Directive From A-Cell 104: No Gold Watch — ‘Retiring’ From Delta Green

Categories: Items of Mutual Interest

By Adam Scott Glancy, © 2006

Editor’s note: Adam Scott Glancy’s “Directives from A-Cell” column first appeared in Worlds of Cthulhu and now can be found in The Unspeakable Oath.

There has been much written about how new Agents and Friendlies are brought into the Delta Green conspiracy. It’s all laid out in the Delta Green core book. What was left out of the discussion is how someone gets out of the conspiracy. This has lead to a fair amount of speculation, which I hope this latest dispatch will go some way toward settling.

To begin with, there are three basic ways out of Delta Green:

  • You want out.
  • They want you out.
  • Or you’re dead.

When an Agent or Friendly has had enough, has seen too much horror, lived with fear and paranoia long enough, or has simply burned out, he or she may tell his or her cell-mates that he or she doesn’t wish to participate in another ‘Night at the Opera.’ Some burned-out Agents seem to worry that Delta Green employs a ‘9mm retirement plan,’ wherein any attempt to leave the conspiracy ends with the Agent’s assassination at the hands of A-Cell’s “cleaner-in-residence,” the near-mythical Agent Andrea. This is what comes of reading too many spy novels. Delta Green is not the mafia. If you want out, Delta Green is unlikely to force you to remain, certainly not if you are of low rank or minor importance. Of course, Delta Green isn’t likely to let new recruits know that they can leave anytime they want. Delta Green goes to a great deal of trouble to find and recruit new Agents. Considering the work they do, retaining Agents can be a bit of a problem. So unless an Agent expresses a desire to leave, he or she will not directly be told that it is possible.

In, Out, or Friendly

If Delta Green’s leadership in A-Cell gets wind of a dissatisfied agent, someone who has decided that joining Delta Green was a mistake, the first step is to determine how vital the Agent is to the conspiracy. Most Agents provide Delta Green with more than just manpower for investigations. They also provide access to intelligence and assets such as crime labs, transportation, weapons and surveillance equipment. Some of that intelligence and assets may be critical to Delta Green, more important than the Agent’s actual participation in field operations. A-Cell might try to convince the Agent to still serve Delta Green as a Friendly, providing intelligence, services, and assets for the conspiracy but not actually doing any fieldwork. These former Agents would, however, loose the ability to freely contact Delta Green. If the Agent agrees to be downgraded, the Delta Green cell-network will change all the encrypted cell phone numbers the former Agent previously used to contact fellow cell members. The only contact becomes the ex-Agent’s former cell leader. As a Friendly the former Agent will no longer initiate contact with Delta Green for any reason short of encountering evidence of preternatural or supernatural phenomena. Generally speaking, the contact between Friendlies and Delta Green is a one-way street.

Of course, the dissatisfied Agent may not want to continue to participate in the conspiracy even as a Friendly, particularly if the services or assets he or she is being asked to provide endangers the ex-Agent’s career or liberty. There are only so many times the Friendly can let Delta Green Agents have access to the FBI crime lab or the National Guard Armory before people start to notice. Many of the services and assets that Friendlies provide are more like felonies than favors. Routinely committing major crimes can tax the nerves of even the steeliest customer. So it is not unlikely that a downgraded Agent would not want to participate with Delta Green operations in any way, shape or form. If that is the case, Delta Green will need to cauterize the connection to the former Agent.

Sure, some hit men could arrive in the middle of the night and kill the former Agent and dispose of the body somewhere it will never be found. Or A-Cell could arrange for the former Agent could die of a heart attack, car accident or household mishap. Convenient deaths and mysterious disappearances, however, will lead to curious friends and family asking inconvenient questions about the former Agent’s off-duty activities with Delta Green. It’s even worse if the now-deceased former Agent had warned friends and family to be suspicious if anything unfortunate happened. If the former Agent left a journal behind, detailing battles against the Mythos as a member of Delta Green, a mysterious death or disappearance would only add weight to the journal’s implausible claims of cults, secret societies and the supernatural. No one believes a guy who claims he worked for a secret government agency — until the brakes go out on his car, he has a heart attack, or he falls out of a window onto an exploding bomb. Delta Green does not call attention to itself like that. Cutting the former Agent off from former comrades in Delta Green is cleaner, safer and more reliable.

