Plausible Deniability

Interlude: These Highway Forty Blues
The Ghostpunchers

The Ghostpunchers partake in their traditional celebratory Chinese takeout while camped out in their Agency Rust-o-mobile and watching the remains of the Murder House of Smallton stubbornly sizzle. It’s at this time that Agent Grady calls and makes a request: Since Agent Rerun and his team were reassigned abruptly, there is a small matter of retrievng some newly found Agency artifacts from BETA’s care. Operators Sash and Pennington are handling cleanup, so could the Ghostpunchers please drive south to Nashville, Tennessee and report to them for more details about where and when to punch some BETA agents, plaese? The Ghostpunchers enthusiastically accept and even demonstrate a modicum of professionalism by waiting until after Grady hangs up to start cracking audible jokes about Cross’ boyfriend. A disturbing fraction of the perfectly timed 4 hour and 20 minute car ride is then spent discussing flatulence.

The Ghostpunchers arrive in Nashville some time after 10pm, and give Operator Sash a call. Almost distressingly cheerful for someone who is handling the cleanup on a scene involving dismemberment, Sash informs them that intel suggests BETA will be shipping several vans of artifacts out along Route 40 East towards Knoxville between midnight and 0200. According to what the previous team learned, BETA confiscated the contents of 5 storage lockers’ worth of Agency artifacts. 2 lockers contined fairly mundane weaponry (now dated and not terribly valuable), 2 lockers contained a random assortment of extranatural artifacts (the recovery of which is of extreme interest to the Agency), and 1 locker of unknown contents. Sash will be in touch when Agency intel has narrowed down when BETA goes on the move. In the meantime, Operator Pennington has a favor to ask: Could the Ghostpunchers go recruit a young man named Nicholas whom the previous team earmarked and lodged at a nearby Holiday Inn on the Agency’s dime? Of course! The Ghostpunchers are happy to oblige!

Nick is easily found in room 321, and is almost just as easily talked into opening the door.

[More forthcoming…]

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Interlude: The Murder House of Smallton
The Ghostpunchers

Agents Fecund and Legerdemain and Operator Cross are called away from their regular gym session to meet with their handler, Agent Grady. As per their usual, Cross is punctual if not early, followed by Legerdemain who is 2.5 minutes late and shares a familiar wink with Fecund, who is parked in the hall finishing a sandwich and 5 minutes late.

Grady has been dealing with complications re: a certain recruitment mission down in Nashville, and while the strain shows a bit, everyone is too polite to mention anything. The mission is to investigate the last known location of Agency informant, Henry Graham, a plant in an amateur paranormal investigative squad that went missing 5 days ago. The squad had been excited to explore the renowned “Murder House of Smallton,” located at 123 Westing St. in Smallton, Indiana.

The team gears up with all the necessary equipment that the Agency deems useful for punching ghosts and heads out in a typical Agency rustbox of a car. There’s no pressing need to hurry in their opinion, so they take a few rest stops and visit some roadside attractions where Legerdemain and Cross take it upon themselves to poke fun at Fecund’s age.

The infamous Murder House of Smallton isn’t hard to find. Its cute, grey exterior belies how many lives have been lost (or taken!) within its walls. Built in 1952 (not as old as Fecund), the house contains 4 bedrooms and an impressive 6 bathrooms, and is currently for sale by Reynolds Realty for $13,000. Some online digging by Fecund begins to reveal the tragic history of its former inhabitants: The house was unoccupied from 1997-2007, after which every family who has inhabited the house has had at least one death- predominantly caused by falling. The most shocking incident occurred in 2010, when a 16 year old varsity soccer player killed his entire family before also killing himself. Most recently, the infant of a happy couple died of SIDS, the wife later drowned herself, and the husband fell down the stairs to his death.

Still looking forward to punching ghosts, the team is unsurprised to see a blue van marked “Callahan’s Paranormal Investigations” in the driveway. It is unlocked and contains an array of amateur paranormal sleuthing equipment and some construction materials (representing the squad’s day job). Fecund calls Reynolds Realty and introduces himself as “Joey Malone,” passing through the area with his newly-wedded niece and nephew-in-law, Gillian and Andrew “Drew” Winthrop. Sandra of Reynolds Realty is more than happy to give the newlyweds a tour in an hour. In preparation for her arrival, Cross and Fecund go back to the van and help themselves to a saws-all, sledgehammer, and bag of rock salt before parking the van down the street. A walk around the property reveals nothing terribly out of the ordinary, except extension cords can be seen through the windows as well as what appears to be a large hole in the drywall.

Sandra arrives and is immediately overcome by ‘Uncle Joey’s’ down-to-earth charm, while ‘Drew’ and ‘Gillian’ introduce themselves as a high school teacher and gymnastics coach, respectively (yes, they’re THAT couple). As the tour commences and Sandra lets everyone in, she demonstrates an admirable poker face when she tries to explain away the extension cords and hole in the wall as electrical work. A more thorough inspection of the hole reveals someone was very intent on reaching one of the support beams and attacked it with both an axe and a saws-all. The tour proceeds, and Sandra is visibly rattled to discover multiple holes in the walls of the first floor, all of which lead to support beams. The ‘newlyweds’ play along while Uncle Joey takes a load off in the living room and discreetly forces a window to fake a past B&E. The house is fully furnished, but not even Sandra expects to find the minivan and smaller sedan of the previous occupants still in the garage and obstructing easy access to the basement. Uncle Joey reveals he is in fact a detective from Indianapolis and would be happy to look around the rest of the house to make sure no intruders are present. Sandra acquiesces and goes to sit in her car while the team makes a beeline for the basement. The stairs are unusually treacherous, but everyone makes it down them without injury. The finished, 1-room basement would appear perfectly normal with a workbench and stacked storage boxes, if it weren’t for the strong smell of gasoline from a pile of gas cans in the middle of the floor, and the completely bare back wall sporting a small set of stairs to a 4 foot squared metal door.

Returning upstairs to Sandra, Uncle Joey explains the house seems empty now, but he’ll have a word with the boys down at the station and get things cleared up. Drew and Gillian are still interested in the house, and reschedule the remainder of the tour 2 days from now, at 3pm. Gillian/Legerdemain easily palms the housekey as Sandra takes her leave. They wave a pleasant farewell to her as she drives away before quickly grabbing their gear and heading back inside.

Now without civilian supervision/witnesses, Fecund’s first investigative act is to smack the severed support column exposed in the garage hard enough to dislodge it. The ceiling shakes and sags and the house belatedly groans in an abnormal manner, spiking on the extrantural sensor Cross is helpfully pointing at things. The Ghostpunchers unanimously agree that this was a premature path of inquiry and move on. With the structural damage to multiple support columns, everyone is hesitant about Fecund exploring the second floor. Instead, Fecund focuses on dispersing his consciousness via spores throughout the house while Legerdemain and Cross take the second floor. Fecund locates a cold spot by the first hole in the wall, and notices that the gash in the wood left by an axe seems to be slowly repairing itself. Upstairs, it’s apparent that the missing paranormal squad spent or was preparing to spend the night in 3 of the bedrooms, but have left no physical evidence of their whereabouts. Cross loses Legerdemain’s rigged coin toss over who gets to go first through the attic trapdoor, and is thus the one to haul himself up into the stuffy crawlspace. At first glance, the boxes appear perfectly normal and contain photos, drawings, toys, and clothes. Behind them, however, piles of clothes, drawings, and journals have been strewn about. Behind one such pile, Cross finds a tangled mess of electrical ghosthunting equipment mixed up with a few hoodies. He starts passing these down to Legerdemain, along with whatever journals and drawings come to hand.

