Luddites A Hole Where A Book Should Be

OK, here's a rough sketch of a simple 'filler adventure'.

Its deliberately incomplete to allow you freedom to fill in the gaps, and is designed not to be a gun-storm (as it happens on the way to something else), but a more subtle RP opportunity.

There are large parts left vague to allow the GM to fill things in with events to his own gaming group's tastes. The point of this adventure is as an interesting interlude, not a full on investigation…

A hole where a book should be…

This adventure is designed as a ‘side arc’. It is not especially dangerous but should give you as GM a chance to flesh out the Administratum a bit, and for the players to expand on their PCs in an unusual ‘non-combat’ environment.

Initial situation

PCs are on a Warp Journey (aboard the Jade Aspirant) to deliver a text fragment (or other reason) to their Inquisitor on Scintylla. So far the journey has been uneventful, except a momentary flux in the Gellar Field that caused a widespread bout of nausea on the craft.

There is a scheduled cargo stop on Dewdrop (a library / Administratum world). This cargo transfer will take 2 weeks to complete and all passengers are encouraged by the Passenger Liaison Officer to take shore leave. The planet has some renowned beauty spots after all. The ship’s service crew will be impatient for the passengers (including PCs) to leave the ship. Any trouble, the PCs will be spoken to ‘quietly’ by the Passenger Liaison Officer, explaining that during the last jump the air conditioning system dropped in efficiency, and the maintenance crews would like to get in an effect repairs. They do not wish to inconvenience the passengers with this work.

Luxury accommodation has been arranged free of charge at the Raphaelite Hotel (platinum-grade) in the capital city, Pergamum. The descent through customs will be uneventful and direct transport from orbit will land at the hotel.

Note: the purpose of this is to give the PCs a clear 2-week window of ‘downtime’ to allow the adventure to run.

Conflict or Problem

The Hunters Hunted

The Raphaelite Hotel is a marvel of ivory and amber marble, dripping with ornate gold and crystal; and oasis of sheer decadence and luxury. It is also temperature controlled, a blessed relief from the average 39°C blinding heat of the white-rock planet outside (think Malta/Sicily/Southern Italy/Greece for planetary ‘flavour’).

Once the PCs are settled into their chambers (each ‘room’ is a suite), one of the hotel’s gold-plated servitors will enter with an invitation to dinner that evening in the Hotel’s Papyri Dining Hall with ‘Alexander Vellus’ (false name). The PCs have a couple of hours so can explore the capital city a little.

It’s a warren of colonnaded civic buildings, statue and fountain-festooned plazas and cramped market streets, all in grey/white, bleached by the sun and palm tree boulevards. There’s a vibrant street life, with pavement eateries, performers and little vehicular traffic (aside from the faded black ‘micro-bug’ public transport carts). The olive-skinned local people seem relaxed and sociable. Most wear grey, white or beige robes with some form of affiliation to the Adeptus Administratum.

If you feel the need for some conflict, throw in an encounter with the Loan-Wardens who identify the PCs as off-worlders and decide to hassle them for official papers, etc.

Alternately a bit of street interaction is more likely, with eatery patrons and so on more than willing to chat to the PCs who are evidently different. The hot topics of conversation are the recent debate reports from the Chamber and the Tauto challenges to the ICA cataloguing methods. There are also increased reports of stellar pirate activity and rumours that outlying settlements to the north have actually been raided.

Dinner with the Falling Star

Alexander Vellus is a false name. Their host is actually Director Nazianzus Grigorius, head of the Administratum on Dewdrop, and technically the planetary governor. Aside from the PCs, Grigorius and the dining servitors, the room is empty. An intimate setting amid the dozens of tables has been set with ambient lighting.

Grigorius is in trouble and needs the PCs help. He is a gaunt, unassuming fellow but most affable and surprisingly personable. He is, however humourless and evidently distracted and under severe strain.

How did he know the PCs are Inquisition?

The Administratum IS information. Everything that is to be known is recorded, if you know where to look…
· If they are travelling openly, he will have records on them stretching back their whole career, so he knows as soon as they pass customs, who they are.
· If travelling incognito, he will praise them on the quality of the forged documents, but say he knows who they really are.
He needs their help.

Why the subterfuge?

