We all flew in commercial and grouped up at O'Hare for a bigass shuttle to our new digs – except for Agent Nathan Orange, who was delayed several days (because Matt had to leave after character creation). When we got to the Richard J. Daley Civic Center, our new task force home, we were faced with liberal protestors (this is our city!) and counterprotestors (weird memes and vague nazi references). Almost everyone else inside went up; we went down a stairway, into a utility corridor, down a narrow service stairway, down a dimly lit corridor, and into a room (B267) that appeared to have been left mostly untouched since the eighties, with the microfiche to prove it.
Inside was an older black man in janitor's gear mopping up some mildly absurd dark stain. He handed us a brown package to open; it became quickly clear that a) this was from Delta Green, b) this was a fellow Delta Green agent for all he was in the private sector, and c) they expected us to be able to play a VHS tape in the year of our lord 2017. Sure enough one corner had one of those tube tv and vhs player on a cart – presumably down there since the eighties and/or having had the building dug and constructed around it, since we're not sure if any elevators run to our second basement.
Our new contact / sort of handler, Warren Simmons, was a Vietnam vet – 25th infantry, 'Tropic Lightning.' He fast-forwarded the tape past an Italian dub of Chariots of Fire to the camera being zoomed in on a piece of paper with our objectives. (Further briefing info was a combination of him talking and him fast-forwarding.) They were:
- Pick up Kirill Shevchenko at O'Hare.
- Contact our list of friendlies and re-establish contact.
- Visit the Oriental Institute.
Warren filled us in on background. Around 2008, nine years ago, Delta Green operations around Chicago either went through a terrible run of luck, faced some kind of conspiracy, or both, depending on who you ask. DG asked for friendlies to keep their heads down, and agents who hadn't already died or transferred to go to ground; Warren is pretty much the only remainder.
Our most time-sensitive task was picking up Kirill from the airport; he was landing in about three hours and traffic would take us about that long to get there (plus get him through customs). He was Ukrainian, supposed to fly in to New York but there were fires at JFK and all the flights he could have taken were canceled; DG clearly suspected something wanted something to happen to him, but it was unclear. Get to the airport, pick him up, get him back to B267 alive.
We (read: I) failed a Navigation check to conquer Chicago roads and traffic for the first time under pressure, and got there a little late. As we came in on the people mover, we started noticing a bunch of emergency vehicles, people in heavy CBP gear, etc. We decided to split our approach and Martin played himself off as a civilian while Lucas and Soren rolled up with badges.
Promptly identifying a balding liaison point, we met up with Holtz, who was the CBP guy on point here or one of them. Lucas leads hard with 'we just want to pick up this guy!' and Holtz is like '….what's his name' and sure enough, the Incident is all Kirill. He got flagged for something by Customs and tried to make a break for it with an SMG he produced. Thus the perimeter around the luggage carousels (where he got taken down) and the bullet holes here and there…
So we split up again and Soren heads to retrieve his luggage while Lucas tries to get into jurisdictional dick-measuring with the FBI. When Soren gets to the bag some TSA blues are going through it, upon which the dane deploys one of his go-tos – yelling in German until people are paying attention, then deploying his thickish Danish accent as a terror weapon. He blusters about how they're going to ruin everything and lays on some legalese and Persuasions them into putting stuff back away in a hurry. He takes possession of Kirill's luggage and gets it on a cart.
Lucas has a clever approach about how this isn't an FBI case yet because Kirill wasn't through customs yet when he ran for it, but there's a bunch of big NSB doorkickers around, not just Chicago field office types. No way all of this Bureau muscle showed up in the hour since things went down; they had some kind of heads up (or they were around for some other reason).
He still comes in stern and proper and insistent, asking for their commanding officer when the helmeted, assault rifle laden mountains who've taken over the CBP detention wing try to turn him away. He waits 5 or 10 minutes and gets let in. The agent in charge is this muscular and yet somehow still gaunt white guy, whose name I forgot to write down but I'm like 99% sure it was Italian? He says my argument is so much shit because this guy is a war criminal from the Ukraine conflict, known under a different name to the ICC, Russian authorities, American authorities, etc. Lucas still goes in hard how he's part of this HSI case and at least managed to get to go in and sit down with Kirill.
