dutifully marked them down with his watch.

Jim-Bean looked up. “I don’t remember that being here before.”

There were drawings of a tesseract on each of the panels of the walls, ceiling, and floor that didn’t contain a door.

Fielding started laughing. “A tesseract! Of course! I can’t believe I didn’t see it before, it’s been staring at us in the face the whole time!”

“Uh…what?” asked Hammer, concerned that the man had finally lost his mind.

“Look, a tesseract, it’s another name for a hypercube, a four-dimensional cube,” said Fielding with exasperation. “All the elements are there: rooms repeating, rooms folding in on themselves, teleportation, it could all very well add up. Look here, let’s call one dimension length.” He scratched a line in the wall. “And represent that with a simple line.” He scratched another line, outlining a square. “Two dimensions are length and width, which can be represented by a simple square.” He scratched a three-dimensional representation of a cube. “Now if we extend that square one more dimension we get a cube, which has three dimensions: length, width, and depth. Here’s the really funky part. If you take this cube and extend it one more dimension we get a tesseract.”

“I always thought time was considered the fourth dimension,” said McNab.

“Sure that’s just one idea, but what if you have a fourth spatial dimension?” asked Fielding. “A hypercube isn’t supposed to be real, it’s just a theoretical construct.”

Hammer rubbed his forehead. “This place gives me a headache.” [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Part 1 – The Road and the Forest


Just half a mile down the road, looping, the rutted track led away to the north then the east. There was no indication that it had been taken recently, but after following it for a full mile they came to a monolith standing in a small clearing.

Kham frowned. “This looks familiar.”

Ilmarė squinted. “It reads: Expectant we raise our muzzles to smell the air for hatred, we strain our ears for the sound of love.”

They kept moving. Ilmarė froze.

“What?” asked Kham.

“Shh! Do you hear that?”

They strained to listen. There was a distant crashing noise. Something was coming closer and closer through the thick forest.

“It’s coming from the south,” said Ilmarė. “But it’s not at ground level. Whatever it is, it’s high up—splintering the treetops as it comes.”

“Get down!” shouted Kham. [MORE]

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Japanese Bug Fights

Deep down, I know it's morally and ethically wrong to have bugs fight to death for our amusement. But it's like one step above having robots fight for our amusement. Sort of like how the Romans used to bet on whether or not a Rhinoceros could be an Elephant in the arena, only tinier and uglier.

http://www.japanesebugfights.com

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Thursday, September 18

Gates of Delirium: Part 5 – Help Me!

The door whisked open to reveal a horrible scene.

“Help!” shouted a young man attempting to hold up Doctor Tarrou, who was slowly being strangled by his own belt.

“He looks familiar,” said Jim-Bean. “I think he was at the ceremony.”

“Help me!” shouted the man. “I can’t hold him much longer! Hurry!”

“Bruce?” Fielding shouted back. “We have to help him!”

“Give me some space…I’m going to loosen the belt.” shouted Bruce McNab. “I’m losing him!” [MORE]

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To Walk in Carcosa: Prologue

It was the middle of the night when Dril opened the front door to an unassuming terraced cottage. It was empty.

Price shoved past him. “I don’t know what da big deal is. So people got killed in The Tombs. Happens all da time.”

Dril examined the floor. “We’ve been over this: Grahame Roby asserted without a doubt that the corpse was not Lucius Roby’s; it lacks a scar on the upper arm that Lucius acquired as a youth.”

“Right, so that means what one ov da two bodies was Thomas Clarke. Good chap, terrible thin' ter 'appen ter 'im. But what doesn’t mean we need ter be all searchin' Evans’ 'ome. I say we let da dead stay dead.”

The Altherian paused at one point in the floor. “You hear that?”

Price cocked his head. “What?”

“The floorboards. They stopped squeaking. Shine your lantern over here.”

Price focused his bull’s-eye lantern at the spot by Dril’s foot.

The floorboards were a darker color than the rest, spongy and moist. [MORE]

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Gates of Delirium: Part 4 – Closer

Before they could ask him more, the door on the floor whisks open and an older man’s head in glasses peeked through it. He clambered up.

“Finally,” he breathed. “I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one in here. Kept hoping I would find some other people. I’ve been wandering around these rooms for hours!”

“Keep him away from me!” shouted Guppy. “Don’t let him hurt me!”

“Oh, certainly not,” said the man. “I come in peace. I don’t suppose you could let me know what we’re doing in here? Oh, I’m Martin, Martin Fielding,” he offered his hand.

Hammer took it. “My name is Hammer. This is Jim-Bean and Guppy.”

Fielding looked askance at the names, then shrugged.

He wandered over to one of the doors and unlatched his watch from his wrist. Using the corner of the watch clip, he carved a number into the door.

“What are you doing?” asked Jim-Bean. The man looked vaguely familiar.

“I’m marking the rooms,” said Fielding. “This is the fourth room I’ve been in. What’s weird is that I’ve been wandering for hours. Each one of these rooms has six of these doors or portals, but no matter how many doors or portals I go through, I always end up in the same three rooms…until now. The rooms must be moving…but I don’t feel any motion, do you?”

