Scenario Author: Allan Goodall
Write-up Author: Allan Goodall
Run Date: February 05, 2005
Game System: Chaosium's Basic RolePlaying (BRP)
Keeper: Allan Goodall
Characters: Capt. Matthew Birch, Delta Green black ops agent (Jason Gallagher); Cpl. "Radar" Rodriguez (Jason Gallagher); Lt. Bert Sebring (Jimmy Pope); Agent MAYA/Sgt. Walter Taylor (Alana Goodall)
Something in the air is much too quiet
Hear my heartbeat
The storm that rages from within
Three times thunder, blood runs cold
Got this wound on my soul
Down on Hell's Half Acre
Walking on fire
We got trouble in the wasteland
Down on Hell's Half Acre
- Robbie Robertson, "Hell's Half Acre"
The spinning stopped and the fog lifted around Agent MAYA's eyes. The first thing she saw was jungle flying past, not far below her. She was sitting beside the open door of a helicopter, the kind she'd seen in Vietnam War movies. A Huey UH1 Slick, said a voice in the back of her head. Suddenly she was filled with memories of another life, memories of a boy growing up in the midwest, doing okay — but just okay — in school, volunteering for the army on his 18th birthday, and ending up in the air cavalry. MAYA looked down. Her body was different... she was now in a man's body. The reality of what happened swept over her; she sat still for a few minutes, trying to recover.
She searched her mind to find out who she was, where she was, and what day it was. She was in the body of Sergeant Walter Taylor, a member of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry (Airmobile) regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. It was May 20, 1969. She was in Vietnam.
Taylor's platoon — her platoon — had been seconded to some special forces guy, a Captain Matthew Birch. They were to investigate a plantation on a plateau near the Cambodian border. Birch suspected the plantation of supporting North Vietnamese insurgents. They were to surround the plantation, move in, and search it thoroughly. With luck they'd be back at base before supper time.
MAYA/Taylor looked around. She didn't know any of the men in her helicopter, yet — strangely — she could name each one. She glanced at the platoon commander. Instant recognition flooded over her, from both her memory and Taylor's. She knew this man. The name patch over his breast said "SEBRING". It was Bert Sebring, the sorcerer they killed in Tampa (or, more accurately, somewhere else) in September, 2004. He was much younger — barely out of adolescence, really — but still recognizable.
Alzis sent her into the past to stop the destruction of the Tarot deck's Major Arcana cards. She stole the Tarot deck from Sebring's office. This must have been the time and place where Sebring came into possession of the cards!
The jungle opened into a clearing, and the helicopter slipped downward. As it came to a rest, the soldiers inside bailed out. MAYA/Taylor followed, instinctively ducking against the push of air from the rotor blades. She ran off to what Taylor knew was the predetermined rally point for the platoon's headquarters squad. Taylor's helicopter lifted off and disappeared over the jungle. As MAYA/Taylor tried hard not to stare at Sebring, a man in a black beret and tiger-striped camouflage fatigues, carrying a Soviet AK-47 assault rifle, ran up to them. This was Captain Birch.
Birch laid out his operational plan. The platoon's three squads would create a perimeter around the plantation house. Birch would enter the house with Lt. Sebring, Sgt. Taylor, and three assistant squad leaders. He wanted experienced men when he investigated the building, but he wanted to leave the squad leaders in charge of their squads. The six of them would search the house, calling in one of the squads if they thought they needed backup.
Once he explained his plan, Birch ordered a march. It was about a mile to the plantation house. The land, which was once cleared, was now covered in a fairly dense forest. They shouldn't be seen on the approach. First Squad was sent to outflank the plantation to the left, Second Squad was sent to the right. Third Squad would stick with Birch and the platoon command squad, heading straight for the building. They would wait until all squads were in position before Birch and his hand-picked team would enter the house.
Although they were not moving through full jungle, they still found it slow going. MAYA/Taylor stared at Sebring. She did not trust him, which was understandable considering what would happen in 35 years. She spotted a stake standing in the ground. There was something on top of it. Sebring was about to hit it. She lurched forward and pulled Sebring out of the way. She wondered how he survived the war if he was this green in the field. He stared at her, then looked at the strange stake. Sitting on top of it was a small skull, like that of a young child. Unfamiliar markings were carved up and down the stake. Sebring studied the markings, then pulled out a piece of paper and made a rubbing of them. To his platoon he appeared to be taking a souvenir. To MAYA what he was doing was far more malevolent.