Cutting the former Agent off should be easy if the Agent and his or her cellmates have maintained proper security for the cell. Delta Green is organized into twenty-six active cells with three Agents in each cell and any number of Friendlies attached to each cell. Only the cell leader knows how to contact other cells or A-Cell. If a cell leader is killed, A-Cell will see to it that a replacement is assigned, the cell reorganized and new contact information is distributed.

If all security protocols are observed, no cell members know each other’s true identities. They are only supposed to know each other’s code names and how to contact each other via encrypted cell phones and email. Only the top cell, A-Cell, knows all the Agents, all the Friendlies, and their true identities. If Delta Green wants to cut all contact with a former Agent, all A-Cell has to do is change all the phone numbers and stop servicing the dead drops the former Agent was aware of.

Of course, A-Cell will also advise the former Agent to forget everything he or she knew about Delta Green. This is not to say that Delta Green ever forgets about the former Agent. There is always the possibility that in an emergency Delta Green will ask a retired or even a blackballed Agent to come out for one last ‘Night at the Opera.’ A-Cell maintains a list of all former Agents and often updates their contact information for just such contingencies.

When an Agent leaves Delta Green or is downgraded to Friendly, any Delta Green cells and Agents who had contact with the Agent are told the former Agent’s real identity so that they can take steps to avoid encountering the former Agent in the future. If the serving Delta Green Agents can’t avoid encountering a former Agent, perhaps because they have been assigned to the same federal task force or military operation, then they are certainly never allowed to acknowledge their former association as members of Delta Green. Agents within Delta Green need to know when the status of their fellow Agents changes. Otherwise there could be serious violations of security protocols.


A-Cell uses the same methods to cut off Agents that Delta Green no longer wants to work with, although the admonishment never to contact another Delta Green Agent or Friendly will be delivered as a stern warning, not a friendly admonishment. Getting rid of an unwanted Agent is far more dangerous to the conspiracy that allowing a burned-out Agent to retire, especially if the Agent does not want to go.

There are four basic reasons why Delta Green would want to get rid of an Agent. The first is when the Agent proves unsuitable for Delta Green work due to a character or personality flaw that went undetected during the Agent’s recruitment. This is fairly unlikely since there is a thorough psychological screening process. More likely than not, any character or personality flaw that interferes with the success of a mission or the safety and security of a cell is actually a sign that the Agent is suffering from mental instability.

The second cause for dismissal is where the Agent is moonlighting in other criminal or espionage activity that could endanger the security of Delta Green. Considering the kind of felonies that are a Delta Green Agent’s bread and butter, it would seem strange to think that Delta Green would let an Agent go because he or she is engaged in criminal activities, but that is the case. The concern here is not moral, it is practical. Delta Green does not want Agents to do things that are going to draw attention to the conspiracy.

The third common cause for dismissal is that the Agent proves to be incompetent at conducting field operations or maintaining security for Delta Green. Incompetence in the field is the kind of thing that can wipe out a cell and endanger the entire conspiracy. If the Agent’s cellmates or cell leader are unhappy with the Agent’s performance, they are the ones who must address the problem. The first step is to try to correct the Agent’s behavior. If the Agent continues to be a screw-up, the cell leader must ask A-Cell to remove the problem Agent from the conspiracy.

And fourth and final cause for dismissal is that the Agent could have been rendered unable to perform his or her duties for Delta Green due to physical or mental injury. Obviously Delta Green cannot continue to employ Agents who have crippling injuries. When Agents are permanently disabled, Delta Green releases them from service to the conspiracy, whether they like it or not. The same is true for Agents who are suffering from mental instability, although the depth and seriousness of mental impairment is harder to gauge than physical injuries.

Delta Green doesn’t abandon Agents who are no longer physically or mentally able to complete their duties for the conspiracy. Delta Green’s first step is to work behind the scenes to make sure that the injured Agent will be taken care of by the Agent’s employer. If the Agent’s official agency’s benefits package won’t cover the necessary physical and mental rehabilitation then Delta Green will step up and take up the slack. Monies are distributed clandestinely, using multiple launderings through legitimate fronts. If Delta Green does not take care of its broken and damaged Agents, they will feel betrayed. And if they feel betrayed, they may in turn betray Delta Green. Delta Green will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent such a betrayal, up to and including assassination. However, it is always preferable to head off a problem before resorting to murder.

