The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Hour of the Jaguar
Hacavitz's dagger starts to sway above Simon's prone body as the drugs take a slow hold. The sunlight begins to flow into the crevices of the ornate headstone, its mouth agape towards the altar.
Arabella nudges Jo. "You take him high, I'll take him low. Pull him back, away from the boy..."
"No - you stay here," orders Jo is a sharp, loud whisper. "Follow me out when I've taken care of Hacavitz." Her voice is dark and commanding. "I mean it, Arabella. You too, Rupert. No chances."
With that she rolls quietly out from under the tarpaulin, and takes swift, creeping steps towards Hacavitz's back.
Left in the shadows for a second, Arabella glances at Rupert. Then the two of them lift their cover and start moving. Jo reaches the oblivious Hacavitz, who is still poised and staring madly at the light. With both hands she grabs at his outstretched arm and sharply twists it around his back. The man has hardly any strength to resist, and collapses to his knees, dropping the dagger. Arabella rushes up and helps Jo to pin Hacavitz to the ground by the altar. Hernandez rushes over and feverishly tears the mask off Simon's face, lifting the boy away and into the shade.
Rupert runs over to Hernandez's dropped microphone, hiding his face behind the headdress of an unconscious priest.
"There's a bomb!" he shouts, and the words resound around the plaza. "A bomb! Quick! Run!"
Jamie and Ricardo's eyes are glued to the pyramid, their mouths wide. Sean waves at George and gestures sharply. George looks at the pair and nods. He steps backwards, as if in amazement, behind and around a column, beginning to circle around Ricardo's back.
At Rupert's shout the crowd, already concerned by the flood of police officers, becomes a sea of confusion and panic. People start running in every direction away from El Castillo. On the pyramid's slopes, the disguised Zapatista guards look startled, and begin to scatter. A couple of them stare at Rupert in shock, and begin to charge him. The others scramble down and away, towards the jungle and the crowd.
Across the plaza, a group of policemen raise their arms and point directly at Rupert, standing in the sun with the microphone, lit up against the morning sky. They break into a run towards the pyramid steps.
At El Castillo's zenith the air begins to crackle as the Sun's channelled light pools ever brighter in the serpent's head.
"I've got all I can carry," shouts Arabella. "Statue's too heavy!"
"Rupert!" cries Jo. "Help Hernandez with Simon!"
"I've just..." Stone splinters around his feet as a Zapa rifle shot impacts. "On my way!" He sprints towards the drugged boy.
"Down the west face, away from the action," orders Jo loudly, and Arabella runs around to the far side, and down the steep, steep steps. Rupert and Hernandez, each with an arm round Simon's shoulders, hustle him away towards safety. Left in the temple for a moment, Jo draws a pistol out of her pocket and flicks at the safety. The heat inside the temple begins to rocket. A solid, brilliant river of light crests the headstone and flows swiftly towards the altar. Jo takes a deep breath and dashes out and around the temple, into the cover of the west, shielded from the Sun, the Zapas and the police. With gun still trained on the temple, she dashes down the steps behind her companions.
Slumped by the altar, Hacavitz opens his eyes with a dull groan as electricity sparks all over the altar. The light suddenly springs and crashes down like a waterfall upon the temple's stone centrepiece. It starts to wind and coil, slowly, faster, faster. The temple dances with an angry, transparent fire. Hacavitz's mouth shapes a scream as the furious, hungry light thrashes around him.
Arabella hits the grass, and turns to see Jo halfway up, jogging down in pursuit, guarding the rear.
"Now!" shouts George, and lunges for Ricardo, wrestling him into a full nelson before he has time to react. Sean hoists his pistol and brings it crashing down on Jamie's neck. De Reconvaco lurches forward, and the skull flies out of his hand. The crystal arcs gently in the air, rolling as it falls towards the hard stone floor.
The skull smashes into a thousand glinting fragments of light.
The tiny temple of Cukulcan atop El Castillio explodes in a deafening retort of fracturing stone. Blinding light screams from the pyramid as the blast's roar rolls like a wave out across the jungle.