The FBI claims the observation room door is "locked" and "they can't find a key." Federal agents are all children.
Lucas uses a receiver app on his phone to scope out the place for bugs and finds some directional mics in the lightswitch; he sets up some music to play right next to it (his terrible dubstep workout hype music, so: weaponized Skrillex and shit). He settles down across from Kirill and is just…tired.
He says he's one of the guys who was supposed to pick him up, that there's this whole thing, he's not sure what's up, but it was pulling teeth just getting in there. Kirill doesn't explain a whole bunch at first, but does say he thinks the goal is to get him back to Russia where he can be safely interrogated, killed, whatever. He points out a bunch of stuff hidden in his luggage they can use to charge him – automatic rifle bits (whatever it's called, the pin that turns an AR 15 full auto) and other firearms shit in a sealed pack of women's cosmetics, pure Afghan heroin in a hidden pocket of another bag. There was maybe more shit? But for sure the full auto converter bits and the Afghan heroin. Lucas throws all of this into the group crypto-text, and Soren starts pulling out the goods and Martin suits up (well his cowboy DEA version) and gets ready to lay drug charges.
He also tells Lucas to pull off one of his shoes and look in the sole, where he proves to have a slip of paper which identifies a cargo container in NYC filled with Azeri slaves being smuggled in to do housework etc.
So Lucas goes and calls that into the New York CBP office, and they're excited; big easy win. But as this is spinning up, Martin can see that the group from the Russian consulate is rolling up; huge federal protective service guys around two bureaucrats. This is also really fast (90ish minutes or less); they must also have had some kind of heads up. It begins to dawn on us something organized and Russian is after Kirill.
After we realize his original story about sporing vegetables or something is so bad it would be a Persuasion penalty, Soren tries to slow them down with some bullshit about a contaminated zone where the bullet holes in the ceiling have made asbestos start raining down. He puts up tape and everything! Mountain of FPS guy rips through the tape and they head through anyway. Oh well. Good effort.
It gets worse when they roll up to the detention wing, because Lucas crit-fails his HUMINT to gauge their angle and disposition, and convinces himself that they are going to kill Kirill right here with POISON or RADIUM or something if he lets them be alone with him. So he goes and physically interposes himself between the FPS goons (and the FBI guys now showing them the way) and starts spinning up a storm about how he's not even sure this guy is RUSSIAN and there's an ongoing INVESTIGATION and look we found all of this STUFF ON HIM that we've ALREADY CHARGED HIM WITH.
This goes on long enough for CBP to call back that the lead checked out and they're filing charges for people smuggling. The Russians seem kind of baffled and back off; the bureaucrats are not happy with whatever they hear from whoever they call about this. We finally manage to start ushering him out in our custody, grabbing an unmarked windbreaker from his bag to cover his face and avoid photographs or too much public attention; he's been heartily nightsticked. There's a moment of concern as we realize we need to get him on the people mover, and we decide this is the lesser evil compared to something slower that gives someone a chance to change their mind and stop us again. So we endure some weird looks (and Martin tries to pick up a random passenger, with little success).
After that it's back to Daley without much incident, and we bring Kirill into the building through a service entrance. We play some games with the paperwork so that it's a wild goose chase through sheriff's custody to intake to "I dunno? Maybe in cook county jail somewhere?" but Warren thinks people are going to stop looking for him pretty soon – something about stories falling apart and agency embarassment and so forth.
And meanwhile we have enough time to get in contact with a friendly each before getting to the Oriental Institute before it closes. Warren gives us a list of ten with basic location/contact info:
- Lawrence Farrell, professor at the Oriental Institute. Specialist in Akkadian linguistics and archaeology. (Lucas writes this down as 'Acadian' until later in the session he sees it in print.)
- Maria Santos, prosecutor from the DA's office.
- Tony Morretti, from Streets and Sanitation.
- Stan Latham, a locksmith, plumber, electrician, and general slumlord.
- Andrea Tourowski, a cryptozoologist, occultist, and general master of bullshit.
- Marcus Pugh, a trauma surgeon at Stroger.
