GREEN - An Inch From Eden

by Simon Naylor

In this BPN the characters escape the confines of the city and go off-world. The contrast couldn’t be more startling – from the grime and rain of Mort to the verdant warmth of Lilac. However, while paradise is but a footstep away the Ops can only ever see it through the grimy window of a research facility. Lilac was created by Blut_Und_Glas.


Background

Lilac is an example of a planet whose orbital peculiarities have gifted it with perfect conditions for nurturing life, covering it in vibrant green. It is being exploited as a regenerative Resource World by Karma, Dark Lament, and several smaller SLA Industries subsidiaries, who extract a variety of organic compounds and biological specimens from its rich ecosystem. As Lilac's biosphere is of such critical interest to the corporate operations there have been collective efforts to protect the planet from outside interference as much as possible.

Unfortunately for the staff working on the planet, maintaining this ecosystem in its pristine condition means hell for them. The research labs on the planet’s surface are entirely sealed, and while they have air scrubbers and water purification facilities, they can only last a finite amount of time before the pollution levels on the inside make them impossible to work in. Since deployment and extraction of these facilities is expensive, though, the company leaves the labs on the surface until the internal environment becomes dangerous to the personnel. While the staff may not be in immediate danger, conditions become uncomfortable well before they become dangerous, and the scientists and biologists know they are probably going to suffer long term complications from the pollution.

The contrast between the world they live in and the paradise outside their window, combined with the cabin fever effect of being confined in a cramped lab for years at a time, is such that cults have begun to develop. The main concept, and one that is not unfounded, is that Lilac has become a super-organism, such is the perfectly balanced ecosystem there. This has developed into several similar Gaia cults who believe salvation is on the planet’s surface, an escape from the torturous corporate machinations and filth of the labs. The Karma executives however, administering the project from orbit, see this as an obvious threat to the operation and have taken steps towards putting an end to these delusions. The Operatives are the ones who will execute the final stage of their plan.

Brief

Mr Daniels is a Karma executive, a trouble-shooter. He has been tasked with issuing a BPN in order to get a squad to Lilac. He knows about the problem, he knows about the solution, but has had no real part in any of it. For the time being Daniels will brief the squad that there have been rumours of cults both in the planetary labs and in the administration facility in orbit. He informs them that while the cults have shown no sign of hostility so far, there may be plans of a breach afoot, and so a squad of Operatives is required to ensure compliance inside a lab which is due to be recovered. He won’t mention the real solution to the problem until the Ops have agreed to meet him at the spaceport for transport to the Foldship due to leave for Lilac.
At the spaceport Mr Daniels will accompany them through the rigors of booking in and departing where, after several hours of waiting around and filling out forms (a surprising amount of disclaimers among them), they will catch a gauss train to one of the launch pads containing a shuttle. During their time at the spaceport Mr Daniels will have been busily talking to and emailing fellow Karma suits regarding various mundane affairs and as such will have had ample opportunity to avoid any further questions. The journey into orbit will take a further four hours, the grey sky (yep, even above the clouds it doesn’t refract to blue) turning to black before eventually reaching a sleek black, and rather menacing, Foldship. During this time Mr Daniels will finish his brief, the privacy of space and the shuttle (filled alarmingly with cargo in military crates marked explosive) preventing prying ears from hearing the morally dubious plan the Karma administrators have been following.

The Operatives are to crush any cultist rebellion before it begins by hastening their plans and providing them with the opportunity to escape onto Lilac. At fist the plan sounds insane, and on its own it is, but Karma have been working for months to ensure that this will work out. During their 8 month stay in the lab several of the cult figureheads have been working testing various different processes that will enable someone to work on the planet’s surface without disrupting the ecosystem. Some of these are new model Stormers, some are drugs which a human lab technician could take for short periods. Somewhere amongst the various specimens a virus is hidden which is contagious enough for only repeated exposure to cause full infection, but whose effect is to cause a fatal allergic reaction to the pollen created by a common plant on the planet’s surface. Other than that the virus is completely harmless. The climax of the plan is that any ideas of escape onto Lilac should be quashed when everybody sees the pioneering cultists escape into the lush green paradise, only for them to collapse in spasms and die of anaphylactic shock. The Karma administrators will recover the lab a few weeks early ‘for the safety of the workers there’, and not only have they stopped the dissent but they make themselves look like they were caring for the workers all along.

