The MacAdam Cross Files

Chapter 
NUMBER

Midnight Flight

2.22.2022

By: 

The message came in with coordinates that were ready to be plugged directly into the Sieve. This caused quite a stir and no small amount of speculation as to who the mysterious “M.C.” that had signed the hand-written note could be. Few outside the Initiative are even aware of the Sieve, much less the arrangement of harmonic frequencies and quantum resonances that comprise the data set for translocation to a specific place in the Verses.

The mysterious circumstances surrounding the arrival of the message further compound interest as the appointed time for the meeting draws nearer. There is always someone on the front desk, and most of the time, there are two agents. Even if one is on a break, the other remains; there is no time in which reception is unmanned. The piece of paper, addressed to you specifically, however, just seemed to appear out of thin air. Neither of the agents that were working the desk during the time that it must have been delivered remember anything or anyone out of the ordinary. The agent who found the note said that it was definitely not there no more than five decimes before he noticed it; the counter had been completely empty when he sanitized it per protocol.

Sure, a message that was dropped off without anyone noticing is probably far from the strangest thing that you’ll encounter with the Initiative this buildcycle, but coupled with the unusual knowledge of the Sieve’s coordinate system, the implication is that “M.C.” is an individual of unusual means. What they don’t know, however, is that the energy crisis that is plaguing the Initiative at the moment means that using the Sieve for travel is not feasible, particularly for a single individual to pursue a cryptic invitation.

The location in question, though, is in Proxima, but it’s close enough to the border with Gloom that the spark-charged Portarray’s resonant energy should be able to take a single agent there and back without issue. It’s not within normal safety parameters for agents to undertake solo missions unless they are going undercover, and that almost always means traveling through portals. Given the bizarre circumstances surrounding the note, and the fact that it was addressed to you specifically, though, the SEA lead relented on the policy without much resistance. Finding out exactly how much an outsider knows about the Initiative’s technology, and how, is essential to overall safety, so your plan to make the rendezvous was approved. Using the Gloomspark device for outbound travel and return might also facilitate lower energy consumption in the future, if it proves to be a workable solution.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

You expect the translation to take on some of the grim, staticky flavor you’ve experienced in the Sieve when traveling to Gloom, because of the nature of the spark’s origin, but you are pleasantly surprised to discover that it is warmer and brighter than you remember, before it fades away to the neutral, natural feeling of Proxima. You’ve arrived a bit early, and a small distance away from the indicated coordinates, for a bit of reconnaissance and familiarization with the territory on the off chance that things go sour during your meeting. The environment you find yourself in is a bit muggy, though cool, with the temperature falling in synchronous coincidence with the rising full moon that casts a soft white glow over the landscape.

As you cautiously crest a small hillock that stands between you and your destination, you realize that the appointed meeting place which you can now look down into is a graveyard! Of course, the last time you found yourself in one, the circumstances were significantly more dire than this, and it turned out well, eventually resulting in a new chance for the Cursed Kingdom and a friendship with Selena, not to mention the creation of the very technology that brought you here today. Still, you can think of a variety of places that you would prefer to use to arrange a parley.

As the appointed hour draws near, you notice a figure emerge from the shadows of one of the above ground mausoleums, though it appears almost as if it were a part of the shadow itself, breaking free from its tether to the dark space, and taking form. Rising up above the tombstones, the figure of a tall man, clothed entirely in swirling black, from Homburg hat down to shiny shoes, throws its arms back in a dramatic gesture at flight, and begins to float forward toward the point of the coordinates. His skin looks unnaturally grey, though it could just be a trick of the silvery moonlight. There’s no mistaking the deep garnet color of his eyes, however, appearing to radiate their own soft red glow.

He is not by any means the most frightening thing that you have seen in your adventures with the Initiative, but there is nevertheless a prickle running down your spine at the sight of something so foreign. He could be a character out of a scary text or vid, and his choice of meeting place doesn’t do much to take away from the sense of apprehension that you feel. Still, the note you received was written in a friendly tone, and it’s clear that whoever left it not only has the ability to do things unseen, but also the ability to gather sensitive information from inside the Hub. It’s likely that if harm was intended, it would have come in a different form than a request for a face-to-face in a cemetery.