Grigorius will apologise for the deception and stress that this is a situation of utmost delicacy. It must be resolved without knowledge of the problem, or his involvement in it becoming public knowledge. The consequences could plunge the planet into chaos and rebellion, shutting down the Administratum functions for half the Sector.

What’s the problem?

There are 78,000,000,899 books on Dewdrop (at last census 97 years ago), spread out over 1000’s of planetary libraries (many public leasing libraries), but controlled through a central cogitation system (the ‘catalogue’, referred to as ‘Felix’ (the cat’).

A single book has gone missing for the first time in 347 years. This is a disaster, as this will be seen as systemic failure and will be seized upon by Grigorius’ factional opponents.

The scandal could bring down the Director, his regime and cause chaos as the armed loan-wardens search for the errant tome. This potential chaos is likely to see societal fracture along the following lines;

The loan-wardens (local police / militia) and the Adeptus Arbites will likely settle long-running jurisdictional disagreements. There have already been several incidents of outright violence between the two agencies, although these events were ‘hushed up’ (removed from the main archives).

Also the Tautological Classificators (the ‘Tautos’), a radical Administrative faction will likely attempt a coup against the Imperial Classification Authority (the ruling system under Grigorius’ current stewardship), citing this failure as evidence of the need for change. At the Chamber (the planetary Parliament), there are growing debates and calls for change from the Tauto factions, unhappy with Grigorius’ regime.

Note the reason for this disagreement is Grigorius’ implementation of ICA reforms that have actually increased information management quality by 58%. The Tauto leader Ugarus Pamphilus is appalled that these efficiencies have made so many clerks and cogitators redundant. The transparency in information also fundamentally transgresses the tenet that ‘knowledge is power, hide it well’.

Increasingly vitriolic exchanges between the two factions have seen more than one committee meeting descend into farce and fisticuffs.

Basically, if this failure were revealed, it could well split the planetary government and cause turmoil in the sector record-keeping.

Where do the PCs come into it?

Grigorius needs a neutral hand in the recovery of the book. He cannot trust his own agencies to do the job (they are information / administration specialists, not investigators – plus their loyalties cannot be relied upon), and he doesn’t trust the loan-wardens or Arbites to be discreet.

As the Inquisition, the PCs are ideally placed to help him out.

Just the facts mam…

All the following information is currently being suppressed by Grigorius. None of the staff involved will talk about it without his expressed word. All computer entries have been code-locked preventing access.

‘The Progenium Primer’ by Dr Hal Nicoda was taken on 2-week loan from the Maritima Library (on the waterfront in Pergamum), 4 weeks ago. This is a renowned Imperial book on child-rearing.

The record of the last borrower shows a young 3rd-level metadata controller named Sabrine Coren Marque.

She recently gave birth to a young girl (2 years ago), has a faultless work record and no known political activity. She is a registered member of the Paloa Appreciation Society (a social network of food and wine connoisseurs), and regularly attends post-natal seminaries, but is otherwise unremarkable.

Her husband is Garald Coren Marque, a journeyman quill-smith guilder who specialises in high quality digital quill manufacture, and works for Savator Media Supplies.

Records show that the Coren Marques took their annual 5-day holiday 4 weeks ago, the day after the book was loaned out.

The details are:

Time on the day: 07.16
Monorail tickets from Pergamum Central Station to the Link Station 44 at Tranquility Plaza (a popular holiday destination along the coast – free from the ‘bustle’ of Pergamum).
2 Adult & 1 infant tickets were purchased on the day.
The Coren Marque credit account shows the transaction complete.
Pict-surveillance at the station shows the three boarding the monorail with luggage.

Records show they booked (and paid for) the Ocean View Villa 1223 four weeks earlier (a low grade hilltop villa overlooking Sapphire Bay) through the tour company ‘Getaway’. Their records are all in order and the transaction was completed electronically over the Ethernet.

Time on the day: 14.43
The monorail arrives at Link Station 44 at Tranquility Plaza and all three get off. They exit the station and are seen getting in a faded yellow ‘micro-bug’ public transport cart.

There are no records of their movements, presence or return since then.

