Allegiance: 9 [Trinity Continuum]

Open Development, Trinity Continuum

As Storypath has entered its finalized albeit generic state, and I’m stitching together the Continuum-specific version before passing it on to my writers, I thought some of you might like a peak at one of the Allegiances available to Talents in the Trinity Continuum core. This comes from author Jack Norris.


Motto: Protection, Discretion, Security

CoulsonsTeam2-AoSRepairsOnce Branch 9, this group began as a covert arm of the US Government tasked with tracking and neutralizing threats that employed strange scientific and supernormal phenomenon. They worked closely with other organizations such as the Æon Society, but always with their own objectives and agenda. Privatized in the early 1970s, it dropped “Branch” and now operates as simply 9 and works under contract with a number of governments and private institutions. 9 are the people who deal with problems most people think are the subject of pulp novels and really out-there techno-thrillers. An ancient plague discovered in a hermetically sealed casket in an ancient tomb is more likely to be on their radar than someone hoarding mundane chemical weapons. A conspiracy to overthrow a local government might not interest them, but if the rebels are fielding an army of genetically modified soldiers? Then their interest is piqued. 9 seeks to study and contain such situations, though if necessary they will simply eliminate a threat. They can be criticized as not always being forward thinkers and too concerned with saving the status quo, but they’ve saved the world more than once.


Branch 9 was created as a small covert law enforcement arm of the US government by then President Teddy Roosevelt. Concerned with, but having no entity to address, possible threats from multinational crime syndicates, secret societies, and a number of strange but potentially world-ending threats, Branch 9 was created and Roosevelt used his power and influence to give the organization limited operational capacity overseas as well as vast domestic power.

In its early days, Branch 9 was underfunded and treated as an annoyance or joke by most conventional law enforcement; a paranoid creation of a government who was jumping at every shadow. The groups effectiveness despite its small size and modest funding actually worked against it; since few outside its membership knew of the courage, devotion, and effectiveness of its operatives. The organization did a lot of good despite its lack of notoriety, but it was often limited by its small size.

When the organization foiled a cell of former Nazi officers and scientists seeking to use subsonic weaponry to control and undermine the government of Argentina, people within the intelligence community began to take notice. The organization was given more funding and resources, and during the late 1950s to mid-1970s helped detect, contain, study, and eliminate various strange threats and anomalies. They even foiled an attempted assassination of then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, though they were unable to detect or prevent his assassination several years later. Still, these successes and the brave sacrifices of various Branch 9 operatives kept the agency well-funded and regarded during much of the Cold War. While always proactive and motivated to shut down threats before they manifested, Branch 9’s newfound reputation meant they were able to monitor and dispose of numerous catastrophes before the public even caught a hint that anything was wrong.

When Vietnam and Watergate era scandals decreased faith in the US government and its concentration on covert operations, Branch 9 took a serious funding hit and was nearly shut down. It limped along for another decade, finally saving itself by privatizing the bulk of its operations during the Reagan administration, a move which expanded their capacity to work internationally but at the cost of some domestic allies. However, the collected secrets and dirt on various officials the organization had collected over the years allowed them to deflect all but the most cursory government oversight and kept them associated with the US Government, UN Security Council, and other institutions in the form of lucrative “private consulting” contracts.

Drawing from a pool of ex-government operatives and disillusioned and disenfranchised private sector scientists and engineers, the organization reinvented itself as 9, consulting firm that specialized in security and intelligence issues. These individuals formed the backbone of the newly private group and aggressive recruitment in the private sector and overseas quickly replaced any lost resources. By the mid 90s, 9 was just where it wanted to be; influential in intelligence and politics and mostly unknown to the public at large.

Since going corporate, 9 has worked globally to deal with esoteric and deadly threats that few others in the world have the experience or resources to handle. It’s a specialized field, but one with few competitors who can match the organization’s experience, resources, and drive. Many 9 operations are highly secretive, and none of the organizations files are declassified or available for public perusal. Casefiles are keep offline and hidden at a secret facility because 9 knows the sort of panic some of the things they’ve encountered over the years would cause if made public. A team of counterintelligence operatives, spin doctors, and hackers helps keep the group out of the limelight and has thus far managed to pass off even their weirdest operations as mundane threats, when anyone hears about them at all.

Given their record and history of results, the United Nations is currently considering granting the group special intelligence gathering and international law enforcement powers under a special directive of Chapter 24 of the UN Charter. This “Directive 9” initiative is still being discussed by the UN Security Council but is expected to be put to a vote within the next few years. For their part, 9 is still determining under which conditions they would accept UN control and funding.


