Dust to dust… if the men with machine guns don’t get you, the zombies must!
We finished our months-long Delta Green (X-Files meets Cthulhu meets “guns, lots of guns”) campaign, run by Dave. I won’t be able to recount the entire story in detail, but the ending is marvellous and horrifying in a Game of Thrones-style way. Spoilers for Delta Green: Dead Letter.
We actually played two consecutive adventures, and my guy survived the first to help lead the second. I played James Milton-Keene, a Cambridge graduate in MI6 on loan to the FBI. His father who was Lord Milton-Keene (“Of the Milton-Keenes”, he’d say, as if that had any currency in the U S of A). His surname was a sly joke - Milton-Keynes is renowned as a crummy place to live in Britain but it sounds regal.
I didn’t maintain the Englishness with any regularity. I’d say “Pip pip, tooroo” as a joke, and reference the BBC, “the colonials” and other such silly things. One thing I did stick to was an aversion to guns. He’d bring a Beretta for safety, but never use it. I think in all the car chases, raids and battles with evil, he only fired a gun once.
Our group was James (British integree played by myself), Charlie (a Marine with demolitions experience), Morgan (a forensic accountant with a penchant for getting materiel and wanting to kill hostages), Soaring Eagle (Dave the American Indian who liked pot and felt alienated by “the white man”) and Bobby-Ray Dean, Esquire the Third (redneck marine medic, “equality hire” and gun-nut… also our fast-talker). We also had some weirdness with players choosing character names that coincided with player’s. I’ll stick to character names in my recount.
So onto Dead Letter. Someone had sent an reanimated dog’s head through the mail and we had been tapped on the shoulder to investigate. All very hush-hush, “keep it contained”. Agent Drake had given us the brief and I was in charge of the one mobile phone that could reach him. We bungled a bunch of our original investigation but made our way to Bright Falls, Montana. A big chemicals company had set itself up on an Indian Reservation (as an extralegal maneuver) and we figured the dog’s head had come from there.
We bungled a bunch of investigations trying to get to the bottom of it all. One of the funniest was where we were about to bring in their chief scientist who was hiding from their Chief of Security. We’d knocked on the door and he scarpered. Soaring Eagle and Bobby-Ray managed to grab him and interrogated him in his own living room. Meanwhile I had noticed we were being surveilled and it turns out it was their Chief of Security. I stripped him of his guns and phones (I ended up with a lot of phones). As we were interrogating both men and were attempting to bring the scientist under our custody, more security cars were rounding the corner. In our panic, we threw everyone in the van and I took the Chief of Security’s car. We tried to split.
The way Call of Cthulhu works is that you roll percentile dice. Lower is better. If you roll 100, then you fumble amazingly. As we tried to split, the security car rolled a 100 and t-boned the scientist’s car in the driveway (I think the scientist and his interrogators were still in the house when a car plowed into it). I failed my roll, so James, being British, wasn’t used to driving on the wrong side of the road and bounced his car along the row of parked cars. The van also stalled and we thus began The Worst Car Chase of All Time. I managed some great rolls as the security guys followed me. I managed to ditch my car by driving through a park, jumping out and letting it roll into a river. Classy.
We managed to “take under our custody” a chief scientist and the Chief of Security. It was all very grey legally and morally. The reanimated dog’s head (Snappy, our team mascot) was used many times to threaten people. Throughout James tried to be the force of reason, mostly unsuccessfully.
We’d found enough evidence to suggest that ABC Corp (the chemical plant) was creating zombies and Was No Good. At least in the meta-game. Most of our attempts to question suspects lead to us rolling spectacular fails, almost locking ourselves out of the investigation.
Here’s the evidence:
- ABC was the source of the “blue goo” that made dead things alive.
- A guy was missing, presumed taken by the corp and turned into a zombie.
- Large shipments of mysterious chemicals were shipped into ABC every week.
- The head scientist was a protege of a Herbert West (meta-game ding!)
- Three young Indian guys tried to steal some gear from ABC and ended up missing (“zombies!”)
- The chemical plant was right on the border with Canada, so there were “international incidences” to worry about.
- ABC had guard dogs and about 15 security on at any time.
Our different options:
- Commandeer a nuke from the nearby air-force base. Detonate it at ABC, job done. Canada can deal with the literal fallout.
- Derail the train either before, after or during the loading. Commence a raid on ABC.
- Buy a humvee or two and gun everyone down at ABC, job done.
- Pretend to be pursuing a missing person’s case, get into the compound, revert to Plan 3.
- Get the EPA involved and commence a raid under a chemical spill pretence.