In the meantime, Fecund has first been subjected to the tantalizing smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen, only to have the scent vanish as soon as his foot touches the kitchen tiles. Secondly, he realized a time dilation exists between the first and second floors. This is confirmed when Legerdemain’s and Cross’s watches show they have been upstairs for less than fifteen minutes, while Fecund’s watch shows they were gone for well over a half hour. Largely unimpressed by the house’s shenaniagns and wondering when they will get a chance to live up to their team name, the group tackles the haul from the attic. Fecund pores over the books retrieved, while Cross and Lej fetch fresh batteries from the paranormal van so they can boot up and review the logs from the cameras, audio recorder, and laptop they found.

The books consist of a 10 year old girl’s diary, a business log, and a woman’s personal journal. The contents of all of them are unremarkable until the last month each was used, where each owner remarks upon feeling constant fear and unease, as though they were being watched. (And everyone hates the basement and its creepy door.) Fecund draws attention to the fact that none of the journals or drawings depict sightings of spectral figures or anything that would indicate a typical haunting at work.

The 3 video cameras yield silent visuals of the kitchen, upstairs hall, and basement. The first two yield typical spooky fare- long periods of nothing punctuated by cabinet and bedroom doors opening and closing on their own. The basement camera has a similarly boring span of inactivity, until it doesn’t. The lights set up in the basement suddenly go out, but the camera stays on, revealing 3 figures with flashlights come down the stairs. They make their way to the circuit breakers, apparently conversing animatedly amongst themselves, and as one begins to flip breaker switches, they suddenly stiffen and begin convulsing. The other 2 look on in brief horror, cut short when they also convulse. Eventually, all three hit the floor and are unmoving when the camera finally ceases recording in a flare of distortion and static. At about the same time, the other two cameras shake and lift up, see only distorted static momentarily which clears to reveal they have fallen over in the attic, where they record until their batteries die.

The laptop belonged to the missing-now-presumed-deceased Henry Graham, and contains his paranormal blog. In it, he expresses his excitement over being able to investigate the infamous Murder House of Smallton. His excitement is tempered by a healthy dose of frustration over a work issue that held him up. However, his 3 teammates went ahead and got everything set up and will catch him up to speed upon his arrival. But no one meets him at the house, through which he wanders around for a bit and likes the feel of, until he gets down to the basement to find the corpses of his colleagues. Henry’s notes begin to ramble, as he stresses that he has yet to see anything , and that “the door is gone, the door is gone is gone the door is gone.”

At that, the Ghostpunchers share a Look and immediately check the status of the front door. It is present, but the knob comes clean off in Fecund’s hand with no resistance. The glass doors at the back have suddenly become punch- and bullet-resistant, and everyone takes turns explaining to the Murder House that this is a Very Bad Idea. Content to give the Murder House a little bit of time to consider its life choices, the group check out the audio logs left behind. There appears to be nothing unexpected on them; sounds like children laughing and the like that no one heard at the time of recording, and the house answering the spoken question of “Do you have anything you want to say?” with the same question in the voice of one of speaker’s teammates.

Seeing that the Murder House has decided not to reinstall methods of egress, the Ghostpunchers head back to the basement. En route, the Murder House gets a bit frisky with Fecund, first giving way under his foot and then constricting around his leg, followed up by tilting the floor with the intent to roll the now-permanently-locked-but-still-in-neutral minivan over him. Lej and Cross slow the progress of the minivan long enough to give Fecund the time he needs to punch his way through the garage floor to a 3-point landing in the basement. Cross takes the stairs down at speed, while Lej prefers the more-stable mode of locomotion known as “the butt-scooch.” There’s not much debate over the creepy metal door that they wrench open to see a crawlspace with a floor and ceiling but no walls. In a display of premeditated spite, Fecund douses himself with gasoline before hopping up into the crawlspace. Lej and Cross battle carbon monoxide poisoning while Fecund hauls a mangled body out of the crawlspace. He and Lej manage to wedge the metal door open for long enough to get the corpse and Fecund out, where they then tackle the issue of getting said corpse and a barely semi-conscious but still upbeat Cross back up to the garage. A tarp, pair of handcuffs, length of garden hose, and more butt-scooching later, they gather their bearings in the garage.

Determined to gather more information before resorting to burning down the house they’re locked in, the Ghostpunchers head down the hall towards the kitchen. They barely make any progress before the house begins flinging knives in their direction, which are handily blocked by Fecund’s literal tarp-wrapped meat shield of unidentified human remains (that were almost certainly what was left of poor Henry Graham). Having obtained the group’s attention, the house begins to tilt the hallway floor up, as the kitchen floor tiles slowly begin peeling back to reveal the dark concrete Fecund recognizes from the Crawlspace to Hell. No one is thrilled about the idea of tumbling down into the maw of death that seems to be Murder House’s end hallway goal, so Fecund drops the meat shield in favor of his duffel bag and rope.Thoroughly fed up with Murder House’s antics, Lej and Cross tie themselves to one end of the rope and head upstairs to start an attic fire while Fecund ties himself to the other end and is their anchorpoint. All of the bedroom doors slam shut, leaving Lej and Cross no choice but to follow their original plan of “set fire to the damn attic and its piles of murder-trophies.” Lej gives Cross a lighter and a boost, and provides a stable platform for Cross to set the largest pile of clothes and papers alight. She even avoids a standing lamp hurled like a spear down the hall, by some means of dexterous hula-maneuver that was as amazing as it was tragically unwitnessed. Cross extricates himself from the mouth of the attic just in time to avoid the trapdoor slamming shut. As the smokey smell of approaching success wafts through the air, they head back downtairs, some faster than others with the assistance of gravity and Murder House shenanigans. (Read: Cross fell down the stairs and Lej did not. ;) )

Left to his own devices at the foot of the stairs, Fecund soon finds himself between the kitchen floor’s Maw of Death, and the ominous snapping of floorboards from the opposite end of the hall. Choosing to deal with the ominous snapping, Fecund transfers the rope from himself to the bannister, wraps himself in the tablecloth, and grabs the dining room table to overturn atop the shifting floorboards and weigh it down with himself. Under the table, the house is busy pulling back the floorboards to reveal the gas-filled basement. As the fire in the attic takes hold and the Ghostpunchers reassemble at the foot of the stairs, the house is suddenly alive with an assortment of spoken snippets of conversation in numerous voices. Preparing for what will almost certainly be the end of either the Murder House of Smallton or the existence of the Ghostpunchers, Cross attempts to leap the growing gap in the hallway floor to reach his bag of equipment and the recovered records of the house’s victims. However, the house foils the attempt and drops Cross into the basement. It’s a simple matter to get back up to the hallway with a can of gasoline as a plus one. Fecund, still wrapped in the tablecloth, takes a hold of the backs of Lej and Cross’s shirts while they lean closer to the hole to the basement, matches in hand. As soon as 2 lit matches arc towards the hole, Fecund backpedals for all he’s worth with his teammates firmly in tow. As the gasoline ignites, the Ghostpunchers are pleased to discover the patio doors have reverted to standard glass that shatter when impacted. They lie in a heap on the lawn for only a moment before putting more distance between themselves and the raging inferno that used to be the Murder House of Smallton.