So, the Ops will no doubt wonder, how are they going to convince these guys to escape? Well the guys at Karma have a few ideas. First up they need a plausible reason to be there, and putting down subversion isn’t going to cut it. So how about a report of a DarkNight infiltration squad making it to the planet’s surface? That’s Karma protecting their personnel from a big bad Oppressor Power, and having the Ops there will make these guys feel a lot better. That’s just going to make them feel more secure though, so they need a reason to spur them into action. The cultists need a reason to leave before the lab is withdrawn. In fact, they should leave as soon as possible. So Karma have obtained a few access keys to a DarkNight Prefabricated Base Complex, which they plan on giving the Ops to bring back to the lab after a brief sortie onto the planet’s surface, but which they won’t know the location of. The evidence of this should give the dissidents the reason to want to leave, coupled with the fact the lab will be going soon and then they’ll never find the complex again. Once the keys have been inevitably quarantined by the lab techs and the withdrawal date brought forward, the dissidents should feel that there is no better time to leave. At this point the Ops should withdraw, their job done, and leave the dissidents to their fate. A perfectly simple plan with little room for error, and all the work has been done for the Ops. Their final instruction is to make no further mention of the virus or their part in tempting the dissidents outside once they leave this shuttle. Ever.

Lilac

The squad finish their briefing as they approach the Foldship. As mentioned earlier this one isn’t like the one they saw in the Scent of Ebb BPN, it’s a warship. No Foldships look friendly, but this one looks like what a Foldship would become if it became a Necanthrope. Small compared to the transport ships, although still just under half a kilometre long, looking like a Geigeresque nightmare cross between a cuttlefish and a hammerhead shark. As the shuttle approaches it the occupants get the distinct impression that the ship is waiting to strike at them like a barracuda, but despite their unease they dock without event. On board the ship the characters should suffer all the usual unease of Foldship travel, with associated stress, as well as being in relatively close proximity to several (unseen) Necanthropes. In fact the only crew the squad see are a few Ebons who oversee loading of the probably now forgotten explosive cargo and direct them to a seating area that looks distinctly made for function rather than comfort. After an uncomfortable couple of hours they get the feeling of long distance Foldship travel, which is akin to what being forced out of a rather unpleasant womb might feel like, and the Ebons show them to another waiting shuttle in a completely different star system.

From the thankfully conventional shuttle they get their first glimpse of Lilac. The planet is like nothing any of the Ops are likely to have seen before. Lush green continents divided by deep blue seas, with not a stain of civilisation to be seen anywhere upon it. In contrast to this the planet’s orbit plays host to several large stations and around a dozen more warships of various different types. The shuttle takes around an hour to reach the closest station and docks in a happily conventional port where the characters can disembark to yet more unloading of large explosive crates. Waiting for them is a man in a suit who is wearing a Karma ID. Of a similar SCL to Mr Daniels, he greets him like a friend before addressing the squad and introducing himself as Mr Vickers. Before any further business is conducted Mr Vickers leads them quickly to a briefing room overlooking the planet, where he stands in front of the window for effect. The squad, Vickers explains, must descend to the lab using one of the orbital elevators anchored nearby. Once there they are to await instructions, and feel free to enjoy the facilities. They will, at some point, be given a patrol route on the planet’s surface. They are to follow this while causing as little disruption to the flora as possible. They must take their weapons but will be unable to wear armour as they will be sealed in environmental suits. The weapons will undergo a sterilisation process as they leave, but anything larger than an assault rifle won’t fit in the steri-chamber. While on the planet they are to only fire their weapons if they encounter hostile troops. In the lab they are forbidden to fire at all unless the facility has been breached. This is to reduce the risk of introducing contaminants to the atmosphere. Once the patrol is complete they are to await pickup again by the elevator.