9 seeks individuals with a mix of military or law enforcement training and scientific and technical expertise. From ex-soldiers to MIT grads, 9 seeks any individual who can assist them, even hiring freelance contracts as needed. They provide basic scientific or combat training to any recruit whose other skills merit hiring them. Field operatives in particular are expected to have a grounding in a variety of disciplines; so while a lab tech might get basic firearms training, a field technical expert would be held to higher standards.

Many of the upper echelon and old guard of 9 hail from their origins as Branch 9, though over the years they’ve added operatives and administrators from around the world. In fact, the current head of 9 security is a ex-Kenyan Wildlife Service ranger who left his country and joined 9 after he met its operatives during a mission in Africa.

Discretion is highly prized in the organization and some otherwise very promising and effective recruits get decommissioned or passed over if they display an inability to operate covertly and with a constant eye to avoiding public exposure. 9 would sooner hire a talented rookie with a knack of keeping things quiet than a veteran operative that can’t keep a lid on the strange situations the organization constantly encounters.

Organization and Structure

Resembling a mix of government agency, private think tank, and corporation, 9 uses an interlocking structure of directors, senior agents, and department heads to run its diverse and eclectic staff. Individual agents and employees are encouraged to communicate new ideas and bring new issues to their superiors and a robust bonus structure exists to reward this behavior. Agents receive pension plans, excellent health care, further education and training, and other benefits. Turnover in 9 through resignation is extremely low, though several operatives are lost or retire each year as a result of dangerous operations.

Operatives are given a surprising among of freedom compared to many intelligence and military organizations. As long as the public is kept unaware of various threats and strange phenomenon most field teams are allowed to conduct operations largely as they see fit. 9 learned the hard way when dealing with strange accidents, old creatures, secret societies, and other such problems the most effective process is to let their people on the ground evaluate, assess, and if necessary neutralize threats as best fits the situation. Extensive debriefing and monitoring of field teams keeps the higher ups informed, but they generally won’t step in unless things have gone very wrong. Each field operation is assigned a case agent, a trained analyst who employs their own team of experts to advise and support field operations. The end result is an organization of “free thinkers” and “mavericks” who all operate under an operational umbrella of secrecy that is more like a code of honor than a modern paramilitary group . It’s an atypical framework, but it gets the job done.

Operatives are letter and number coded (A1, B1, etc…). Numbers are never repeated, and fallen agents are from both Branch 9 and 9 are listed on a memorial inside the organization’s headquarters. When cover identities are called for, these are often plays on the letter and number, so Operative L14 might be given the alias “Levi Vierzhen”. Support staff, case agents, and executive personnel are given their own code names based on surnames which are recycled when someone retires or dies. So an operative case agent might be Mr. Wilson, and when he leaves? The new guy is also Mr. (or Ms.) Wilson.

The current Executive Director of 9 is Ms. Pemberton. This enigmatic woman of mixed European and Persian ancestry was an NSA operative before being recruited by 9 in the 1980s and rose through the ranks to take over the organization when the last Pemberton was eaten by a particularly dangerous “bioweapon” when the organization was attacked at the turn of the century.

Goals and Methods

9 is devoted to monitoring, cataloging, collecting, and if necessary shutting various unconventional threats, particular experimental or “fringe” fields like parapsychology, nanotechnology, advanced genetic manipulation, and the like. These folks track down mutated predators, terrorist nano-plagues, mad scientists, and other threats most law enforcement and espionage agencies are ill-equipped to deal with. Got a terrorist cell operating in town? Call the FBI or NSA. If the cell is planning to unleash a airborne plague that disrupts a target’s higher brain functions and causes them to attack and devour their neighbors? The traditional authorities call 9.

While 9 works with various scientific discoveries, they aren’t interested in spending the majority of their resources working on small theoretical advances or mass market applications; they have various allies and associated institutions to do this. Instead, they spend most of their time dealing with dangerous genetic anomalies, covertly shutting down or acquiring intelligence on various secret weapons projects, and following up rumors of everything from alien abductions to secret Nazi strongholds in Antarctica. Much of what they investigate turns out to be bunk, but at any given time there are at least a dozen operations worldwide that involve very real, extremely dangerous, and often incredibly weird threats.