Investigation Code: B/99/589/43b
Subject of Investigation: Criminal Activity in the Yucatan Peninsula
Presiding Operative: M G Raimbaud
Report Compiled by: M G Raimbaud
Operatives Present: Karyn Hart, Travis Tuttle, Rupert De Montfort, Arabella Robyns, George Wellington Hardy, Joanna Wilton.
Related Investigation: B/99/573/43a - Las Cabezas de Muerte
I should begin by congratulating all of you concerned on your success. It appears that the situation in the Yucatan was much graver than SITU at first appreciated, but you have brought the matter to a conclusion, at least for the time being. It is not entirely clear what would have resulted from the completion of Hacavitz's scheme, but it is beyond question that it was prudent to prevent it.
It is unfortunate that Sean cannot be with us today, but I have had the pleasure of reading a commentary on these events that he submitted electronically. His current whereabouts are unknown to SITU, but we are confident that once he has left Mexico he will get back in touch.
Objective A: Discover who is responsible for these thefts.
You have established to our satisfaction that the thefts were being carried out by a coalition of Solula Mayans and the Merida Zapatista cell. Given their small numbers and lack of 'criminal experience', it seems likely that the Mayan contribution to the acts of robbery themselves was minimal. We can only speculate on who masterminded the operation (see below: Hacavitz, Jose Panza.)
Objective B: Determine the motives of those who are responsible.
The evidence you compiled all points towards a central motive: the summonation of Cukulcan. You have shown that all the objects can be traced back to an incident at Chichen Itza during the early sixteenth century. At this time, the city was already in dreadful decline, and when their neighbours allied with the Spanish, the Chichen were quite unable to defend themselves against the resentment of their fellow tribes. The historical incident in question seems to have been an unsuccessful attempt to perform a ritual which would both summon Cukulcan in the form of the Chichen King and awake his divine army. In this context, the thefts represented an attempt to recreate this event with one vital difference - the success of the ceremony. Thanks to you, history repeated itself.
We will never know for sure, but it seems most likely that Hacavitz knew precisely what he was doing throughout. This leaves unanswered the question of how and why a poor Mayan villager learned of an ancient ritual, about events four hundred years in the past, and chose to act on them. It is possible that further investigations of the crystal skulls originating in the area will provide answers. Sean's suggestion that the skull known as Hunahpu, located in Mahucutah's hut in Solula, be recovered has been approved.
The other man that you linked directly to the thefts was Jose Panza. Through him, the Zapatista movement was misled into thinking that the ceremony was a publicity stunt linking the modern day socialist terrorists with past heroes and gods. Your report of his actions and comments in the last two days of his life leaves open the possibility that he knew more himself. Perhaps Hacavitz duped him into believing the divine 'army of the people' would follow his lead and support his aims.
Objective C: Recover the onyx statuette stolen from Ms. Lloyd
Objective D: Recover the other stolen artefacts.
Objective E: Negotiate the sale of the stolen articles to the Raimbaud Institute.
These objectives were largely successful, although two items, the stone statuette and the Mayan calendar wheel, were destroyed in the explosion. Whether close investigation of them will reveal anything more about the methodology employed by Hacavitz remains to be seen.
It is extremely unfortunate that your grade three cover was inadequate. Your investigations were conducted with a degree of openness that SITU had not anticipated. Though I cannot fault you on your success at achieving the crucial goals of your mission, I cannot help but wonder whether a less intrusive approach might have gleaned more information more quickly. The situation you were placed in was a difficult one, however, and Sean's comments about the insufficiency of SITU's support provision are duly noted.
Artifex Tours ceased trading yesterday, as too many suspicions have been aroused concerning its 'clients.' The current attitude of the Cuervo Cojaente towards yourselves is unknown, though it seems likely that they are not best pleased with Sean. Considering the situation in which you placed yourselves, you are at least to be congratulated on the way in which you dealt with the police. Using Dr. Hernandez as your cover you successfully allayed any suspicions they might have developed, at least in the short term. Nevertheless, your immediate departure from the region was well advised.