You notice that the floating figure is starting to swivel his head to and fro, likely scanning the area for your presence. It will only be a matter of time before his scarlet gaze registers your position on top of the hill. You have to decide quickly what you think the best course of action is.

Here the Verses Discord was offered a choice.

Will you:

A: move back down the other side of the hill pronto? It might be the safest option, but removing yourself from his line of sight also means removing him from yours. It also likely means leaving without learning anything.

B: move forward as stealthily as possible and attempt to find a vantage point? You might be spotted as you go, but if you can make it to a group of tombstones, you should be able to see what he’s doing from a concealed position.

C: move forward with confidence and purpose? Announcing yourself and demonstrating that you aren’t frightened is in line with the Initiative’s core values, and transparency is the bedrock of strong relationships.

D: call out from your current position? If you sense rising danger, you can always flee back down the hill and ship retrieval before anything untoward happens, but you came here for information, and you’re going to have to talk to him to get it, one way or another.

(If you’d like to vote on our stories, influence Verses lore, what happens next, game mechanics, and even future cards. Then join our Discord at http://discord.gg/verses)

[Upon review of this anecdotal solo mission that exists more in the realm of lore than in official records of the Initiative, 8 agents concluded unanimously that the agent made the correct choice in proceeding confidently with the rendezvous. No votes for other options were registered.]

You came here to have a conversation, and you’re not going to let the impulse to judge a book by its cover govern your interactions. Especially not after making friends like Omni and Selena. You pluck up your courage, and begin your descent down the hill into the cemetery. As the figure turns to look at you, you raise a hand in greeting and offer a smile.

To your surprise, he smiles right back, a genuinely warm and happy grin that in no way resembles the rictus that you might have expected from a pallid, red-eyed, floating shade in a graveyard. He moves his arms forward, and as he does so, he begins to descend slowly, and gently alights on the ground.

“Hey, so you got my note! I was hoping you’d make it,” he says, then, in a moment of realization, looks around sort of abashedly before continuing, “Sorry about the… setting. I hadn’t even considered that it might put you off. It’s just close to my office in this part of the multiverse, and it’s quiet. Plus, nobody expects you to buy a drink or a cup of coffee, and I’m a little tight on funds right now.”

“Sure, no problem,” you reply, attempting to match his casual tone, “I’ve definitely been to worse places than this.”

“Hah! I bet you have. What with the Initiative and all, you must get around quite a bit.”

You offer no response to that conjecture, true as it may be, and let the tension of a long pause spur him into recognition of the fact that he seems to know much more about you than you do about him. He takes the hint.

“Well, look, anyway, I didn’t mean to put you out in making you come all this way or by being mysterious. It’s just that I have a business to run, and a couple of open cases at the moment, so I figured, hey, why not have one of your agents drop a friendly invitation off at the reception desk and see if you’d come through, if the time frame was convenient for you, of course.”

“Wait, what? One of our agents?”

“That’s right. Now, I’m not naming any names, but you shouldn’t be surprised at how easy it is to convince someone who thinks they’re obligated to do the multiverse some good that the simple act of surreptitiously dropping off a letter is part of an exceedingly important, top secret mission. Especially with your style of the chain of command. But enough about my methods. I should introduce myself. Name’s Cross. Macadam Cross, Paranormal Investigator. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“I.. um… Likewise?” you manage to say, confounded as you are by his charming forthwith approach, “But what exactly is a ‘Paranormal Investigator’? You can fly, you definitely seemed to melt out of the shadows of that mausoleum, you know about the existence of the various Verses– otherwise, you wouldn’t have had any idea about the Initiative or how to give me these coordinates. Investigating things that are ‘paranormal’ seems a little suspicious considering the amount of knowledge you have regarding their origins.”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” says Macadam, “It’s that I’m technically considered a paranormal entity myself. Murdered while investigating a loved one’s murder, little bit of the Dark Realm involved, binding contracts, long-term interest payments, yada yada yada, you know the deal. So, it’s Paranormal Investigator with the emphasis on Investigator, as in, I could use my unique position to seem to melt out of the shadows of a mausoleum if it was important to the case.”

