HOP/E & PREY
By Matt Rose
Colour Designation: Jade
Minimum SCL: 8
Training Package Recommended: Any
Consolidated Pay: 600c per Squad
Contact: Opal, Dept. of Ebb
Coverage: Station Analysis
Summary: Squad required to deploy and safeguard experimental device during city-wide test. Transport provided, no lone Ops.
This Jade BPN will have your squad deploying some experimental Dark Lament technology as part of a Mort-wide field test. This will be both less glamourous and more dangerous than it sounds. It will culminate in a Carrien Apocalypse type scenario just inside CS 2.
Taking the BPN:
Dark Lament are using tried and tested means of recruiting Operatives for this mission. The BPN will be offered through a respectable financier, or direct from the Department if the squad have performed well for DL in the past. Absolutely no details will be offered before the squad has signed on the dotted line, other than the fact it is a Jade, and vague mentions of field testing a new experimental Science-Friction device. This should be enough to secure their interest, though.
Once the squad are signed up (and legally responsible for the completion of the BPN) they will be asked to attend a briefing at the DL building. This will be held deeeep underground in a heavily shielded room which, judging by the copious brochures and flyers lying around, is owned by the Damascus Production Initiative.
Damascus Production Initiative (DPI):
DPI are a Dark Lament subsidiary, chiefly acting as a Science Friction R&D. This is all that any of the players should know about the company. The brochures are filled with details of DPI's latest minute modification of the Death Suit cowl, or a slight variant of the vector box, that kind of thing. After the Ops have browsed for a while a female Ebon clad in a crystalline-appearing Death Suit will enter, introduce herself as Opal, and begin the briefing.
The squad will finally be given the BPN card:
Opal will also explain the following points:
- This field test is part of DPI's largest and most ambitious project to date; the Higher Order Pattern/Ebb project. (HOP/E)
- HOP/E is classified, strongly. Most elements are under Section D of the Data Protection Act. Some element contain more than one D-Notice. The squad should not make enquiries into the project through other channels, for their own protection, of course :) All she can tell them is that the project is attempting to order the latent flux of the populace through large scale symmetries and the artificial induction of 'stress points'.
- As part of the project, a number of HOP/E devices are being set up around the whole city. Their exact spacing with relation to each other is vital for the success of the experiment, your squad are to position Device 13. (Superstitious?) It is to be taken to DT609, the ass-end of Downtown, roughly near Cannibal Sector 2.
- Absolutely NO use of ebb powers are permitted within 25m of the HOP/E device. Such usage could prove harmful to both the device and the ebb user.
- No unauthorized personnel are to approach the device. Documentation will be provided allowing the Ops to restrict access to all. Dark Lament also authorize the use of deadly force against individuals who refuse to abide by the documentation.
- The HOP/E device is stable, and will be safe to touch at all stages. However, tests have suggested that Biogenetic lifeforms may experience mild discomfort when in close proximity to the device.
- Where possible, the device is to remain unseen by the public. A small truck is provided (without driver) for transporting the device. All travel costs will be met. A large dome tent is also provided, to cover the device when it has been set up.
- The experiment will have three phases. Phase one will be initiation. During this phase all devices will be brought online, and using ebb-telemetry the exact position for each device will be determined. At this point, the Ops may need to reposition their device. It is estimated that this should take about 2 hours.
- Phase two will consist of slowly powering up each device. This will be done over the course of three hours.
- Phase three will see the HOP/E project come to fruition. All devices will intercommunicate. Phase three will last for approximately 10 minutes, although if early signs are encouraging this could be extended.
- At all stages the squad will be supervised remotely by DPI control, who will give them the relevant coordinates and instruct them when to initiate each phase. This can only be done by an ebb user wearing a Death Suit. Opal will show the ebb user three glyphs, which they will find on the device, one for each phase. All the ebb user needs to do is to touch the relevant glyph. The HOP/E device will drain a small amount of flux from the suit each time. (2 points in game terms.)
- At the end of the test the Ops will be responsible for the return of the HOP/E device to the Dark Lament building, again, travel expenses paid.
The last thing Opal will tell the squad is that any failure on their part to ensure the smooth running of the experiment will be penalised, in both SCL and fines, excessively. After this the squad will be sent to one of the DL Vehicle bays to collect HOP/E device 13.
The Drive Out:
The truck that the Ops will be caring for during this BPN is medium sized, with a storage container at the back, heavily armoured, to be remotely unlocked by DPI at the destination, and a forward passenger compartment, lightly armoured, capable of holding 6 people with kit. The vehicle is effectively unmarked, although fully road legal. The route to DT609 has already been entered into the dash oyster.