As Fecund reaquaints himself with the rottweilers next door, Lej and Cross watch a number of humanoid shadow shapes form outside the fire. Always ready, the 3 Ghostpunchers don their unique knuckledusters: yew, meteoric iron, and silver rosary. The assortment and number of shadows indicate they are the spiritual remains of the house’s victims, so the Ghostpunchers apologize en masse for the fate of the victims and that they were unable to save any, but they’re free to move on. With that, the shadows begin to fade away peacefully. One shape steps forward with outstretched hand, radiating pain and confusion, and Fecund steps to meet it and punch it smartly through its shadowy sternum, releasing it from the grip of the Murder House. It, too, fades away, leaving the Ghostpunchers with a final feeling of gratitude.

As the sirens of firetrucks draw nearer, Agency weaponry disappears. The Indianapolis detective’s badge of good ol’ Joey Malone appears in Fecund’s hand, accompanied by a wink and a grin, while Gillian and Drew Winthrop share a chuckle.

fin.

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Wild Weasels and Raccoons
Hushabye - Part 3

OPERATION: HUSHABYE BLUE NEWT
DAILY REPORT PREPARED BY AGENT RERUN
SUBMITTED: N/A IN PROGRESS – 28 JULY 2015

SEE ATTACHED FILE: HUSHABYE_-Order_of_Events_-_T1Days.pdf

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"F*cking With BETA. Back Soon. <3"
Hushabye - Part 2

OPERATION: HUSHABYE BLUE NEWT
DAILY REPORT PREPARED BY AGENT RERUN
SUBMITTED: 0230; 28 JULY 2015

SEE ATTACHED FILE: HUSHABYE_-_Order_of_Events_T2_Days.pdf

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No, Grandma! No!
Hushabye - Part 1

The apartment team of Rerun, Factor, and Fitz start going through the apartment and discover the gruesome remains of Mr. Oakes in the storage room. In removing the house core without first removing the bodies of the janitor and Mr. Oakes, the apartment team has unintentionally made a horrifying mess.

Kessler contacts the apartment-team, informing them that Brer Lapine has been allowed to leave and the BETA agents were already dealt with – apparently by their own weapons. Unbeknownst to everyone, Fox finds one of the extranatural, attention-grabbing quarters from the Agency storage locker. Lapine seems to be more amenable to the Agency team, and shares the time and route that BETA will be transporting the confiscated Agency artifacts from the storage lockers. Kessler and Fox receive a patchy sitrep from the apartment from Rerun and make their way back to the apartment building to regroup.

Upon regrouping, Fitz mistakes Fox for his grandmother and Fox gleefully plays along.

[More forthcoming…]

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The Twelve Inch Pompadour
Foxhunt Baby Blues - Part 4

Grady confirms that Fitz remains the team’s priority. Furthermore, due to BETA’s increasing presence in the area, the team has 12 hours to finish their mission and leave Nashville. According to the local news, both Kessler and Rerun are wanted for questioning by the police, with a separate item about Lieutenant Commaner Danica Rosen having been spotted at the Wilmore Storage Facility. Fox news is already using her presence to link NASA to the weapons locker. Other theories involve druglords and the KKK. Nicholas and his partner are wanted for the murder of 3 federal agents and are the targets of a manhunt. Both the Jeep Cherokee and the yellow sportscar have been impounded (the team declares total ignorance on where the yellow sportscar came from). Lastly, Grady adds that a child named Zayd has been leaving messages for Guy Fox on Rerun’s phone. Zayd sounds upset, saying that his friend Daniel is missing, and that Isaac went to go look for him and he hasn’t come back yet, and Zayd thinks 305 did it. The team decides to help Zayd after they investigate the campsite and hopefully recruit Fitz.

Around the campsite are located 5 wildlife detection cameras with wireless relays set up. The brown haired bearded man can be seen by the campfire, setting up hotdogs to roast. Factor and Kessler take up suitable vantage points, and Kessler breaks a camera to get the man’s attention while Rerun aproaches the campsite from the road to start talking with the man. Brer Lapine, as the man introduces himself, is easy-going with conversation, but steadfastly refuses to share information with Rerun, whom he refers to as “Brer Reynard.” As the conversation begins to reach an impasse, Fitz Cheesely steps out of the truck parked at the edge of the campsite, wanting to know what both organizations can offer him. Rerun’s reservations about the Agency prove hindering, but before the situation turns south on its own, Kessler (on cue) takes a shot at Brer Lapine’s leg. She misses, and Lapine bolts for cover behind the truck, but the demonstration of the lack of protection present seems to be enough to convince Fitz to throw his lot in with the Agency. Lapine takes a shot to the shoulder, but seems to have some form of extranatural ability that causes his attacker to take a bit of damage as well. He escapes the scene, clipping Rerun with the truck as he speeds off. He hasn’t gotten far when a gunfight erupts. A quick check-in with the Mohawks confirms it wasn’t them, and the agents conclude that BETA tangling with Brer Lapine is the source of the gunfire. As quickly as possible, the agents claim what gear they can from Lapine’s campsite, including a well-worn violin that Rerun postcogs to learn Lapine’s name is really Matthias.

Rerun asks Kessler, Jesse and the Mohawks, and Fox by extension to deal with BETA and let Lapine/Matthias go. Meanwhile, Rerun, Factor, and Fitz head to Fox’s old apartment building to track down the missing 10 year old Daniel. Driving around the block reveals Nicholas’s thunderbird parked nearby, and a police cruiser is parked out front. Using Fox’s keys to get into through the side entrance and scouting out the 3rd floor, the trio learns that 2 cops are questioning a distraught couple (presumably Daniel’s parents) and the landlady. Not wanting to risk drawing attention, they regroup, decide to grab some Thai take-out, and let Factor pose as delivery to get close enough to eavesdrop. While Factor is upstairs, Fitz and Rerun loiter in the 2nd floor stairwell, and aren’t terribly surprised to see the elevator midway down the hall open and the familiar face of Nicholas peer out. Nick joins them in the stairwell, obviously crestfallen that Fitz has also thrown in with the Agency. They recommend Nick get to a hotel to lay low for a little while, as he has not been able to re-establish communication with Matthias and BETA has spurred the police to target the pair in a manhunt. Before Nick leaves, they also assure him that the team will check in on him before they have to leave Nashville.