“But,” he continues, before you can get a word in edgewise, “that’s not important to this case. I get around, keep an ear to the ground, hear things, you know, and I gotta say, you guys are making some noise lately. I figure you might could use someone with my particular skills, and like I said, I’m a little tight on money right now. Seems like we could come to a kind of arrangement.”

“Money?” you ask, confused. “We don’t really have that on Delphi. We came to a sort of understanding long before I was even born about currency. It’s wasteful to print all that paper, and as an intermediary, it pretty much only lends itself to manipulation by middlemen and doesn’t contribute any value of its own. Our trade is based on energy, easily measurable and not subject to inflation, unless there’s a big breakthrough, which more than makes up for the surplus.”

“Ah, no wonder I couldn’t get a decent sandwich when I was there to hand off your letter. People kept looking at me crazy when I tried to pay with cash. Anyways, you guys use real elements, copper, quite a bit of gold, for all those fancy electronics, right?”

“We do, but most of it is alloyed. For all of gold’s conductivity, it is waaaaay too ductile to use for high temperature applications, not to mention that it tarnishes,”

“Okay, okay, sure, but you could pay me in gold if I wanted it, for services rendered, right?”

“Uh, sure.  Why you would want it is beyond me, and furthermore, I’m not sure exactly what kind of services you would render.”

“Well, you might decide you want someone to do some real investigation; if you do, I’m your guy."

You think to yourself that he might have a point, after all, he did figure out the coordinates to bring you here that would fit with the Sieve.

When you press him on that point, however, all he has to say is, “I have my sources. Anyway, listen, surely you don't think you have a monopoly on math, do you? Anybody with a decent map that knows how to get around the multiverse can make the conversions. 100001 is 257, isn’t it?”

He checks his watch and says, “Hey, I hate to cut this short, but I gotta catch a midnight flight. Turns out, in this world’s Minneapolis, Prince is still alive, and I’m headed that way to catch a show while I still can. You decide you need some real P.I. work, just drop me a line at this location. Don’t try and send anything bigger than a loaf of bread, though, okay?”

He extends a business card with Sieve-ready coordinates on it, just under his gold-embossed name. You take it, and make an indelible mental note of Macadam Cross.

As you turn to leave, you can’t help but mutter under your breath. “Many apples? And what Prince, of where? Who?”

[SHK-E Analysis: You lived up to the ideals of the Initiative. Showing bravery in confronting a situation head on is an example of a strong HEART. You traded information, though not exactly equally, and thus had a net loss of KNOWLEDGE. SAFETY precautions were not followed to a tee in this mission, but due to its apocryphal, off-the-books nature, it cannot be considered a mark against the Initiative as a whole. ENERGY costs were negligible.

SAFETY:  Very Poor
HEART:  Excellent
KNOWLEDGE: ENLIGHTENED
ENERGY: CRITICAL

Para Initiative Reputations:

Interventionist
Friend of the Keep

Para Initiative Inventory:
‍Oystersand’s Illustrated Arcana
Notes on Xavi and 1086
Untranslated Copy of Dear People
‍Gloomspark Portarray]


Chapter 
NUMBER

Better Judgement

8.9.2022

By: 

“All rise! The court of the 99th circuit, Contractual Violations Division is now in session, the Honorable Judge Archibald Olig presiding,” came the bailiff’s booming voice. “The first case on the docket is the State of IN versus Bradley.”

The gaunt figure of Judge Olig seemed to glide its way behind the gleaming black stone bench, settling into its seat of authority as it spoke.

“You may be seated. Except for you, Bradley. Mister Bradley, step forward, please.”

A dark-haired young man made a half-dismissive gesture with his hand and took a pace toward the onyx bench from his place near the front of the gallery. He spoke.