We ended up going with the last option, but just barely. We were slowly resigning ourselves to the “kill many civilians” path (well they were and I was chained to this sinking ship). Then suddenly our investigations produced evidence, of wrongdoing, that would be admissable in a court of law. Amazing. We managed to get some support from Agent Drake that a particular judge would be amenable to our case and we walked in there to plead our case and get a warrant. The Accountant was the persuader, so he had to persuade the judge’s PA to let us in at short notice.
And then he rolled a 100.
Turns out the PA was the Accountant’s ex-wife, still holding a mighty grudge over the bitter breakup. Our hopes of a clean victory were fading, but then Bobby-Ray Dean used his fast talk to use this distraction to get us into the judge’s office as the accountant had strips torn off him from his ex-wife. The Greater Good.
The judge was happy with our approach and gave us a warrant that hitched onto an EPA investigation authority, allowing us to not seek evidence of our missing person, but if we stumbled across any evidence then it’d be admissable. Never before in the history of Cthulhu have a bunch of Delta Green noobs actually gone the legal way and won.
Or so we thought.
The plan was to get an EPA guy in, he’d spearhead a raid. We’d round up all the security, contain them and then raid the main building where we knew there was a secret lab with creepy experiments within. By some more luck, we had approached the local Air Force general (who was secretly allied with the Delta Green and knew “shit was about to go down in his neck of the woods”). We managed to get some humvees with 30 cal machine guns to aid in our raid. Meta-gaming, we knew it was all going to hell, but it took some explaining for James to accept such a thing. He’d drive a humvee, but not man the gun.
We tooled up (everyone had kevlar, gas masks and some weapons - James had his FBI Beretta and a shotgun, everyone else had shades of machine gun and artillery). Unfortunately the player running The Accountant was sick and couldn’t make it for the raid. He had been chillingly keen on “9mm debriefs” for our captive Chief of Security and head scientist, so I was reluctant to leave him with them. But we did.
Brandishing our EPA guy, a warrant and bristling with guns, we stormed into the compound with a bunch of police we’d deputized for the raid. We rounded up everyone in security and collected them in the security annex (James: “To contain it and keep it all under control.” Bobby-Ray: “We should just open up the 30 cal on them while they’re nice and grouped.”) We did no such thing but managed to keep some forward momentum. A helicopter had brought in “investors” so we tried to contain the helicopter and breach the main research building before they started shredding evidence.
Charlie the Marine and Soaring Eagle were detaining the heli pilot as James and Bobby-Ray tried to storm the place. Of course the EPA guy was very by-the-book and not nimble enough for our raid. He’d managed to delay one major investor guy (in a white suit) and the Deputy Chief of Security. James and Bobby-Ray stormed the main building, trying to get all the scientists outside into the containment area while the other two approached the building from the other side.
Of course the scientists were more curious than helpful, so we had some just go to the cafeteria for a coffee break, some following us, others continuing to work. We ignored them all. We had a secret lab to raid, and even better - we had the code to get in there.
We break in and it’s horrifying. Dead bits of dog were still moving around. A bisected monkey with its organs glued in watched us with manic interest. I detained a scientist (zip-tying his hands) as the others chased the Head Scientist (the protege of Herbert West). She’d disappeared into a panic room of sorts. We got the combo. The other three strode in as I kept an eye on the other guy and the door.
What greeted us inside was even more horrifying. The Head Scientist had let loose two zombies - two of the missing guys. The third was there but was a disembodied head hung up like a totem. Or house plant, if you will.
In a stunning fumble, our Marine shot out Indian point-blank with a burst-fire machine gun, miraculously not injuring him (the kevlar took it all) but propelling him face-first into the morgue with two ravenous zombies running towards them. The fight wasn’t so bad… We had tooled up before, insisting that our first two shells in our shotguns were “dragon’s breath” . James hadn’t, but luckily the other guys did. They shredded and set on fire the two zombie guys.
It’s at this point that the finale began its downward descent. The marine was insistent on throwing dynamite into the room where the zombies and Head Scientist were (James: “EVIDENCE! CIVILIANS!”). He did, and we made a hasty retreat. I was determined to get some evidence and legal justice, so I pushed the zip-tied scientist outside with us.
Suddenly there were explosions… not ours. The building was in chemical containment lockdown. We were having none of that, so smashed our way out a ground-floor window (thus invalidating the containment) and moved outside. The silo containing blue goo that we were told zombified people and under no circumstances should be blown up because that’d aerosolize the mixture… that was a smoking crater. The heli pilot was starting up his helicopter.
We were torn. We had one humvee near the helipad, and another near the front door. Charlie and Soaring Eagle ran for the helipad and the rest of us ran around the corner to get to the other, and see what was happening with our captive security guys.
