Singing Crystals

By Cyril Denoual

For the inspiration, thanks to Theodore Sturgeon ('The Dreaming Jewels')

Colour Designation: Green
Minimum SCL: 9
Training Package Recommended: scout / any
Consolidated Pay: 750c per Squad
Contact: M. Copper, department of Extraction
Coverage: Station Analysis
Summary: glass extraction team n°14 send by department of Extraction on the 074JK009 planet seem to have problems. They need a squad for surveying the river close to their extraction camp and going upstream. Any potential threat encountered must be neutralised. Squad expected at Spacioport for travel as soon as possible.

Singing Crystals

Phoning to M Copper will bring a few more details : 074JK009 planet is rich in different sorts of minerals and crystals, so a dozen of extraction teams have been send here (with these minerals, bulletproof glass can be manufactured for minimal cost). Team n°14 asked for a recognition of the river they are working on : their own scout team didn’t come back from the upstream recognition, and it make them nervous. No evident threat have been recorded yet : no population on this planet, no rival companies implications, no big predator among animals. Just a lot of big huge minerals ! More explanation could be expected when operatives will be at the extraction camp.

One short hop on a FoldShip later...

the extraction camp

To the GM : the concerned planet never received a name by SLA Industries ; it’s a desert place since the Conflict Wars. A dry hot sand & rock land, with very few plants or animals. No more civilisation. Messy implantation of big huge crystal blocks, knocked in the sandy/rocky ground. In fact, a lot of them, and specially close to the rivers. No building, no cities. Nothing except the mobile extraction camps, working along the main rivers to prospect rare crystals in water. And it such a place the squad with be brought by a shuttle after the fold travel : extraction base n° 14.

The base is made by a dozen of prefab buildings (kitchen, rooms, store, etc), hosting around twenty people : five of them are workers charged to rise/move/dismantle the camp and all the other are the extraction team. Most of them are large robust bronzed workers, used to extract sharp crystals from running water under a scorching hot sun. There is also the administrative staff, less large and robust, but still tanned. All are SLA employees, SCL 11.

Remember : it’s a dry hot place ; operatives with armours will have some problems for staying fresh (except the air-conditioned ones).

Who the operatives WILL meet here ?

Charles Dambridge, administrator of the whole team.
It’s a blond tall man about 40 years old : distant, resolute, incisive. He is the one who asked for the BPN because his recognition team vanished. It’s usual for an extraction workgroup to send his recognition team (six scouts) a little upstream to have a look on the place, before every migration. But this time (one week ago), nobody came back. Since this time, the extraction base have moved very slowly, very carefully. He would like to know, on one hand what happened to the recognition team, on the other hand if there is some threat upstream. He won’t precise what he’s thinking about, but if a psychology test is made, operative can guess that he’s quite nervous (even if he hide it well). He will provide the squad with the necessary supplies for this mission : tents, food and boats.

For the GM : Dambridge have noticed the hallucination phenomenon, but will hide this to operatives at any price. A few days ago, he met his previous girlfriend in the near mountain : he was quite surprised, ‘cause he have killed her 5 years ago, and if anybody could know that (he don’t know that Dunn have seen them together), he will have serious problems with SLA : she was an operative of comfortable SCL.

Helen Delabrosse, medic.
She’s a short smiling women around 35 years old, kind and conciliatory ; she’s in love with an extraction worker called Mike since a couple of days. She will have to talk to the operatives about the risks of the light on this planet. Even if they don’t risk serious sunburn, operatives MUST ALWAYS have special sunglasses on their eyes (she even have a xeno special model), or the light reflected in crystals will definitely burn their eyes. Sue give to each operative a set of such sunglasses plus a second one (if they lost theirs).

On top of that, what can ops can learn from her : Since one month, peoples seem to make a lot of dreams. Weird ones. Most of them related to memories with particular emotional intensity (she will reveal such a point only if she feel very in confidence with the asking operative). A few people experienced collective dreams too (at this point, she become very red : that by this way that she fall in love with Mike). The phenomenon seems to have stopped a few days before the recognition team vanished.

Castor Powell, equipment supplier.
This high thin guy will meet the squad when they will prepare their sailing trip; he is 30 years old, retiring but efficient. He will provide them with food (ten days alimentation for each of them), tents (2 people in each) and some canoes (two ops per boat) with all the necessary stuffs (oars, etc).He will also take care of their armours : with the temperature, most of the armour won’t be worn. On top of that, it really a bad idea to wear armour during a canoe trip : for the bigger ones, the boat sinks ; for the other, you sink when you fall from the boat. So, most of the ops should leave their armour here.