“No,” said Hammer, “We haven’t—“

He stopped, because there was the sound of movement behind them.

“Oh no, it’s getting closer!” wailed Guppy. “I don’t know what it is, something’s coming after us and I don’t think it likes us. It wants us dead, please we have to get out of here right now! Please, we have to move!” [MORE]

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Chapter 35: To Walk on Arcanis in Carcosa

This is a Call of Cthulhu adventure, “Tatters of the King” by Tim Wiseman, adapted for the Freeport setting. You can read more about Arcanis at http://www.onaraonline.org. Please note: This adventure contains spoilers!

Our cast of characters includes:

Due to my own stupidity and complications with http://www.evite.com, the invitation about gaming got screwed up. As a result, only two players were present.

Fortunately, this is a Call of Cthulhu adventure, which means it’s much more about decision-making and much less about combat. In fact, I had to heavily revise the adventure so combat would take place and then, when we didn’t have enough players, I played it very close to the original version. Now that I think about it, there was actually only one combat in the whole session!

Anyway, this adventure wraps up two major plot points…by killing them. It’s also my deus ex machina to dump our heroes into the next adventure. Oh how I love portals! [MORE]

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Wednesday, September 17

My New Gaming Column: The Horror!

My new gaming column, "The Horror!" launches today. Or it will launch soon -- as of right now the article isn't loading. Here's a sneak preview:
“This is nice,” began the anonymous feedback of my short story submission to a horror anthology, “but it reads more like an episode of the Twilight Zone than an actually scary story.”

That feedback was particularly galling, because I had tried damn hard to write something scary. It involved an organ grinder. And a monkey. No seriously, it was scary.

Anyway, ever since then I took that criticism as a personal challenge to craft horror in a way that was successful. The measure of success is up to the reader; I suppose causing someone to piss their pants would qualify, but I’ll settle for “dude, that was freaking me out!” [MORE]

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Gates of Delirium: Part 3 – Don’t Move

Jim-Bean woke up in a strange, cube-shaped room with glowing, computer circuit-like walls and six doors, one at the center of each wall, including the ceiling and floor. The walls were all lit by white light from every direction, the only reprieve being the diagonal superstructure of the room. Ladders extended from the center of the room in four directions on every wall, each leading to a door. Although he was wearing his own clothes, Jim-Bean was otherwise unarmed.

He crawled up to one of the doors. As he reached toward the door, it whisked open.

The short Asian man with a bowl cut lay on the floor in an identical room.

Jim-Bean stepped back and the door whisked shut.

A variety of weird static noises emanated from all around him. Then one of the doors whisked open.

The younger man Jim-Bean saw participating in the ritual opened the door ahead of him, peered inside, and closed it.

“Hey!” shouted Jim-Bean.

A second later, the young man appeared in the door above Jim-Bean, peered inside, and closed it.

“What the…”

A moment after that the man appeared in the door behind Jim-Bean. He craned his neck to look inside, and closed it.

Jim-Bean ran over to the door. It whisked open as Hammer stumbled into the room.

“Did you see that guy?”

“What guy?” asked Hammer, looking around. “I’m still a little disoriented, I could have sworn I was moving sideways but I ended up dropping into this room.” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Conclusion

The Bloody Vengeance was a crudely built orc ship, roughly ninety feet long. It was battle-scarred but seaworthy. The ship sailed hard away from Freeport.

Drak Scarbelly appeared in full captain’s regalia, once again the master of his own ship. He smiled at Prolk, the old orc hag who had helped coordinate the orcs to rescue him. “Ye did well.”

Prolk bowed her head slightly.

Rask, the orc wizard with his floppy hat and staff, approached Scarbelly. “We haven’t found Aggro,” he said.

Scarbelly chuckled. “He’ll be along.”

Krysos Boz’s head bounced across the deck. Then Aggro clambered up over the deck, dripping seawater. “Sorry I be late,” he muttered. “I had t’ settle a score.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, September 16

Gates of Delirium: Part 2 – The Parting of the Veils

The basement contained cords of wood and a jumble of old furniture, including a broken rocking chair, a table and an old mattress. A furnace was installed as well.

The chanting was coming from beyond the mattress. Hammer shoved it aside.

Behind the old mattress was a small door in the wall, about four feet high and three feet wide. He pushed it open.

Beyond was a large, very dark room. It had been crudely expanded to its present size with pick and shovel.

A pentacle was inscribed upon the floor. Two candles – the only illumination in the room – flickered within the pentacle. Two men stood around the pentacle a few feet back. Tarrou’s assistant, a short Asian man, to Tarrou’s left. Dr. Tarrou slammed a metal rod against the floor several times and called out, “Unveil the universe, O Daoloth! And reveal the realities beyond as thou once did for the astrologers of Atlantis!”

Hammer’s flashlight caught the heavy presence floating over the pentacle. The thing in the pentacle was shapeless, so complex that the eye could recognize no describable shape. There were hemispheres and shining metal, coupled by long plastic rods. The rods were of a flat gray color, so that he couldn’t make out which were nearer; they merged into a flat mass from which protruded individual cylinders. As Hammer looked at it, he had a curious feeling that eyes gleamed from between the rods; but wherever he glanced at the construction, he saw only the spaces between them.