The drive will be uneventful. They will proceed from the DL building to the nearest Gauss Station. There they will enter a drive-on Gausstrain, and be flung across the length of the city. At this point you should try and instill some misapprehension in the team. After all, they haven't actually seen the HOP/E device yet. At all. Ebb users will feel nothing untoward, but humans, Wraiths and Shaktars will feel hairs stand on the back of their neck every so often, while biogenetic squad members with sharp hearing or high detect will keep hearing things from the back. Things no-one else ever catches. Things like scratching at the partition separating the two compartments...
On arriving in DT609 the squad can drive off the Gausstrain and onto the flyways of the Mort Transport Network. At this point DPI Control will contact them on the secure channel of their headset communicators. They will be instructed to proceed to Almayer's Walk, where Phase one will begin shortly. DT609 is, unsurprisingly, an unsightly run-down misery-hole of an environment. Unemployment here is creeping into the nineties, the homicide statistics are as high as they come. The perimeter keeping the horrors of Cannibal Sector 2 away is never quite effective enough.
Almayer's Walk used to be a commercial area, but the last shops were forced out of business here years ago. Now the only people shuffling through the rain past all the boarded up windows are just passing through, or have nowhere else to go. The walk consists of an open square surrounded by derelict shops, and the only people to be seen will be a large group of teen-gangers, who'll slink off elsewhere when the realise a bunch of SLOPs have arrived.
DPI Control will tell the squad to erect the dome in the centre of the walk. The dome is idiot proof, about 7m diameter, and snaps itself upright and just needs riveting down. (Rivet gun/remover supplied.) It has a large door which can accommodate the back end of the truck, allowing the device to be unpacked unseen. After they have done this, DPI Control will unlock the container and grant them access to the device.
HOP/E Device 13:
When the back of the truck is opened, the Ops will be able to see the device from behind. It looks like a very large armchair or throne, the back of which would come about a foot above the head of anyone sitting in it. It is made of Science-Friction material, and consequently has the geigeresque/skinned animal look. It is also encrusted with dull-looking crystals. On the floor of the truck beside it are two poles. These can be slid through rings on the side of the device to carry it like a palanquin. Some of the squad will have to clamber into the truck with the device to lift it out. It is they who will discover that there IS a figure sitting in the throne. It appears to be a Deathsuit without an occupant. It is painfully emaciated, with the eyes and cheeks being greatly sunken. When they get it inside the dome they'll be able to inspect it more closely.
The figure in the chair is short and very thin, almost childlike. The Death Suit is completely deployed, including cowl and gloves, so there is no space where skin would be showing. If they examine it very closely they'll notice the following things:
- The eyes and mouth of the suit appear to have been sewn shut with ludicrously fine strands of Science-Friction material.
- The arms and legs of the figure are held in place by hundreds of loops of the same thread.
- There is a slight gash in the left foot of the figure, where a seam in the suit has apparently split. It contains densely packed hair, most of it mahogany brown in colour. If they remove some of this hair, more seems to lie beneath.
To non ebbusers the HOP/E device seems a little creepy, but looks much like every Science-Friction device they've ever seen. To ebbusers the device looks distinctly jury-rigged, especially in the placement of the crystals. They would guess that it has been reconfigured many, many times. Of course, the ebbusers won't be using their detect to check the figure out, but if they do, at this stage they get no reading at all. Ebbusers will also quickly find the three glyphs shown to them in the briefing, and on a successful formulae role -4 will find a fourth glyph which apparently acts as an emergency shut off. If they mention this glyph to DPI Control, they will be told explicitly that they are NOT to activate that glyph, whatever happens. (If they do, they'll receive nothing for the BPN, be fined 5000C per squad, dropped 3.0 of SCL and gain Major Enemy, Rank 6: DPI.
Note: Before phase one begins, all uses of flux within 25m require a Conc role at -2 to succeed. Flux seems to behave sluggishly in the area.
Assuming the Ops picked up the BPN in the morning, they've travelled all day and its just starting to get dark when they unpack the device. DPI Control will keep them waiting a few hours before any further development. During this time, run a few curious civilians by the dome. Groups of Downtowners dressed in their glad-rags, stumbling between bars, wander over and want to know what's going on. The Ops will have no real problem keeping them away, and shouldn't have to shoot anyone. This is your chance to plague them with nightmare NPCs though. Diseased alcoholics. Intoxicated slappers (of both genders.) Puking teenagers. That kind of thing.