Who they COULD meet here, if they want to see more people ?

Dunn, extraction worker not-very-clever-but-bulky
Since a couple of days , he have seen 'strange things' near the extraction camp, when I walk around among the rocks like he love to do. At the beginning, he believed that he suffer some sort of hallucinations. But, after a few days, he understood that others had seen things to. Why operatives should talk to him instead of anybody else ? Because he is used to make long walk each evening, which bring him quite far away from the camp, and he have experienced more 'vision' than anybody else in the camp. To obtain some confidences, a good interpretation and a success in a Persuasion or Interview test would be necessary. - Actually, Dunn have met his parents in the mountains around but they are supposed to be on Mort. - He also have seen Dambridge meet a nice women, but not a member of the team ; Dambridge seemed not to believed what he saw, but anyway talking to her. They looked very familiar to each other, but there was a real tension between them. Dunn didn’t listen what they told 'Looked like sort of private stuff ' - Two days ago, when he came back from his promenade, he have seen two guys of the recognition team, sneaking around the camp. He didn’t succeed to talk to them. When he related that to Dambridge, he receive an order to not tell this to anybody. 'But it probably doesn’t apply for Ops' - Dunn can’t explain how he actually could meet Captain Contract here ! But he did, one night ! And he WASN’T drunk !!!

‘Cover’, the seventh scout
The recognition team was composed by seven individuals, but when there is an expedition, there is always one who stay at the camp. It’s why Cover is still here : he was the one who didn’t go this day because he was wounded at one leg ; sharp crystals! Initially he believed that all the other scouts were dead, but he have *seen* them a few days ago. Now, he is nervous : he’s persuaded that the others have found something weird ; he sometimes notice them, sneaking around the extraction camp. He never succeeded to talk to them, but they seems to be hostile. He didn’t talk of that to anybody for the moment (he don’t know that Dunn have also seen them), get getting more and more nervous !

‘Cover’ can also have some use :
- if the squad is composed by a uneven number of agents, they will need one more guy because you need to be two on each canoe. He will be ready to go with them. Human Operative profile of 'Karma', plus Sneaking, Rifle and Tracking skills at rank 6. He also have MAC knife and FEN AR (std bullets) instead of a Blitzer and a vid-cam. - if your players want to find strange that he was *precisely* wounded this day, and that he looks quite suspect, let them think such things ! If they don’t, you have to make them more paranoiacs !

‘Bug’ the Brainwaster
This is the only non-human of this little community. An ex-op who have been disgusted by the job and have left everything to be in this hard place. He don’t have a deathsuit, and is not able to manipulate flux anymore. But he can still sense it !Why (ebb-related) operatives should talk to him ? He can speak about flux on this planet, and specially the relation between flux and huge crystals knocked in the ground.

'Each bloody evening at the f***g sunset, you can hear crystals crying Sounds cool ! These huge crystals are not just minerals. They are channelling flux, man. All the f***g time ! But sometime, there is so much flux that suffer the Hell and they cry together. Piss’ me off, all this f***g flux isn’t for me !'

how to go upstream when you’re an operative ?

Let’s deal with trip preparation and sailing conditions, all the things which happen independently of the main plot (detailed later).

Canoeing : efforts the whole day under burning sun. It means sunburns (except for Stormers), painful arms after a few days for STR 6 and less, bloody mess for the aquaphobiacs, multiple wrecks with risk of losing stuff … especially small ones (drugs vials, ammo). The bottom of the river is full of sharp cutting crystals (DG 3, AD1), and they let flakes in wounds (it’s painful, especially for stormer who regenerate and let them inside). Of course, river is not deep and you can’t swim without be wounded by this sharp crystals. Walking in the river would be VERY painful after twenty meters. Two guys per ship : one for direction and the other for propulsion (DEX and STR ?).

Protect eyes : after each couple of hours without the special sunglasses, operative gain 1 more level of bad vision disadvantage (cumulative). Beyond the tenth level, he’s blind. Buying new eyes at Karma is a good solution, but can’t be done before returning on Mort and having the creds !

Evening camp : even a kick murder chagrin can do canoeing 24 hours a day. So, operatives will have to rest sometime, on the riverside. Lot of crystals everywhere, shape ones, nice ones, etc. Beautiful nights, starlight reflected by big crystals.

You can develop as you want this aspect of the story : it would be better that operatives start to feel themselves in holidays, contrast with following events will be harder ! It would be better that player have a lot of fun now, it will be easier to horrify them after. In the same idea, feel free to choose how long will be the travel : 3 days or 12. The only important thing is that, when going upstream, they will have 2 different phases before arriving at the source of the river : the forgotten temple.