“Fools!” shouted Tarrou. “You’ve doomed us all!” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 10b – The Rescue

Water rushed past him. At first, it was impossible to make out anything but bubbles. Then Kham was able to slowly make out the forms of the other prisoners, all of them churning helpless in the water above and below him.

Kham felt his way down to Scarbelly. Kham easily freed himself from the chain around his leg.

Scarbelly stared at him, unsure of what he was doing.

Kham pointed at his own hand, then pointed at Scarbelly. Scarbelly lifted his hand.

Kham took the ring off and put it on the orc’s gnarled hand. Instantly, he was free and floating upwards.

Kham let go of the chain. He couldn’t help but look down. The men disappeared into the inky darkness like a discarded charm bracelet, doomed to drowning with Clank as their anchor. [MORE]

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Monday, September 15

Review of The Adventure Begins

The Beast of Barren Hill is great. It shows that things do not have to be magical or include monsters. It takes a very real look at the fierceness of a bear and comes up with alternate rules that make a bear scarier and also more realistic. And the fact there is a druid helping the bear out does not hurt either.

The Adventure Begins is a good collection of fun and easy to use low level adventures. I found myself wanting to use many of the adventures so I came up with different plot hooks and introduced them to the campaign. The players choose some and ignored others but it was great to give them options and let them choose were to go. Having twenty adventures to choose from really allows for a good number of options and a variety of different types of adventures. [MORE]

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Gates of Delirium: Part 1 – Dr. Tarrou’s Home

SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY--Dr. Tarrou’s home was located on Easton Neck Point in Long Island’s Suffolk County, an hour’s drive east of Brooklyn. The nearby village of Asharoken was a small, unremarkable resort community.

Dr. Tarrou’s two story house was an unadorned, rectangular, early Georgian building overlooking Long Island Sound. A gable roof and large chimneys enhanced the symmetry. The ornately carved entrance with its pilasters, paneled double doors, and semicircular fanlight formed a gracious entryway to the home. An inscribed brass plate beside the door bore the legend, “Dr. R. Tarrou, Psychiatrist.” Beneath the plate was a doorbell.

Hammer rang the doorbell.

There was no answer. He waited.

“Do you hear that?” asked Jim-Bean.

“Hear what?”

“Chanting. Listen.”

They strained to listen. Sure enough, there was some faintly audible chanting.

“That can’t be good,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 10a – The Rescue

All the prisoners were arranged along both sides of the ship, chained to each other in two long lines. The iron golem stood watch at the center. The ship was already heavy enough with all the prisoners.

Two red-cloaked captains stood watch at either side of the boat, while several guards kept the prisoners in line. Also enforcing the authority of the captains were two wand guards, who wielded dragon-shaped pistols that spat lightning. And all the while, Clank’s menacing shadow reminded everyone that no disobedience would be tolerated.

Aggro was on the opposite side of Kham and Scarbelly, rowing along with a pair of nervous-looking humans to either side of the hulking orc. Aggro whispered something to the prisoner beside him, who passed it on to another prisoner, who passed it another in turn.

“It’s happening.” Kham took the two rings out of his shoe and put them on. “Get ready.”

Scarbelly nodded and kept rowing.

The whispers made their way around the rowers. Until it got to Krysos.

Krysos nodded. He slowly turned around. Kham caught his gaze.

Krysos smiled.

“MUTINY!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “It’s a mutiny!” He stopped rowing and stood up to point at Kham. “The val’s trying to make a run for it!” [MORE]

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Sunday, September 14

Gates of Delirium: Prologue

The staff escorted Jim-Bean to Guppy’s room. Inside, was clear Guppy’s injuries were serious, but not life-threatening, consisting mainly of severe abrasions and contusions. His eyes were covered with a bandage.

“Guppy,” whispered Jim-Bean.

Guppy’s head turned to face Jim-Bean, but it was clear he was unable to communicate coherently. He didn’t even seem to recognize him.

“Can you hear me?”

Suddenly Guppy began to sob hysterically. The duty nurse tapped a wicked-looking needle. “Here we go again.”

“You regularly inject him?” asked Jim-Bean, eyeing the needle.

“Mr. Gupta’s had spells like this before,” she explained. “Sometimes he wakes up shrieking. Most of the time it’s just nonsense, but once in awhile you can make out some of what he says. Last night for instance, he was screaming as though someone were in the room with him, trying to kill him. Of course, he was alone; it was very disturbing for the other patients to hear. But then, Mr. Gupta’s not the first addict we’ve had in here.”

“Whoa, whoa. Addict?”

The duty nurse shrugged. “The hallucinations and delusions are probably the result of addiction to Blink, not of any concussion. He has a high tolerance to morphine.”

Jim-Bean kept silent that it was likely Guppy’s history was more responsible for his resistance to morphine than any drug use. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 9 – Aggro

One day blurred into the next. Kham quickly became caught up in the routine. The arrival of new prisoners was always an event.