If they have no further questions, they will be taken to yet another shuttle where they face a two hour journey to the elevator’s anchor, this time alone. This small orbital station is unmanned and contains an armoured and heat shielded gauss elevator which will take them to the lab. The insides are surprisingly comfortable, with entertainment, plush seats, and vacuum packed refreshments. There is no crew to direct them, but there is a commlink to both the station and the lab below. Once all the squad are in the elevator it will start its four hour journey to the lab.

The Lab

The research labs are doughnut shaped structures which hang at the end of the elevator and are able to move up and down by about 200m in order to minimise contact with the surface while enabling access when needed. They are tethered to the surface electromagnetically so as to not physically affect the landscape. The lab itself is about 400m in diameter, with the cross section being about 100m. This makes conditions for the 30 or so scientists and technicians quite cramped, especially since they live here for 8 months at a time. On top of this, the Ops will discover when they land, the interior of the lab is filthy. Grime covers the surfaces, and the air is hazy with foul smelling fumes. This, it is explained, is because nothing can escape into the atmosphere and eventually pollution overcomes the facility. When it becomes dangerous the facility is taken back into orbit and cleaned, while the staff get a brief R&R period and medical treatment. Since this tour has only a month to run, this is about as bad as it gets.

Exploring the facility a little the Ops get to see the sights and meet the locals. Wiping the grime off one of the thick windows, they see rolling foothills covered in grasslands and punctuated by flowers. Further still the hills give way to evergreen forests, and behind them are snow capped mountains. However, everything else they see inside the facility is purely functional apart from a small and well worn rest room. Elsewhere most of the facility consists of labs, storage, and living quarters. All is grey and dirty with little attention paid to comfort, although in the living quarters someone has painted a mural of a similar landscape to the view out of the window. Everywhere is cramped, like the inside of a submarine, with two corridors running the circumference of the facility punctuated by short radial corridors between them. Bulkhead doors sit open between each junction and every now and then a grimy emergency biohazard suit hangs as a reminder of what Karma facilities do.
Possibly the most interesting room is the construct lab. In here are rows of pens, 12 each side of the room on two levels, holding what look to be skinned child sized apes with smooth faces and no visible features. The technician who attends to them, Celina Conrad, explains that they are experimental Stormers, biogenetically created to be entirely self-contained. They are supposed to be able to operate on the planet’s surface, collecting samples and sending them into orbit in balloons, consuming their own implanted food source and breathing through their skin. So far they seem to have been successful in being contained, but they are working on developing their behaviour. The Ops may be more interested in the huge, sloth like hind claws though, which they are informed are for digging out soil and rock samples. The things look creepy and disturbing, but the technician seems not to notice.
Since the whole facility is designed to be traversable by normal human workers with a minimum of wasted space, those wearing bulky armour (Heavy Exo and above) will find it difficult to get around without catching on things. Crackshot and higher will be unable to move through the corridors due to their size and will have to be left in the elevator car. Similarly, large races (Stormers and Shaktar) will be severely restricted by the corridors even unarmoured, and wearing anything larger than Exo will prevent them getting through doors. Again, the armour must be left in the car if they want to leave it. For game purposes, any combat movement made by a character while in the facility must be accompanied by a DEX check, unmodified while walking, -1 while running, -2 while sprinting. Characters with restricted movement (large characters and those in large armour) suffer an additional -1. This is a passive roll, but if it is failed the character catches on a bulkhead or piece of equipment, trips over a doorway, or otherwise becomes distracted. Should this happen they lose their action for that phase.

The staff

The facility manager is there to meet the Ops off the elevator, a surprisingly young man by the name of Ahmed Shelton. Formalities are not the norm here, and Shelton makes it clear that they should treat the place as their own for the duration of their stay. In fact, many of the staff seem a little too cheery considering they live in a polluted shithole an inch away from Eden. Predictably, and though they won’t admit it, they are the Gaia cultists. Notable personalities are:
Ahmed Shelton, SCL6C.7 – Facility manager and Gaia cultist. Shelton is an idealist who has been badly let down by promises of the research he could perform on Lilac. His career held back and being stuck in the labs for so long has had the opposite effect to what most would expect, and he has become unrealistically optimistic. This is a pattern common among the cultists. Since he received reports of a possible DarkNight insertion nearby he has become slightly nervous, but the arrival of a squad of heavily armed Operatives comes as something of a relief and he will be entirely friendly and cooperative to them. To a certain point, at least.