GM notes : crystals making matter from thoughts

A bit of history - This world was not always so desert than it actually is. Despite their messy implantation, huge crystals knocked in the ground are not natural minerals but built structure in a specific pattern, integrating a river (from the centre to a side). Each pattern is made for collect energy (flux) for his central temple, once a day : at this moment, the crystal’s vibration made them singing. The closest to the centre you stand, the easiest is it to hear crystal singing.

The civilisation who was here a long time ago was able, with this pattern, to materialise their thoughts or memories. Flux is though, energy and matter, and the pattern around the temple is made to allow the ones to become the others. Nobody knows why this civilisation built such a mechanisms, but it’s highly probable that it was what brought them to self-destruction ! Maybe eaten by their own dreams. But the patterns are still here, functional

The creating process - Anybody who stand in the temple can materialise what he’s thinking about. The creating process must be deliberate, but an involuntary creation is still possible (as detailed in the next paragraph). The most emotional link he has with his subject, the easiest it is : CONC test of 21, with a lot of penalties for non emotional creations or big creations. (Size is important, not like with the Force !) Such creations are stable and can subsist as they were real in fact, they ARE real now ! Thought became matter !

Around the temple, concentric circular zones rule the process secondary effects

In the closest zone around the temple, there is also a creating process, but a involuntary one : it’s not possible to create deliberately, but it can happen by accidental way, from strong memories or thought born under powerful feelings. What have been create out of the temple can just subsist during a few hours before vanish : it’s not a stable creation. That’s in this zone than the recognition team was killed by his own phantasms.

The next circular zone, largest than the previous one, has too low flux concentration to allow creation, but people present in this zone involuntary generate hallucinations : immaterial creations which can be seen and heard, but not touched (they are not perceived by non visual mechanisms : video, motion scanner, etc) : Dunn’s absent parents or Captain Contract (he’s definitely a fan!). Creations will still act as if they were real. It’s why Dambridge’s girlfriend was able to talk to him and to reproach him her own murder. The extraction camp arrived in this sector just before the recognition team vanished.

At least, in the largest area of the pattern, nothing can be create except pure though, exactly by the same way than the material creation process : created though are born from powerful emotions, as a secret love (Mike and Helen). That the strange dreams that Helen maybe told the squad about.

phase 1 : the first days

The main plot will be hidden by the ‘holiday sensations’ and the navigation problems. All is quiet for operatives.

For ebon/BW - Their flux recuperation (non applicable at the deathsuit) is strangely faster than usual (x2) ; each evening, at the sunset, they can hear a sort of “song' : all the huge crystals vibrating at the same time on an harmonious and beautiful complain, crystals are singing for 5-6 minutes. At this moment, each ebon/BW recover all his flux points.

A few hallucinations - Operatives will experiment themselves their first hallucinations. When they are alone, they start seeing people or things who are not supposed to be here. Always emotional trigger : you’ll have to use character’s background and advantages/disadvantages (family in charge, major friend, major enemy)

Who will they see:
- people that they left on Mort and who count for them : especially parents, children, brothers & sisters, lovers, husband or wife. All this people will communicate with the concerned op, saying that the op miss them, etc.
- dead people that had a strong relationship with the operative : lost girlfriend, killed vicious enemy, etc. What they will say to him depends of their relationship before the death occur.
- things that scare them a lot : have a look on the character sheet and spot all the phobia which are beyond rank 4. For example, one of my player have seen here Hallowe’en Jack.

Reactions of the Vision - The person / thing won’t materialised under the eye of the witnesses : he will arrive as normal as possible. He will very often speak to people who are here (not just the one who ‘invoke’ him) and react as normally as possible. Discussions will more turn around emotions and relationships than around facts. They don’t seem to realised to be off planet, or they don’t care. They are fantasies that everybody can see.

Operatives - They will guess that this things are just hallucinations, as they will easily guess that they are the source of these pictures. Their question will be : how this happens ?

phase 2 : 'it’s becoming tricky'

For this part of the scenario, the GM should have prepared some NPC directly coming from previous game sessions or PC’s background. The ‘holiday sensations’ will start to vanish now, just being complication (on top of navigation conditions) in case of danger. The hallucinations have been experienced, and don’t scare the squad anymore ! But now, they are about to discover things which WILL scare them (remember to use fear rules).

For ebon/BW - Their flux recuperation is still faster than usual (still non applicable at the deathsuit), but more (x3) ; at the sunset, they still hear crystals singing, but everybody can hear that now ! Intensity have grown.