The orc that was dragged on board that morning was different than the rest, primarily due to his hulking size. He had a gray tinge to him, but it was his rippling muscles that distinguished the beast. He wore no shoes, and his great clawed feet splayed on the deck like deformed lobsters. Kham recognized those feet.

“Aggro!” shouted Scarbelly during dinner. They were eating gruel. “What ye be doing here?”

Aggro flashed Scarbelly a sly grin. It wasn’t a pretty sight. “I come t’ bring ye a message. We’re going t’ make a break for it.”

“When?” asked Kham.

“Tomorrow,” said Aggro. “It took awhile for t’ courts to arraign me.”

“What’d ye do?” asked Scarbelly.

Aggro shrugged. “I kept beatin’ guards in the face until a bunch of ‘em knocked me out.” [MORE]

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Saturday, September 13

The Gates of Delirium: Introduction

This scenario, “The Gates of Delirium,” is a Cthulhu Now scenario from The Stars Are Right by Gary Sumpter. 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:

This scenario was originally planned for my brother’s character, Guppy; if you recall from a previous scenario, he stumbled across the whereabouts of his ex-girlfriend, who had been committed to an insane asylum. Guppy was to investigate, discover what happened to her, and then try to survive her “treatment” by yet another insane psychologist.

It didn’t work out that way. Instead, I made it so that Guppy was the victim and needed to be rescued. It helped explain why Guppy had been missing for awhile, so this was an opportunity to bring him back into the fold. What ensues is a rip-off of the movie “The Cube,” in which the agents are placed in a hellish extradimensional series of traps (actually Daoloth). They would have to survive not just Daoloth but each other. It sounded good in theory.

There were two problems. For one, the scenario requires a certain level of basic distrust; freaking out about the circumstances surrounding the mind-bending nature of Daoloth would go a long way in making the scenario a lot more interesting. For that distrust to be sowed, it requires more dissension amongst a larger group. But with just two agents, the PCs weren’t about to role-play that level of distrust; they needed each other too much.

For another, this scenario disarms the PCs. Hammer is good with guns, of which there were none. Jim-Bean is good with working the system, of which he had little system to work with. So for this scenario to work, we needed someone prone to hysteria (like Guppy) and more PCs.

Still, there was a brilliant psychological moment where Jim-Bean brought up the insanity of it all, and that helped make the scenario memorable, if not as enjoyable as the previous two scenarios. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 9 – Krysos Boz


A man sat across from Kham that he hadn’t seen before. He was bearded, with a red bandana tied around his head.

The orcs that always surrounded Scarbelly moved towards them from other tables, but the orc captain kept them at bay with a gesture. He wanted to see what the man had to say.

He took a big bite of a piece of bread. Kham’s piece of bread. “So the dirty orc lover is still alive. Well,” he said around chews, “I don’t care if you’re Finn’s flunky or not. On this boat, Krysos Boz is the boss.”

Kham sighed. “You’re talking about yourself in third person, aren’t you.”

Krysos leaned forward, jabbing a finger in Kham’s face. “I can do more to you than talk, if you like.”

“Well,” Kham rose to his feet. “I think I’m going to go take a walk.” With a snap of his wrist, he looped the length of chain that tied him to Scarbelly around Krysos’ neck. “What do you think Scarbelly?”

“I think I’m goin' t' go visit me buckos over thar.” The orc captain winked with his good eye.

Before Krysos could protest, the orc and the val walked in opposite directions, yanking the chain taut. Krysos was lifted into the air. His face turned bright red and he let out a low gurgle. [MORE]

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Friday, September 12

Getting Results: Conclusion


“That explains why Tucker was so keen on covering everything up,” said Jim-Bean. “So what happens to Mamoud?”

“What about him?” asked Hammer innocently.

“You know, terrorist leader who can bring evidence against Warner?”

Hammer shrugged. “Don’t know.” He looked down at his cistron. “According to Sprague, Mamoud died in the explosion.”

“Officially?” asked Jim-Bean with a sigh.

“Officially.” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 8 – The Rings

The prisoners left their afternoon's work at a quarter-past five, so as to be all collected by half-past. The slanting rays of the sun threw long shadows from the cutters over the water, and the evening light sparkled warmly upon the tide, and danced as it caught every polished point of the dense mass, while the boats advance towards the hulk.

On the cutters reaching the hulk, the prisoners streamed up the gangway in single file as before - then poured down the hatchways, into their respective wards, where gruel was at once served out to them. They were allowed to rest till chapel-time, at half-past six o'clock.

Kham was exhausted. He was practically slumped over the table.

“Ye should choke somethin’ down,” said Scarbelly. “Or ye’ll only get weaker.”

Kham looked up at the orc. “Why do you care?”

Scarbelly took a deep breath. “Truth be told, I’d rather gut ye myself. But ye were done wrong, just like I be, by Kenzil an' his legacy. Ye lost a father t' him. Me, I just lost an eye an' a leg.” He rapped one calloused fist on his wooden peg leg.

“This doesn’t mean we’re friends, orc.”