Up on the third floor, Factor gathers that Daniel’s parents live in room 301. He knocks on the familiar door of 305 and wins over Zayd when he convinces the kid that he’s friends wtih Fox. Zayd is worried for Isaac and Daniel and has been left alone for most of the day. He mentions room 305 across the hall, where Mr. Oakes lives. He adds that he hasn’t seen Mr. Oakes for a little while, although the older gentleman frequently goes on trips as a photographer and asks Zayd to feed his cat, Toby. The hall is now empty, so Zayd takes Factor over to 305 and lets them in via a key. Areas of the apartment have been marked off with coloured tape. Once Rerun and Fitz have arrived in 305, Zayd begins explaining the extranatural phenomena presented in each of the coloured zones, his explanations make far more sense after the team finds Oakes’ notes in his darkroom. Blue areas cause pain as objects inside rapidly age/corrode/decay, purple denotes a randomized teleportation field, time decelerates in yellow areas, black areas are fields of zero gravity, grey areas contain quiet whispers, green areas cause intense organic growth, and perhaps most intriguingly, objects put into red areas gain autonomous mobility, an unknown level of sentience, and unidentified chromism capabilities. In addition to Oakes’ copious notes, Fitz and Factor locate a paper he was in the process of writing on his computer. Needless to say, the hard drive is yanked and pocketed. Fitz takes to the investigation with enthusiasm, refusing to be thrown off even by the 5 inch ants trundling around in one of the green zones. The whispers in the grey areas are eventually identified as Hindi or Urdu, and sound like normal conversations between two or three individuals. Rerun goes to postcog the apartment’s doorknob to try to confirm Zayd’s theory that Isaac and Daniel never left the apartment via conventional methods. A misstep into the purple zone in the hall lands Rerun in the dark janitor’s closet next door, where he immediately starts using items that come to hand and his phone light to identify the types of zones between him and the exit. He is in the several-minute process of growing a beard to rival that of ZZ Top by the time Factor and Fitz open the door and turn on the lights. Fitz can’t resist the lure of the green zone Rerun has located, and dives through a zero gravity area to reach it. Once pulled to safety, Fitz stays put in the green zone with Rerun until his pompadour begins to crush itself under it’s own weight at a height of 12 inches. With Factor’s help, both Fitz and Rerun get back through the zero gravity zone and they resume exploring the area. Going up to the roof yields the discovery of only a grey and a black zone above the janitor’s closet. After Factor pokes a confused pigeon free of the zero gravity area with a handy broom, they go back to the 3rd floor where Factor points out some graffiti on the wall in what appears to be Sanskrit. He is able to identify it as the word for “home”, though it appears to be missing a fragment. Rerun’s postcognitive explorations do not yield its origin, but rather a confusing mix of here/not here feelings. Fitz attempts to scrub the word off the wall, but is hit with a gut-wrenching feeling that makes it feel like a bad idea. All three are weirded out by the shuddering tremor they feel in the wall and through the floor. Factor takes a pen and adds the missing letter to the Sanskrit “home” and suddenly there has always been the door to apartment #300 in front of them.

They enter to the most welcoming atmosphere of what turns out to be a well-furnished (if oddly designed, architecturally speaking) apartment. There is the sense that anything one would ever need or want is at hand. Fitz picks up a Martin acoustic guitar; Rerun is greeted by a friendly golden retriever. Fitz and Rerun also take a minute to clean up their appearances, shaving or trimming respective beards and clipping overlong fingernails, etc. Investigating the apartment doesn’t yield much in the way of answers: the first-floor bedroom contains a statue of Ganesh and a smaller statue of a different deity none of the three can identify. There are occasional waves of sickness and dull aches that seem to come from the apartment, itself. The second floor is made of a hallway and four bedrooms. The four occupants are an older man in janitor’s coveralls, a 10-year old boy, an elderly man they theorize is Mr. Oakes, and Isaac Ross. Daniel and Isaac are easily woken, though neither remember how they arrived in apartment #300. Unfortunately, the janitor and Mr. Oakes did not survive their extended stay in the apartment, though the actual cause of death is undetermined. When accused of “eating people” the apartment/house gives a sense of revulsion. Isaac and Daniel are escorted to the hall, where Isaac returns home to sleep and Daniel receives a bit of coaching on what NOT to tell his parents. He identifies #300 to be residence of Mr. & Mrs. Patil, whom he hasn’t seen for a while. Daniel is packed off towards his apartment and joyfully reunites with his parents just after Rerun, Factor and Fitz disappear back into #305. A cursory investigation reveals that the extranatural zones are all inactive. Going back into #300, Rerun, Factor, and Fitz are greeted once more by the welcoming house. With the survivors removed to safety, they head up to explore the third floor. There, in a large and open area, they find 6 wide chairs with high backs all facing a raised platform. Upon the raised platform is a hollow dodecahedron, throughout which is entangled a fleshy, root-like structure. Factor pokes it with the trusty broom handle, and it reaches out to grab it. Rerun severs the tendril with his sword and Factor proceeds to club the severed bit to death. Adapting to the situation, Fitz decides he wants a flamethrower, and the house obligingly provides – complete with a hair net to keep the impressive pompadour safe. Between fire, sword, and blunt force trauma, the fleshy structure is destroyed. With its core uninhibited, the house is able to communicate more clearly. It explains that the Patils have been gone for a while and it is lonely. Recently, an individual who looked and smelled like Mr. Patil entered and brought in the fleshy root before the house realized it was not Mr. Patil. Rerun postcogs the front doorknob and is able to identify the individual as a Czarist. The house indicates it can be moved via its dodecahedron core. Not wanting to leave the friendly extranatural entity at the mercy of BETA or the Czarists, the agents ask if the house would like to come with them. It deliberates and assents, certain that the Patils will be able to find it as soon as they can. Rerun picks up the basketball-sized core and follows Fitz and Factor out to the hall. As soon as the core clears the doorframe, both the door to #300 and the Sanskrit graffiti are gone, as if they had never been. The group returns to #305 with the core to evaluate the clean-up situation ahead and to await word from the rest of the team.

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Mormons and Stalkers and Bears - Oh My!
Foxhunt Baby Blues - Part 3

Surprisingly, Grady returns with direction from the Higher Ups for the team: Leave. Now. Beta has proven to be committed to maintaining plausible deniability, and therefore the storage lockers can be their mess to clean up. With any luck, an Agency team may be able to reclaim some of the artifacts when Beta transports them to a secure location.

Kessler gets a smoke grenade from the Mohawks watching outside the 10ft chain link fence that borders the property, and informs them of Beta’s presence. In return, the Mohawks report the feds (Beta) just found the rented locker containing the bodies of their 3 slain agents (they brought a dog, but appeared to already know where to look. Then they immediately begin to cut a hole in the fence. Meanwhile, Rerun messages Factor with updates to the situation, and both agents collect as many artifacts from their respective lockers as they can. As Kessler rigs the smoke grenade to go off when the storage unit is opened, the Mohawks send word that someone is headed in Factor’s direction. The visitor dancing down the aisle is none other than the dark haired mystery man who broke into Fitz’s house and assisted in rescuing Fitz from the Urgent Care facility. He freezes when he sees Factor and curses in Québécois as he turns to bolt. Factor is able to open up a dialogue by claiming to be friends of Fitz, putting his box of rescued artifacts down in the process. The dark haired man is obviously dismayed to hear of Beta’s presence, and doubly so when he realizes Factor is from the Agency. Fortunately, the Agency seems to rank sightly better, and the dark haired man is willing to escape the storage facility with Factor. They make their way out through a hole in the fence and leave in the dark haired man’s yellow Thunderbird.

Simultaneously, Kessler steps away from her handiwork with the door in time for a pair of cops and (presumably) a Beta agent to round the corner at the far end of the aisle. She shouts an introduction an a warning about the door being rigged to a possible explosive and could someone call an EOD team please? This buys Kessler and Rerun a few seconds with which they make their escape over and through the fence, respectively. The Mohawks have already beat a swift retreat in the Panic Van, leaving a yellow sports car for Kessler and Rerun. The Beta agent clearly sees something amiss and gives a brief chase, easily vaulting the fence as the yellow sports car screeches off. Once out of sight, Kessler drives around to the front of the storage facility in order to retrieve the Agency car. They find many more news reporters and press gathered around the front of the facility than when they first arrived. Kesslers waves a few of them back before jumping the fence again and calmly navigating through the chaos of the police cordon and exiting the facility with their car and gear.