- Bartek Hryniewiecki, patrolman in the 2nd district (ie near south side).
- Marvin Luckett, a Conservative Vice Lord set leader in Austin.
- Mauricio Sandoval, a gun store owner in nearby Indiana.
- Frank Bowman, the vaguely described 'soldier of fortune.'
Martin decides he's going to go talk to Maria; whether he's more interested in talking to a woman or a prosecutor is unclear. The DA's office is actually just (many) floors up in the building, so he finds an elevator; he gets around a receptionist skeptical of his lack of appointment with the business card (ten years old, the receptionist notes) and DEA badge. Santos, who proves to be maybe almost as attractive as Martin hoped but businesslike, is gruff but ultimately over it that DG (which she refers to generally as a 'terrorism task force' that she's come to realize is 'unusual' and 'pretty much below the board'). She says she's happy to help with things here and there as long as we don't jam her up too bad, and she doesn't want just 'a bunch of cases about day laborers'; she asks for help with some mundane gunrunning cases with Indiana gun stores as an example of helping her out. Martin carefully avoids making any promises and actually manages a surprisingly smooth line at the end about "your office has a beautiful view here, ma'am."
Reacher goes to the precinct station near the end of first shift, where upon mentioning Bartek he ominously gets some 'huhs' and 'go get the Lizard Man.' Bartek proves to be a kind of skinny young white guy who couldn't have been much older than 21 (if that) when DG pulled out of Chicago. He's worn down and a bit twitchy. He wants out, sort of (talks a big game about how he's not up for this, anyway), despite being third generation CPD, and eventually starts talking about the lizards; 3 or 4 foot tall lizards with blank faces who show up and do bad shit. He says one of his old DG contacts (I forget how he referred to/understood DG) referred to them as 'servants of servants'. He thinks they might have to do with these homeless mutilations that've been freaking people out. Lucas tries to cheer him up some, and gets his number; Bartek offers to look into things around the precinct (which he lives in) if needed.
Soren goes to meet up with Dr. Pugh, who is the least enthusiastic friendly to be contacted. He talks about how the last guy he had to operate had like…hundreds of tiny crocodiles or some shit spew out of him and it was the worst and he's not doing that again. Angry Soren tries to lean on him hard and it goes poorly. Pugh really wants out. Soren picks up that he's more scared than angry, though, and while he refuses to subject any of his coworkers to 'this' no matter how much Soren wants a pet coroner friendly – he shows insane scarring over all his forearms when Soren is like 'fuck somebody over!' and Pugh goes 'I don't hate anyone here this much' – he does ultimately agree that if they need real emergency medical care from someone who won't talk, the agents can call him.
So three contacts down, we head to the Oriental Institute not too long before close. There were a lot of details in this section and we did a lot, so I'll probably miss some, but generally:
Our in here is that Farrell sent us to "talk to someone about the burglary." Someone stole from the museum five days ago – specifically from Row 18, Section C in the receiving room. The receiving room is the smallest of the institute's storage areas, mostly a temporary place unless identifying and cataloguing something takes an especially long time.
Everything missing was Akkadian antiquities from one box (or crate or w/e). Namely 53 cylinder seals, 16 statuettes of ancient VIPs, 1 stelae depicting a religious ritual, and 1 large clay tablet depicting 'devils.' We ended up finding the stelae, missed where it had fallen down the back of the stacks and been left; it was dark, heavy basalt and still entirely intact despite the neglect. There was also an abandoned banker's box torn half to bits – looking like someone tried to set it up and carry things in it, but they were terrible and assembling it (and things were too heavy) so it was falling apart (and then they stomped on it). The pull-down metal grate into the general area was pried open with a pry-bar at some length – we could still see the marks. The thief had also clearly tried to kick in the (pretty sturdy) door to the storage room itself, and left a big a size 9 bootprint above the handle. (We photographed the bootprint for evidence.) Nothing else from the room was taken. Tech security (cameras etc) didn't pick them up, but after the theft a quick audit discovered that only maybe 15% of that equipment was working at all, anytime, to begin with; it'd been a cheap install and it backfired on the institute.