Scarbelly nodded. “I wouldn’t be havin' it any other way. But if we’re goin' t' survive here, we’d better learn t' trust each other. If I wanted t', I could snap yer neck while ye sleep ye know.”

Kham swallowed hard. [MORE]

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Want to Know if the Hadron Collider...

destroyed the world yet? This handy dandy tool will let you know!

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com

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Thursday, September 11

Getting Results: Part 3c – Mamoud’s Body Shop

Jim-Bean shrugged off the agents, who stood with pistols at the ready.

Tucker came stalking out of the body shop. “Where’s your partner?”

“Partner?” asked Jim-Bean innocently. “What partner?”

“Don’t f*&k with me, Jimmy, or so help me I will cap you in the knees right now.”

Another agent jogged out. “Mamoud’s missing.”

Tucker’s eyes blazed and he bit his lip. “Damn it.” He turned back to Jim-Bean. “Where’s Mamoud?”

“Mamoud?” began Jim-Bean. “I don’t—“

Tucker pointed his pistol at Jim-Bean’s forehead. “Last chance: where is Mamoud? He’s with your partner, isn’t he?”

“Seriously, chap, I don’t—“

Tucker fired two perfectly aimed shots at Jim-Bean’s knees. He screamed in pain as his legs gave out beneath him. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 7 – Hard Labor

The rowers held their oars raised in the air, as the brown line of men flowed rapidly into the cutter below. Some seated themselves in the stem, but the large majority stood in a dense mass in the bottom of the long low craft, dotted here and there by the dark dress of the officers planted in the midst of them. In fine weather no less than one hundred prisoners were landed in each of the boats.

The long boats glided slowly to the pier, their dense human freight painted brown on the stream. And scarcely had one boat landed its felon crew before another was filled, and making for the shipyards and the shore.

“We’re building ships?”

“Aye.” Scarbelly continued to row in sync with Kham. Because they were chained together, they were learning to do a lot of things together. “Freeport’s lookin' t' build itself a fleet.”

“For what?” asked Kham.

“For war,” said Scarbelly. [MORE]

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Wednesday, September 10

Getting Results: Part 3b – Mamoud’s Body Shop

Seeing the move out of the corner of his eye, Jim-Bean dove to the ground and came up with his SIG. Machinegun fire raked the counter near his head.

“Took you long enough!”

“We need a witness,” said Hammer. “I want to find out what Tucker’s trying to…”

The machinegun fire stopped. The terrorists were looking up at the ceiling in fear. Hammer and Jim-Bean heard it too. It was a helicopter.

A big helicopter.

Jim-Bean peered over the counter out the glass window of the customer service desk to see the chopper hovering just a few feet above the ground. Tucker was strapped into an unmarked black helicopter. He caught sight of Jim-Bean and smiled.

Then he tapped the agent who sat in the minigun seat on the helmet twice, giving him the okay to fire.

“DOWN!” shouted Jim-Bean. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 6c – The Hulks

At half-past six the doctor came on board. An officer went round shouting in the wards, "Any men to see the doctor?"

Kham joined five other men appear in answer, formed in line near the galley-door. They were ushered one by one into the little surgery. The serious cases were ushered into a trap door, where they passed at once down into a little separate room underneath.

The doctor, a gaunt scarecrow of a man, looked Kham up and down. “And what’s wrong with you?”

Kham swayed slightly. “I…I don’t…”

“Pfft, you’re just a lousy juicer,” said the doctor. He slapped Kham a couple of times on the cheek. “You’ll either die from the stuff or get over it. Either way it’ll be decided by tomorrow. Back to the bunk with you!”[MORE]

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Tuesday, September 9

Getting Results: Part 3a – Mamoud’s Body Shop

“A body shop, huh?” asked Hammer. “What’s our cover?”

“It’s a body shop.” Jim-Bean looked at Hammer as if he were stupid. “Our car needs repairs.”

“But where are we going to get a car that’s in bad enough shape to need repairs? We don’t have enough time to—“

Jim-Bean hit the accelerator and the Honda Civic slammed into the car in front of them. Before Hammer could respond, Jim-Bean threw it in reverse and smashed the Civic into the car behind them. Then throwing it into drive again, he pulled hard on the wheel, drove up on the sidewalk, and sped away.

“You were saying?” asked Jim-Bean.

“Never mind,” said Hammer. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 6b – The Hulks

Strong iron rails, running from one end to the other, divided the bottom deck into two long cages with a passage between them. In this passage a warder paced to and fro, commanding a view of the prisoners, who were slung up in hammocks, fastened in two rows, in each cage of the ship. There was also a little transverse passage at the end of each ward that allowed the officer on duty to take a side view of the sleepers, and to cast the light of his bull's-eye lantern under the hammocks to assure himself that the men were quiet in their beds.

The deep-toned bell against the forecastle sounded three bells. In a minute scores and scores of men tumbled out of their beds, wriggling and stretching themselves in their blue shirts.

"All up! Turn out, men!" cried the officer; and the prisoners were in their trousers in an inconceivably short time.

Kham looked up from the deck. He had lost control of his bodily functions in the night. He felt like he had been turned inside out. Everything ached.