Celina Conrad, SCL 9A.2 – The facility’s construct control technician, or Stormer handler. She makes sure the experimental enviro-neutral Stormers are maintained and monitored, as well as prepping and de-prepping them before and after field tests. She is pragmatic and realistic, and views her Stormers as equipment with no hint of sentimentality. Similarly, though, she fails to see their grotesque and menacing appearance. Conrad knows about the Gaia cult (and after 8 months living with them why wouldn’t she), but has no interest in it as long as it doesn’t affect the facility’s work.

Abram Mathis, SCL9B.6 – Mathis is the facility plant technician, whose job it is to maintain the internal environmental systems, power systems, and perform general electrical and mechanical repairs. He has come under unfair criticism lately for not doing enough to keep the air scrubbers running efficiently, and is blamed by many for the poor quality of the air in the facility. In fact the equipment is running past capacity, and he is entirely undeserving of the accusations. Mathis is a Gaia cultist, but he is become disillusioned from the hostility he is feeling. That isn’t to say he’ll be helpful to the Ops though – he blames Karma for the situation he has been put in, and the Ops are working for the company. In fact he has been staving off clinical depression with bright hopes of reaching paradise, but now that he is beginning to dislike the cultists too he has become secretly defeatist and pessimistic.

Dolph Cross, SCL 7D.8 – Cross is the head biogenetics engineer in the facility and the least obvious Gaia cultist. On the surface he appears a realist, similar to Conrad, but he harbours a desire to escape into the world he has studied for years. Cross has plans for a community at harmony with the planet, hidden from Karma, where they can live a clean and stress-free existence as part of the Lilac super-organism. Arguably, as head of the large faction of scientific staff, he has more influence than Shelton. Fortunately for all he has no interest in administering the facility and does nothing to interfere.

Benita Webster, SCL8C.3 – Webster is the facility’s behaviour coder, and recently she has been under a lot of stress. The Stormers have been coming under more and more scrutiny as the lab approaches its withdrawal date, and with them acting in nothing close to a satisfactory manner she has been working round the clock to try to get some sort of result before deadline. While not a cultist, she does sympathise with them and given more time or another tour she will probably convert.
Other personnel – There are a further 25 people living in the facility who will have no real input into the BPN. These include administrative staff, domestic staff, lab technicians, biogenetic engineers, and maintenance staff. Of them another eight are cultists.

The Gaia Cult

While not its actual name, a Gaia cult is what the Fellowship of the Lilac Garden is. They believe in the planet as a single organism which all occupants form a part of in a similar way to how cells work together in a normal organism. The Karma scientists actually have reasonable evidence to support this, so the cult isn’t as crazy as the Ops might at first believe. However, being stuck in close and unpleasant confines for nine months at a time had bred a certain amount of crazy in, and many now attach religious significance.

For the most part the cultists have a Buddhist-like belief in not harming living things (which can be somewhat at odds with the Stormer research), and are pleasant to speak to. Their calming influence has averted violent conflict between workers on a number of occasions, and if it wasn’t for their aspirations to leave the facilities Karma would probably encourage it to promote harmony in the labs. As it is, though, the cult’s final goal is to descent to Lilac and vanish among the forests like a symbiotic biogenetic organism lives within its host, and when it comes to the crunch their pacifist tendencies are secondary to their ultimate aim.

The Patrol

After a day or so in the facility, enough for the squad to get sick of the confines, the dirt and filthy air, the poor food, and the boredom, Shelton approaches them to inform them they have a message. He leaves them in his office to take the email in private.

---FAO: Squad Leader, Operatives Squad <insert squad name>---
---Transmission origin: VickersG4B6 Karma---
---Attachment: FAC62GLILAC4CIDICT_NAVA
---Message text: Commence patrol route at date time 231900L10902. Route waypoint coordinates attached for Navamap. Observe and report hostile personnel, engage at squad discretion. No friendly forces in area. No support available. Extraction at laboratory facility 62G and await further instructions. Interaction with planet’s flora is to be strictly kept to a minimum, care to be taken with firearms. Enviro-suits mandatory, carried equipment to be sterilised prior to egress.---
---Message end---
---Transmission end---

Shelton is already aware that the Ops will be leaving for a short while and has started to prepare. Large enviro-suits were shipped down in the elevator for any large characters, and everyone else uses the facility’s suits. There isn’t enough room for armour to be worn under the enviro-suits, which will probably concern the players. Any equipment they take with them, such as weapons, must go through a sterilisation chamber, and as previously mentioned large pieces of equipment won’t fit (say for the sake of argument it’s about a meter cubed).