“Bradley, that’s me. Not sure what this mandatory summons is all about, since there’s quite a bit of time left on my loan. Care to explain why you’re wasting both our time, when I could be out there making good on the deal?”

“Mister Bradley, as you well know, there are certain conditionals that are part and parcel of the contracts that we offer to those in your position,” came the voice from behind the bench, “not the least of which is the non-competition arrangement, itself contingent on the non-disclosure agreement, both of which, according to our records, you were more than happy to sign in blood.”

“I signed them, sure, I knew what I was taking on with this. Look at the payment records! I’m exact every quarter, the numbers add up, the paperwork is a hundred percent by the book. I don’t tattle or tell, and I pay on time. If you’re mad that I got the scoop on the collectibility wave over on P-03181, I don’t know what to say besides the fact that the court might do well to move a little faster.”

“Rest assured, Mister Bradley,” said the emotionless voice, “that neither your timeliness nor your capacity are in question. And, as for 03181, let’s just say that this court knew what was going on there because a little birdie told us. One with feathers and wings– does that sound familiar to you?”

“Umm.. what? No, why would that be…?”

“Silence! Mister Bradley, you attempted to negotiate an arrangement with one of our agents in an angel’s disguise, who you falsely believed could somehow nullify your contract with one vague profession of faith. This behavior is an obvious breach of both your NCA and your NDA, and in spite of your timely adherence to the payment schedule, amounts to nothing short of an egregious violation of your contract. You know the consequences.”

“Wait! No, look, I have money, I have money on me right now! A lot of it; and you know as well as I do that I was just playing that so-called angel for a sucker. I can pay, I can pay six months in cash right now!”

“Mister Bradley, please. Don’t make this any more dramatic than it needs to be. You are in violation, and the terms are quite clear.”

“No, no, please, no, you know how much I’m worth!!! This is entrapment!”

“And trapped you were. Bailiff, remand Mr. Bradley to the appropriate custody and set no bail as he is an obvious flight risk, if you please.”

A few minutes later, the hulking bailiff informed the courtroom, “The next case is the State of IN versus Cross.”

“Cross. Mister Cross; step forward, please.”

The tall, ashen-dark man in the trenchcoat took a pace toward the onyx bench, holding his battered black fedora with no visible emotion.

“Cross, your Honor,” he said.

“It says here that you were seen on P-03181 during Mister Bradley’s attempt at negotiations. Would you care to enlighten the court as to what you were doing there, if not also trying to find a way out from under your sworn commitments?”

“Well, your Honor, you see, I’m a private detective, and I was pursuing a case regarding a purported angel. A young man came to my mausoleum in great distress about a haunting, by what he called white wings, or a swan, and promised to pay me my normal rate to investigate it. Long story short, your Honor, the facts led me to 03181, just in time to see Mister Bradley get picked up by your agents.”

“Well and good, Mister Cross. It’s a testament to your talent that you were only a few paces behind our own investigation. However, those few paces behind might mean that we beat you to not only the proverbial punch, but also the proverbial paycheck. So, what of your scheduled remuneration to this institution, which appears to be past due?”

“About that, Judge…. I’m pretty tight after following the leads of the Bradley case, and I can’t say that I have much to contribute right now besides a pocketful of coins. My client refused to pay because he claimed I didn’t solve the case myself. I was hoping for an extension given the overlap.”

“We don’t give extensions, Mister Cross. Surely you won’t make me go so far as to make you turn out your pockets.”

“Uh, no, your Honor. Even if I turned out my pockets, it would just be the leftovers from when I was tailing Bradley across the Proximans. Except, there’s one particular coin. I picked it up off the table in the diner where Bradley had his last meal before you nabbed him. The cheapskate didn’t even leave any bills as a tip, just some loose change. But somehow, this one felt resonant, felt special. Now, I know better than to go messing with waitresses’ tips, and I felt bad that Bradley had stiffed her, so, against my better judgment, I left my last fiver in its place. I guess I’m a fool for trading good money for a hunk of old junk because it felt lucky.”