The average 9 field team is made up of a mix of combat specialists and scientists, which various technicians and administrative staff providing support. Solo operatives are also often employed, especially to monitor sensitive situations or unconfirmed threats. 9 has a decent reputation for working with other organizations, though they also have a deserved reputation for keeping secrets and trying to take control of joint operations. In many cases, discretion to seize data, technology samples, or even take custody of “special” individuals is part of 9’s arrangement with the organizations who hire them.

As noted in the Recruitment section, discretion is highly prized by 9 and its allies. They don’t silence or squash every advance or discovery, but they control the way and speed these things are revealed to the public. This is done to reduce panic, unrest, economic instability, and chaos, but it gives the agency a partially deserved rep for being obsessed with misinformation and secrecy. 9 is also largely apolitical, concerned more with general stability and safety. They’ve worked with everyone from the World Health Organization to the SAVAK (Iranian Secret Police) to investigate and contain supernormal threats and abominations of amoral experimentation. They don’t endorse the goals of most of their temporary allies, they simply are willing to work with whoever can help them accomplish their mission.


9 has impressive resources cultivated over decades of operation. In addition to their highly trained staff of scientists, engineers, and combat personnel, they have access to cutting edge technology and military-grade weaponry. They maintain facilities to house and contain dangerous weapons and individuals staffed by experts in security, medicine, and other areas. These facilities serve as operational centers, research labs, and containment facilities, allowing 9 staff to study and monitor contained threats in relative safety. Chief among these facilities is The Block, a secure network of seemingly innocuous warehouses in Virginia, but they maintain similar facilities in New York, New Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. Unless working in the most remote parts of the world, field teams needing scientific support or containment for a threat are usually less than eight hours from an appropriate facility.

9 is willing to supply operatives with highly experimental technology and resources if the need arises, though they never do so lightly. Any member of 9 can ask for and will usually receive additional training in various skills that could have useful applications on organizational operations, though they need to justify the need to their case agents and directors.

As a private entity, 9 has more financial resources and looser oversight than it did during its covert government days. Patents from acquired technology and research are a large part of this fortune, though consulting fees from various governments, corporations, and institutions pay for most operating costs. 9 rarely deals with threats they can simply throw money at, but they have very deep pockets if necessary.

The organizations mercenary and pragmatic approach to cooperation and field operations means they possess few true allies among various governments and other organizations, but a lot of clients, co-conspirators, contacts, and situational allegiances. If 9 wasn’t so uniquely suited to deal with the increasing number of strange threats popping up all over the world they’d probably have been destroyed by now, but they manage to survive and prosper. At least so far.

Why 9?

The common modern home of the traditional pulp or action hero is the techno-thriller. Work within this framework to explore the weird and save humanity from threats beyond normal comprehension. Gain the benefits of a covert government agency without the confines of a single national allegiance.

Character Concepts

Action Scientist, Military Operations Expert, Fringe Theorist, Ex-Government Agent, Expert Recruited from a Previous Operation, Solo Operations Specialist

Spies Not Like Us

While 9 shares some goals and a basic concept with other independent covert agencies such as Alert Status 1, they are definitely their own entity. Where a group like AS1 is a collection of spies and secret agents from around the world who form a type of secret superspy mega-organization, 9 is has a tighter command structure and more unified legacy springing from their origins as Branch 9. Both groups are secretive, but this secrecy manifests differently. AS1 is focused on cover identities and tried and true covert tactics while 9 hides its operatives and operations behind code names and an active corporate front. These differences allow not only both groups to excel at different things, but also gives each a unique feel in the setting.

Finally, while there was a time that 9, like AS1, focused on various worldwide threats regardless of origin, 9 now firmly sets their sights on strange, supernormal, and downright unbelievable threats to world security and stability. This focus has allowed them to become shadowy experts in a very unique field. Of course there’s often a lot of crossover with other espionage operations: when a dictator uses mutagenic retroviruses to turn his troops into a half-human super soldiers or a vengeful researcher programs a quantum supercomputer with the personalities of Francis Duvalier, Idi Amin, and Kim Jong-il. During the worse of such crises, 9 works with groups like AS1 as necessary, though there’s a lot of professional rivalry between operatives and administrators alike.

  17 comments for “Allegiance: 9 [Trinity Continuum]

  1. Firanai
    February 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    So, it’s basically shield, but if it were a private organization? I like it, best of all is that they have the right amount of pragmatism and mercenary mindset.
    One question, do they use “special” operatives? People with superpowers, mutants, psychics, supernatural creatures, aliens…etc?