Once suited up and ready the Ops may take comfort in the fact that the suits are actually themselves armoured (PV3), although they are also locked in place and cannot be removed outside the facility. Best hope they don’t run out of air. The whole facility lowers to release the squad, and they step out of the airlock onto deep grass. If they look back at the facility they will see faces peering at them through the grimy windows.

The patrol will take them in a rough triangle from the facility, down to the distant forests, across parallel to the facility and then back to it from a different direction. There are no DarkNight on the planet, indeed there is nothing hostile on the planet. No other life than plants in fact, so they are perfectly safe. Three hours into what for many will be a very enjoyable patrol the squad will pick up a short range locator transmission. Following it will lead to a clearing containing a large foil atmospheric balloon with a crate suspended from it. The thing is tethered to a weight which causes it to hang a few feet in the air, and occasionally a propeller fan will spring to life to keep its position when a breeze threatens to move it too far. The crate is easily opened, and contains three objects; an audio chip, a DarkNight ration pack, and an electronic keycard.

Audio chip: The chip, when played, contains a message in a synthesized female voice:

“Squad. You have obtained evidence to be returned to the lab facility upon completion of your patrol. Hand it to the facility staff for testing. This message chip must be replaced in the storage canister and the balloon activated where it will return to origin. You will tell the facility staff that a ten man DarkNight patrol was encountered and defeated, and that these items were recovered from the bodies as objects of potential interest. The coordinates of the battle has been marked for recovery by orbital staff. No evidence of the location of enemy facilities was found.”

Rations: The ration pack is compact and high quality, enough for 24 hours nutrition in a package the size of a can of spam. The packaging identifies it as being class A sleeper rations designed for long term consumption and with a shelf life of decades.

Keycard: The key is lacking much in the way of identifiable markings, but it shows little wear and tear and seems to be of a fairly high quality.

Once the Ops take the items and set the balloon on its way they should hopefully return to the facility.

Laying the Bait

Upon returning to the lab Shelton and Cross will be waiting for them. The techs will ask that the recovered items and any equipment the Ops took with them be handed in for testing. If they think about it, they won’t want to hand in their weapons over because they will be found to have not been used. If the Ops hand over the DarkNight stuff though the staff won’t press them on the weapons, considering it unwise to put armed operatives into a situation where they become so uncomfortable and possibly threatened.

Not much will happen for another day or so. Cross will have a few confusing questions about various plants, few of which they will be able to answer. The lab techs will test the surface of the recovered items and draw their own conclusions as to their implications.

The conclusion that Shelton and Cross come to, and the one Karma hoped they would come to, is that there is a DarkNight prefab base dome out there somewhere. With a little research they find that these domes hold up to ten people and can go undetected for decades while being entirely self contained. With ten confirmed DarkNight kills it would seem there’s an empty, virtually undetectable shelter out there nearby with years’ worth of rations in it. The perfect opportunity. The only spanner in the works might be if the Ops handed their weapons over, then there is the question of why none of the weapons were used. The cultists will keep this question to themselves for now, the most likely explanation being that maybe the DarkNight aren’t dead at all. The question will likely be forgotten later, but a particularly careless squad could be made to fail their mission when the cultists fail to take the bait later.

The next day more instructions are received. Shelton is told that due to recent hostile activity the tour is being cut short and the lab will be withdrawn to orbit within the week. He will pass this on and again tell them to take a message in his office.

