Game Thread Act 17 Scene 4b Discretion in Unusual Circumstances - RPG Crossing
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  #1  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:58 PM
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Act 17 Scene 4b Discretion in Unusual Circumstances


Your 'recruitment' was anything but typical and as you look around the room of "new recruits" its easy to imagine that the stories that brought you all to this room in the Chicago Hoffmann Institute Offices at this time could not be anything but remarkable in and of themselves. For the most part, this room is entirely made up of that very same collection of "odd ducks" you met during your selection process. There are a few other people here you have never seen before - about a dozen people altogether.

In front of you is a white, pine box with a wax seal. Beside it is a handwritten note that simply states, "Do not open or otherwise break the seal unless expressly instructed to do so."

Your OSIRS assigned mentor, Dr Nadine Neary of the Administrative Division (Training), has directed to your first real assignment. You know without a doubt, that your performance on this job will determine your future with the Hoffmann Institute.

Given what you already know from your company briefing, agents that don’t keep their wits about them on the job don’t last long. A slide-chart from the orientation comes to your mind, ‘the percent of agents lost on their first three assignments, 25%.’

Dr. Neary who has been a field agent trainer for close to thirty years, reminds you of directive 304 (B), "Discretion in Unusual Circumstances."


Quote:
304 (B). Discretion in Unusual Circumstances

i. All members and recruits (provisional appointments) of the Institute are expected to keep activities out of the public eye. The Institute is not a public agency and it wishes to avoid legal and criminal entanglements. Any and all measures are approved to maintain that condition.

ii. All members and recruits of the Institute should take precautions to prevent evidence or eyewitnesses from spreading knowledge of the Institute’s research. At the same time, all reasonable good-faith efforts should be made to provide the Institute with clear, complete records and documentation of unusual events.
Dr. Neary begins what seems to be a typical training session, as a slide entitled "The Basic Mission Briefing SOP" appears on the main screen in the conference room. A rather nervous looking gentleman that you recognize as her assistant half runs up to her podium and hands her a folded note. She reads it quickly and then immediately exits the room followed by her support entourage.

She only pauses for the briefest of moments at the door as she looks back at the group, "Wait here, and do not leave this room." The metallic door slides close with a 'hiss' and the indicator panel changes to red which you know is a 'lock down' mode.
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Last edited by savoylen; 04-06-2020 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 04-04-2020, 04:35 PM
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Javan looks at the people around him.

I suppose I should think of us as "recruits" rather than "people" he thinks, still not entirely sure how and why he agreed to all of this. Already the military attitudes and the strict lines of authority were grating on him. He wonders again how his nephew survived, even thrived, in this organization. Well, as he has come to realize these past few weeks...he probably knew less about his nephew than he had always assumed. And maybe he was going to learn something about himself as well. But this isn't about me, is it? And that's why I'm here.

He gives the young woman next to him a nod and a smile, a neutral, yet friendly expression he has tried to perfect over the years, one that expresses confidence and warmth without giving off creepy old man vibes (or at least that is what he hopes it conveys).

I'm Javan, he says, and yes, I can do the math and understand that odds place me in that 25 percent "lost" rate percentage. He pivots his wheels toward Comrade Recruit with his arm extended for a handshake. But I bet you're going to be in the 75 percent group.



 

Last edited by bananabadger; 04-04-2020 at 04:59 PM. Reason: revised to reflect number of people in room/have assumed that other PC is sitting near me, can revise that if not the case
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Old 04-04-2020, 09:44 PM
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Esmae had been tapping her fingers silently along the table in front of her since sitting down, a nervous tic that hat she had never bothered to rid herself of. Looking around the room she took stock of the faces she recognized and she was pretty sure one of these people was a biochemist, another a mathematician, and most of the rest had that intellectual look to them that spoke volumes about why they were here. Esme felt like an outsider, an imposter, which felt especially weird since she was in an entire room full of new recruits for the men in black. She knew why she was here, but not why they had wanted her here.