The helicopter took off. Charlie threatened to shoot it down but it said it was going to land (by swooping around the base).
We rounded the corner. The security station that was supposed to be housing all our captives? A crater. And at our humvee were four guys in classic MIB suits, wielding machine guns. Oh shiiii…
They got the drop on us and opened fire. My poor captive took multiple bullets to the chest. Bobby-Ray copped a few and so did I. Kevlar protected us somewhat (we were both down to single-digit hitpoints). Kevlar didn’t protect the bound, defenceless scientist. Bobby-Ray dropped prone and took shots at the head dude (man in white, wielding a pistol and a machete). “Amazingly” the bullets zinged around him… except for one that moved through, clipped his jaw and continued. The man was more surprised and annoyed than hurt. I had moved back around the corner, out of the way of fire, taking a single shot at our attackers (which went wide).
The dudes opened fire on Bobby-Ray again, surprisingly not killing the man. Then there was the thud… thudthud that would only mean one thing… GRENADE! Bobby-Ray rolled the poor dying scientist onto the grenade and got back around the corner, but not before being showered with scientist bits.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Soaring Eagle had taken our humvee from the helipad and were following the helicopter, circling around the base. We were happy! They’d get the drop on the MIB guys with our 30 cal. As they rounded the admin building, Charlie pressed the button on his detonator, exploding the central secret lab, and collapsing the building around those still choking on chemical fumes from the destroyed silo.
Soaring Eagle managed a stealth roll on bringing the car around the corner to surprise the MIBs… Charlie opened up the 30 cal on them, driver’s seat first (you can’t arc-fire in Call of Cthulhu). The man in white grimaced as the 30 cal shot out the door around him. No real casualties from a short-range, 30 cal full automatic machine gun… In the chaos they saw a man press a detonator… Charlie and Soaring Eagle’s triumphant attack turned into a fireball as an IED blew them to pieces. We grimly mused that at least Charlie got to Valhalla, and Soaring Eagle got to return to his land… and Canada… piece by piece.
James and Bobby-Ray knew their number was up. But it was going to get a lot worse.
They escaped to a small admin building, hopefully away from the machine-gun MIBs. As they ran away, figures were pulling themselves from the wreckage of the destroyed main building. People were dragging themselves along, missing almost everything you’d think they’d need. A man was on fire and as a coworker ran to help him, the man on fire bit him. ZOMBIES!
The helicopter was circling, ready to pick up the MIB guys. As James got on the phone, Bobby-Ray took out his sniper rifle and pierced the innards of the helicopter. Twice. Which was enough to bring it down.
James screamed into the phone: “We need a fooking airstrike at ABC. All is lost. ALL IS LOST.”
Agent Drake at the other end of the line was silent. He then said, “Godspeed.”
An airstrike was coming. The General was going to destroy this place and we’d salvage some victory from this colossal horror. James and Bobby-Ray ran out the gates, discarding anything that wasn’t kevlar or a pistol. In a moment of long-stewing utilitarianism, James hoped to put Bobby-Ray in between himself and the MIBs.
They ran through the wilderness, heavily-wounded (we were both on 2 hitpoints… a decent punch to the face was at least half a dozen).
We waited for the explosion. Of release.
There was none. There was no airstike inbound. We were on our own.
We commandeered a firetruck rushing to the chemical plant. We didn’t need to fast-talk - our shredded kevlar, bloodied bodies and guns were enough. They took us back to the city. We rushed back to the warehouse where the accountant and our captives were.
James hadn’t lost enough sanity to do it, but Bobby-Ray did. The Accountant asked, “So how’d it go?” Bobby-Ray shot the Chief of Security and scientist in the face and threw his gun and badge at the Accountant. James said, “I’m out. I’m fucking out.”
As James fled the country and Bobby-Ray joined the local Montana Militia, zombies stumbled from the ruins of the ABC corp.
James didn’t return to England. He felt responsible. All the rendition and illegal acts they had come to perform pursuing ABC… The scientist, bound with James’ zip-tie, shredded with bullets meant for James… the guards and police and scientists that James had collected into one place for the MIB guys to conveniently satchel-charge… Unliving atrocities that he could have stopped… Somehow… If only he’d done the right thing…
He was alive, and somewhere, someone had vast stockpiles of that blue goo, utterly unaffected by the raid on ABC…
It was a great, horrible finale. Perfect Cthulhu. As soon as you think you have the upper hand, the ground falls out from under you. Escalating atrocities and that remaining dread that you’re just a tiny cog in a vast, uncaring, horrible machine. Dave did really well as a GM (as always). Our party was hilarious and horrifying. Next week or two we’ll be back playing Pathfinder with our young gal Aeona.