    • Ian A. A. Watson
      February 4, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      It’s sort of like SHIELD, yes, but more like the SHIELD of Agents of SHIELD, particularly in Season 2 onward where they’re still mostly in search of weird stuff, but they’re no longer run by the World Security Council. The Directive of the Aberrant era is more of a traditional SHIELD like we see in the Marvel movies, where they’re government-operated and their raison d’etre is almost entirely focused on supers.

      The default setting presented in the TC core rulebook doesn’t have much in the way of supers or psychics or aliens (and supernatural creatures don’t exist, per se). However, it does have Talents: people with extraordinary skill or luck. Your James Bonds, Indiana Joneses, Alec Hardisons, and so on. They’re the primary protagonists of the TC core, and the ones for whom these Allegiances are intended.

      • Firanai
        February 4, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        Awesome! Thanks for your answer. I would have liked more than talents, but I understand you need the rest of the material for the other settings. I’m eager to see more. Keep doing a great job! 🙂

        • Ian A. A. Watson
          February 4, 2016 at 6:55 pm

          If you pick up Aeon or Aberrant, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from using those rules to play a psychic or nova member of 9 should you so choose. (:

      • Dataweaver
        February 4, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        I also find myself thinking of the Kingsmen when I read about this group — in essence, the Kingsmen strike me as being what 9 might have looked like if it had originated in Great Britain rather than the United States.

        • Firanai
          February 4, 2016 at 10:11 pm

          The kingsman always struck me as extremely elitist. They are aristocratic, old school, James Bond kind of spies. More like some secret order than a corporate, or government organization. I don’t see the similarities, but I think they could make a cool faction on their on.

  2. Atavist
    February 4, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    This is really cool.

  3. Henry No
    February 4, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    It was… okay, I guess. I don’t agree that the modern home for traditional pulp is the techno-thriller. Pulp is more outlandish than the techno-thriller genre.

    “9” needs to have a more nefarious edge to it. The “9” presented in this article is way too much of someone’s political ideal. There’s no such thing as “objectivity” in terms of a world view.

    • WuseMajor
      February 4, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      Honestly, as described they kinda scare me. Basically no oversight, no requirement to release data, a focus on keeping things quiet, and a willingness to work with anyone, all combines to make me very scared of what this group could do if they went rogue.

      So, I think that sinister edge is there if you want it, really.

  4. WuseMajor
    February 4, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Possibly this is just me being out of the loop, but is there any particular story reason that they keep the weird stuff quiet? I mean, Adventure might have been a bit on the low key side in some respects, but the newspapers tended to report on the weird stuff even then. And when super humans showed up, there wasn’t any real way to cover things up.

    So, I’m curious why this time period is focused on keeping the weird stuff secret, instead of creating a world where the weird is just kind of accepted as a part of life? I get that can make the setting easier to relate to for new people, but I was curious if you had other reasons for setting this up that way.

    • Ian A. A. Watson
      February 5, 2016 at 2:18 am

      Like many private entities, they’re more likely to get contracts if they have a reputation for discretion. If the people who hire them want to disclose things to the public, that’s up to them, but 9 won’t take that step.

      • WuseMajor
        February 8, 2016 at 2:30 am

        I was asking more about OOC reasons. I mean, the impression I got from this is that the average person on the street doesn’t know that Rage Virus Zombie Outbreaks are a thing that can even happen, let alone that there have been over three such outbreaks already.

        I’m curious about why this direction was chosen for the game, instead of making things more obvious to the general public.

  5. WuseMajor
    February 4, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    On a lighter note, reading through this made me imagine 9’s call center:

    “Thank you for calling 9. Press 1 if you are reporting a Zombie outbreak, Press 2 for…”


    “Press 1 for Nanobot Animated Corpses, Press 2 for Rage Plagues, Press 3 for Parasitic Organisms, Press 4 for Unknown.”


    “You have selected RAGE PLAGUE. Press 1 to go back or remain on the line to speak with our expert on RAGE PLAGUE.”

    • One Vorlon
      February 5, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      🙂 Love the image. 🙂

  6. Michael Stein
    February 4, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    So Spookhouse turned Tesladyne, makes sense.

    Reminds me of the bit in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth where you have to escort Hoover through the Innsmouth gold refinery and were faild if he died, from the time-paradox presumably.

    • One Vorlon
      February 5, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Reminds a LOT of Section 46, from the “World War Cthulhu” RPG

  7. Cardul
    February 7, 2016 at 2:45 am

    So..the default setting of the Trinity Continuum is modern day? There are going to be 4 settings: Adventure!, default, Aberrant, and Aeon? Default setting also needs an A name..beyond that..this should be interesting.

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