Cross produced the coin in question from his pocket and proffered it for examination in an outstretched palm. He thought for a moment that he registered a glimpse of surprise flash across the normally impassive magistrate’s eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it had come, and the Judge was back to business.

“Place the coin in the envelope provided by the bailiff, if you please, Mister Cross. The court will see you again in six months.”

“Six months? But, I’m supposed to check in bi-weekly according to my P.O. …”

“In six months, Mister Cross. Unless there’s a problem..?”

 “Six months, sure. See you then, Judge Olig.”

“Oh, and, Mister Cross?”

“Yes, your Honor?”

“In the future, you might consider taking payment for your services in advance. Also, keep your eyes peeled for anything else you might believe to be… lucky.”

Chapter 
NUMBER

The Straight and Narrow

9.1.2022

By: 

“Thanks for coming by, Raf. You wanna have a seat?”

“Oh, no thanks, Macky. You know my feelings about you, my friend, are still the same since the… change, but I sure liked your last office a lot better than this one. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, as far as final resting places go, but it kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies, especially compared to your old place on the coast.”

“The feeling’s mutual, Raf. Unfortunately, the Monterey County tax assessor won’t accept payments from a man who’s legally dead, and there’s something to be said for a place with a little less sunlight and a little more shade for someone in my.. condition. Speaking of conditions, that’s why I asked you to stop in.”

“Oh really? You figure out a way to go back to normal, or a way to finally pay off the, uh, agency, that you made your deal with?”

“No, no, nothing as good as all that, but that ‘agency,’ as you called it, made a change to our arrangement. Seems I don’t have to go in and report for six months.”

“Six whole months, Mac? That’s great! I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it ain’t that long, compared to how long guys like us get locked up for, but for a situation like yours, it's awful generous. I know the commute was killing you, interfering with your business and everything else, to report all the way down there twice a month.”

“Yeah, Raf, you said it. It’s a good option to field whatever cases come my way six months at a time, but be careful with that ‘guys like us’ talk, will ya? Debtor’s prison and criminal’s prison aren’t exactly the same thing.”

“That depends who you ask, Mac, and what you’re guilty of. And anyway, I maintain my innocence of any involvement with the ‘illegal importation of luxury beverage’ that the State sent me up for. The Governor’s daughter didn’t have no problem drinking that fancy Bourgingoines, nor did any of the other rich people what could afford it. I just got caught in the middle because old man Brown was afraid she’d taken a shine to me, and took it upon himself to drop the hammer.”

“Sure, Rafael, I’ve heard the story a thousand times. You’re innocent in the corruption of innocence, lah di dah. I’m not sure how exactly the young Miss Brown became infatuated with your charisma and your access to illegal French vintage if you DIDN’T have anything to do with illegal importation, but save it for the jury in whatever case you catch next.”

“Aww, Mac, that ain’t nice; there won’t be no next case. I’m a reformed man, straight as an arrow. Not so lucky as you, as to be on report only twice a year, but I do my court-appointed, on time, and by the book. I’m treading the straight and narrow.”

“Good. Good for you, Raf. I hope it won’t be too much trouble, or divert you from your righteous path to keep an eye out for any unusual coins that happen to be passing through the city.”

“Coins? You joking, Macky? Rafael Aires is about that paper! You know; greens, bills, dividends! Small change is for chumps…. unless… wait a second, have you got a line on something, Mac? Do you know that copper or nickel is gonna spike on the market from some underworld tip you haven’t shared with me yet?”

“Raf. Stop. You know I can’t tell you the details of the case as a matter of professional security, not to mention for your own safety. You’re a good friend, and I don’t want you getting mixed up with the individuals I’m dealing with. So forget about the get-rich-quick schemes, and keep an eye out, but keep it quiet. Just let me know if you hear anything on the street about unusual or rare specie.”

“Specie? You talking about animals now, Macky?”

“Coins, Raf. Specie means coins. You know, money that’s not ‘greens, bills, dividends’?”

The MacAdam Cross Files

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