So some kind of brutish thief, who knew what they were coming for. We noticed manifest numbers and went to check files; weirdly the manifest for the missing box was there but someone had taken the manifests for everything else in that room. (We made a note to try and get grad students or someone to inventory the rest of the room later.) Manifests established that the seals had only been there for about a month, the statuettes all for seven months or less, the stelae had been there for two years, and the large clay tablet had been there for ten years.
We traced the thief's path back into an unwatched alley, where there were lots of empty wine and liquor bottles but no actual winos. (Later Martin followed up with the nearby liquor store, and got a contact (Ajit!) who could identify some locals but didn't know names; taking liquor from there to the park found only housed locals, who noted that the homeless were grouping up more heavily in places where they could try and have safety in numbers. Like maybe by the impound lot?)
We called in Farrell's phd student of three years, Ann Hoyt, who told us more despite being near deadline for her dissertation. Apparently Dr. Farrell had been avoiding cataloguing the tablet for years, claiming it was going to "draw bad attention" and he was eventually going to write an article about it and then catalogue it. Mostly only she and Dr. Farrell ever gave a shit about the contents of the stolen berth, though theoretically almost anyone in the department could know; she also remembered there was a personnel records breach about a year back, a digital intrusion that had access to the whole institute network.
She'd almost done her dissertation on the tablet, it turns out, before Farrell aggressively dissuaded her. Bad attention. She had a picture of it on her phone still though; it featured a faceless, lizard-like thing, with a sort of triangle spiral pattern involved. It was found in a tomb with a bunch of Akkadian things, and the text at the bottom is Akkadian, but there's no other mention of this entity until much later in a Sumerian context. The word (which I can't spell for shit – Damsha? Domsha? I'll update this after checking with Chris) could be translated as monster, hippo, crocodile, or just 'demon' or 'devil'. (Reacher favors calling it 'the monster.')
She also explains that Farrell is, in her opinion, basically sundowning. He can be decently lucid in the morning (though his exact arrival is unpredictable, and he doesn't answer his phone or do email; she advises us to call the departmental secretary), but by afternoon and certainly evening he's increasingly confused and confusing. Sometimes he just disappears into the park. He doesn't teach any classes, he's tenured, he just comes in and sort of does his research and then disappears to god knows what.
Warren calls us back to B267. There we meet four others, who prove to be the other DG cell in Chicago we get to know about (though it's been implied they've brought in others) and somewhat our seniors. There's:
- Mike Coburn, the apparent leader, a middle-aged white FBI agent, who calls himself the 'babysitter' of
- Carl Niederlander, an older but still roughly middle-aged FBI agent. He speaks Russian, or at least was arguing with Kirill in something that sounded a lot like Russian. He also seems to have some hidden power or significance in the cell, based on how the others reacted to him.
- Scott Darby is a younger white guy, an ATF agent.
- Latikiya Wilson is a young-side-of-middle-aged (?) black woman from CPD Internal Affairs.
Also Warren might be part of their cell? It was unclear and I think the ambiguity was IC as well as OOC. Lucas at least took down contact info he was advised to use only in emergencies, but put it only on a card he can hide somewhere on not on his phone.
We were also given a key at this point to 0431 at Extra Space Storage – I didn't put down where exactly in Chicago this is, but it's our green box. Not very full atm, just some small arms that go back to Vietnam (including one pistol suppressor and some undefined bigger bang goodie) and a handful of super unexciting random shit; it's our job to fill it up, basically. We have to check this place out at some point.
Warren has us change into street clothes (but bring discreet weapons) and we move in a loose formation to another piece of our education: the Chicago Underground.
- First is the Pedway area; plenty of civilians in here, just a weather-secured network of tunnels, ground-level concourses and bridges connecting skyscrapers, retail stores, hotels and train stations all throughout the general area of the Loop. Some of the retail is just straight up in the Pedway. Mostly useful as a way down towards other levels, but it has its own uses.
- Then there's the CTA tunnels. Their location and use is kind of obvious; we didn't dwell on this much. DG seems to have some institutional knowledge of and/or access to them; should check if we have any connected cover.
