Conspiracy, Part IX
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Global Occult Coalition North American Regional Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Sunday, 25 December 1988, 1030 hours local time

Like much of official Washington, the GOC's Washington Headquarters Building was only staffed by a relatively small caretaker shift on this cold Christmas morning. Of course, there is always some crisis brewing somewhere, and today was no different. The staff that was on duty had realized something important was going on when Regional Director Strauss and Regional Deputy Director Bain had arrived bright and early on their day off. This realization was reinforced when three more individuals arrived at the nondescript Foggy Bottom office building.

Many people in both organizations realized that the Global Occult Coalition and the Foundation had a complicated relationship. Both had some level of semi-official recognition of their jurisdiction over paranormal affairs, especially in Europe and North America. Both were usually adversarial to the other players on the field, and this shared stance sometimes led to cooperation, though it just as often led to disagreements borne out of the two organization's different philosophies. What most people did not realize, for it was a secret known only to fewer than a hundred individuals in either organization, was that there were official liaison officers who oversaw all officially sanctioned joint efforts. Much like ambassadors between hostile countries, these liaison officers served as a useful pipeline for dialogue, and were accordingly afforded what essentially amounted to diplomatic immunity. In no way were these two liaison officers the only individuals in either organization to interact - there were of course plenty of grey and black dealings handled informally by field personnel - but the liaisons offered the administration of both groups the ability to formally discuss matters of mutual concern.

As such, the guards manning the security checkpoint in the lobby of the GOC's Washington Headquarters Building were unsurprised to see the relatively familiar sight of Foundation Liaison Officer Rhodes. They were surprised by the two people with Rhodes: a petite Japanese woman, whom they recognized as the Foundation's third Overseer, and her powerfully-built bodyguard. O5-3 was the young heiress to a powerful Japanese mining conglomerate who had opted to work for the Foundation rather than the family business. A financial and administrative genius, Three had more than doubled the revenue of the several front companies she had managed for the Foundation prior to her promotion to Overseer.

The Foundation personnel were escorted to a top-floor conference room, where GOC Directors Strauss and Bain were already waiting, along with their own bodyguards. Handshakes and pleasantries were exchanged and all sat to begin their business.

GOC Special Agent Benjamin Arnold had served as the personal bodyguard to GOC Regional Deputy Director Bain for eight years. Recruited from the American Diplomatic Security Service, he possessed the highest security clearance granted by both the American government and the GOC, and passed a polygraph every two months. He had never once been late for work, and had only ever taken a day off to attend the funeral of his twin brother a decade before. He kept to himself during off hours, but was regarded as cordial and efficient by his principal, his superiors, and his coworkers, most of whom owed him money from the office's informal sports pool. Accordingly, Director Strauss' bodyguard saw no reason to watch Arnold, rather than the only person he believed presented a physical threat to his principal, the Foundation bodyguard escorting O5-3.

For his part, Foundation Special Agent Sanchez, O5-3's bodyguard, was doing his best to keep his cool. He hated having to escort Three into the belly of the beast. With his hands held in front of him, he thought to himself that at least the GOC was probably the least likely of the various groups-of-interest to take a potshot at a visiting Overseer, especially in their own headquarters.

As Three began to explain about the recently uncovered plot within the Foundation, now responsible for the deaths of two of her fellow Overseers, and the implications of a security breach not only within the Foundation but also in the GOC, no one noticed what Arnold was doing. Slowly, subtly, he unbuttoned his jacket. Ever so carefully, he reached into his suit coat, and—

—In a flash, Arnold whipped out his pistol. From a distance of less than two meters, he fired a round into the ear of Strauss' bodyguard, who collapsed to the floor like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Sanchez blinked in shock and was reaching for his own weapon when Arnold placed a round neatly between the eyes of the Foundation Special Agent. Another bullet entered the back of Director Strauss' head from point-blank range, killing him instantly.

Three's jaw dropped. She was about to utter a cry of confusion when she felt the Foundation Liaison to the GOC shove her to the floor in an attempt to get her out of the line of fire. A sharp pain erupted in her chest, followed swiftly by another in her arm. As her vision faded to black, she heard several more gunshots. And then she was gone.

Cologne/Bonn Airport, Germany
Sunday, 25 December 1988, 1845 hours local time

During his layover, Harper was having supper at an upscale bar in the First Class Lounge when a man in plainclothes approached him. "Mr. Timothy Harper?" the man asked.

Instantly on alert, Harper's hand tightened ever so slightly on his steak knife. "Yes," he answered casually.

"I have a message for you," the man said, handing over a sealed envelope. "High priority from Washington."

Harper thanked the man, who left. Opening the message, he saw it was from Seven:

TO: Harper
FROM: O5-7
O5-3 shot by GOC agent at meeting with GOC Regional Director Strauss. Strauss also dead. Deputy RD Bain assumed role as Acting RD. Suspect possible conspirator involvement. Tensions with GOC high. Assume all GOC personnel hostile until further notice.

Return immediately to Command-02 for consultations.
SCP-006 liquid transfer approved.

Harper swore under his breath. Lighting a cigarette, he started to contemplate how this new turn of events fit into what he already knew.

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