“Ye had a rough night,” said Scarbelly. The one-eyed orc’s ugly snout poked into view. “Didn’t think ye’d make it.”

“What do you know…” gasped Kham, “…greenskin.”

“I know what a liability looks like,” said Scarbelly. “Me beauty, yer me bunkmate, so what happens t' ye happens t' me. Now get up!” [MORE]

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Monday, September 8

Getting Results: Part 2 – The Hideout

"There's eight of them, on the fourth floor," said the landlord at the stakeout across the street from his building. "The guys in there, they don't do nothing. All they eat is pizza and watch TV."

Hammer took a look at the hideout through binoculars. Men in trench coats carefully made their way across the roof of a nearby building. One of them cleared the gap between the two buildings

Masters’ walkie-talkie crackled to life. "Tucker's men are here."

“Damn it!” muttered Jim-Bean. “Hammer, let’s go.”

They sprinted to the entrance, hoping Tucker’s men and the terrorists wouldn’t see them, and then jogged up four flights of stairs.

“Now what?” asked Hammer. “We can’t just knock on the door—“

Jim-Bean knocked on the door. He took the note in Arabic and put it up to the peep hole. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 6a – The Hulks

Kham was manacled hand and foot and marched out to a dock, along with four of his fellow prisoners.

“Shouldn’t Lucius be here?” asked Kham, looking around.

“Aye, but ‘e was in The Tombs,” said Price. “They’ve got ter go get 'im. Don’t matter mate, you’re gon'a get a boat load ov new friends.” He looked almost sad.

At the end of the dock, Kham felt a tingling, probably some kind of magical defense. Six dwarves, their faces covered in ash and soot, stood sullenly at the end of the docks.

“Get in,” said the guard captain gruffly.

“See yew in a 'undred years.” Price waved at Kham and then marched away.

Kham was practically thrown into a rowboat, dragged along with the four other prisoners. The guards piled in after him.

“Now row,” said the captain.

The rowing was long and hard, but it gave Kham plenty of time to take in his new home.

The two hulks, the Defense and the Unite, were moored head to head. The bulky hammock-houses were reared upon their decks, their barred portholes and their rows of prisoners' linen swinging from between the stunted poles that served them as masts. Nearly a mile farther down the heavy form of another hulk, the Warrior, moored close alongside the Dockyard, with the little, ugly Sulfur, a washing-ship, lay in the offing.

The Warrior’s appearance was particularly striking. Her square-cut stern and quarter-galleries stamped her at once with the hallmark of antiquity, and her bluff bow showed that she, at any rate, could never have distinguished herself for a high rate of speed.

The prisoners rowed past a cordon of buoys moored around the yellow-painted hulk at a distance of about seventy yards. Kham took note of it.

Kham was to be elevated to the deck of the Warrior by a rough lift. All five of them were pushed onto it. Other prisoners slowly winched them up.

When the prisoners were finally hauled up onto the deck, bristling dwarves and something large and metallic loomed over them. It strode with thundering steps; one arm was a gigantic crossbow with two large bolts the size of a man’s arm. The other had three stubby fingers.

“Get a good look,” said the guard captain, pointing at the sky. “That’s the last breath of fresh air you’ll take as a free man.” [MORE]

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Sunday, September 7

Getting Results: Part 1c – Ambush

Hammer’s cistron beeped.

“Yes? Okay. Yes. Thank you for contacting me first. You did the right thing.”

“Who was that?” asked Jim-Bean.

“Masters. I’m surprised he called us at all given what you said to him.”

“They didn’t listen to me,” said Jim-Bean with a shrug. “They could have saved more lives by downing those choppers. Would be doing the world a service if you ask me; a few less GNN news crew would make the world a better place.”

Hammer just stared at him. “You’re a cold hearted bastard, you know that?”

“Hey,” said Jim-Bean. “I worked in the SAS, remember? You don’t get there by hugging teddy bears.” He rolled his eyes. “What did the chief tell you?”

“The Centex used to create the C-4 was the same Centex used in the bombing of a U.S. military base. I ran fingerprints from one of the fingers found in the wreckage, and it turns out it’s a match for an illegal who recently entered the country.
The police followed up with their own contacts and discovered that the man's other compatriots are still living in a run-down apartment complex.”

“Great,” Jim-Bean strode toward the Honda Civic. “Let’s go.”

"There's just one problem," said Hammer. "Tucker was in Masters’ office when he found out and took off out of like a bat out of hell."

“I’ll drive fast,” said Jim-Bean with a smirk. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 5 – Kham val’Abebi’s Sentencing

Bozfoz took the stand.

“You have no doubt heard the pathetic plight of the defendant.” He pointed at Kham. “But I am here to examine not Mr. val’Abebi’s character but the nature of his crimes. I think you will see when I am finished here that this man deserves the Hulks.”