As soon as the Thunderbird had left the scene, the dark haired man attempts to exert control over the situation and declares Factor to be his prisoner. Factor is happy to chow down on free Taco Bell and try to draw more information out of the dark haired man while Kessler and Rerun discretely follow the GPS signal from his phone. After driving around for a while, the dark haired man pulls over to check in with his boss, only to learn how easily Agents are tracked by their own. Kessler and Rerun arrive on the scene, and Factor is forced to use his extranatural ability on the dark haired man when he goes for a gun hidden in the console. The dark haired man (and Factor) sees a huge red-eyed bear attack the car. The dark haired man responds poorly (understandably) to the manifestation of his worst fear, and runs screaming out into traffic. Despite being hit by at least one Prius, the man survives his dash across the busy highway and collapses on the embankment. Kessler lends him a shoulder and brings him back, settling him in the backseat of the Thunderbird and sitting with him. Factor drives the three of them at largely un-harrowing speeds back to the fleabag motel, while he and Kessler finally start getting useful information out of the team’s new “friend”. Meanwhile, Rerun wipes down the interior of the yellow sportscar, transfers the box of artifacts to the Agency sedan, attempts to placate Jesse over the loss of the sportscar with the promise of beer, and drives back to the fleabag motel while reporting the team’s successful escape from the storage facility to Grady (sans any mention of the dark haired man).

Between the car ride, Weaver patching him up, and some gentle questioning, the dark haired man reveals the following: His name is Nicholas, was on a camping trip in Canada 5 years ago when his group was attacked by the giant demon bear, the Canadian Agency showed up and wanted to recruit him, but he managed to flee into the States. He’s been working with the brown haired bearded man for the past 4 years as part of a cell in another organization that actively avoids BETA and the Agency, and does their best to rescue people with extranatural abilities like Fitz and assist them in staying free and clear of both organizations. He and his partner have been aware of the Agency storage locker for some time (although Nick seems surprised to learn that there were 5 in total), and had been on his way to pick up another Hand of Glory before going to make contact with another extranatural in the area, Guy Fox. Reportedly, Fox is a powerful pyrokinetic, although Nick won’t divulge his group’s sources. Nick has the work and home address of Fox, and is tricked into thinking he can accompany the team so Rerun can postcog the addresses from him (reinforcing the idea that although BETA is terrifying, Agents are sneaky bastards). Weaver immediately sedates Nicholas – for his own safety – and keeps watch over him while the team goes after Fox. Rerun and Factor leave an apologetic note in Nick’s pocket.

First, the team heads over to the Dunkin Donuts listed as Fox’s place of work. They are met by “Adrian” behind the counter, who is all-too-eager to chat about his “coworker”, Guy Fox. Kessler takes an instant dislike to him, while Factor and Rerun maintain polite conversation while feeling on edge with Adrian. After talking about how Fox wrestled a nude individual he refers to as “Stripper Joe” the other day, Adrian mentions he’ll be going to the Tenstone Bar after his shift. The team takes their leave and heads over to the apartment building Fox lives in. Once inside the lobby, they don’t find Fox’s name on any of the mailboxes, so Rerun postcogging each mailbox as quickly as he can. The box labelled “I. Ross/304” has an overwhelming sense of “everyone” about it, without providing him a read on its owner. The team is approached by the elderly owner of the building, who finds their behavior suspicious. She is mollified by feigned interest in renting an apartment and Rerun pretending to be blind. The three agents leave the lobby, wait ten minutes, and re-enter by a side door to go up to room 304. The door is answered by Mr. Isaac Ross while a 10-year old child watches cartoons behind him. Mr. Ross claims to have no knowledge of Guy Fox, Rerun leaves his phone number under the name of Alex, and the 10-year old can be heard asking about Guy after Mr. Ross closes the door. Kessler goes to chat with the crazy cat lady of 307 and is told Guy is a sweet young man who lives with Isaac over in 304. The team sets up a stake-out around the apartment building; Kessler on the roof, Factor around the side, and Rerun loitering out front. Rerun’s phone rings as a restricted number calls him. An unfamiliar voice he presumes belongs to Guy Fox acts like a recorded nonsensical message about the FCC and student loans before hanging up. Over at the Tenstone Bar, Adrian, aka Guy Fox, roughly triangulates Rerun’s position via cell towers that also indicate a high level of technological security as Rerun’s cell signal jumps around area with unrealistic speed. Rerun calls Agency tech support for assistance in tracking down the location of the restricted number that just prank called him and updates the rest of the team. Tech support turns on Fox’s GPS on his phone and the team is immediately off to the Tenstone Bar. Kessler and Rerun approach Fox at the bar while Factor keeps an eye on the back exit in case Fox tries to run. What follows is an intensely awkward conversation where Kessler and Rerun fail to convince Fox of anything beyond they are creepy stalkers. Rerun attempts to postcog Fox on a handshake, but is again overwhelmed by an indescribable feeling of “everyone”. Kessler washes her hands of the conversation and goes to the car with Factor. Rerun follows Fox our of the bar, attempting to elaborate on the danger Fox is unknowingly in, but finds Fox has stealth dialed 911 when a police cruiser pulls up next to them on the sidewalk. Fox begs a lift home from the officer (and shamelessly flirts). Rerun is adequately sheepish enough to be let off the hook and is able to hop in the car with Kessler and Factor. Weaver calls to say Nicholas will be waking up soon. Rerun tells her to rejoin the rest of the Mohawks and to hide Nicholas’s cell phone to slow him down a bit. Weaver takes it a step further has Louis copy the SIM card. The GPS on Nick’s phone places him at Fox’s apartment building. Rerun calls Fox to ostensibly apologize for being a creepy stalker, Rerun’s phone is passed amongst the three of them as they take turns speaking with Fox, and then Fox’s internet browser freezes and flicks over to his past history. Fox accuses the agents of messing with his computer, to which all 3 emphatically tell him to get out of his apartment. Both phonelines can hear static on the call. Fox pulls the laptop battery, removes his hard drive, stomps on his computer, tells the agents to meet him at “Tick Tock Bing Bong,” and hangs up. He hands the phone to the 10 year old and says his farewells to Isaac. Back in the car, Kessler fries Rerun’s phone and they all head over to Fox’s apartment and pick him up, having no idea what Fox meant by “Tick Tock Bing Bong” (he meant the local casino).

In the car, there is more awkward conversation and some demonstrations of extranatural abilities. Rerun attempts to question Fox on his own extranatural abilties, but makes no headway. Kessler pulls over to the side of the road after a while, and no one is thrilled to see Nicholas pull up behind them in his yellow Thunderbird. Kessler steps out with her gun, and Nicholas immediately escalates the tension by pulling out his own weapon. Rerun steps out to try to talk Nicholas down, understanding he is upset over being betrayed and sedated. The situation takes a turn for the weird when Fox finally steps out and is identified by Nick as Ed Roberston of the Barenaked Ladies, and very definitely not Guy Fox whom he was supposed to make contact with. Fox returns to the Agency car, and Nicholas is willing to be convinced he is out of his depth and needs to check in with his partner/boss. Rerun gives him the heads up that BETA has the bodies of their 3 agents back, since they had been hidden in the storage facility and to be extra careful while working in the area. Taking their leave of Nicholas again, the agents debate what to do. The information pulled from Nick’s phone shows the most-frequently called number is located at a campsite adjacent to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville. The team suspects this is the location of the brown haired bearded man. Kessler is in favor of assaulting the area and retrieving Fitz, given that Nicholas and his associates have proven to be fond of shooting first. Factor is always in favor of shooting BETA first and doesn’t consider it a bad thing. Rerun calls the Night Agent on Duty to outline the current situation and ask for advisement from Grady.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events
Foxhunt Baby Blues - Part 2

Following Weaver’s mic drop statement about Fitz being a clone, Rerun does some investigating via postcognition and confirms the Urgent Care facility is the location at which the clone’s memories first clear. Fear Factor receives yet another panicked call from Fitz’s still-searching roommates, and is able to obtain the address of the Urgent Care facility on Maple Street. Weaver and the Mohawks are tasked with keeping Fitz II safe while Weaver does her best to stabilize his condition, liaising with the Agency’s medical department. Grady calls in after receiving an unclear message from the Mohawk team about Fitz being missing and is given an updated sitrep en masse over speakerphone. Kessler requests and receives access to the local power grid databases to compare the electricity consumptions of the 5 local Urgent Care facilities. The Urgent Care in question consumes twice the electricity as any of the four other facilities with occasional spikes. Grady reveals that BETA has been recently discovered to use Urgent Care facilities for their own purposes, even using Red Cross blood drives to screen and test the general populace of an area. No one needs to vocalize the online advertisement that the Maple Street facility holds a blood drive every other Sunday.