- Third layer is where it gets interesting. These are the old freight tunnels; eight feet tall, narrow, still tracks for carts along the floor. Still standing water in some areas from when canal diggers busted into it accidentally and flooded half the basements in the Loop. There's no local light down here at all, but it's a small, compact network that's entirely mapped and usually doesn't have anything going on.
- Fourth layer is Lower Lower Wacker – yes, right under Lower Wacker – which has/is next to the city impound lot and is accessible by car. Drag racers love to sneak in here. This is one of the areas where the homeless have been packing up, and they've basically got a tent city going. It's super far off the general radar, so it hasn't been a political issue yet, but the police know it's there and vaguely want to get on top of the homeless killings, so patrol cars roll through periodically. Lots of concrete, more light than any layer besides the Pedway.
- Fifth layer we're starting to talk 100 ft down, and supposed to be sealed off. Our way in is carefully hidden behind a fake welding job that feels solidly in place if you don't know how to pull; we don't know how the others are getting in unless we take the time to hunt down other exits. These are the old subway/cable car tunnels. Running into people or things down here you don't assume they're friendly. A lot of the tunnels are at least partially collapsed, but there are other people using places down here; they seem to be expanding the abandoned stations with tools. A few spots have rag beds or cots. If you make noise down here people will probably not want to be found and avoid you, but shit might escalate if you're moving quietly.
- Sixth layer is further down still. These are the old brick water tunnels which the city doesn't like to admit to still using at all because they're not exactly the most sanitary. Some are collapsed and mostly dry but some are definitely still moving water, and the city doesn't seem to have (or want to provide) a clear answer about what's used and what's not and how it all works. Somewhere in here runs to the lake. We started hearing some unnerving infrasound shit down in here as we approached:
- The seventh layer, which the city says is 150-300 but Warren swears goes down to 600; 31 miles of the new, huge storm tunnels which can be up to 33 feet in diameter. One tunnel, the one we go down to, is abandoned. Officially, because of a gas leak explosion. Actually because they hit…something. We make our way over to it and there's this two foot wide, perfectly hexagonal tunnel that runs horizontally back 15-20 feet to a matte black probably-stone, which has that same damn triangular spiral pattern on its face.
They hit the stone a year ago; Tony Moretti, the streets and sanitation friendly, still comes down sometimes to see if anything's changed since the day his dig had to stop. Unsurprisingly, DG in general and Warren in particular suspect this stone has something to do with Chicago's goings-on.
On the way out we're advised very clearly that if we're going below Lower Lower Wacker, we have to not just move in force but to tell someone where we're going and wait for them to confirm. Only the highest-priority and most explicit orders can override this procedure; they're pretty certain this is how some of the old DG agents went missing towards the end of the old days, running some shit down in hot pursuit and never coming out.
That's basically where we wrapped. It was noted on the side that we got brief a bit on Kirill and his background; the short of it was that there was a Soviet/Russian equivalent to Delta Green centered in SV8 of the GRU – supposedly decent types in their own way - but that when they tried to brief in some Putin types recently for more support instead the Kremlin seized control to try to exploit the occult for profit, power, and disrupting democracy. Old SV8 was purged, disappeared, or converted to the new order. Kirill dissented from this bullshit and defected. He's supposed to be kind of an expert – he refers to the reptile/blankface things as 'visitors' – as well as a general jack-of-all-trades. (Including lockpicking and black bag work, which we don't seem to have other people trained for.)
For downtime actions, 1 each:
Reacher went on Tinder, basically, while listening to music. He likes his women like his employer: ideological, impractical, and stretched thin. Thus he met Emily. He successfully established a new bond and didn't lose too much from his last one.
Martin tried to do a particularly good job of fulfilling his responsibilities at work. I mostly missed what Sean got from this, but I think I heard something about inheriting somebody else's CI?
I think Soren tried to chew over a case for a clue but I missed what happened with this.
TO DO (Small things besides obvious leads:)
- Try and get people at the OI to check their memories for the contents of the rest of the storage room and if anything's missing, and/or produce other copies of the missing manifests.
- Find a hacker type friendly or someone to try and backtrace the OI network breach from last year (Maybe)
- Plant hidden spy-size cameras in some of the stations in the subway tunnels to figure out what's going on.