Then Dr. Neary had abruptly left the room and sealed them in, for reasons she hadn’t felt like sharing with the recruits. Esmae sat still for the first time since sitting down, her hands resting on the table top, valiantly resisting the urge to fiddle with the white pine box in front of her. It didn’t take long for people to start conversing amongst themselves, discussing what they thought was going on. Esmae had never been one to break perfectly good silence since other people were good for that, and soon enough the older fellow next to her had begun introducing himself. Somewhat grim, but forthright. That’s good.

”Well, Javan, I’m Esmae,” she said as she turned in her seat to shake the man’s hand. She offered a polite smile as she continued, but didn’t push it; emoting had never been her strong suit, ”I wouldn't worry too much about this, I’m sure we’ll be back to the lecture soon enough.”


 
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:42 AM
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:46 AM
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:57 AM
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So for the group's training so far could be compared to any major "Letter" agency - FBI, CIA, ATF, etc.
The drop out and cut rate was well over 70 percent. One day someone would be there and then the next moment, they and their stuff were just gone.

Training so far included are some strange elements, like briefings on how to research or interact with "Contact" victims, procedures for contacting 'handlers' and 'informants', etc. but always which a 'hint of' Fringe elements - demonology, alien and conspiracy groups, - much generalities, little detail. The details are always hinted to being 'forthcoming when assigned to a team or work group.'

Most people in the room will be assigned to office technical work, programmers, accountants, processors and so on. The most coveted job is field work but very few in the room will be assigned to a field group right out of the Basic Orientation Training (B-O-T). The typical path is to work on case research or in an office group for a year to two years in order to learn more about how things in the Institute work or the Hoffmann mission and then to be assigned to a field team for those 'outstanding individuals' who so stellar potential.

There was a rumor that only a few in this remaining group of thirteen individuals would be fast tracked to a field team while the rest would be assigned to offices here in Chicago or New York, the two remaining Institute Offices in the United States.

All these thoughts pass though the group's minds though either reflection or a few conversations in the room as time passes while waiting on Dr. Neary to return.
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:52 PM
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Esmae Rojas had always been a physical person looking to move around and do things, a quality that had made her an excellent martial artist and athlete, but a rather poor student. While she hadn’t actually been looking forward to another briefing lecture, ‘soon enough’ wasn’t getting there fast enough for her. It didn't seem like the doctor was coming back anytime soon, given the way she had rushed out of the room, so Esmae decided to take advantage of a little free time. Pushing her chair back, she stood and stretched as she looked around the room, hoping to spot something interesting. Coffee, donuts, open bar… probably not.

”Don’t mind me, waiting has never been my strong suit,” she said to Javan as she pushed her chair back in and took a few steps towards the front of the room, before backing up to the table. She grabbed the small, sealed box and carried it with her, casting a somewhat suspicious glance at the others sitting on her side of the room that she obviously considered capable of sabotage. ”No offense, but I need this job.”


 
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Old 04-06-2020, 08:18 PM
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Javan shakes Esmae's hand and smiles at her assurances.

Strange, even though it had been an entire 6 months since the last case of the Tria-XT virus had appeared, simply shaking someone's hand still felt bold, dangerous and foolish. Maybe it was foolish. The world breathed a sigh of relief after it "beat" Covid-19 with "only" 23 million dead (not counting all the incidental deaths from suicide, depression, rage, abuse, etc.)...and then one year later came the next SARS, Synru-8 (a mild one, only 3 million dead, and mostly in the poorer slums of South America, so did it really count? was the damnable wisdom of many). And then all complacency was shaken up in the next wave, the Tria-XT that took out the Indian Prime Minister, 1/4 of Manchester United, and the entire Dutch Royal family in one day (strange, nobody really knew about the Dutch royal family until they died, but everyone mourned them after they fell) ... anyway, that disease started taking out celebrities and the rich, so it got attention. And, oh yeah, the death total of 41 million as well. 41 million and two—don't forget the film star celebrity couple, Richard and Esree, whose highly publicized, late-term deaths a full three weeks after schools, cinemas, stadiums and concert halls were opened, seemed to be the final rattle of the virus.