Anxious over the whereabouts of Fitz, the team decides to get some rest and to break into/infiltrate/investigate the Maple Street Urgent Care in the middle of the night when it will hopefully be less active. Still nervous over the mystery man with the cigarette from the band’s house, the team stops by around midnight so Rerun and Factor can search the neighbor’s yard for the discarded cigarette. Rerun makes it as far as the front yard’s tree when he sees the tent pitched in the middle of the yard, and is seen by the children not-yet-sleeping. Stymied by camping kids, Rerun and Factor vow to never speak of the incident again and retreat back to Kessler and the car to move on to the more straight forward task of forcibly investigating the clinic on Maple Street.

They reach the facility without incident and park around the side, only slightly dismayed by the number of cars still in the lot. Kessler handily shorts out the security camera pointed at the side door labelled “ELECTRICAL” while Factor tries to pick the lock of an empty Red Cross van parked at the back of the building. Oddly enough, the lock on the van is far more complex than expected and the team is even more on edge as they expect to find BETA agents inside. Factor easily cracks the lock on the door marked “ELECTRICAL” for Kessler to sabotage the power if needed. Factor plays sick and leans heavily on Rerun and they head inside, while Kessler cuts the brake lines on the suspicious Red Cross van and finds a bullet hole in the driver’s side window with an accompanying blood smear inside. Rerun and Factor make it a few steps inside the lobby – far enough to see multiple patients in the waiting room gently snoring and slumped in their chairs – before Rerun passes out on the floor. A few slaps later, Rerun and Factor confirm that even the receptionists and security guard are also asleep, albeit on the floor as opposed to arranged in chairs. Kessler joins them inside, and after briefly falling prey to the extranatural sleep-inducing effect, the team draws their weapons and go through the building. Factor pulls up and copies security footage from the current evening and the day of Fitz’s first admission to the Urgent Care, and then erases the former from the system. In one of the treatment rooms located at the corner of the building, a charred lump of flesh emits wisps of smoke from a trash bin. Dousing the object in the sink stops the smoke and reveals the charred object to be the remains of a waxy hand, severed at the wrist and capped with a metal plate. Attached to the metal plate is a stamped tag that reads, “PROPERTY OF AAS2 HAND OF GLORY CL:G1” and a serial number. The HoG is placed in a red biohazard bag and tucked away for safe keeping. As the smoke clears, the sleeping staff and patients show signs of waking up. Rerun postcogs the only other suspicious item the group has located thus far – a shelving unit in the same room as the burning hand that doesn’t have an analogue in the other treatment rooms. He learns that the last person to interact with the shelf was a brown haired bearded man who came through a half hour prior, bearing the smoking HoG that he left in the trash bin before donning a pair of sunglasses to locate a hidden keypad on the shelf. The correct code opens the hidden door in the room. Repeating the same actions in the present, the team slips inside a hidden operating room filled with high-tech looking machinery. Two bodies lay on the floor, both wearing the iconic sunglasses of BETA and a gunshot wound to the head. The group closes the hidden door behind themselves as patients and staff continue to stir. Rerun leaves a message for Grady with the agent on call for the night back at the Agency, then calls Jesse and the Mohawks for a discrete pickup of bodies and cleanup of the scene. Factor and Kessler check out the room’s other exit and discover it’s the unmarked exterior door next to the “ELECTRICAL” closet and had been left unlocked the whole time. Examining the Red Cross/BETA van in the back a little more closely reveals the driver side door was also left unlocked, the back of the van seems to be a troop transport vehicle, and the body of the BETA driver was left in a dumpster further down the alley. Rerun postcogs the OR table, exit door, and spent bullet casing to pick up a few more details of the scenario: Fitz had been lying on the table/bed, groggily aware of his doctor standing over him while speaking to another man until a door opened and they were both shot. The bearded man said something in Fitz’s ear before picking him up and leaving. The bearded man left impressions of determination, conviction, the following of a timeline, and slight touches of fear.

Jesse and the Mohawks (the ones not guarding Fitz II currently) arrive, decked out with gear and ready to rumble. They’re disappointed to find out they’re really just picking up 3 bodies and cleaning up the mess left by the bearded man. Kessler attempts to deactivate any BETA tech left in the bodies of the three agents (tensions are strained even further when she overhears one of the Mohawks comment on the Agency’s own self-incinerating tech included with it’s infamous agent trackers). Kessler believes she is able to successfully short out the tech in one body, but the other proves a more grisly affair as the tech shorts out and smoke rises from the corpse. Kessler is horrified, upset, and emotionally withdrawn for the rest of the night. Factor and Rerun have both seen worse and give her some emotional space as they all head back to their fleabag motel to comb over the security footage under Kessler’s tactical direction. Eventually, they’re able to piece together the following chain of events that occurred at the Urgent Care earlier that night:


  • Around 0000 (midnight), the Red Cross/BETA transport van parks at the back of the building. The driver eats a sandwich while a second agent steps through the unmarked side door into the hidden OR of the Urgent Care.

  • At approx. 0030, a dark Jeep Cherokee with Nebraska plates parks around the side of the building.

  • The brown haired bearded man steps out of the jeep, dons gloves, lights the Hand of Glory and enters the building. He waves the burning hand at each occupant inside, and they immediately fall asleep.

  • While the bearded man is inside, the mystery dark haired man Rerun recognizes with dismay as the interloper from the Low Downs’ house, slinks along side the Red Cross/BETA transport van. The dark haired man pops up at the driver’s window to shoot the driver at point blank range and then move the body to the dumpster.

  • Inside, the bearded man enters the OR and quickly dispatches the BETA doctor and agent standing over Fitz on the table.

  • The dark haired man goes to the side door to the OR and goes inside. A few minutes later, both he and the bearded man exit the OR, the latter still carrying Fitz. Fitz and the bearded man leave the scene via the Jeep Cherokee, and the dark haired man leaves on foot.

By the time this chain of events has been pieced together, it’s officially early morning. Grady calls, returning Rerun’s message. He is again filled in on speakerphone en masse. When given the information off the tag of the Hand of Glory, Grady confirms that it is an Agency artifact, albeit an older one that was acquired from defecting Russians in the 1960’s. The team sends over screenshots of the brown haired bearded man, the dark haired man, and the Jeep Cherokee’s plates. Kessler also suggests running ballistics on the spent casing retrieved from the OR. Grady bids the team good night and hopes to have more information for them later in the day. Shortly after turning in, Rerun receives a call from Jesse, who is wondering what should be done with the three bodies. Rerun groggily suggests renting a storage locker with cash, just in case BETA has an active tracker in the agent Kessler didn’t manage to destroy.

