The Estate is a division of COGITO composed of mortal members who, for some reason or another, have come to experience death first hand and have retained some understanding of the true nature of reality. Their overall purpose is to police the activities of earthbound spirits, while keeping the reality of life and death from being exposed to the world. Primarily, they investigate cases of supernatural phenomenon such as hauntings and the occult, but they have been known to interact with angels and other non-native spirits on behalf of COGITO. Typically, this is done very rarely and only with low ranking beings of this nature. When it comes to the higher ranking members of the hosts of Heaven and Hell, COGITO prefers to deal with things directly, rather than endangering what it sees to be its mortal charges.
The Estate was developed around the turn of the 19th century, although precisely at what point it came to be is unknown by its members. The original Estate was based in Paris, France, but since that time, 31 other branches have been established across the world in major metropolitan areas.
An Estate branch can be found in the following locations:
- Atlanta, Georgia (Unit 11)
- Washington DC (Unit 10)
- Manhattan, New York (Unit 17)
- Brooklyn, New York (Unit 9)
- Chicago, Illinois (Unit 18)
- Seattle, Washington (Unit 22)
- Toronto, Ontario (Unit 19)
- Mexico City, Mexico (Unit 26)
- Tijuana, Mexico (Unit 23)
- Los Angeles, California (Unit 12)
- Dallas, Texas (Unit 30)
- London, England (Unit 3)
- Cardiff, Wales (Unit 14)
- Bath, England (Unit 8)
- Paris, France (Unit 1)
- Marseille, France (Unit 2)
- Prague, Czechoslovakia (Unit 4)
- Moscow, Russia (Unit 6)
- Madrid, Spain (Unit 5)
- Berlin, Germany (Unit 7)
- Warsaw, Poland (Unit 20)
- Vatican City (Unit 28)
- Tokyo, Japan (Unit 13)
- Hong Kong, China (Unit 15)
- Beijing, China (Unit 29)
- Seoul, Korea (Unit 21)
- Singapore, Singapore (Unit 32)
- Cairo, Egypt (Unit 24)
- Casablanca, Morocco (Unit 31)
- Algiers, Algeria (Unit 27)
- Johannesburg, South Africa (Unit 25)
- Sydney, Australia (Unit 16)
Each branch operates independently of each other, but they are cordial and cooperative when circumstances cause them to meet up. Each branch is fairly self-governing, only loosely being directed by COGITO and using their own judgment to determine their course of actions.
Each branch has at least one member capable of receiving visions or some form of indirect communication from the upper echelons of COGITO, and each branch is assigned several guardian spirits who work as contacts and counsel for the group. While members of the group can count on their guardians to provide them with direction and supernatural aid, they do not see them as an actual member of the team- although they may be very friendly towards that individual.
Each branch has its own philosophy and standards. Older branches, such as the Paris and Prague branches, are a little more severe in their dealings, but are generally better equipped. Newer branches, such as the most recent branch in Singapore (established in the year 2003) tend to take on smaller cases and are more or less permissive of ghostly activity so long as it doesn’t expose any esoteric truths or cause anyone harm. The most atypical of all the branches is the branch in Vatican City. Although the Vatican has always had interactions with the spiritual realm, both knowing and unknowing, it took many years for individuals within the city to become open enough to permit a non-Heavenly authority to establish itself on its grounds. Even with this compromise, the Papacy controls much of what the branch can and cannot do, and many Estate members worldwide consider their Vatican brethren to be little more than earthbound gophers wearing Estate uniforms.
Members of the Estate typically do not have other professions outside their duties. Individuals within COGITO have a complex series of indirect manipulations in place that allow them to control a large sum of financial resources without violating the laws of the dead, and much of this funding is provided to the various branches of the Estate. Out of this sum, members receive a monthly salary that provides them with enough to live comfortably and support themselves. They do not, however, provide hazard pay.
However, just because members of the Estate do not typically work a normal nine to five does not mean they do not have lives outside their work. Many have families and friends, and pursue other hobbies, although they are always aware that they must maintain a barrier between their true selves and their personal lives in order to preserve the innocence of those close to them. Many of them also have varied backgrounds from before their near death experiences, which allow any given branch to fulfill a number of roles.
Members of the Estate receive certain benefits. So long as an Estate member does not violate the organization’s policies, the group will exercise its clandestine connections in law enforcement and military to grant its members certain allowances and privileges beyond normal citizens. Although they are not immune to the law, things are often overlooked if the laws of the cities they are acting in occasionally are violated in the line of duty. However, major violation compromises the discretion so carefully maintained by COGITO, and as such, any member intentionally causing a major violation of mortal law is usually suspended or otherwise disciplined.
All members also receive a standard equipment package containing a permit to carry a concealed weapon, a magazine of Taps to be replenished once a month, and a ring called a Willbender that allows them to act against denizens of the spiritual world without being arbitrarily taxed by Dark Will. They are still susceptible to Dark Will, but do not gather it as a human or ghost would for interfering with affairs beyond their own world. Because of this, it is imperative that an Estate operative wear this ring at all times. The rings also have other functions, although many of these remain latent and undeclared until activated by an agent of COGITO.
In order to join the Estate, an individual must first be approached by a member of COGITO, typically the spirit serving as a guardian for the nearest Estate branch. Typically, members are conscripted from those that have had profound near death experiences, but on occasion a member with other talents will be recruited. These exceptions are made almost uniformly for those that are skilled with the occult arts. When this does happen, it is done so that the Estate can not only make use of that individual’s talent, but so that they can keep a careful eye on the occultist and make certain they do not allow their curiosity to take them into realms in which they have no business.
If a member wishes to leave the Estate, it is as simple as resigning. A member must revoke his Willbender and all associated organization property, but no ill will is held towards those that feel they cannot choose to give up all hope of a normal life. However, when an individual becomes involved in the Estate, they learn things no mortal should ordinarily learn, and they make enemies far more threatening than any mere human. Quitting the group runs a significant risk, and when most members entertain the notion of going back to their old lives, this fact typically causes them to reconsider.