Anway, the young woman and her assurances ... Kind, but totally unnecessary, he thinks.

It isn't that Javan presumptuously assumes he will beat the odds at every level, to remain at the top as they whittle away at the recruits and then to claw out one of the few prestigious field postings ... it's simply that he is entirely indifferent to it, and so he isn't worried over it.

Looking over the room, he wonders how so many of the young people in it could be so ambitious for this posting, a posting whose purpose and mission they couldn't explain other than how it "fits them at this stage in their life," or answers a "passion that they have," or, sometimes, a "calling of service." All nice phrases. All emotions, as they say, that are manufactured to accompany the sharp salute under the bill of the cap.

Silent waiting and thinking. These are things that Javan could do well. When it had been waiting and thinking, Javan had been thinking about some of the ... well, absurdities, of the program so far. Okay. So this is the Hoffmann Institute, right? But who in God's green earth is Hoffmann? Usually, any institute with a name begins their presentation with an over-the-top tribute to the miraculous person after whom they are named. And usually, these are quite amusing as 9 out of 10 times the person just happened to be rich, just happened to need a tax write-off and just-happened to need a creative, under-paid intern to write up a cringingly bombastic assessment of their life. There were some exceptions, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Jimmy Carter Foundation that was formed shortly after the ex-President's death in 2021, the Roberto Clemente Foundation, the Diana Memorial Award ... but Javan had never heard of a Hoffmann Prize or a Hoffmann think tank, or even a Hoffmann Memorial Summer Bowling League Trophy. Strange.

And should we start in on the directives? Let's ... though it isn't charitable. Okay. If you take out the corporate speak, Directive 304 (B) i ... (wait, stop, let's not use the silly word "directive," let's just call them what they are: "do this or else rules"). Anyway, Rule 1: Don't let anyone know what we are doing, because it isn't entirely legal. But if they do see what we are doing, feel free to use any illegal means to keep them from talking about it. That's a fair summary, isn't it? How about Rule 2: Don't let anyone tell anyone else what we are doing; but be sure we know what you are doing so we can totally control you.

So ... that's where thinking gets you.

Why, again, am I here? Well, the feeling inside his head answers back, because you were curious about your nephew, but mostly because when you listened for the voice of the universe, you didn't hear peace and calm, but a snarl, a yelp and a being so threatening and destructive that it forced you to approach it, to look into it and return its gaze. What you saw, how you described it ... well, that overlapped almost entirely with the drawings, the descriptions that the two young people brought and showed you when they arrived at your flat after a few weeks and began talking about some "Hoffmann."

At first, Javan thought the two fresh-faced youths might have been some strange offshoot of the FCOR, the small group of Friends in North Carolina who argued that we needed to reach out to aliens and to prepare a dialogue that was focused on mutual aid rather than territorial defense or expansionism which the world's military were certain to offer. But they weren't that ... they were more along the military wing if anything. And yet, Javan found himself thinking that perhaps they were sent with orders to suspend their default mode of thinking .. and give him a chance to explain what he was seeing. Couldn't hurt, right? Might be even amusing, right? But somebody in the leadership realized that this Hoffmann thing and all the acronyms of the biggest-baddest military-industrial-complex in the world weren't entirely and convincingly winning their battle with alien life (if that is what it is), and that maybe they had to throw out an alternative. Bring in their pet pacifist, set him up to fail. Use his failure to prove there is no "other way." Point to Javan's inept run as the proof they need to quash any second guessing about their methodologies and mission. "See, we tried that diplomacy and empathy stuff, but of course it didn't work. Now, don't blame us for going back to cloaks, daggers and carpet bombing little green men."

"Wait here and don't leave this room" was the latest, greatest Hoffmann Directive ... and Javan was doing as ordered. But just because he seemed to be following the orders, didn't mean he was on board with the program.

Let's see how far that takes me ... right? he quietly laughs.