Getaway, have records that their local agent in Tranquility, Starvan Corsos, reported maintenance problems with the plumbing in the Ocean View Villa 1223, the day the Coren Marques were due to leave. The holiday tenets to follow them have been diverted to another villa and 1223 currently remains out of commission awaiting mains repair (the appropriate paperwork has been filed with Regional Infrastructure Maintenance Dept. but the request remains outstanding. In fact Starvan Corsos bribed the maintenance workers that turned up, to delay the work for a month).

Grigorius has personally intervened in the missing person report with the Loan-Wardens in relation to the Coren Marques. On his unofficial order, both have been filed as ‘non-active’ at this time, and the evidence of the non-returned book quarantined under ‘requirements for compliance audit’. This cannot last much longer as suspicions are already being aroused, particularly with the Loan-Warden-General Marcus Falikari who Grigorius has had to personally persuade to keep quiet.

If the missing book is not returned soon the incident will be revealed. Director Grigorius will be forcibly deposed in the scandal, an unprecedented extra-judiciary succession will have to be held, factional infighting will break out and the libraries and Administratum functions will be interrupted. It is very possible that the major factions could descend to infighting and violence. The Administration of half the sector could collapse because of a misplaced book.

Getting to Tranquillity

It is likely that the PCs will want to travel to Tranquillity. This is no problem. The 7-hour monorail runs there once a day (and another runs back), and is a beautiful journey along an azure coast). The monorail is not crowded and is mostly used by holiday makers heading out to / back from Tranquillity. The return ticket is 30 Thrones.

Finding the villa will be easy as the local public transit cart ‘bug men’ know it well (and any local will be able to give vague directions. It’s a 25 minute cart-drive up in to the hills north of the station (a bug man will take your there for 1 Throne / passenger). They will comment however that the villa is out of action. Some sort of water main problem…

Complication

OK, what’s going on then?

The Coren Marque’s 2 year old daughter Madelaine is an Alpha+ psyker, but not yet at full potential.

While on holiday, the unusual surroundings sparked her first manifestation of power, much to the chagrin of her parents and those around her.

She has enslaved here parents and the villa custodian (Starvan Corsos) with Domination. This she has done without any conscious effort; she is not ‘in control’ of this. The domination is so utterly complete that the couple now retain no independent personality and are simply puppets to their child’s will. Without Madelaine they are simply a blank mind.

Her childish desires are met through the dominated adults around her picking up the vague sense of her intentions.

Sabrine and Garald Coren Marque, have therefore become complete slaves to her will and exist in a haze of servicing Madelaine’s every whim and need. They have set up villa 1223 as their new home. Madelaine enjoys the sea, so they will often be seen on the beach, playing in rock pools or some other activity. They are also teaching Madelaine to swim. They are quiet, self contained and bother nobody.

When not with Madelaine (when she’s asleep for example), the couple sit blankly staring, do chores that will maintain Madelaine (such as buying food or toys at the local market), or otherwise act pretty strangely.

Starvan Corsos has not been fully dominated, but is certainly under Madelaine’s thrall, and has acted to secure the villa for the family. A week remains before the maintenance team returns to replace a fictitious burst main (Starvan bribed them to leave first time round).

The book (‘The Progenium Primer’ by Dr Hal Nicoda ) is on a moot-table at the villa.

A meeting of (mindless) minds

When the PCs arrive, the Coren Marques are at the villa. They will not be happy to see the PCs but not overly concerned. They both act ‘vague’, refusing or avoiding (actually incapable) to answer most questions. They have very limited recollections of their previous lives and now are only concerned with looking after Madelaine.

They will not invite the PCs in, but will not resist if the PCs barge in.

The best way to play them is to offer nothing and respond to PC questioning with ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I don’t know’.

Other approaches

How the PCs play this will determine what happens really.

Observation

If they observe from a distance, the Coren Marques act like they are on holiday, spending much of the day on ‘picnic’ at the beach or walking the hills. Occasionally one of them goes to the market. In the evening, they spend all their time at the villa playing with Madelaine until she falls asleep when they clean up and then sit immobile for a while before going to bed (the villa has large windows and they are easily spied through).

They are always with Madelaine.

Sneaking in

The villa is not well secured and can be relatively easily accessed. The book can be found on the moot-table in the main living area.

However, looking around the villa will turn up some very disturbing evidence.