Bozfoz put his hands behind his back. “What Ms. Anders failed to elucidate upon was the despicable form in which Mr. val’Abebi’s crimes were perpetrated. On the charge of murder, Mr. val’Abebi hunted down Mr. Quelch and, we believe, shot him several times. The reason Ms. Anders didn’t mention the bullet wounds is because we have yet to recover Mr. Quelch’s body. It was last seen floating down the canal into the ocean. Rest assured, the reason Mr. val’Abebi is here is because of the loud retort of his gunshots, which were heard by several Freeport citizens. That, and all the screaming.” [MORE]

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Saturday, September 6

Getting Results: Part 1a – Ambush

“You killed him?”

Hammer’s expression went cold. “The official word is that Saladin died in an explosion.”

Jim-Bean arched an eyebrow. “But you didn’t kill him?”

“The official word is that he’s dead,” said Hammer.

“So unofficially he’s not dead?”

“Why don’t you ask for a few hostages to be released,” interjected Tucker.

“Oh, right.” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 4 – Lucius Roby’s Sentencing

Justice McGowan wrapped his black robes round him and, comfortably ensconced among his cushions, seemed to be taking his first nap.

“He asleep?”

“Awww, nah,” said Price. “Don’t be led away ter adopt an erroneous inference by da triflin' circumstance what Justice McGowan is ter all appearance fast asleep durin' a greater part ov da cases 'eard befawer 'im. He contrives ter follow every sen'ence in da addresses ov counsel fer da plaintiff an' da defendant, an' every jot an' title in da examinashun an' cross-examinashun ov da witnesses. It is only Justice McGowan's way ter close 'is eyes an' ter appear ter be wrapped in da arms ov Morpheus. When da time fer summin' up arrives, i' turns aaaht what 'e 'as made careful notes ov da entire body ov evidence, an' 'e proceeds ter astonish da jury by da exhaustiveness ov 'is knowledge ov da sui' an' da lucidi'y an' cogency ov 'is commun's thereon. Trust me, I’ve seen i' befawer.”

Kham looked sideways at Price. “Sometimes I can’t understand a damn thing you say.” [MORE]

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Friday, September 5

Belly of the Beast: Prologue


Before Hammer could respond, a handsome dark-skinned man in a black trench coat interrupted the conversation. "We'll take it from here."

“Who are you?” asked Masters skeptically.

"Special Agent Tucker," said the man, flashing his CIFA badge. "My men have been called in on this case.”

Hammer and Jim-Bean looked at each other.

“Who is this guy now?” asked Jim-Bean.

“Let me see that badge,” said Hammer.

Tucker dutifully handed it over. A scan of Hammer’s cistron confirmed he was legit. [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 3 – The Fortress of Justice

The courtroom was scarcely an imposing one; it was only one of a series of ugly, mean, and shabby rooms, quite unsuitable for the dispensation of justice, to say nothing of dignity, in Freeport. It was ill-lit, ill-ventilated, and full of the old Freeport Particular Law Court odor, which grew stronger and stronger as the Bar, the attorneys with their clerks, the jury, and the witnesses trooped in.

There was a little pen with appliances for writing in which a group of two or three, swelling imperceptibly to double that number of gentlemen, were gathered and began to refer to their notebooks. These persons Kham instinctively recognized as representatives of the press.

He turned around to look at the barristers' seats, which rose amphitheatrical till the rearmost were lost in the misty distance. The counsel learned in the law had begun to muster with some strength; and presently he recognized more than one eminent barrister and several rising stuff-gownsmen.

“Who did you say you worked for?” asked Kham through gritted teeth.

“Why Justice Angus McGowan,” said Price with a touch of reverence in his voice. “A learned judge. Black le'er scholar, so they say. Experienced, impartial, clear-sighted, 'igh-minded, an' altogether exemplary luminary ov da law, 'e is.”

Kham’s posture slumped. “I’m screwed, aren’t I.’

“Yep,” said Price. [MORE]

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Wednesday, September 3

Getting Results: Introduction

This scenario, “Getting Results,” is a Spycraft mission from Combat Missions by Yours Truly. 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:

I’m consistently surprised by all the effort that I put into scenarios like The Gates of Delirium, and then I barely even flesh out Getting Results and the agents have way more fun. In a lot of ways, I suppose it depends on the right ingredients.

In this case, the agents were given an opportunity to infiltrate a terrorist organization with the goal of capturing one of the terrorists. This is further complicated by the rival Majestic-12 team—the Warner/Sprague rivalry, which is turning out to be quite a lot of fun. It also helps make Sprague less of a wanker, which at one point the agents wanted to kill. Instead, they’re unified against a rival department, and caught in a cat-and-mouse game of making the other team’s boss look bad.

Another surprise moment was the emergence of Tucker as a complete badass. Tucker is ruthless and efficient, and what he did to Jim-Beam cemented him as a mortal enemy for a future conflict.

So we get an opportunity for both Jim-Bean and Hammer to shine, a breakout villain, and an explosive conclusion. Something for everybody!

Defining Moment: Tucker, unaware of Jim-Bean’s ability to heal himself, leaves him for dead in a warehouse full of explosives. And an intense, bitter rivalry is born!


Read more at http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?p=4452037#post4452037


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Belly of the Beast: Part 2 – Gresty’s Sentencing

The magistrate banged his gavel as Kham was dragged to the stand.

“The next charge on the list?”

