Written by James Hicks
The Place: The PCs’ home city.
The Hook: In the past two weeks there has been an epidemic of brutal, senseless murders all across the nation. These murders are very strange, as many of them are being committed by relatively “normal” people — housewives, clergy, professionals, etc. In all cases, the murderer claims that they do not remember committing the crimes. And in all cases, the murderers are around fifty years old. Though there are murders of this nature being committed all across the country, fully half of them have taken place in the PCs’ home city.
The Beginning: Investigating the crimes, the agents will find several common denominators. In most cases, the subjects were home. The murders did not appear premeditated, and the victims were killed either with bare hands or with items found within the immediate crime scene (i.e., within the same room). Some suspects have even admitted to having one or more short blackouts (no longer than an hour) during the past few weeks — always when they were alone.
As the story unfolds, more common denominators will be found. Nearly all of the murders occurred within sight of a television. There are a few exceptions — two occurred in movie theaters, and three at taverns (which, as it turns out, have televisions). One particular murder might be taken as a “red herring”, but is actually a vital clue — the suspect was surfing the internet when his murderous episode began.
By now the PCs should be aware that the suspects were exposed to some sort of mass media at the time of the murders, but will not know exactly what caused them to kill. The answer to that may be found at the home of the internet killer — checking his computer reveals that his last action was to play a media file… a trailer for a new movie called “Gaterider”, a horror movie about evil, other-dimensional beings who live on Earth disguised as humans.
If the agents miss this clue, they will learn that one of the suspects had a nother episode and killed two fellow inmates — interrogating the survivors will reveal that the suspect flew into a rage during a commercial preview for the movie, specifically during the last few seconds.
The PCs will be familiar with the movie trailer (assuming that they watch TV), and will know that the last few seconds show footage of “normal” people turning into demons while a narraror whispers (over-dramatically) “Gaterider… Monsters are among us… Kill them before they kill you…”
Other common denominators among the suspects are that they all lived in the PCs’ home city in the early 1970’s. They are also former heroin addicts who received treatment and counseling at the methodone clinic on 38th Street (long-since closed) sometime between 1970 and 1976. Even further investigation shows that they were all counselled by the same man — Dr. Francis Sloan.
The Twist: By now, the PCs should suspect some sort of WEB plot. And they’re right. But it’s a WEB plot that began and ended nearly thirty years ago! Dr. Sloan wasn’t a WEB agent per se, but he was working with them. WEB provided him with a drug that made people more susceptible to hypnosis than usual. Sloan tainted the methodone at the clinic with the drug, then placed his patients under hypnosis. He then planted a posthypnotic suggestion that dictated that when they heard the word “Gaterider”, they would believe without question anything that was said immediately afterward (okay, now you get it…).
Dr. Sloan chose the word “Gaterider” because he felt that he was riding through an open gateway into the patient’s mind, and he figured that it wasn’t a word that the patient was likely to hear anywhere else. He usually followed this word with a command, a la “You don’t like heroin”, but little did he know that in thirty years it would become the name of a movie, whose name was followed by a directive to kill your family and friends because they were demons in disguise.
Though Dr. Sloan’s arrangement with WEB was shady and underhanded, he justified it to himself because it was working — he had the highest caseload at the clinic, and a nearly 100% success rate. But the arrangement ended with Sloan’s death in an auto accident in 1976. WEB had hoped to use Sloan’s treatment to create an army of sleeper agents, but in the end it was ineffective — the effects of the hypnosis wore off within an hour, and only became permanent with repeated treatments. So WEB decided to end the project and move on.
The Outcome: The PCs will learn all (or most) of the above information by investigating Dr. Sloan. Though he has been dead for 25 years, his wife still keeps his lab notes up in the attic (he refers to WEB as “my associates”). They will find no way to reverse the posthypnotic suggestions (no “magic word” to turn it off), so their only recourse will be to try to put an end to the movie promo.
It will take a lot of roleplaying to convince the marketing execs to remove the ads (maybe playing it up as a liability issue), but in the end — if they are told about the effects of the word “Gaterider” — the execs will agree to change the ad instead of pulling it.
That night, the PCs will see a promo for the movie. The final words in the ad — in the same melodromatic tone — are, “Gaterider… see it again… and again… and again…”