About twenty minutes after midnight DPI Control will alert the group. They will then count the ebbuser back from 10, they will touch the glyph at zero. When their Death Suit touches the symbol 2 points of flux will drain, quickly, naturally, into the HOP/E device. There will be an almost inaudible stiffening sound from the fabric of the device, and the crystals will start to emit a very dull purple glow, the colour of severe bruising. If they mess up the activation of the device at all, they'll receive a tongue lashing from DPI Control and their fee and SCL raise will be halved.
Once phase one has begun ebbusers will feel a difference in the flux around them. All use requires a Conc roll at -4. There will be no further developments for several hours. You should keep track of how much sleep each Op is getting, if they decide to sleep that is. During this time alert biogenetics near the device may catch the occasional twitch from the figure, or think they hear air being forced quietly through the lips...
At about half three in the morning DPI Control will inform the squad that device 13 must be moved 2.7 km toward .... the cannibal sector wall. They'll have to pack the device back into the truck and collapse the dome. When they lift it, it seems distinctly heavier than when they unpacked it. The drive is no problem, and the new location turns out to be within sight of the wall, in a residential area. Here they will be plagued by grubby kids. ("Isn't it a little late for you to be out here?") The kids will desperately want to see inside the dome, and if the Ops aren't careful they'll worm their way under a wall, or cut their way in. Any Ops with Psychosis/Sociopathy may well be tempted to blow these little toerags away. This will incur hassle from the local Monarchs, who'll be able to do nothing in the face of DPI's paperwork, and may get shot themselves. At about half four, DPI Control will radio in and get them to move it again.
The new spot lies in the 200m fire zone between where the tower blocks end and the wall starts. This area is kept clear of obstruction, except for the numerous Shiver APCs and Supply vehicles. When the dome is erected here some Shivers will make enquiries, and demand that a report is given to Lt. Shaefhur, the Officer in charge of this section of the perimeter. Compliance is optional, but it will piss the Shivers off if the Ops have no respect.
At six in the morning, DPI control will get them to move HOP/E device 13 yet again. This time it needs to move 172m towards CS 2. This will put it about 20m on the wrong side of the wall, a fact which DPI Control will consider to be entirely irrelevant. (Bet they wished they'd been nicer to the Shivers!) Getting into the Sector is no problem, Shaefhur will cheerfully open the gate for them. It will just be getting light as they re-erect the dome, and the Cannibal Sector will be very quiet. In the shadow of the wall, the Ops will be able to hear snatches of conversation from guard Shivers, when the rain eases a little.
There is a 200m cleared strip of land before the shattered buildings start. No movement is evident, even in the darkest shadows. At 07.07 DPI Control will start the count into phase two.
When the HOP/E device enters stage two it will judder sharply. The crystals will start to emit enough to light to fill the dome with a sickly purple sheen. Biogenetic Ops will be able to hear teeth grinding in the figures head. If they try to move the device at all it will be very difficult. Any ebb use within 35m requires a Conc roll at -4 to work at all. If they make this roll, but would fail a roll at -8 with the same dice roll, then the effect is distorted. Use your discretion how, but it will probably be unpleasant, although not life threatening.
Shortly after they initiate phase two, the Shivers on the wall will start shouting and pointing to the building-line. With scopes, the Ops will be able to see carrien standing in the shadows. One or two at first, but then more, and then even more. They are not behaving at all like carrien normally. They look, if anything, drugged. They toss their muzzles from side to side, paw at their eyes, squint up into the sky. Cannibal Sector two has A LOT of carrien, and it looks like they're all coming out today. The Shivers will snipe one or two of them, the living don't even stoop to feed off the dead.
As more and more misshapen figures cluster together in the buildings, the silence will become increasingly unnerving. They will more or less ignore small arms fire, but if enough flak is shot their way they will retreat a block or two into the wreckage. A quick reconnaissance mission will show that they are still gathering, and if anything growing more numerous. The Shivers will more or less stop communicating with the squad and get down to their own preparations, unless the squad were polite earlier. DPI Control will show no interest in this development. It won't be long until the Ops can safely say the carrien number in the mid four figures.
At about half eight the Ops will become aware of a commotion on the wall. A Third Eye News Team has arrived, two cameras and Hok Southfall acting as anchor. He will attempt to hold an interview with the squad over their headsets, asking them what they're doing in Cannibal Sector 2, when are they planning to leave, what do they think of the mystery carrien build-up etc? Due to the restrictions of their BPN, they'll have to be quite evasive.
At 09.32 DPI will start the count to phase three...