The team wakes up in the mid afternoon. Rerun has 2 missed calls and a message from Jesse telling him to call her, but the tone implies it is not mission-critical, so the team calls Grady back to see what progress has been made. They learn that Sandra is apparently exactly what she seems – an enthusiastic fan that the band is currently working on getting a restraining order for. The Jeep Cherokee’s Nebraska plates were stolen from an Oldsmobile registered to a Maizy Seymour. Someone other than Grady placed a BOLO on the vehicle in the earlier in the day. The brown haired bearded man the dark haired man are individually wanted by the FBI for robbing convenience stores throughout multiple states as well as for questioning about several murders. Both use a multiple different names, all presumed fake, and neither has Agency ties. The Hand of Glory was assumed lost during a civil war within the Agency in the 90’s (a civil war is news to the entire team). The bullet casing is from a non-Agency handgun, likely a semi-automatic. Kessler requests MP IDs from the Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska for Rerun and Factor to go along with her previously-requested air force ID. Grady agrees and arranges for the IDs to be delivered in an hour. While waiting, Rerun calls Jesse back and is regaled with a slightly rambling account of how an expired storage locker directly across from the Mohawks’ rented illegal-body-storage was opened and discovered to be ENTIRELY full of old guns. The Mohawks have had a blast hanging out and watching the arrival of the police and the ensuing investigation. She sends over a number of photos she’s taken, one of which providing a clear view of the back wall of the expired locker, on which can clearly be seen a stenciled “AAS2.”

The promised IDs arrive via courier agent after an hour, and Kessler proposes the group approaches the local law enforcement with the story that the two wanted men are actually deserters and thieves from base in Nebraska, and that the three of them are very informally investigating their whereabouts and the stolen equipment. Armed with their new identities, Kessler is Lieutenant Commander Diane Carey, Factor is Staff Sergeant Batan Court, and Rerun is Lance Corporal Vick Falcon (he’s not sure what he did to deserve the pseudonym). They bluff their way into the good graces of the investigating officer, Captain Brown, largely thanks to Kessler’s detailed knowledge of firearms and technical descriptions of the missing “military” equipment. Captain Brown adds that the two men are now wanted in connection to the murders of 3 FBI agents who are currently missing and presumed dead. The team is then allowed access to the expired storage locker labelled #277 at Storage Hill Storage. Upon arrival, they are allowed a few minutes to “check the serial numbers” of the equipment. A silent alarm was triggered when the door was opened, rigged to transmit to a satellite, but seems to have died upon activation. The police have been in the process of removing the guns and equipment, so Rerun discretely postcogs the container and sees that it has been undisturbed for a long time. The last time the door was opened was to admit a harried-looking young woman taking notes. A voice called from outside that there were still “the others to check” and the woman sighed and closed the door for the last time. As if on cue, the officer in charge at the scene receives word that the storage facility’s staff has finally located the records that connect #277 to a name, and that name to four other containers on site: #423, #311, #109, and #410B. The team heads to investigate the contents of #423 under the supervision of one of the younger cops. Factor is sent off to ostensibly put in a report to their superiors, but to actually investigate the next locker on the list, #311. Kessler MacGyvers her way past triggering the silent alarm of #423 as Factor easily picks the lock of #311. Both containers contain not guns, but boxes of random odds and ends, jewelry, items of clothing and a few pieces of furniture – all of which seem to have some level of extranatural properties. At their respective locations, both Rerun and Factor find an entire box of Hands of Glory. Factor pockets one, and also sees that container #311 has had recent visitors who left distinct tracks in the dust. Kessler calls Grady to deliver yet another update while Rerun does his best to identify the more dangerous items and keep the cop away from everything. The latter part is a failure, as the young man dons a grey shawl and immediately starts to smile and stare out into space. Factor provides a victory selfie over a tray of rings he found in lieu of a worded update. Grady curses loudly and puts Kessler and Rerun on hold so he can go speak with his own superiors on the best way to handle the situation. As Agency muzak plays faintly, the indisposed cop’s radio crackles, “Look sharp – the Feds are here.” There’s a brief moment of silence before Kessler has a terrible idea.

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The Trail of Broken Dreams
Foxhunt Baby Blues - Part 1

A few short weeks after returning from Paris, Agents Rerun and Fear Factor are notified of an upcoming mission. In attempting to gather the rest of the team, they learn that Agents Sunnyside and Dermitt have been reassigned, and that Agents Nama and Gently are otherwise occupied (read: ‘you don’t have clearance to know’). Due to what was surely an administrative oversight, the latest member of their team makes contact and introduces herself as Agent Kessler. After some awkward conversation and even more awkward skirting around classified intel, the three meet the team’s new handler, Agent Grady.

Armed with a smile and a powerpoint presentation, Grady briefs the team on what appears to be a simple recruitment mission. An individual has recently come to viral fame on YouTube for his ability to turn a crowd’s disposition from hostile to ecstatic with a gesture and a few words.
This lead singer of the 5-man band, “Fitz & The Low Downs”, has garnered a surprising number of YouTube likes and positive comments. The team unanimously agrees that this phenomenon warrants investigation. The second video, entitled “Singer Shows Up A**hole Heckler”, was taken while the band performed at Josie’s Sports Bar in Nashville, Tennessee. According to the band’s FaceBook page, their next performance is in two days on a Saturday evening at Eastfield’s Sports Bar in Nashville.

After taking the evening to prepare and research, Rerun, Factor, and Kessler meet their 5-man Mohawk support team, headed up by Jesse, and their medic, Weaver. The agents get settled in a surprisingly decent Agency car, and the Mohawks take a black van on the 13+ hour road trip from New Jersey to Nashville. While en route, Rerun and Factor take the opportunity to fill in the more recently recruited Kessler on the threat of BETA having also located Fitz, and the complications that may ensue. Factor, à la Lee Crookshank, calls yet another recent venue of Fitz & The Low Downs to persuade the owner to provide the band’s contact information. (This information had already been provided by Grady, but the local connection adds a welcome layer of believability to Factor’s fabrication. Upon arrival, the agents drive around the block a few times to look for any pre-existing surveillance tails, get a feel for the area, and make a list of local vehicles and plate numbers. From the backseat, Factor makes a phone call to the band’s house phone and discovers the voicemail is entirely full. The second call is answered by Roy, who is overjoyed when Factor again presents himself as Lee Crookshank of Crookshank Records and wants to discuss the band signing on. A brunch meeting is set up for Saturday morning at 11am, at the Corner Cafe in the neighborhood.

Not wanting to waste time, the agents elect to interview the manager of Josie’s Sports Bar. One of the hostesses, Missy, has clearly fallen for the charms of the lead singer Fitz, and hints that the 3 agents are not the first to come by asking after him. The manager, on the other hand, is very much not a fan of the band, or their music. Kessler provides a measure of mollification by ordering the house special, Josie’s Jalepeño Burger, ostensibly on Rerun’s behalf. A few eyebrows are raised as one burger is passed among 3 people, but the group leaves without further incident. Jesse notifies them that two fleabags of motel rooms have been rented. The Mohawks respond enthusiastically to the recommendation of jalapeño burgers, and even more enthusiastically to Rerun’s assurances that he can write the burgers off as a justifiable travel expense.