---FAO: Squad Leader, Operatives Squad <insert squad name>---
---Transmission origin: VickersG4B6 Karma---
---Message text: Research mission to be ceased prematurely. DarkNight equipment causes risk of successful facility staff mutiny and compromise of surface to be unacceptable. Squad is to maintain order and prevent unauthorised departures for duration of tour. Reasonable force may be used as a last resort, but firearms are prohibited due to risk of hull breach and surface contamination.---
---Message end---
---Transmission end---

After this message arrives any character with psychology 3 or detect 5 will notice that the staff have become a little less friendly. Nothing too obvious, but enough to be noticeable to the astute. This is because Shelton has hacked the lab’s comms and sees everything meant for the Ops, and he has told the staff about their new orders. If questioned directly he will pass it off as unhappiness at having their tour cut short so close to the end. No attempts to leave the facility will be made, although if any of the Ops fancy doing a bit of spying in the day or so before their next orders they can overhear a few discussions about making a break for it. However, despite the desire to leave nobody has yet got a plan to do so or the balls to do it yet. Still, as one of the few times when the Ops can exercise a bit of freedom don’t discourage them from unearthing some red herrings and harebrained schemes. A good theme for those who are enterprising, though, is that most of the plots seem to include broadcasting the escape to inspire fellow cultists to do the same.

The Triple Cross

Another day later and a new set of orders appear. As usual Shelton receives a message first then invites the Ops to take their message in his office. If they’re getting suspicious about that, by the way, it’s the only orbital comms terminal with privacy.

---FAO: Squad Leader, Operatives Squad <insert squad name>---
---Transmission origin: VickersG4B6 Karma---
---Message text: Research mission to be ceased in 12 hours. Probability of mutiny assessed as high. Squad is to disseminate information that planetary atmosphere is toxic, and prevent any staff departures to surface with any force necessary. Use of firearms is prohibited due to risk of hull breach and surface contamination. ---
---Message end---
---Transmission end---

Needless to say, Shelton intercepts this message and panic ensues. The cultists now know that not only must they leave now if they are ever to do it, but that the Operatives are going to try to stop them with lethal force if it comes to it. The Ops may or may not have worked out that the cultists will know their orders, but it doesn’t matter either way. Karma have known about the compromised comms all along, in fact they’re counting on it. The email was deliberately sent to provoke a departure. On the other hand, the Ops know that there needed to be something to provoke the exit and that they actually shouldn’t be stopping it. Clever ones might put two and two together and realise what has happened. They might even realise that Karma has shafted them too.

Once the Ops have had a little discussion about their orders, even better if they’ve realised the implications of what’s happening, all hell breaks loose. While they’ve been in Shelton’s office the cultists have been busy. Over the last few days Webster has been reprogramming the Stormer variants. It’s a crude and quick code that has sent them completely kill-crazy, and when Conrad opens up the cages they tear her apart. Meanwhile the other cultists have been positioned at bulkheads so that the Stormers are channelled away from them and towards the Ops. The plan is that while the Ops are trying to fend off 24 biogenetic constructs with claws that can hue rock, they can make their escape. Another simple but effective plan, and as the alarms that Conrad managed to trigger sound and the Ops hear the bulkheads slamming shut it goes into action perfectly. As they make their way towards the recreation room where most of the staff can usually be found they encounter their first pack of Stormers. The pack size should be around 6, but should be adjusted depending on how difficult the encounter needs to be.

Experimental Stormer variant 103

These ape like constructs are around half the size of a human and powerfully built. Their dark red, smooth skin is the texture of thick leather and their smooth heads are devoid of all features apart from a pair of dark, deep set eyes. When attacking they move with surprising speed, sprinting at their target on all fours before leaping and raking with their large, extremely sharp and tough hind claws. This initial attack adds 2 to the penetration of the claws, and after that the 103 will hang on to its target with its arms and continue to rake at the target, giving them no chance to use evasive skills until it is killed or dislodged (strength roll minus the 103’s strength of 13). In addition to the extra PEN of the initial attack, the target of a successful attack must make a PHYS roll -4 to remain standing as the dense creature crashes into them.