It is important to note that an Agent is not kicked out of Delta Green, or even downgraded to Friendly, just for losing his or her day job as a member of the federal law enforcement or intelligence community. One of the risks of working for Delta Green is that the double life the Agent leads will lead to disciplinary problems at his or her parent agency and even dismissal. An Agent who loses his or her status as an employee of a federal law enforcement organization, military branch or intelligence agency will not be able to provide the same access to intelligence and assets. Nevertheless, he or she will be able to do field work, even if the Agent cannot rely on his or her former status as federal a employee to get the job done.

Refusal to Cooperate

Removing unwanted Agents is done in essentially the same way as retiring Agents in good standing. The primary difference is that when an Agent is blackballed the exit interview is decidedly less amicable. The departing Agent may even be threatened to keep his or her mouth shut and steer clear of anything remotely related to Delta Green. Of course this does not take into consideration an Agent who does not what to go quietly.

It is possible that the Agent may refuse to accept being blackballed from Delta Green. The most obvious reason would be ego. No one wants to be told that he or she is no longer welcome in the club, no matter how dangerous and horrifying that club may be. Agents may also refuse to go quietly because they do not want to lose the relationships they built while working for Delta Green, or because they have a burning desire for revenge against the forces of the Mythos. Regardless of how badly the ex-Agent may want back in, that will not change A-Cell’s mind. If the ex-Agent continues attempts to participate with or contact members of Delta Green, A-Cell will respond with threats, blackmail, and even assassination.

Refusing to keep clear of Delta Green is just one of the ways that a blackballed Agent can nominate himself to be ‘demoted maximally.’ The other way is to get caught consorting with any group that Delta Green believes poses a threat to the conspiracy. Say, for instance, that an ex-Delta Green Agent begins hanging out at Stephen Alzis’ Club Apocalypse, or begins working with Majestic-12 personnel. Any ex-Agent foolish enough to do such things will probably have the gall to be surprised when assassins dispatched from A-Cell arrive to put him or her down.

When an assassination is called for, Delta Green treads very, very softly. Covertly eliminating the target, by making it appear as if the target died of natural causes, via suicide or via some mundane misadventure, is the preferred method. However, that is not always practical. If a blackballed Agent is on his or her way to a meeting with the enemies of Delta Green, a meeting that cannot be allowed to take place, Delta Green Agents may have to simply gun the rogue ex-Agent down in the street like it’s the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

And this brings us to the third reason an Agent is out of Delta Green: because he or she is dead. When an Agent or Friendly dies on a Delta Green operation, Delta Green has to make sure that the death will not be connected to the Delta Green conspiracy or seen as evidence of supernatural activity. The deceased Agents’ cellmates usually handle the cover-up. It’s up to them to provide the shallow roadside grave, cover up the coroner’s report, or arrange for a fiery one-car freeway accident to obscure the facts. Sometimes this is not necessary. Often Delta Green operations are either combined with or disguised as legitimate law enforcement investigations. If the Agent is killed on an authorized and legitimate mission that Delta Green just happens to be participating in, there is a good chance the death can simply be reported as being in the line of duty. Of course if the Agent was exsanguinated by a star vampire or frozen solid by Ithaqua, the actual circumstances of the death need to be concealed from higher authorities, the press, and the public.

Whether the Agent is killed on a mission or just dies of natural causes, Delta Green must make sure there is nothing left behind among the Agent’s personal effects that could connect him or her to the conspiracy. A team dispatched by A-Cell will descend on the deceased Agent’s home and office and thoroughly search it for anything that might connect the deceased to the conspiracy. These Delta Green “cleaners” will check for diaries, computer files, equipment, trophies, souvenirs, or anything else that might indicate that the deceased had “extracurricular activities.” The deceased’s cellmates are instructed to stay well away from the operation unless their assistance is needed.

Such searches and seizures are best conducted completely clandestinely, without any witnesses, thus eliminating the need for disguises or cover stories, and hopefully leaving no sign that a search was even conducted. Delta Green’s number one priority is maintaining its invisibility. As long as the conspiracy remains undetected, it can continue to function, continue to fight the good fight. Delta Green will defer all other considerations in favor of maintaining secrecy.

The thing to remember is that Delta Green is an illegal conspiracy, a ghost inside the machinery that is the U.S. government. Everything it does must be invisible, and that includes the process of retiring, firing and eliminating Agents.

Shane Ivey runs Arc Dream Publishing and is the lead editor of the newest Delta Green projects.
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