Perhaps unreasonably anxious over the as-of-yet unsubstantiated presence of BETA agents, the team decides to scope out Eastfield’s Sports Bar as the next venue of Fitz & The Low Downs. While Factor and Rerun head inside, Kessler patrols the parking lot and is unnerved to find a familiar rusty blue car she recognizes from their earlier reconnaissance of the suburbs. Once the three are settled inside, they are relieved to find the bassist of The Low Downs checking the stage’s hook-ups and sound equipment in preparation for tomorrow’s performance. Kessler goes up to have a short chat with the bassist, holding to the cover story of being from a recording studio and her alias of Dana Fitzpatrick. Back at the table, Rerun spots a young woman at a minibar looking unhappy about Kessler speaking with the bassist. When the young woman realizes she’s being watched, Rerun goes to buy her a drink and introduce himself as Alex Wells, in town with his friends and looking for things to do. The young woman says her name is Sandra and highly recommends the local talent, Fitz & The Low Downs’ performance tomorrow night. Although she appears to be simply another fan, Factor gets a photo of her for further investigation. Finally, the team heads to their motel to turn in for the night and plan the next steps with Jesse and her team.

In the morning, Sandra’s photo and name are sent to Grady, Factor and Kessler head to the brunch meeting with Fitz & The Low Downs, and Rerun heads back to the suburbs with Jesse and Louis to break into the band’s house, hopeful to find any additional information about Fitz Cheesely and his apparent powers. Kessler and Factor arrive early to scope out the Corner Cafe, but still only barely beat the band’s nervous arrival. The agents take the remainder of the time they have before 11am to confirm they don’t see anyone suspicious around the cafe. Going in for the meeting, they make brief small talk with the band before convincing the pale and quiet Fitz to take a brief walk with them towards a nearby alley. Out of sight of the rest of the band, Kessler and Factor start applying pressure to Fitz, trying to get him to use his powers. Despite the mounting tension of the situation (amplified when Fitz spots Kessler discretely pulling her gun), Fitz is unable to use his abilities to calm things down. When directly confronted on this, he doesn’t know why his powers aren’t working. He mentions he wasn’t feeling well earlier in the week and went to a local Urgent Care facility. Kessler pushes the idea that the performance at Eastfield’s ought to be cancelled, since Fitz seems to be in no condition to perform. Factor and Kessler manage to convince Fitz that he is quite likely in danger, and even persuade him to stay in a hotel they can provide while the danger is assessed. Fitz is in no condition to argue further, already weak and wan and worsening. He is helped to the car, and the band is told he wasn’t feeling well and headed off in the opposite direction. The remaining four members of the band split up to start looking for him, worriedly mentioning that he had the flu earlier in the week.

Back in the suburbs at the start of the cafe meeting, Louis keeps a lookout around the block while Jesse and Rerun sneak around to the back of the house. There, they find a set of unlocked sliding glass doors, which they agree seems odd. Rerun postcogs the door handle to see an as-of-yet unidentified young man exit through two hours ago, have a cigarette on the back patio that he flicked over the fence and made his way towards the street, looking forward to his morning coffee. Rerun and Jesse make their way inside and begin quietly exploring the house, finding that it is still occupied by at least one person on the ground level. Upstairs, they find another common area and a number of closed doors. Rerun uses his ability on the doorknobs to find Fitz’s room, which he and Jesse begin searching. Physically, they don’t turn up anything besides 2 guitars- one well-worn and one much newer. Postcogging the new guitar gives Rerun the sense that something has recently been “off” with Fitz, lacking the sense of clear memory and confidence one would expect. For comparison, Rerun postcogs the older guitar and is presented with a lively and cocky Fitz practicing his music, with none of the ‘fuzziness’ from the previous impression. A final postcog of the window shows Rerun yesterday’s very sick Fitz curled up in bed with the blankets over his head as Roy opened the window in the hopes that fresh air would help. Rerun and Jesse make a quick and quiet exit out the front door of the building as the unidentified occupant answers the phone when Fitz’s worried bandmates call home looking for him. Rerun thinks about retrieving the discarded cigarette from the neighboring yard, but the presence of playing children convinces him to wait until after dark, if at all.

The team rendezvouses at the hotel room (different than their motel), where Weaver the medic looks Fitz over and runs a few tests. Fitz is looking decidedly worse and out of it. The agents bring each other up to speed while Weaver’s initial tests complete. There is a shared moment of stunned silence when Weaver announces that Fitz’s cells are less than a week old, indicating that he is a clone. Things take an ever more somber turn when she adds that the flu-like symptoms imply the clone’s cellular make-up isn’t holding together well.

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If My Calculations Are Correct...
Sine Qua Nonsense - Part 8

In the meantime, Nama has her own issues to deal with.

The phone call that preceded the Agency car that picked Nama up from the Philippe and Marie DeCouer’s front step mentioned that “Xiao” was currently missing, and that the car would take her to the airport. Instead, the car stops in an alley and the driver reveals himself to be none other than the time-travelling Agent Malcolm. He apologizes for the deception, and admits that Xiao is not missing, and that he really just wanted to make use of Nama‘s as an anchor due to her recently-acquired free will and comparatively massive past. The catacombs are subject to a divergent timestream, and Malcolm wants to use Nama in creating a series of small paradoxes he plans to use as temporal “echolocation”.
Nama follows Malcolm through a portal to an observation deck on a skyscraper in downtown Paris. After checking some readings, Malcolm drops a penny that ends up going through the front windshield of the Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture’s car, and will cause him to be 10 minutes late to a meeting he should have been on time for.
Their next stop is the apartment of Agent Corvus on the evening of the night Nama, Rerun, Dermit, Fear Factor, Sunnyside, and Emet all arrived. Corvus recognizes neither Malcolm nor Nama. The stop is only a matter of seconds, despite Corvus’ obvious confusion. After leaving, Malcolm confides that he had met with Corvus several days prior and wasn’t recognized then, either.
Adding to the number of unsettling factors is the information that Agent Waxwork’s personal timeline has been interfered with/already flawed enough to cause noticeable interference above the catacombs and make her difficult to track. Malcolm infers that her presence indicates that other factions were aware of Malcolm‘s involvement. He further reveals that his investigations are because he can’t tell if Fionn mac Cumhaill is going to die or not, and that if a god dies before the appropriate time, the backlash is probably not good.
On a lighter note, Malcolm produces Rerun‘s Agency-issued pistol, having retrieved it from the confiscated props from the movie set. He mentions that he had to beat both an American Agency and French Agency recovery team to it.
Nama and Malcolm grab a bite to eat, then head back to the hotel so Nama can pick up her new gear delivered by Mme. DeFleur’s people. She also packs some food and water before she and Malcolm head into the catacombs to rejoin the others.

With Dermit largely non-responsive (but alive) in the bottom of the ravine, Rerun and Fear Factor try to get the two teenage guides to cross the bridge and join the rest of the team, hoping to keep the kids safe. Unfortunately, they don’t navigate the bridge well and one falls, breaking several bones in the rough landing. A fishman is quick to take advantage of the incapacitated teen and swiftly dispatches him. His friend attempts to avenge his death by leaping off of the bridge onto the fishman, but is thwarted and also dispatched.

Nama and Malcolm catch up with the rest of the team, and through their concerted efforts (and Malcolm’s impressive personal arsenal), the fishmen are temporarily beaten back. During the brief respite, Sunnyside suggests using the bridge as a ladder so Dermit can be rescued. Rerun rushes back to the other side of the ravine and undoes the anchoring knots. Nama and Fear Factor descend into the ravine and retrieve Dermit. Fear Factor narrowly avoids being tackled by the returning fishmen as Nama and Sunnyside haul the bridge-ladder back up as soon as he gets a hold of it. The initial process of hurling the free end of the bridge to Rerun is repeated and he crosses without incident. Awkward introductions between various members of the team and Malcolm ensue. Malcolm is able to shed a bit of light on the situation, informing everyone that Corvus possessed 3 books under his bed – the missing one being a second notebook.

[More forthcoming…]

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