Hey, Esmae ... he turns back to the young woman. I'm "expressively instructing you to open your box and break the seal." After all, Hoffmann didn't say who had to do the instructing. So ... you gonna open it? Or do you want to order me to?



 


 
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Old 04-07-2020, 07:28 PM
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”No, I don’t think I will,” she replied to Javan as she looked over the box in her hands. Perhaps the old man’s workaround might work, but then again, it might not and there was no way to know for sure. Better just to leave it sealed shut for now, and not jeopardize her shot at a job that might give her the opportunity to find some answers about what happened to her. ”I do think I’ll stretch my legs a bit, though. Care to join me?”

Esmae flashed the man a wry smile before continuing towards the front of the room, ignoring the judgemental looks from the others. Of those still in the running, she was clearly an outlier among the group of intellectuals and academics. Sensei at a TaeKwonDo school at a Trenton strip mall? Not exactly measuring up on the smarts department with the guy talking about his time at NASA. Then again, someone had invited her here, and they hadn’t sent her packing yet, so they obviously saw some merit to her being here.


 
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Old 04-07-2020, 09:08 PM
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Esmae! Javan says as he wheels himself through a row of desks and positions himself in front of the woman. He's not preventing her from going forward, but he also isn't making it convenient to go directly toward the exit. A sidestep or two, that is all it would take, but it gives him enough time to say a few more words, this time close enough that only the two of them can hear. In ten year's time, there is a very strong chance that I am going to be dead. In ten year's time, there is not a bad chance that you could be running this show. But I don't think that will happen if you leave this room. That's not their game. You can go around these types, but if you go directly against their orders, then you need to be prepared to reject them entirely...and be rejected by them in turn. Figure out a way to have someone take you out of the room, sure. Open the box. Or continue Neary's lecture for her and see what is on those slides (and share it with us all). But, I think, if you leave this room then you have quit Hoffmann. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, though. I'm not sure I'm this institute's biggest fan. Nor am I entirely sure of what I'm saying. And, hey, maybe you're just stretching your legs around this room and I've over-reacted. And with that, Javan pivots his wheelchair to give Esmae a clear path to the door.


 


 
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Old 04-07-2020, 10:47 PM
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”Ha!” The laugh escapes from Esmae even as she listens to him speak, thinking about anyone crazy enough to put her in charge of a place like this. About the only thing she might get to be in charge of around here is teaching people unarmed self-defense, if her first run-in with Hoffman agents was any indication of the standard. Still, Javan’s concern was touching, ”No need to worry about me, I’m just having a look around the room. Pretty sure the door’s locked anyway.”

She eyed the red light which all but confirmed her initial assessment, but there was always that temptation to go over there and give it a try, much like hitting the elevator button after someone had already pushed it once. An entire agency… institute... devoted to the strangest things in the world, they couldn’t hold a little curiosity against her. Esmae turned her attention away from the door to where the doctor had been preparing to give her briefing, ”Besides, I think you’re more likely to be the person in charge, giving lectures and briefings, right Professor X?”

Alright, last wheelchair joke, she thought as she rested a hand on Javan’s shoulder as she moved past him to the front of the conference room, second last? Well, I’ll work on it. She didn’t really want to give a lecture, but she was sort of curious what the doctor might have left lying about as she approached the podium.


 
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Old 04-08-2020, 12:30 AM
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Professor X? Javan was fairly certain this was something to do with his wheelchair from the way Esmae glanced down when she said it, and fairly certain it was a pop culture reference, and entirely certain it would be one that he never knew in the first place. Probably from The Bachelor; Javan couldn't believe how popular that show was, a group of recruits were talking about it constantly when they went out to the Kingston Mines blues bar as a group the previous evening. Nobody mentioned that they had a bachelor in a wheelchair though. That's what spending so many years away from the States got you. Signor Rossi, yeah he knew that guy, but the only Xs he knew were Malcolm and Madam.

Anyway, the main thing was that Esmae was moving away from the door, or was never heading there in the first place. But still, he was determined to find one common bond with the only other recruit who seemed to be not bolted in place by fear or blind obedience. Music maybe? Javan gives it a try.

