Z Cell is MIA after two weeks on the trail of a serial killer. Their liaison, Agent Yotsuya, summons a new cell and offers them what he knows of the case.
Three weeks ago, in early 2000, a series of lethal assaults in South Carolina escalated with a multiple homicide near Scape Ore Swamp in Lee County. The FBI was called in. All victims up to that point had been beaten to death, save one local officer who was literally torn apart. However, a majority of the bodies also bore inexplicable bite marks, matching the strength and ferocity of a pit bull, yet being closer to a human jaw in outline. Surviving witnesses from a few of the incidents all described a single, very large man with “creepy” skin, possibly earless and curiously agile, escaping from the scene.
It was by Agent Zach's own initiative that Z Cell went in as the FBI. He cited urban legends of a local “Lizard Man”, tall and well built, with scaly skin, capable of ripping into a car, and hence a likely suspect. Zach was a survivor of an earlier encounter with lizard men in Operation Desert Storm. Quickly rejecting Agent Zebulon's theory that the South Carolina murders were the result of a Tcho-Tcho drug hit, with innocents killed to throw off suspicion, Zach brought his cell to the nearest Green Box to break out some explosives. That night, they bombed the swamp.
The Trail Home
The murders did not stop, and the killer now seemed aware that Z Cell was on his trail, quickly moving south. However, methods changed. Victims were found drenched in their own bodily fluids after a great deal of screaming, but no longer with marks of great physical violence. Z Cell was tormented by this screaming more than once, and came tantalizingly close to catching the killer in the act, night after night. New witnesses described the disappearing murderer as scaly, noseless, often moving on all fours and with a prominent forehead crowned by horns. Agent Zach proposed that the lizard man needed the fluids of his new victims to stay moist and alive outside water. Unnerved by the killer's apparent games with his pursuers, Zach ceased to sleep and insisted on being near the other two agents at all times. This bothered Agent Zoe, who had spent five years in Z Cell and was married to Zach. They also had a child together, in Jacksonville. Concerned about Zach's paranoia and constant gunfondling, Zoe and Zebulon, a newcomer, tried to stay away from him.
The last transmission made before Z Cell fell totally silent was a phone call at 11 p.m. from a Georgia motel near the Florida state line, 23 miles north of Jacksonville. In this call, Zebulon informed Yotsuya that last week had been a living hell. Zach and Zoe's marriage was falling apart. There were daily screaming matches, physical fights and threats of self-mutilation, often in reference to domestic incidents predating Zebulon's acquaintance with the couple. When questioned, Zebulon mentioned the murders had continued, happening every night, never more than a mile away from the agents and always to the south. The death toll had reached 32. However, catching the killer was no longer a concern. Zach had threatened to kill Zebulon for sleeping with Zoe. Saying only this, he hung up.
Reinforcement at the Opera
Yotsuya provides the PCs with the real names and other details of the members of Z Cell, along with orders to resolve the situation. Nobody in Z Cell is answering their phone, and there's nothing suspicious at the Georgia motel, so the obvious point of entry is the shared address of Zach and Zoe in Jacksonville, a city that seems to lie directly in the path of the killer.
Zach is now the sole inhabitant of the family apartment at 46 Majestic Street, which is a total mess. Zoe has moved out, leaving several barren walls and headache-inducing acoustics. The place looks robbed. Stuff from two DG agents' lives together is strewn over the floors. Zach, his bare feet cut on broken china, sits in a corner and weeps. He and Zoe are taking turns looking after their five-year-old son, David, one of them leaving him at kindergarten and the other picking him up. It's Zoe's day when the PCs arrive; she's got a new place across the St. Johns River, slow and black in the cold weather. Zach has no idea where Zebulon is, and has forgotten the serial killer, for the moment. When the new agents remind him of it, a gleam of fear lights up his teary red eyes, but he has no news, saying the lizard man probably passed through Jacksonville days ago, on its way to the Everglades.
Placed next to Agent Zach when the PCs first see him are his 9mm retirement plan and a small cross. Zach guards both items jealously, but if the agents ever get a good look at the cross, they see it's a pendant with a white rose at its center, possibly an antique. A very fine description on the base of it reads, in 17th century French, "The thoughts attached to the real desire of the seeker will lead us to him and him to us". Conspiracy buffs will trace these words to a poster that appeared on the walls of Paris in 1622, at the height of an occult frenzy known as the Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Agent Zach took this innocuous thing out of the Green Box in South Carolina because it reminded him of his happier life before DG. He assures the other agents it's harmless; prior to her disappearance, his grandmother used to wear one just like it. It was actually the very same cross, which ended up where he found it through a series of surreal coincidences. Now acting as an id machine, keyed to the energies involved in sacrifices made by his grandmother before Zach's birth and awakened by his dark fears about his partner, the cross projects those fears onto the world around him.
No More Lizard Kings
Zoe's new place at 529 Carbonic Drive actually belongs to a friend of the family, who's on vacation. If the PCs make their way there while Zoe has David, she is extremely high-strung, her speech barely coherent, filled with images of decay, separation and vengeance. She is convinced the serial killer is after David and the members of Z Cell, because they killed its own family in the swamp. Nothing can stop it, and she has no difficulty repeating this to her son. If the PCs visit while Zach has David, they instead catch Zoe in the act with a malformed creature that looks like a cross between Agent Zebulon, a lizard man, a wasp and a squid. A fluid like semen and boiled human fat oozes copiously over the woman and the bedroom. This product of Zach's tortured imagination is virtually impossible to kill and escapes after giving the agents a speedy pummeling. When questioned afterwards, Zoe admits it's not the sort of man you marry, but satisfying in a way Zach never was. She is insane.
The weekend approaches, with no clear plans as to who will look after David. The boy himself is a major hockey fan, and apart from seeing his parents back to normal, he only wants to witness the Jacksonville Lizard Kings play the last home game of the ECHL season. After that, his favorite team is disbanding. Zach and Zoe both promise him to be there. Unless the PCs manage to separate Zach from his cross, or destroy one or the other before the weekend, the final game of the Lizard Kings will be an apocalyptic event, where the stress of meeting Zoe in the crowd erodes the last of Zach's sanity. Lizard men will swarm over the bleachers. However, the energy pent up in the cross is finite. It will melt before every horror the agent has seen in his long career is unleashed. At that point, the lizard men on the bleachers will evaporate, but the thing that Agent Zebulon has become will never be found.
Credits and comments
Written by Viktor Eikman, in remembrance of Mark McFadden. It was designed to meet the memorial rules of the 2009 contest:
1. "Lizard Kings" team reference.
2. Cult movie: Possession (1981).
3. Tcho-Fu is used by the original (real) assailant.
4. 23 miles to Jacksonville, death toll of 32, 46 Majestic Street etc.
5. Assailant believed to be (and magically cast as) a lizard/serpent man, theorized to need victims' fluids.
6 years after this scenario was written, the Lee County lizard man was supposedly photographed, as featured, for instance, on The Late Show on CBS.