By Adam Scott Glancy, © 2009
The 9/11 terrorist attacks didn’t just change our world. It also changed our fictional worlds. No fiction set in the modern age can be credible if it doesn’t acknowledge the changes that have taken place since those attacks woke up America and the world to the threat of jihadist terror. Luckily for those of us who wrote Delta Green, our fictional world is smack dab in the middle of this maelstrom. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do with history.
September 11 is a touchy subject, surrounded by tasteless and brainless conspiracy theories that we at Delta Green have chosen to steer clear of. This is not new for us. We steered away from a number of popular conspiracy theories and horrifying events so as not to demean the event or clutter our campaign world with endless Mythos collusions in world history. But even if events like Holocaust or President Kennedy’s assassination weren’t engineered by the Cthulhu Mythos and its agents, those events still changed the world. That includes the invisible world of the Mythos. Keepers have to take those effects into account when planning scenarios in the Delta Green campaign setting.
Like the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on 9/11 changed the physical and political terrain in which Delta Green operates. The 9/11 attacks had even farther-reaching consequences because they led to the invasion and occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as changes in the U.S. military, law enforcement and intelligence communities which continue to this day. Since those are the organs from which Delta Green’s membership is drawn , it would be impossible for a Keeper running a Delta Green campaign to ignore all the changes that have taken place since the 9/11 attacks.
One of the first things to remember about Delta Green agents is that fighting against the Mythos is not their vocation. It’s their avocation. Delta Green agents have 9-to-5 jobs, mostly somewhere in the U.S. federal government; that’s where their paychecks, benefits and retirement packages come from. Taking on the Mythos is something they do in their spare time. Fortunately they are part of a secret society whose members have access to enough resources and clout that they can get away from their government jobs, do their work for Delta Green, and get home before their spouses miss them. At least, that was how we imagined Delta Green back in 1995 when we wrote it. Events following 9/11 dictate that at least for a couple of years, Delta Green will have had to find a new way to operate.
In the months following 9/11, the U.S. government’s intelligence and law enforcement organizations were running at double quick-time. Leave and vacation were cancelled. FBI special agents reported sleeping at the office for weeks. Border Patrol agents were deployed in huge numbers. Customs agents worked feverishly to find that “dirty bomb” everyone was afraid would be delivered in a sea-borne cargo container. The same situation was reported across the breadth of the intelligence community, only more obliquely than it was with the overt law enforcement agencies. Obviously, during this time Delta Green agents would not be able to easily get away from their federal jobs to handle emerging Mythos or supernatural threats.
The most likely way that agents could get away to deal with a Mythos problem is if they found a way to disguise the threat as something more conventional, something that the federal government would act against. The best term to describe this activity is “bad jacketing.” The original use of this term describes a technique where law enforcement would make members of a criminal organization appear to be police informants, thereby causing the organization to turn on, and often assassinate, otherwise loyal members. The threat of bad jacketing is frequently enough to convince the target to actually become an informer rather than be made to appear to be one to his compatriots.
When it comes to cults, it’s really not too hard to paint them as organized crime or terrorists. Classic Call of Cthulhu cults act in many ways like terrorist cells. They recruit and indoctrinate new members, they smuggle old members in from outside the country, they gather resources (often illegally), and they engage in murder to further their agenda. Very often they commit very prosecutable crimes. The FBI will do Delta Green’s dirty work if the Cult of the Wailing Writher can be bad-jacketed to look like a cell of Jihadist terrorists.
Individual sorcerers or mad scientist types can easily be bad-jacketed as serial killers. If their experiments call for blood, that means nice, prosecutable homicides which can be easily understood by conventional law enforcement. It is not unusual for serial killers to have elaborate fantasies about their magical powers, their relationship to supernatural entities, or even the scientific value of their crimes. Most law enforcement agencies are going to be unimpressed with rants about bringing the dead back to life or calling down the horrors that stride from star to star. Bad jacketing individuals really mean covering up their actual powers or abilities so that their cases can be seen as nothing more than murderous madness and obsession.
On the other hand, the FBI will probably have questions when the members of the “Sword of Allah” terrorist cell turn out to be something other than advertised. Delta Green can pull this kind of stunt on occasion, but if it keeps happening someone in authority is going to demand an investigation into the faulty intelligence that keeps identifying strange religious cults as jihadists. The wall of secrecy that descended over anti-terrorist activities in the United States will provide a certain amount of cover for Delta Green’s bad-jacketing activities, at least as far as the press and public sources of information are concerned. But this will not prevent information about the conduct of these operations from leaking out among the staff of whichever agency did Delta Green’s dirty work.
Having more members of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies become aware of the existence of the supernatural, or even the Cthulhu Mythos, is a double-edged sword. The more men and women who encounter evidence of the Cthulhu Mythos, the wider the pool of personnel for Delta Green’s recruiters. Of course any of these new recruits, especially during the first two years of the post-9/11 era, will be just as overwhelmed by their mundane work as the current members of Delta Green. It doesn’t do much good to recruit new members into the conspiracy if they are not able to participate in field operations.
There is also the danger that as more people become aware of Delta Green’s activities, someone in a position of authority may try to shut down the operation. They might do this for any number of reasons: because they only see the crimes Delta Green commits in order to protect the world; because they do not believe in the supernatural and therefore see Delta Green’s mission as the product of unbalanced minds; because they support the goals of Majestic-12 and think that the power of the Mythos can be harnessed and should not be destroyed; or because they serve some Mythos power and wish to protect their masters. Ultimately, spreading the word about what Delta Green is doing could be extremely dangerous to the organization. A-Cell may want to limit the number of people who are in the know.