The rest of the recognition team - One day, the canoes of the squad will arrive near an old bivouac, with three tents and three ship on the river side : materials of the recognition team. Bivouac is desert, 2 tents are damaged : on the fist watch, one is seriously ripped, and one other was shot by bullets. In this last one, two scout corpses can be found, killed during their sleep. With a forensic test, an operative can recognise 11.35mm. But bullets are missing : they are not in (neither behind) corpses anymore ! In the ripped tent, one more scout corpse can be found. This one was seriously slashed : one strike was sufficient.

After having checked the whole site, operative can guess that the six scout suffered an assault by a heavily armed adversary. Three of them have been killed here, and the three others are still missing (their weapons are missing) : the fight had probably moved on an other place, after the assault on the camp.

For the GM : operatives can’t know that one of the scouts have fight, long time ago, against a ex-war criminal vet from Dante and that he materialised him involuntary during his sleep

One other body can be find in the rocky hills around, at 3-4 minutes walk from the camp : he is dead and still have an horrific expression on his face (he met the subject of his personal phobia). The two last can be found a little further, but in another direction, on a place which still have marks of the battle which happened here. Both of them killed in combat, blood everywhere

At this point, the squad could be tempted to go back and report what they have seen to Dambridge. They should keep in mind that they didn’t find what exactly happened to the scout, who killed them and where is the killer : BPN is not fulfilled yet !

Hallucinations become more real ! But the operative will suffer from the same phenomenon than the squad team : during night, apparitions start. They are always linked to strong emotional feeling for his involuntary ‘creator’ : girlfriend will appear and will be totally real for one night, etc. The worst enemies of the squad will start to get materialised too, especially if they think 'oops, we must take care NOT TO think at THIS one ' A little scare sensation on top of that, and bingo ! He’s here, stalking somewhere around.

Feel free to have fun will all old monsters they succeeded to kill : serial killers, manchines, props, Thresher agents in SARGE, dark night interceptors, (even doobries if you want) renegades Ops, etc. For example, some of the Dark Night veterans of the Key of Delhyread could have their place here Or the Necanthrope of the synopsis in the Game Master Pack. It will be your 'pool' of lethal enemies for the end of the adventure, but keep the worst of them for the end of the trip, when they will be materialised even during awake hours

Remember your player to keep the score of their bullets (they necessary have a limited quantity), drugs, etc

at the end of the line

After a sufficient distance of canoeing (and probably serious fight on water 'without any armour' against dangerous enemies with guns), they will arrive at the source of the river : a big building looking like a temple, made of pure crystal and reflecting light and flux with incredible intensity. From an open gate on each of its four sides, 10 meters up from the ground, a waterfall that become a river (cooling system of the whole mechanism, nothing more ) These gates are the only access to the inside of the building. Climbing time

It’s obvious that this thing is unnatural and was built by somebody. It will become evident that all the huge crystals knocked in the ground that they have seen since a couple of day, being same sort of crystal than the ones who make the temple, COULD also have been manufactured. Any ebon/BW will guess there is something weird right here ! So, let’s have a look !

Inside the temple, crystals are not sharp anymore (unlike the wild ones) ; all the rooms and the corridor are made of the same type of stone, shining in the most harmonious way. It’s a place of incredible beauty, where everybody can hear crystals singing at each hour of the day.

However one first problem : ebon/BW feel all their flux going out of them (deathsuit still keep its own). That could help them to understand that the temple is channelling all the flux it can ! And probably stock it somewhere !!!

For the moment, they don’t know that’s at the central point of the temple, in a crystal armchair at twenty feet from the ground (stairs to access to it) : it’s at this place than those who built all this pattern were sat for creating something (they didn’t guess that it was possible to create anywhere in the temple) definitely.

And, the second problem : there is somebody else here

the enemy that you brought with you

Now, you will need a very special NPC. A clever (high CONC) and powerful one, coming directly from the memories of your PC. If you don’t have one, use the following one : ‘Surgeon’.

Optional enemy : ‘Surgeon’.

‘Surgeon’ is a serial killer than your PC have ‘neutralised’ a couple of weeks ago. It was a very kind doctor, suffering sort of 'M. Hyde syndrome' and becoming nightly an incredibly cruel killer, slaughter especially kids (because it’s funny) and operatives (because it’s sport !). Himself ex-operative, he had followed medical package AND kick murder.

After an serious investigation, your operatives succeeded to guess who was ‘Surgeon’ and came at his place to ‘neutralise’ him. All of you have seen ‘The Silence of the Lamb’, no more explanations needed ! GM note : the best is to have run this white BPN a couple of game sessions before this crystal adventure (or just before), but that the player know him before starting this story. The best would be that one of them was seriously wounded by ‘Surgeon’ : it would make the necessary 'emotional tide' for his resurgence.