The most serious breach of your cover by far stems from your involvement with Jamie de Reconvaco. From your statements, I see that when in your custody in the Hotel Esplendido he became quite reasonable and apologised for his irrational behaviour, claiming severe lapses of memory. In the circumstances, with flight from the country your priority, it is an understandable shame that you did not contact SITU for advice on how to proceed. As it was, you had little option but to set him free, and no doubt his effusive thanks for resolving the crisis brilliantly eased your naturally suspicious minds. However, de Reconvaco is an intelligent and resourceful man. He has been linked in the past (B/99/573/43a) to schemes inimical to SITU's aims. He knows your names and your nationality. More importantly, he has now come into direct contact with SITU operative groups twice, and may be able to piece two and two together. I am afraid that Jamie de Reconvaco has become an unacceptable security risk.
Simon Comos was shepherded safely into the hands of the police at the Chichen Itza site, who were only too pleased to receive what must be a guaranteed promotion. He is safe and well, recovering at his father's high-security townhouse.
Dr. Hernandez has been assumed dead by the Mexican authorities - killed in the explosion. The quickness of mind you demonstrated in getting him across the border into Belize immediately after the ceremony is to be congratulated. He is currently recuperating in SITU care whilst he decides if his demise is a fiction he wishes to maintain.
According to our last report, Lalina is alive and well. The police have interviewed both her and Sean, but have been satisfied for the moment by a story about a bungled break-in. Lalina has expressed a wise desire to leave the Merida vicinity, however.
Jose Panza was shot dead on 21st September. The police have issued a statement saying that he was violently resisting arrest, and pulled a gun. The Merida Times has writes that this his death is a great relief, as it avoids the possibility of him using a trial to 'spread his evil propaganda to the weak of mind.' Most of the rest of the Zapatistas managed to escape successfully in the confusion caused by Rupert's announcement of a bomb and the subsequent explosion, though it will take their cell years to recover its strength.
The media, which has descended on Chichen Itza, has portrayed the events as a Zapatista bombing. Although a few facts do not seem to add up this is the only rational explanation they can find. There has been worldwide condemnation of this despicable and wanton destruction, doing the Zapatista cause no end of harm. Local dignitaries and TV crews have attended the funeral of Hacavitz and his fellow priests, 'the innocent victims of this horrific act of violence against the Mayan people everywhere.'
SITU will not be employing the services of Maria Tengue a third time. The last act of Artifex Tours was to submit a glowing report to the tourist board and deliver a sizeable tip on your behalf in recognition of her 'tireless work and boundless discretion.'
It remains unknown where Jamie de Reconvaco got his information, how he obtained the skull of Cukulcan, or why his intentions towards the ceremony became so radical. Sean's theory that Jamie was being 'controlled' by his skull seems plausible, but lacks both proof and potential avenues of further investigation. No new light has been shone upon the links established by investigation B/99/573/43a between the Black Madonna and Ahuantapec.
Presiding Officers Comments
Allow me to extend my profound thanks to you once again for all that you have done. I note that Arabella has requested we maintain the investigative group for the future. The information I have from Sean, however, suggests that there were a number of problems in establishing a truly co-operative ethic. Barring unforeseen circumstance, SITU always places operatives alongside those they feel they can perform best with. Each case will be considered on its merits, and we will endeavour to satisfy any wishes you express.
The dark cloud on the horizon is the disappearance of Jamie de Reconvaco, who has abandoned his Merida address for we know not where. I have no choice but to recommend that a high-level team of experienced operatives be deployed as soon as possible to resolve this potentially threatening situation.
To conclude on a more upbeat note, congratulations on proving your worth and dedication to SITU. Rest and relaxation should be your priorities for the moment, and I hope that you enjoy the celebratory meal that Arabella informs me you will be having tonight. If you will allow it, SITU would like to pick up the tab. We trust that you will have long and rewarding futures with our vital organisation.
Somewhere on the road to Mexico City, in a small town, outside a small bar, a dark blue saloon is parked. Inside, Sean and Lalina sit at a table.
"Good job those cops bought my story," mutters Sean. "I had to be quite inventive to think that one up. But it's saved us a whole load of trouble."