Professor X? Never heard of him. I'm the Jeff Healey of the wheelchair though, he says as he executes a small wheelie and spin. He had gotten good at that during his recovery. I'm going to miss some aspects of this wheelchair once I don't need it anymore. A selfish, insensitive thing to feel, but true.

Personally, I'd start with that note that Neary left on the podium, but eager to hear if you find something else he says over his shoulder as he pulls out his phone, types the text of the Directive into Duck, Duck, Go and begins reading about a Dr. Nadine Neary and the exact same Directive from the Nine Swords Temple Hall. She, too, has a sealed container ... and it contains a coin and a newspaper clipping. Except, this group seems to be some strange cosplay club. Hmmm. They probably know who Professor X is.

Is this Hoffmann Institute just one big cosplay? thinks Javan. If it were, it would be amusing, but cruel. Javan reflects, remembering some of the conversations he had at Kingston Mines with other recruits. Yes, they were a bit too earnest. And yes, some of them seemed a bit too career-minded. But many of them had strange, inexplicable personal stories that lived around the same edges of demonology, hostile aliens, etc that the Hoffmann training had hinted at. Javan felt bad, even a shade angry for them, if the Institute was toying with them in the guise of some Agent-Con marketing gimmick.

Well, one thing the Nine Swords site did was to give him an instruction to open the box. So he would take it.

Esmae, I want to open the box. Can you give it to me, because I certainly couldn't take it from you even if I wanted to.







 

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Old 04-08-2020, 10:07 PM
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Esmae looked over at Javan, her expression somewhat incredulous as he asked her to give him the box to open. She looked down at the plain white box, her mind once again considering what was inside, and fought the urge to open it herself. Dad had never been one to mind if the girls snuck down early to peak at Christmas presents when they were little, but mom got steam-out-of-the-ears type mad if she wasn’t there to film every minute of it, and she didn’t get up before 7am. Ever. Esmae had learned a little bit of self-control in those maddening morning moments, filled with cartoons and making breakfast and just enough noise to make sure mom woke up, while waiting for footsteps on the stairs. Not a lot of self-control, mind you, but enough.

”No, I don’t think so,” she said as she looked up from the box to the man with the wheels. ”If it’s something dumb, or some weird test, I’ll feel like a moron for not opening it earlier. And if they really meant for us not to open it, I don’t want to see either of us thrown out on a technicality. So cool your jets.”


 
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Old 04-08-2020, 11:31 PM
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It's fine, we can open the box later. My money is on a fancy coin and a top-secret mission inside it, that or my money and my faith in the Nine Swords cosplayers is lost Javan says as he continues scrolling through a window on his phone. Besides, I need some time to check my Tinder profile. You'd be surprised how many 70plus-year-old available women there are in the Chicago region. This one, she'll bake for you ... very old school, but those pelmeni look amazing, right?

Javan doesn't have a Tinder profile, well, he didn't until last night when some of the other recruits took his phone and created one on the spot at the bar. At least his photo wasn't bad. Those other recruits had been talking about their profiles during a break between two bands, and the discussion led to interesting places. Not those interesting places, but interesting Hoffmann places, such as: "What fictional job do you create for your profile?" and "Wait, can we even be doing this now?" It was interesting to see how the totality of this program's claim to their personal lives was beginning to dawn on everyone who had made it this far. As far as a recruit's relation to the outside world, the Hoffmann trainers used the professional buzzword of "discretion," but it seemed their true goal was more aligned with hippy culture: "tune in, drop out" and give your life over to the commune with guns, explosives and illuminati fetishes.

Oh! Score! This one plays in a mariachi band for hire. Here she is at her granddaughter's quinceanera ... that's her, with the guitarrón, second from the left. Tell me what you think, Esmae, but don't objectify her. The guitarrón is fair game—and I would say that is some darn fine tacote there.

Javan continues scrolling, but mostly now he is looking around at the cameras, at the one-way mirror and, if all else fails, back into himself. After all, the weirdest test is always the one inside you.






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