Anyway Last night, one of the operative (the one seriously wounded by ‘Surgeon’ during the white BPN) dreamt of him and created him. The problem is that the squad was too close of the temple, and the new ‘Surgeon’ is a permanent creation.

‘Surgeon’ : for attributes, skill and equipment, compose a crossing between kick murder operative and serial killer from Karma sourcebook. High CONC and DIA, some medical skills. In this temple, he must have the best equipment he could imagine !

What this major enemy make here

Walking randomly and wondering what the Hell is doing here, so far of downtown, ‘Surgeon’ involuntary experienced the creation process, and found the temple. After a few hours of exploration and deep thought, he guessed what this place allow him to do ; but, exactly like the builder of the temple, he believe that he must be on the crystal armchair. So he created a few minions (Dark Night espionage agents) for testing. Seeing his success, he is now thinking at what he can do with this : he can become the master of this planet, and maybe even of the whole World of Progress ! Can he build necanthropes ? Armed foldship ?? Kilnecks ???

But, at this point, he hears voices approaching : operatives are coming, unknowing that terrible enemy they have create here ! Probably that when they will see him, they will guess !!!

Climax : mass destruction !

So, what do we have for the climax - Setting : a wonderful temple of crystal, with no way out except open gates with river falling down on 10 meters. Remember that this planet is a sunny place, and even with the sunglasses, this place is incredibly shining. And it’s a sort of labyrinth-place, with very large rooms (long range weapons will be happy) and multiple tricky reflects (long range weapon will be easily tricked).

The Heroes : squad of operatives without any armour, with not no much ammo and drugs, who are just discovering the threat who hide inside the temple.

The villains : a crazy evil doctor, able to create anything from his simple thoughts ; his only limits are that process tired him. So, the squad will have lot of horrific adversaries for this climax, most of them directly born from the mad mind of the doctor, the other from memories. Don’t hesitate to be “lovecraftian' here … But one thing is sure : ‘Surgeon’ can create more monsters than operatives can kill.

Secret advantage of the heroes : if they have understood the creating process, they can also produce things for themselves : armour, ammo, drugs, even reinforcements with missing colleague or other powerful friends. Will they create a second Intruder here ???

Secret weakness of the villains : ‘Surgeon’ is not aware of the problem caused by light on this planet. He remarked that light was blinding, so he created sunglasses for himself and his allies (the Darknight agents he first created, and the following ones), but they are normal sunglasses, unable to completely well protect eyes. So, him and his allies become more and more blind : after each thirty minutes passed in the temple without special sunglasses, ‘Surgeon’ and his allies gain 1 more cumulative level of bad vision disadvantage.

Remember that ‘Surgeon’ is just an optional adversary for this scenario : if you have / had worst in your own campaign, don’t hesitate to use him/her !!!

Anyway, as it was told before ‘Surgeon’ can create more monsters than operatives can kill.

So, what is the solution for the squad : destruction of huge crystals on the ground, because it triggers destruction of what was made from this crystal. So, if the temple is destroyed, all the ‘permanent creations’ made here will vanished as they had never exist : ‘Surgeon’, Dinos, monsters, etc Even incredible armours that the operatives may have created for themselves (oooh, tooo bad, really !)

How can they guess this solution :
during a firefight, a lost shot can destroy a single crystal in the temple and at this precise moment, an adversary vanished. If they guess well, they will have the solution !!!

How can they realise their project :
There is several way. Let’s talk about two of them :
1st way : Bombers !!! Creating a huge amount of explosive matter, place it at the appropriate place (test the skill) and blast the whole place but they will have to flee from here before the detonation ! Indiana Jones sequences ???
2nd way : the crystals vibrating accordance. They know that the crystal are placed to send waves between them, as when they sing in the evening. If they succeed to make one vibrate until destruction, this vibration will be propagated to all the crystals of the present pattern ! It’s less dangerous for them than the previous way, but will need a few of physical knowledge to know how to produce such a vibration.

Dozen of other methods can be fond, but all of them will imply destruction of the temple and of the things they have created recently.

return to Mort : the debriefing & campaign ideas

After that, they have to go back to the extraction camp : going downstream.

Now, a lot of thing will depend of their briefing to Dambridge in the first time, and to Department of Extraction, when they will be back to Mort.

If they talk about the creating process, be sure that Cloak Division, Karma, and all other ‘sensible’ department of SLA Industries will be well interested (for themselves !!!)

More BPN for them ?