Birch walked forward and ordered them to leave the stake alone. They were not to disturb it. Then he pushed the people forward. MAYA continued marching behind and to Sebring's left. She occasionally glanced behind her at Birch, who was now bringing up the rear.
The jungle opened up to thick brush. Beyond the brush was an overgrown yard, and the plantation house itself. Sebring held up his hand in a fist, silently ordering the troops to stop. The building was a large, two story mansion done in Greek revival style. It looked like it would be more at home along the Mississippi than in the Vietnamese highlands. It was intact but it was overgrown with vines. Thick, waist-high grass covered most of the yard. About 100 feet in front of the house was a wooden cart that had almost completely succumbed to the undergrowth.
MAYA saw people moving inside. She counted at least one woman and one man. They both appeared to be Vietnamese.
Birch slipped beside MAYA. Sebring retreated back to Birch. Birch ordered two African-American NCOs, Jackson and Jefferson, to quietly move toward the house. The rest of the command squad would hang back while third squad set up a perimeter. Sebring relayed the orders.
Jackson and Jefferson advanced. Jefferson stepped on a twig, which broke with a loud snap. Jackson stumbled into a bush, rustling the leaves, loudly. They froze in place. A man came out of the house. He was Caucasian, with greying blond hair. He looked around for a few moments, then went back into the building. As Jackson and Jefferson began to advance again, Birch ordered Rodriguez, the radio man, to follow behind them. Jackson and Jefferson got to the cart and halted.
Birch and Sebring discussed strategy. Birch told Sebring to make sure the rest of the platoon had set up a perimeter, and that they were to shoot at anything that tried to escape from the house. Sebring argued against the need for a perimeter so far out from the plantation house. He figured it would be safer to pull his men closer to the mansion than to run a risk of crossfire in the thicker jungle. Birch overruled him.
Birch moved forward, quietly. Sebring and MAYA/Taylor followed. When Birch got to the cart he ordered Jackson, Jefferson and Rodriguez to storm the front door. They would secure the first floor while Birch, Sebring and Taylor followed in support. Once the first floor was secure, the three NCOs would secure the upper floor. Birch gave the signal, and the three NCOs ran for the front door. Birch followed, with Sebring and MAYA/Taylor following.
Inside were three frightened Vietnamese and the middle-aged Caucasian man of European extraction. "Vat ist the meaning of this?!?" demanded the European. His accent was obviously German. A moment later he repeated his outraged question in a French accent.
Birch ordered the NCOs to tie up the "Frenchman" and the Vietnamese workers. After that was done, he ordered the NCOs to secure the upper floor while the rest of them looked around. Sebring and Birch briefly searched the main floor while MAYA/Taylor watched the prisoners. It wasn't long before Sebring and Birch returned.
"What is your name?" Sebring asked the "Frenchman". After a pause he turned to Birch and said, "I'm sorry, am I overstepping bounds, sir?"
Birch ignored him and asked the "Frenchman" the same question. In French-accented English he said that he was Marcel Leclerc. He owned the plantation. This was his retirement house, which he had owned for about twenty years.
Rodriquez yelled down the stairs that the upper floor was secure. Birch ordered Leclerc to be brought up stairs. He sent the three NCOs down to guard the Vietnamese and to search the main floor. The NCOs came down, then Birch, Sebring, Leclerc, and MAYA/Taylor climbed to the second floor.
Sebring watched Leclerc while Birch and MAYA/Taylor searched the upper rooms. A large desk dominated a study. MAYA searched the desk and found an old, thick book. MAYA opened it. The book was titled Unausprichlichen Culten. She also found in the study another stake, this one without an adorned skull and with only half of the shaft covered in markings.