“Kham val’Abebi,” said the sergeant.

“And the charge?”

The sergeant took a deep breath. “Breaking and entering. Assault of a government official. Assault upon a Councilor’s personal guard. Incitement to riot. Murder of one Elijah Quelch.” The sergeant checked his list. “Oh yes, possession of an illegal substance: ghoul juice.”

The magistrate’s eyebrows rose with each charge. “Is there anything you haven’t done, Mr. val’Abebi? I’m afraid these charges are dire. I’m moving this to the Fortress of Justice.”

“If I may—“ interrupted Egil.

“Tell it to the High Justice.” The magistrate banged his gavel once more. [MORE]

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Closed Casket: Conclusion

An unmarked black helicopter picked them up. The STREETSWEEPER team would be along soon after to remove any evidence.

“How do we explain this to Sprague?” asked Hammer.

Jim-Bean shrugged. “We don’t. We were driving along when a pack of ghouls tried to eat us. I’d say that’s pretty straightforward. There were no witnesses.”

“Except for Robert,” said Hammer.

“We got what we came for,” said Jim-Bean. “He told us the names of the cultists that placed him with that family of psychopaths. David Flaherty, Bernadette Springer, and Katarina Smith. And they all live in a little town known as Runville, Massachusetts.”

Hammer’s cistron beeped. Jim-Bean’s cistron quoted Invader Zim.

“Looks like it’ll have to wait. Al-Hazzan is at it again.”

Hammer leaned his head back and closed his eyes. “Plain old vanilla terrorists. What a relief.”

“What do you think will happen to the ghoul?” asked Jim-Bean. “Will STREETSWEEPER torch him?”

Hammer shook his head. “Worse. They’ll probably make him an agent.” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Part 1 – The Guard Office

Kham rolled over. Gresty took the feeble movement as encouragement to keep talking.

“I am to take Atkinson’s place when the old man dies. He cannot live two years at most. He says I am here for the Goat. But he owes me too and I will be paid what he owes me. The woman at Nug’s Farm, well Mr. Carbo’s wife…the old man never had her. The child is not his.” Gresty giggled. “I laugh when I think he can make things wilder than dreams and blacker than nightmares but he cannot climb into her bed. How his old loins must itch when he thinks of her.”

“Women…got me into this mess in the first place.”

Gresty waved the notion away. “So first we must play the last cards with Edwards and the King he follows. Edwards needs Mr. Roby and if he gets him there will be hell to pay. Worse I think, for hell is a weak imagining.”

“Lucius’ case is coming up soon,” said Kham. “Real soon…don’t think he’s going anywhere.”

“Edwards will call on me too. He needs me. I will not answer.”

“Like when Quelch called for Coombs before.” Kham sat up, rubbed his eyes. “You’re the same Gresty who wrote me that note.”

Gresty nodded. “The world’s unstable now. The King in Yellow is coming to Arcanis, and I’m the only one who knows how to stop him. We must call on…” he looked over his shoulder at the other prisoners in the adjoining cells, “the Old Gods.”

Kham tried not to look at Gresty. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

“I cut mouths in my hands.” Gresty held up his hands, which were bandaged but bloody from the gashes right across the palms. “And I went to the old Altherian temple. That temple sits there, growing fat sucking on the plague pits, pulling up power like the ssanu did from their own death pits. I went to make my appeal to our Old Gods. I called on Tizzhet, the Black Goat of the Woods, to leave the greensward to bring her Thousand Young.”

“Althares’ ass,” said Kham. “You’re one of those.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, September 2

Closed Casket: Part 4b – Magic Time

A loud noise made them all look out the window.

It was the sound of a truck’s horn. A big truck.

Through the heat and smoke, they could make out the shimmering image of a huge white truck cab bearing down on the ring of flaming cars. There was a man tied to the front of it, spread-eagled, screaming as he approached.

“The other half of the missing tourists,” said Jim-Bean. “You’re right, it’s time to get out of here.”

“And go where?” asked Hammer. “We’re trapped in this place.”

Hammer threw one arm over Jim-Bean as he dragged him out the door. Robert followed a second later.

The truck blasted through the flaming wreckage, smashing cars out of the way. It kept on coming with no driver visible at the wheel.

“The foundation,” said Hammer. “You burned the basement…” [MORE]

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Belly of the Beast: Prologue

There was a mask on the wall. He took it up, put it on. Then he saw Fleshripper and, without hesitation, picked it up.

The robe of tattered cotton played out behind him, lending Kham a dignity commensurate with his task.

And then he saw someone in a side corridor watching him. It was his doppelganger, eager and worried, only it looked more feral and hungry, with bright red eyes, sharp fangs, and a long gray tongue…

Suddenly furious, Kham hurried over, gripping Fleshripper tightly.

“You think you can stand in judgment over me?” he shrieked. “You think this has nothing to do with you?!” He wondered just what it was he was capable of. “It is my crown! Mine!” [MORE]

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Monday, September 1

Reflections on a Mote of Dust

We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
Excerpted from Carl Sagan's commencement address delivered May 11, 1996.
Image from Voyager 1, 1990.

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