When the final glyph is activated the figure will lurch in its seat, straining against the threads that bind it down. Everyone will hear a ghastly sound from its mouth, as if teeth are shattering under the strain. The crystals will blaze with necrotic purple light, bright enough to be visible through the dome. All ebb use within 50m will need a Conc roll at -8 to succeed at all, as the ambient flux in the area *boils*. Any ebb effects that do go off are wildly distorted, and will probably harm the user, your discretion. Biogenetics within 25m of the device will feel intensley that the figure wishes to leap from the throne and tear their soul out through their vacant eye sockets, and will be at -2 on everything they do because of the distraction.
The very second the final glyph is empowered the carrien go ballistic. They all emit deafening screams, and surge forward in a mass. Hundreds of them simply fall over and convulse while keening at earsplitting volumes. As the carrien horde sweeps forward (and carrien move bloody quickly!) the Wall Shivers open up with everything they've got. (As do the Ops, presumably?) 30mm Chain guns, power reapers, FEN-ARs, the works. Tracer fire will stab out into the approaching mass, cutting hundreds to pieces. Amongst their lesser kin, great lumbering Mutant Carrien bellow and wade forward, often not stopped by losing limbs or even considerable chunks of torso. (Oddly enough, there are no Greater Carrien numbered among the attack.)
And they just keep coming. Despite everything the Shivers are throwing at them, a lot of carrien will still make it to the last line of defense... the Ops. (Oops! Did I forget to mention the tent was their objective? I'm sure you knew anyway!) Keep throwing carrien at them until their guns run dry, and then some. After all, the HOP/E device is running for 10 minutes, which is a hell of a long time in SLA. Some of the beasts will attack the Ops whilst others will try to dodge round them to get to the device. They can't actually harm it, but the Ops don't know that. The carrien will tear the dome down though, exposing everything to the cameras, so the squad shouldn't really let them through. ;)
The squad has several options:
- Sod the device, leg it! This is a bad idea. Shaefhur will not open the gate, so they'll have to use climbing cords to mount the wall. Tricky, considering the amount of artillery being deployed from that position. (Any ebb-users trying to fold out will probably get warped by the HOP/E device, say, 5km further out?
- Hit the off switch! Bad idea, kinda. They will be hit with the penalties above from the DPI, but the flow of carrien will abruptly stop. Carrien in the vicinity will either flee, slump into a catatonic state or keep rampaging. It will dramatically cut their numbers, though.
- Hold your ground! The best idea? If they had the wit to build some elementary fortifications and ration their shots to just the closest targets they may pull this off. Whether you kill any squad members is up to you. A good way to do this would be to have a large mutant reach them. It could either hit them with a girder, or pick them up and throw them backwards into the horde. Whatever happens, the Ops armour will probably protect them from the carrien bites. For a while.
When the device IS turned off, after ten minutes, the carrien flow will dry up as described. If the Ops held off the attack, give them the BPN rewards, plus a whole shed-load of bounty on the carrien, plus media coverage. If they let the device get on camera, halve their reward. If they let a carrien get to the device, quarter it.
When the attack abates they will be expected to pack up the HOP/E device and return the way they have come, pausing just long enough to give another interview. There will be no formal debriefing, and no questions will be answered, and that will conclude their delightful introduction to the world of R&D!
Post BPN Analysis
So what just happened? Well, the beauty of Jades is that the players don't need to know. Moreover, there are several interpretations of the events you've just put the squad through. The carrien attack was clearly triggered by the HOP/E device, but that's about as much certainty as you'll find. Lets go through the available options:
- Faulty Equipment:
The HOP/E device was damaged, even if just slightly. Perhaps the imperfection set up a standing wave effect in the flux of the area, causing the carrien to be summoned like moths to a flame.
- Unanticipated Side Effect:
Perhaps the carriens' reaction to the HOP/E device was unexpected. It's quite possible that the other devices were attacked by the local carrien population. Of course, they weren't sitting in Cannibal Sector 2...
- Project Failure:
Maybe the other HOP/E devices were set up incorrectly, sending a backlash of negative energy screaming across Mort to send the 'sensitive' carrien insane.
- Project Success:
Maybe the carrien attack was *exactly* what the boys and girls of DPI were looking for. In fact, while we're getting nicely paranoid, let's consider
- Double Cross:
Who says there were any other HOP/E devices in the first place? Did you see any? Why weren't there any other Ops at the briefing? The carrien might have been attracted by a canister of pheromones being sprayed from the wall, for all you know!
Of course, these are just some of the options, and we haven't even begun to speculate on what the Higher Order Pattern/Ebb Project hopes to achieve. Ideally you'll convince each player into believing a different interpretation of events, but that might be getting a little ambitious. However it turns out, your players should be feeling tired, lied to and chewed on.