MAYA announced her find to the two officers. Sebring dragged Leclerc into the study. Birch entered after them. Birch had found a deck of cards, which he was thumbing through. MAYA recognized them immediately as Madame Sosostris' Tarot deck. She noticed that some of the Major Arcana cards were present, but not all of them. As Birch went through the deck she counted 7 cards that didn't look familiar. That was seven Major Arcana cards out of the 21 that were missing in 2005.
Sebring asked Birch if he could look at them. The captain handed them to the lieutenant. MAYA discreetly watched as Sebring look over the cards and then quietly slipped them into a pocket of his fatigues.
Birch suspected that there was more to Leclerc than the man was admitting. He told MAYA/Taylor to search for anything with a Nazi symbol. MAYA searched a nearby bedroom and found a large military looking dagger. A section near the top had been rubbed smooth, as though someone had taken a file to it. She returned to the study with it. Birch had found a pistol, a 9mm Walther P38.
Birch grabbed the book and pistol, and took the knife from MAYA/Taylor. He asked Sebring for the cards. Sebring hesitated, saying he was keeping them safe. Birch gruffly ordered him to hand them over, which Sebring did, reluctantly.
While Birch shoved the items into his pack, MAYA noticed a couple of sheets of scribbling underneath a pile of personal correspondence. They looked vaguely familiar, like the scribblings they found on a wall in New York in August, 2003. She grabbed the sheets without anyone else noticing and stuffed them into a pocket.
Gunfire erupted outside the plantation. It was coming from the jungle off to the west. That was where First Squad formed a perimeter. Birch yelled for Rodriguez to bring the radio.
As Rodriguez stormed up the steps, Leclerc yelled at Birch in a noticeable German accent, "You didn't disturb them, did you? Did you???"
There was more gunfire. Birch got through to First Squad. There was screaming and barely coherent screams for reinforcements. It was impossible to make out what was happening.
Leclerc started yelling something in a mixture of German and French. Birch lowered his AK-47 and squeezed a burst into Leclerc's chest. The "Frenchman" collapsed in a heap with a shocked look on his face. His chest, oozing blood from multiple wounds, stopped moving. Leclerc was dead.
Birch grabbed the radio microphone. He contacted a forward air controller assigned to support them. He began ordering an air strike to hit the plantation with napalm. Sebring started yelling at Birch for killing an unarmed and bound civilian. Birch tried to ignore him while he continued calling in the air strike.
Sebring fired a burst from his M-16 into Captain Birch and into the radio. Birch was dead before his head hit the ground. The radio squealed once and then fell silent.
Instinctively, MAYA/Taylor fired a shot at Sebring. The bullets caught his flak vest and bounced off, even at relatively close range. Sebring winced in pain, but managed to bark out an order for Taylor to hold his fire. MAYA/Taylor slowly lowered her M-16, all the while wondering how she had managed to only hit Sebring with a glancing shot.
Sebring stated that he had no choice, that the Captain was clearly delusional. Birch had killed a civilian in cold blood and was ordering an air strike on top of them without an adequate chance of them escaping. MAYA/Taylor stated the obvious, that Sebring had committed an act of mutiny. The two argued back and forth about the legality of what he did. Rodriguez stared at the two of them, unsure what to do.
More gunfire erupted, this time from just outside of the plantation's clearing, and from off to the east. All three squads had been engaged by some unknown enemy. The squads were retreating to the mansion. MAYA/Taylor glanced outside. She caught a glimpse of small figures moving in the jungle. They seemed to be human, but they moved with remarkable speed.
Sebring and MAYA/Taylor agreed to move downstairs with Rodriguez. As she left the study, MAYA grabbed Birch's backpack, which contained the Tarot deck. Jefferson and Jackson were waiting for them on the main floor. The two NCOs started yammering questions. Rodriguez filled them in as the wounded remnants of First Squad and Second Squad stumbled into the mansion. The men were yammering about small Viet Cong — they assumed their attackers were Vietnam — attacking them in hand-to-hand combat.
MAYA/Taylor walked over to the Vietnamese who were still tied up. She cut the rope binding them. They huddled together in terror. One of the women was a Catholic; she rubbed on a rosary. The other chanted softly to herself. The Taylor part of her brain told her that the chants were a Buddhist prayer. MAYA/Taylor calmly asked the women to tell her all that they knew.