PV: 0
Hits: 23
Phases: 1, 3, 5
Movement: 1, 3, 6.5
Skills: Unarmed combat 7, gymnastics 4, run 5
Claws:
DAM - 6
PEN - 2
AD - 3

Once the first set of Stormers have been dealt with the Ops can set to dealing with the escapees. Or at least seeming to. They will find the bulkheads closed and locked, but they’re only there as a procedure for sealing off breaches to minimise contamination and so aren’t particularly strong (they aren’t under pressure) or well locked (they’re not a security feature). They have 20 ID and 3 PV if an Ops wants to hack them down, or require an electronic locks roll -2 to open. If the Ops deliberate over the doors too much have another couple of Stormers ambush them. In the meantime the monitors in the facility have begun to show Shelton, who is broadcasting not only to the lab but also to the orbiting stations and the other facilities on the planet. The Ops won’t know it, but this broadcast is beginning to cause unrest above them, while the other labs look on with interest.

A couple more doors (and maybe a few more Stormer attacks) later and the Ops should be nearing the recreation room. Far from finding it secure, though, they find the door open and about a third of the facility’s occupants dismembered in a scene of utter carnage. An adjacent door, the one nearest the construct pens, lies open and Mathis lies shredded just outside it. Whether he was deliberately letting in the Stormers, trying to escape, or trying to get to Conrad is anyone’s guess, and his recent mental instability could indicate any one of those reasons. Whatever the reason was, though, it has thrown a spanner in the works. The Stormers who were meant to slow the Ops down and in turn be dealt with by them are now tearing their way through the facility’s personnel. Ultimately it will make no difference, but if the Ops don’t waste time and head for living quarters they can stop the remaining loyal personnel from being eviscerated.

While they make their way to their destination the facility starts to move. The ground access sequence has been initiated, giving them about two minutes to get to the airlock if they are to stop Shelton, Cross, and the other cultists. Of course they don’t want to do that. Whether they try to rescue the personnel or pretend to stop Shelton is mostly academic, Shelton and the other cultists should still escape (unless the Ops are particularly stupid and actually stop them). Broadcasting to the entire system, the dissidents step out onto Lilac, rapture on their faces, breathing in the fresh, clean air. Their joy is short lived, though, as one by one they start to hack and cough. Their skin begins to blister as they start to have difficulty breathing, their tongues swelling out of their mouths. Shortly after they collapse, retching into their swollen throats, their bowels evacuating and taking some of their intestines with them, they suffer heart failure. A couple twitch as nervous system failure finishes off what the heart attack didn’t, and within three minutes all are dead, captured by the camera that Shelton was holding and now lies in the grass.

A few more skirmishes with the remaining Stormers should finish them off, and the Ops get to spend 12 hours in what looks like a sci-fi horror set before the lab starts to be winched back into space.

Debrief

Assuming the cultists escaped, the Ops arrive in orbit to be picked up by a shuttle and taken to the station (wait, you sure you got all those Stormers?). Vickers and Daniels greet them and any survivors, and while the survivors are taken for medical treatment the Ops are debriefed in the same room in which they were briefed. Obviously there are two levels to this mission, but for now only the cover story is mentioned. Ideally what should have happened is:

The cultists ceased to be a threat
There was no contamination of the planet
There were no breaches which caused the pollution inside the facility to escape
All Stormers were accounted for
Some personnel were saved.

Obviously some of these will not have been accomplished if the Ops have done their job, but as long as the cultists are dead they can be considered to have completed their BPN satisfactorily. If no personnel were saved it isn’t a huge problem, and if some Stormers are unaccounted for they won’t be held responsible. If they do accomplish either or both of these secondary objectives, though, Karma will authorise a 50c bonus per Op for each. Saving those people might just reduce the stress of the BPN too. Should the Ops have started firing off their weapons, on the other hand, and caused a hull breach they will each be fined half of their payment. If the cultists never escape then both Vickers and Daniels will be noticeably aggravated. Whether or not they are deemed to have completed the BPN will be very much down to what happened, but just because they failed their secret mission doesn’t mean they should fail the BPN, although no bonus will be awarded.

Of course this is only the official debrief. They will never be debriefed on their actual mission, but if the cultists suffered a gruesome death which was broadcast to the rest of the system then they will gain a lot of favour with Karma to the sound of +3 reputation. Similarly, if they screw up and prevent the escape then they will suffer a -5 drop in reputation. They might even get a secret reward from Karma if they don’t make a fuss over being double crossed. After all, it’s just business.