Good question, my friend. Very good question, indeed.
A long time ago, I asked that very same question of a fellow at the Library of Congress. I’ve been asked that same question maybe a dozen times since then. I’d like to tell you differently, but I handed those guys the same line of bullshit that I got served behind the rare-books stacks. It’s the same line you’re going to get today.
I suppose I could wax poetic on the subject. You know, like: “If the intelligence community was a family, Delta Green would be the uncle nobody talks about.” Or more accurately: “Being in Delta Green is like being on a garbage scow that’s sinking, and all around the water’s on fire.” Got that one from Tom Waits. After a few Delta Green ops, your life’ll start to feel like a Tom Waits tune. Except when I dream, I’m never innocent.
My dreams — now there’s a subject. Suffice to say they’re like a continuous reel of operational disasters; some real, some imagined. Up until three years ago I was mixing bourbon with prescription REM-sleep suppressants to get through the night. Then I had my first breakdown. A.A. was out of the question — what the hell would I tell my sponsor? Since Delta Green doesn’t exist, there’s a paucity of support groups for agents who unravel. I think we lose more agents from mental burnout than from physical casualties.
So, what is Delta Green?
The good news is, I haven’t begun lying to you yet. As your cell leader, I’ll get around to that sooner or later. You can count on it. You work for Delta Green and you can be sure at some point someone is going to decide there’s some piece of information your cell doesn’t need to know for its mission, and it’s going to cost lives. I guarantee it.
The bad news is, I haven’t answered your question. And I may never, since I’m not really sure I know the answer. There have been times that I thought I knew, and every time I’ve been wrong.
How about an easy question? Like, “Who am I?” Well, I’m just what it says in my file: “Special Agent Henry Dodge has failed his second psychological fitness review and, due to his near-suicidal disregard for personal safety, can no longer be recommended for field assignments.”
So, I’m a psycho-burnout fed with a death wish. Just the kinda guy Delta Green goes trawling for. Just like you’re going to be, unless you get killed first. Why would a covert government agency want a guy like me? Because only a psycho-burnout with a death wish would take a Delta Green assignment.
Did I say “covert government agency?” Is Delta Green a covert government agency? Well, yes — sort of.
Or, at least, once upon a time.
Once upon a time there was a group of men — back then it was almost all men — who could see clearly and who were willing to take responsibility to do what needed doing. They were called Delta Green. However, while doing what needed to get done, they did it wrong. Hence, Delta Green no longer exists. Officially anyways.
We still see, and we still do what needs to get done, only today if we get caught doing what needs to get done, we’ll be doing time. Because no one in their right mind is ever going to believe what needs to get done.
What needs to get done? For a start, books need to be burned, artifacts smashed into powder, men need to be silenced, and, ultimately, the future must never be allowed to become the present.
Now we’re on to the question: What does Delta Green want from you? Nothing short of the rest of your life.
Delta Green wants you to pick up where I left off: doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I’ve falsified official reports. Lied under oath. Planted evidence. Stolen and destroyed evidence. Stolen and destroyed federal property. Run illegal wiretaps. Abused the power and authority of my office. Gone AWOL. Committed arson, burglary, grand larceny, aggravated assault, battery, and homicide. On three of those occasions it was cold-blooded murder. And all in the name of doing the jobs nobody else can or will.
It ought to make me feel untouchable. Above the law. All it does is make my stomach churn and my head pound, and make me want that first drink so goddamn badly I think I’m going to crawl out of my skin. And the really scary thing is that once I’m taken off the FBI active-duty list, I’ll have even more time to devote to Delta Green ops. More opportunities to get pulled apart like a gingerbread man. More reasons to claw out my own eyes. More chances to collect a thousand more memories I don’t want to have.
And once you’re in, you’re in for life. You don’t retire. You don’t quit. Even after you screw up your career with whichever alphabet-soup agency you call home and find yourself with an early retirement, you’re still not out. Not ever. I’ve seen a guy out of the game for over twenty years get the call for one more Night at the Opera. Damnedest thing is, he just packed his bag, kissed his wife, and left with me without so much as a blink of hesitation. He was a good man. A goddamn good man.
It’s your own fault, you know. If that last case report hadn’t had that “paranormal bouquet” we never would have given you the call. You handled yourself well, though. You got the job done. You saw through what should be and saw what was really going on. And when that thing came flapping down from the stars, its wings sparkling with ice crystals it picked up from Saturn’s rings, you kept your cool and put it down. You covered it up well, too. You disposed of what couldn’t be explained, cooked up a decent cover story to match the forensics, and kept your mouth shut. You did good. It’s just that we know what to look for.
So, now you need to decide: Do you close your eyes to what you’ve seen and go back to sleep? Or do you come with this psycho burnout and do the impossible against the unbelievable and keep the future at bay for another day?
What’s it going to be? In or out?
Yeah? You dumb shit.