Saturday Seed ~ 85 (A Time of War)

This week’s seed is for A Time of War and was inspired a little by events in my current campaign, a little by the release of the official trailer for Prometheus, a little by the biohazard truck which parked outside my office this morning, but ultimately by the welcome surprise of most of the Bites album by Skinny Puppy dominating my supposedly random music shuffle today.

The Seed
The encounter an entrance to an underground facility in a ruined research center in a war torn city not far from a strategically important spaceport being re-constructed during a lull in hostilities. Investigation involves mental and physical agility as well as pits the group against a very real fear of t characters he unknown.

Planting the Seed
There are many vectors to include a wide variety of characters in this seed, so it should flow fine with any sort of group with a reason to be out and about in the wreckage and ruin of a once prosperous city now laid low by decades of civil war and natural disasters. This is primarily an excursion to be conducted without vehicles, although these may have their role in the earlier and later stages of the session. This seed will work best during the Succession Wars, or during any period wherein a planet or system finds itself cut off from trade for an extended period.

Possible insertion points into the scenario include a recon mission, a geological or architectural survey, following up on rumours of a tech cache, and so on. Characters do not need to be military, or even involved in matters at the Spaceport.

The Details
The outskirts of the city, more devastated than the interior, appear to have leaned toward industrial zoning with remains of factories, warehouses, and small generic-lookimg buildings predominating. With a cease-fire in effect, one leading faction is taking the opportunity to rebuild and better fortify the crippled Spaceport. The activity has lots of crews of fortune seekers crawling through the rubble looking for salvage. Many of the buildings are too dangerous to enter, but some have been yielding enough trinkets and hints to keep searchers interested.

One of the nondescript buildings in the area proves to be solid for most of its ground and second floors, and an intact and unburnt directory on the wall indicates a lab and clinic are located in the lower levels. If a way in can be found, there are a variety of potential benefits for the group, depending on the needs of your campaign at the time, from hopes for medical gear or medicines for a pressing need, to pure greed. Regardless of why the characters choose to investigate, the reality is that this facility was pretending to be something it was not.

The building can be whatever size you need to round out the early stages of the investigation, but will need to be a source of dangerous surprises in the form of weakend floors, collapsing walls and ceilings, and so on. At one stage of the search for the lower levels, the group will stumble across missile fragments from a flight of SRMs including a few undetonated warheads. Closer observation will reveal a slow leak of the flammable jellied death employed in infernos. What might set them off…?

Patience, perception, and the use of logical deduction should be rewarded with the discovery of an access point to the lower levels through a damaged section of flooring leading to large air ducts. These ducts are not easy to traverse due to the presences of numerous fans and complicated air filters/purifiers, but can quickly deposit the characters on the first of three basement levels.

These lower levels are essentially undamaged, although the characters have brought the smell of ash and smoke in with them. First impressions suggest that it would not be impossible to find survivors. A few good searches of empty offices, however will turn up clues revealing that this facility was likely hit and access to the l

ower floors cut-off several months ago. Impressions of the first level suggest a general cleaning up had been done, work files and other data has been wiped or storage units removed, personal effects have been boxed and piled in the staff breakroom, and there is no sign of habitation. No clues as to the nature of this facility remain, although it smells like a clinic, and looks like a series of offices. These may have been for anything, but several have the feel of examination rooms. One of these is bare of furniture, and has been thoroughly cleaned.

This floor lacks power, but has emergency lighting.

Behind the boxes in the breakroom is a woman’s body wrapped neatly in a shroud, and sealed very tightly in layers of heavy plastic. A generic name tag is clearly visible through the plastic as is a note that reads, ‘Bury her with care.’

At the far end of the facility the characters will find the only real traces of damage, in the form of a collapsed wall, coated with a thick plastic foam from floor to ceiling. The entry points from the ground level would have had to be here, but the destruction and the rubble from above has sealed the entire area off.

A man’s corpse, a suicide by pistol, rests against this plastic coated rubble with the dried remains of his head and brain matter flaring up and across the sloping jumble behind him like an artistic expression of surprise and anger. He does not bear ID but is wearing a wedding ring. His corpse looks comfortably seated next to the collapsed wall, and an uneaten energy bar and an empty glass of water sit next to a very nice chronometer, only slightly splattered with the life’s blood of its former owner. The pistol has fired only a single round.

Access to the second basement level will require some technical wizardy as the two ways down, stairs and a dedicated elevator in the center of the facility, are both protected with top-grade security systems. The security systems have dedicated power supplies.

If access can be gained the group will find a nightmare scene of flashing red lights, warning signs indicating the presence of a toxin, and the melted-lookimg remains of what is presumably the rest of the staff. Whoever they were, they did not die, quickly, well, nor on their feet. This is a perfect opportunity to reveal your anatomical knowledge and vocabulary covering projection of fluid and tissue over distance. This floor has access to emergency power from a smalk, dedicated generator.

This area, although a breeding pit of invisible flesh-excreting death, is a veritable treasure trove of computers, automata and other useful robotics, and clues in the form of data files, correspondence, periodicals and other scientific literature leading to whatever sort of mcguffin will serve your campaign well. The clues will be vague and merely tangentially connected to this bioweapon development facility by the thin thread of ‘scientific interest.’ Also present are large quantities of the weapon.

On the third basement level is a production line to mamufacture war heads to deliver the bioweapon. It may be returned to full function with minimal work, and restoration of full power to the facility.

What is really going on
Well… that is up to you, but I think you should unleash a plague…. sorta. More importantly, the characters should wrestle with the concept of dying this way, pour over the yellowed journals of the dead looking for a cure, while trying not to surrender to dispair and kiss their diseased asses goodbye. With a group so inclined and trained, you could even have a Miri-inspired quest to complete the cure before you reveal that the disease, although virulent, and fiendishly unpleasant no longer kills its host… it does some other awful things to them involving pustules and swellings…. things that make wearing neurohelmets difficult, and ruin the linings of expensive clothing, but it will probably not kill them.

What this scenario does is provide many routes toward self-directed adventure for the characters. What they do with what they find can be the source of many sessions to come. In addition, investigating the source of this bioweapon program may take them even further…. as will being investigated in turn.

A good wrinkle is to plant the question of when they were infected…  If you play your cards right, they will think the only contaminated section is the last, but the truth is they were infected when they got into the air ducts.

Enjoy!

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