"Yeah. Well done," says Lalina uncomfortably. "Until they start digging a bit deeper, that is."
"Well, we won't be around when that happens," replies Sean. "We managed to get an awful lot of your Zapa friends made it away in the confusion too. I mean, it was bad about Jose, poor guy, but it could have gotten so much worse..."
"Great," comes her less than enthusiastic response.
Sean rolls his eyes in exasperation, unable to find a way to lighten her spirits.
"Your phone call to the police was crucial, you know," he says. You saved a lot of deaths. You rescued a lot of lives by that. You should be proud."
Lalina looks up. "I'm sick," she whispers.
Sean shakes his head ruefully. "I messed up. I messed up badly," he admits. "I should never have trusted those thugs, no matter how desperate things got. My fault. I was only," he falters, "I was only trying to help you out, to see you were safe, to...to impress you. I really like you, you know."
"I know, Sean," says Lalina. "I know."
"Never forget what it's like," Sean continues, staring at his feet, "seeing death. That's what it's really like to fight for something you believe in. Really fight. Don't you ever make the same mistake as the others."
Lalina raises a sad eyebrow. "The same mistake as you, Sean?"
There is silence.
Lalina breaks it as she stands. "I know I said you could drive me away, but I've changed my mind. I think I need to be alone for a bit. I can catch a train from here. I think I'm going to go back to my father. For a bit. Nowhere near the Cuervo. Things will be safe there. I'll be safe."
"No," says Sean. "Come back to the US with me for a month. We can lie low together, I've been thinking about it. Don't give up your dreams, don't run back to your dad... If you come with me, I'll teach you a few things. Tricks of the trade. It can help you help the cause when things die down a little..."
"The cause is dead, Sean. For me. I can't live a dream anymore."
"I need more time to make things up to you. Look, I'm sorry, but that's not enough. I need more time. Don't just give up. Come with me." Sean looks up at her, urgent and hopeful. "Please?"
"No thanks, Sean. You can be very kind, sometimes. But I want this horror story out of my life as soon as possible. And that includes you."
Lalina's gaze locks for a second with Sean's, her jaw set tight, then she swivels on her heels and walks out of the bar. She doesn't look back.
Sean shuts his eyes as he lets out a drawn, tired sigh. The tinny little radio begins another awkwardly upbeat Spanish pop song, and the dusty air from the street draughts lazily around the room. Sean's hand pushes slowly across the table, closes around the neck of a whisky bottle, and pours.
From: Alistair Thwaite, Debrief/84
To: Operatives: Karyn Hart, Travis Tuttle, Rupert De Montfort, Arabella Robyns, George Wellington Hardy, Joanna Wilton, 'Sean'.
Subject: Criminal Activity in the Yucatan Peninsula
Many thanks for your help in the recent investigation of matters Mexican. You will be pleased to learn that following your successful completion of this mission, you have been promoted from the rank of Investigator to that of Agent, meaning that your Illumination level is now 2.
Now that you have reached a higher rank within SITU, it is right that we should share some facts with you. Please note that these are strictly for the knowledge of Illumination level 2 or higher, and must on no account be communicated to, or even hinted at when with, persons of lower Illumination. In fact, you should not even let them know that a Level 2 of Illumination exists.
You will be aware that SITU sends Operatives to investigate Unexplained events all over the world. What you will not have known before now, but do as of today, is that these events are not as scattered and unlinked as they may at first seen. In point of fact, SITU has evidence that there exists today and has done throughout most of human history a wide-ranging global conspiracy, inimical to humanity. Therefore part of SITU's duty is to ascertain whether individual Unexplained events fit into this pattern or not: and to learn more about it and those responsible. So you can be sure that your investigations have helped all of humanity!
You have been contacted separately with the details surrounding your particular mission, and if you wish any of you wish to prepare a report to go into our magazine 'SITUation Report': this is far from compulsory, but may provide interest to other members. Your report will of course be censored by SITU HQ, so you need not fear giving too much away.
Thank you again, and I hope that you will wish to continue serving SITU on further missions.
AT / D / 84