At first the women were reluctant, but as the gunshots and the screams got louder they started to talk so quickly that MAYA had to ask them to slow down in order for her to understand them. In broken English the women explained that the stakes were some sort of protection against what they called the "cho-cho". Leclerc had planted them as a ward. As long as the stakes weren't disturbed, they were safe. All the women would say about the "cho-cho" was that they were evil, that they were demons.
There were now a dozen Americans in the house, almost all of them were wounded. Two of them were entirely unhurt, though very frightened. How did they escape unhurt? MAYA/Taylor noticed something sticking out of one of the soldier's packs. It was one of the strange stakes they saw near the plantation. MAYA/Taylor pointed it out to Sebring, who took the stake from the soldier.
MAYA/Taylor turned to Sebring. "I'm not in charge. What the hell do we do?"
Sebring thought for a second. He ordered Rodriguez to grab a radio from one of the squad leaders, if there were any present, and call for a pickup. They were to be picked up at the plantation, not the rendezvous point. They needed fire support, too. Rodriquez did as Sebring ordered.
There were a dozen survivors of the three platoons, plus the three NCOs, Sebring and MAYA/Taylor. Sebring had the men fan out around the main floor of the mansion, keeping a watch on the perimeter. Someone caught site of movement in the grass. They let loose a burst of gunfire, which triggered more fire from the other soldiers. They ceased fire all at once, and everything went quiet.
"Incoming choppers!" yelled Rodriguez. Sebring looked out a window. He could see two Slicks and a Huey gunship moving over the jungle canopy. MAYA/Taylor slipped out of the room. She grabbed the Tarot deck and put the cards into a pocket of her fatigue pants. She rejoined Sebring.
Sebring divided the group. The three Vietnamese civilians would leave in the first Slick, along with the wounded. There were a total of three relatively unhurt soldiers, including the guy who took the stake and his buddy. They would help the wounded onto the first helicopter. That left Jackson, Jefferson, Rodriguez, Sebring and Taylor. They would give covering fire and wait for the second Slick.
As the first Slick landed, MAYA wondered if this is how it happened in the original timeline, back in 1969. She knew Sebring survived, but how did he survive, and how were the seven Major Arcana cards destroyed? She hoped she was doing the right thing.
The first Slick took small arms fire from the jungle almost as soon as it touched down. Whoever these "cho-cho" were, some of them had guns. The Huey gunship slipped around the edge of the jungle. The door gunner opened up with his machine gun. The machine gun chattered as it hammered at the jungle edge.
MAYA/Taylor handed Birch's backpack to one of the wounded men, and told him to hold onto it. The backpack contained the knife, the gun, and the book.
The civilians and most of the wounded packed onto the Slick, with the three able-bodied soldiers shuttling their comrades to the helicopter. They ran back to the plantation for a final load.
Just as the last of the wounded were loaded onto the slick, three figures shot out from the jungle. They looked vaguely like the indigenous people of Indochina, with swarthy skin and vaguely oriental features. They were small. The largest was about the size of a ten-year old child. They moved with impossible speed, heading straight at the helicopter. Even from the plantation house MAYA/Taylor could see their sharp, pointed teeth.
These "cho-cho" ran at the helicopter head on. The occupants could not fire a shot at them. The Slick was between these people/creatures and the gunship, so the gunship couldn't fire, either. The Americans in the plantation house fired at the sprinting figures.
First one "cho-cho" fell, then a second. The third was hit in the shoulder, but continued to run. As the Slick lifted off, the "cho-cho" jumped at it. Somehow it managed to grip onto a spot below the copter's acrylic windshield. The Slick climbed and turned. The soldiers on the ground could no longer fire at the "cho-cho" without the risk of hitting the pilot or co-pilot.
The helicopter's windshield shattered, and suddenly the "cho-cho" was inside. MAYA could see a whirlwind of activity in the cockpit. Someone on the helicopter started to shoot. The Slick began to spin uncontrollably. It lifted one hundred feet more, dipped forward, and then plumetted to the ground. The chopper crumpled as it hit. One of the fuel tanks ruptured, and the craft burst into flames. MAYA saw no movement from within the inferno.
