Vanguard: The Vigil
VASCU is unique because its agents are unique. They were chosen on the basis of their scores on certain esoteric tests designed to assess their psionic abilities, not on the basis of their performance as FBI agents. The tests are administered as part of the screening program, and then on a recurring basis throughout the agent’s career, but they are disguised as part of the routine polygraph tests that FBI agents get to receive and maintain their security clearances. It’s fairly easy to screen people for psionic potential without folks catching on as long as you already have psychics working for you.
This allows the agency to make certain exceptions for psychically gifted people who otherwise wouldn’t make the cut as FBI agents, and allows the show to have an improbably broad and interesting cast of characters. There’s nothing wrong with playing a conventional FBI agent, meeting the high standards of the agency, but it’s not the only option here. Maybe your PC was washed out in training. Maybe they made an exception for something that would ordinarily be completely disqualifying, like a criminal record. Maybe they even went so far as to actively recruit someone that had no interest in becoming an FBI agent on the basis of powerful psychic abilities, and even blackmailed them into joining the unit. The unit’s true nature is classified top secret with the code name “ECHO BLUE”, and revealing that nature will put the PCs in very deep shit, of the “lengthy prison term or death penalty for violating the Espionage Act” variety.
Now, the primary target of VASCU is serial and mass murderers, and they’re a much more significant problem in the World of Darkness (and in TV Land) than they are in the contemporary, real-world United States. There are more of them every year, and local law enforcement and even the FBI were finding themselves increasingly unable to cope using conventional methods. In the murky mists of the past, or at least the 1970s, VASCU was created, but none of your characters were around back then, and most of the early history of the unit and its founders is classified beyond even what current VASCU agents are authorized to know about. Using agents with paranormal abilities allowed the Unit to keep pace amazingly well and score up a string of spectacular early successes, and its record of results continues to this day. Of course, many of the subjects of VASCU’s investigations have abilities similar to those of its agents, or worse, and those successes need to be classified ECHO BLUE just like the nature of its agent’s abilities. This leads most people in the law enforcement community to believe that VASCU is much less effective than it really is. When you add to that the fact that many of its agents couldn’t make it through ordinary training, and most people in FBI think the unit is a joke, a place screw-ups are exiled to. Most gloss over the fact that excellent, experienced agents and extremely talented rookies are also shunted into the unit from time to time to the vagaries of politics.
VASCU’s special status and its string of very secret victories has been enough to keep it funded for four decades, but it’s always been on a pretty tight budget, and things have only gotten worse. Even the World of Darkness’ plentiful serial killers have been pushed off the front page in recent years by terrorism, drug trafficking and gaudy white-collar crimes, and VASCU contributes little to battling any of those. There are rumors that the Unit may be dissolved entirely, and even if it isn’t, there just isn’t that much money to go around. Agents may find themselves driving long distances or taking buses to save on airfare, while staying at the dingiest of motels. The Unit can use the FBI’s excellent forensics lab for many things, but some of its cases are too sensitive for that, but its own lab facilities are horribly limited by comparison. VASCU agents can often impress local cops and civilians, but they don’t command much respect from their peers.
Given its mission, and the unique talents possessed by its agents, VASCU has inevitably encountered threats that are, themselves, paranormal. The most frequently encountered examples, and the only ones that are documented in ECHO BLUE clearance files, are those where suspects (usually, but not always, serial killers) have psionic abilities similar to those of VASCU agents. Though the subjects of VASCU investigations often describe their abilities in terms of the occult, and use ritual trappings associated with various magical and religious traditions, the ECHO BLUE files invariably describe them in the (pseudo-)scientific jargon of ESP and psionics. Junior agents may hear similar passing references to “cryptids” or “ultraterrestrials”, but none of these appear in any ECHO BLUE file. There are other, more restricted, codewords used for VASCU files, including RUST FETISH, DOGWALKER and ANGULAR.