Turning to Friendlies
Following the 9/11 attacks, Delta Green’s agents are going to be stretched extremely thin for close to two years, at a minimum. In order to continue field operations, Delta Green Friendlies will have to take up much of the burden. During the 1990s, Friendlies — people who work with the Delta Green conspiracy, but are not active members of a federal government agency — were often cast in supporting roles. They were brought along for a Night at the Opera because they had specialized knowledge or were familiar with the area that the Agents would be operating in. Nevertheless it was the Agents who were expected to do the heavy lifting, particularly when it came to any wet work. With so many Delta Green agents tied up at their day jobs, the Friendlies will have to perform much of the field work, and even the dirty work, of Delta Green.
But Friendlies are not just the bookish intellectuals and researchers who funnel new intelligence about Mythos-related activity to Delta Green. Neither are they just the experts in virology, forensics or even computer security that support Delta Green investigations. They also include downgraded Delta Green agents.
Not every agent who has been downgraded to Friendly status has also retired from the federal agency that employs them. Some Friendlies are still active members of the FBI, DEA, CDC, etc., who no longer wish to participate in field operations, usually due to mental exhaustion — in game terms, their Sanity scores are slipping. Others are Delta Green agents who were let go by their federal agencies due to the kind of misconduct that is typical of participation in Nights at the Opera. Others may have been forced to retire from federal service due to crippling injuries, such as loss of an eye or an arm. When these agents lose their official standing in the federal government, they are often downgraded to Friendly status. That does not mean that they have lost their commitment to the cause. Some of the most dedicated members of the Delta Green conspiracy are former agents, now Friendlies, who have lost their careers or damaged their minds and bodies making a stand against the Mythos.
With the agents in the cells too tied down by the demands of the War on Terror, these Friendlies, down-graded agents, or even previously black-balled agents could be contacted again and brought in to perform missions. Agents will not be able to physically assist the Friendlies in their missions, but they will be able to assist with intelligence and materials. Groups of Friendlies will be contacted by otherwise occupied agents, who will describe the mission or investigation that needs attention, and will provide whatever intelligence they have about the situation. Later, as the situation develops, the Friendlies may find that they need specialized materials and skills to continue the investigation. The agents could direct them to other Friendlies with the right skill packages, or even to specific Green Boxes (clandestine caches of weapons and materials spread out across the U.S.) in order to get the right gear.
Delta Green agents could also provide the Friendlies with official ID from various federal agencies in order to smooth their interactions with contacts or witnesses. These ID’s in no way allow the Friendlies to legally execute an arrest, or fire their weapons in public, or get out of jail free, but if you flash an ID from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention you’ll be able to ask a lot of questions about people’s health without raising suspicion. If you have ID from the Department of Energy, you’ll be able to ask around or even get into large areas of a nuclear power station. Most people cooperate and answer questions when they see a badge from the U.S. Marshal’s Service, ATF or Secret Service. The ID in this case would be genuine, but if anyone checked with the issuing agency, they would find that no such employee existed. Such ID’s would only be for show and would have to be used wisely.
How They React
For the most part, Friendlies have been led to believe that Delta Green is an official agency with offices and an appropriated although secret budget. When they end up committing crimes in order to accomplish investigations and missions, they are going to start to wonder about Delta Green’s actual status. This could be a very great danger if the Friendlies feel betrayed when it turns out that the Agents have been lying to them. This could lead to a couple of different problems. For one, the Friendlies could decide that they want nothing more to do with Delta Green, especially if something happens where one of their number gets into trouble and Delta Green cannot or will not do anything to help them. Taking on more and more duties, while learning more and more about how isolated and unsupported they are, could cause a lot of Friendlies to decide to head for the door.
The other possibility is that as the Friendlies take on more work, they might begin to feel more confident. When they learn that they can’t rely on Delta Green for the assistance they expect, they might instead decide that there’s not much that Delta Green can do for them that they cannot do for themselves. Some groups of Friendlies might band closer together and ultimately see themselves as a group separate from Delta Green. The next time a Delta Green agent calls them with an assignment, it might not be treated as an order, or even as a request. Agents might find themselves having to negotiate with Friendlies in order to secure their services. After the pace of the War on Terror slows down following the fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq, Delta Green agents may find that their network of friendlies has been greatly depleted.
Some groups of Friendlies may strike off on their own and form independent secret societies that refuse to place themselves under Delta Green’s control. Even if these new groups’ overall goals remains opposing the Mythos and its servants, their methodology could differ widely. Some of these new groups could believe that Mythos magic should be widely employed to fight the Mythos. Other groups could be support the view that Mythos magic should be avoided at all costs, including Dismiss spells or the use of Elder Signs. Groups like this would destroy Mythos tomes and artifacts without any thought to the potential consequences. Other groups might even be willing to cooperate with some Mythos groups who are not (in their opinions) posing an immediate threat to humanity. This could be anything from performing favors for Stephen Alzis and the Fate to cooperating with the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign against the mi-go. Groups of ex-Friendlies might even find themselves falling prey to the lure of power offered by the Mythos, and could even be viewed by Delta Green as enemies that should be eliminated.
The question then becomes, what will Delta Green do to bring these friendlies back into the conspiracy? Obviously, there will be a lot of interest in making sure Delta Green does not lose access to the Friendlies’ talents and resources. However, as mentioned in Directives From A-Cell #4, Delta Green has a limited amount of power to coerce cooperation from its members, and frankly would be unable to rely on them if it did coerce them. Getting Friendlies to return to the fold would be more a matter of persuasion than anything else. In order to bring Friendlies back under the authority of the cell organization of Delta Green, the Agents are going to have to be a lot more candid with their friendlies. It is likely that any Friendlies who participated in ‘Operas’ during the years just after 9/11 will have a far more cynical attitude towards Delta Green and its mission. They will have to be handled carefully, less like apprentices and more like independent allies.
Adam Scott Glancy