The second Slick called over the radio, asking if the landing zone was secure enough for it to land. Sebring told Rodriguez to hold off on the landing, but Rodriguez didn't hear — or chose not to hear — and ordered the helicopter to land, anyway.
As the Slick approached, Sebring told Jefferson and Jackson to stand guard on either side of the helicopter, in case the enemy tried the same thing again. The gunship moved into a protective position between the Slick and where the three "cho-cho" had emerged from the jungle. It opened fire with its machine guns. The Slick landed. Jefferson and Jackson sprinted forward.
MAYA suspected that something happened to Sebring on the way to the chopper that caused the destruction of the Major Arcana cards. She told Sebring to head for the chopper, that she would give supporting fire. Sebring told Rodriguez to run for the chopper. He then turned to MAYA/Taylor and said that they would go together, once Rodriguez was safely at the chopper.
"Taylor, you're going to live through this if I have anything to do with it," promised Sebring. "I'm not a cold blooded killer."
MAYA, understandably, didn't believe him.
Rodriguez ran for the chopper, with Sebring and MAYA/Taylor giving covering fire. Rodriguez got to the chopper, jumped in, and then pointed his gun out in defence. Jefferson and Jackson stayed outside, giving covering fire.
Three "cho-cho" crashed through a window in a back room and charged at Sebring and MAYA/Taylor. Sebring picked up the stake he had taken from one of the unhurt soldiers, and whipped it around like Van Helsing warding a trio of vampires. The "cho-cho" ran off. He and MAYA/Taylor backed toward the door. Sebring ordered Taylor to run for the chopper, while he followed.
MAYA/Taylor ran for Slick. Two of the "cho-cho" rounded the house and charged her. Sebring fired a long burst at one of the "cho-cho", killing him. The second "cho-cho" grappled MAYA/Taylor. Sebring couldn't fire without the risk of hitting Taylor. The creature's teeth sunk into MAYA. She screamed and threw the "cho-cho" off her. As it jumped up onto its feet, MAYA/Taylor fired a burst into him. He collapsed, a bleeding mess.
They ran for the Slick. The third of the three "cho-cho" jumped from the deep grass and onto Sebring's back. The "cho-cho" ripped open Sebring's backpack, falling off. Sebring shrugged off the pack.
MAYA/Taylor got to the slick. She saw three more "cho-cho" running for the helicopter. She leaned into the cockpit and told the pilot to lift off and pivot. He did as ordered, lifting the aircraft a few feet off the ground, and spinning around. Jefferson and Jackson dropped to their knees to steady their aim and avoid the helicopter.
Sebring fired at his "cho-cho" with his pistol at close range, wounding the creature. The "cho-cho" swiped the lieutenant with razor sharp claws, giving Sebring a nasty cut across his thigh.
Jefferson, Jackson, Rodriguez, and MAYA/Taylor shot the advancing "cho-cho". The creatures dropped into the grass in a fog of blood. Rodriguez and MAYA/Taylor turned and fired at the creature attacking Sebring. Bullets from MAYA's gun slammed into its forehead, dropping it in a spray of blood and brains. Overhead the gunship continued to suppress the "cho-cho" in the treeline.
The Slick dropped back to the ground. Sebring lurched for it. Jefferson and Jackson ran to the lieutenant, threw him onto the chopper, and then climbed up after him. The helicopter lifted once more and was soon safely over the tree tops.
As Sebring sat panting, MAYA/Taylor grabbed some rope and tied him up. Sebring protested, but MAYA told him to save it for the court martial.
Suddenly, a fog enveloped MAYA. She found herself rotating upward, in a clockwise direction. She took this to be a good sign, that she had saved the Major Arcana cards. She thought about the "cho-cho" on Sebring's back, the one that ripped his backpack to pieces, and wondered if that was the point in the original timeline when the cards were lost. She would never know for sure.
She also thought about Sebring's court martial. There was something unearthly about his luck, for he escaped death a couple of times that day. She suspected that he managed to wriggle out of any real trouble, and would somehow make it stateside safe and sound, and with Madame Sosostris' Tarot deck.