· The walls in one of the 4 bedrooms are caked in red splashes and drips, the only coloured walls in the whole white-painted building. This is blood from one of Madelaine’s manifestations of power. She now hates the room so Garald has nailed two bits of wood across the door to ‘keep the monsters in’.

· Tiles on the main exterior yard (near the swimming pool) are cracked and melted as if exposed to extreme heat. Madelaine had a tantrum and baked the tiles.

· Along the exterior sill of a rear window, there are 12 lizards sat immovable. 8 have died in the midday heat and the other 4 remain awaiting Madelaine’s return (she likes them but is upset they died.

· One of the bedrooms has ‘Maddy’s Room’ crayoned on. Inside, the PCs will find a series of toys (letter blocks, dolls, etc.) slowly floating and dancing about the room. This is disturbing to say the least and should give the PCs the final nod that something’s very wrong here.

Talking to Starvan

Starvan Corsos lives nearby and services many of the local villas (working for Getaway). He is a leather-faced, white haired old local man who lives with his wife of 30 years. They are devoted to their only son Mikos who moved away to work at the University in Pergamum. He gets back to see them once every couple of years and its evident they miss him terribly.

Starvan has been enthralled to Madelaine and will do his utmost to ensure the villa remains safe.

Initially he will lie, saying the Coren Marques left on time and that the villa is closed for repairs. If confronted he will say ‘they have to stay there’. Any questioning will simply illicit this response.

His wife Efanta is most upset by this, especially as Starvan has used some of their retirement savings to bribe the local maintenance crews. She will not speak to the PCs while Starvan is there, but will catch them alone if possible and say he hasn’t been right since the Coren Marques moved into the villa. She’s very worried about her husband.

Attacking the villa

The PCs could always kick the door in of course. This is likely to result in Very Bad Things happening.

Ultimately, if the PCs guess right, that something weird is going on and eventually they figure out a psyker is involved, they will have to do something about it. Madelaine will be bound for a Black Ship (the local Arbites retain stasis cells for containing such individuals). Her parents are empty shells without her and will need to be handed over to either the Ministorum Hospital or perhaps the Adeptus Mechanicus for servitor conversion.

Any attack on any of the Coren Marques will upset Madelaine.

This is the Very Bad Thing.

Climax

Ultimately Madelaine must be killed (or rendered unconscious and sent to a Black Ship (the local Arbites will have sedation chambers to hold her until this arrives). She is simply too dangerous to let live.

Although she is young and has no conscious control of her powers, Madelaine is frighteningly powerful and will act entirely on instinct. If attacked / provoked she will use her psychic skills to try and ‘make the PCs go away’…how powerful you wish to make her is up to you, but I’d suggest this fledgling 2 year old world-killer should be something like:

Psy rating 3
Powers (instinctual):
· Float (she uses this often and enjoys floating up and down)
· Incinerate (when she is angry or has a tantrum)
· Telekinesis (loves to make her toys orbit about her, or make things move on their own – it makes her giggle)
· Dominate (only on her parents so far)
· Mind Scan (again only with her parents at this age)
· Telepathy (to make people understand her wants and desires)
· Compel

They have very little option but to either subdue (for a Black Ship pickup) or kill the little girl.

Any attack on the girl, will illicit homicidal mania from the parents who will attack the PCs with improvised weapons, kitchen knives etc., fighting to the death to defend their little girl. Starvan will also arrive some time later with an axe to help protect / free Madelaine.

After the PCs eliminate the child, the parents will become irrevocably catatonic. They have no minds remaining to restore.

Starvan will return to normal, somewhat annoyed that he spent money to bribe the local maintenance crew and now has to deal with the paperwork on a false claim.

Anti-climax

Of course the PCs could miss the point, just retrieve the book and head back to Pergamum to ‘save the day’ for Grigorius.

If so, you can keep this little gem in your GM back pocket and have the PCs return in 15 years when Madelaine has matured into a fully functioning Alpha+ psyker and is dominating the whole world!!

Dénouement or Resolution

The girl must be eliminated and her victims ‘cleaned up’. Once this is done, the book can be retrieved and returned to the Director. He will restore the lost item, ‘correct’ the records and the incident will never have happened.

He will be eternally grateful and will offer the PCs his friendship, access to Dewdrop’s archives / libraries / study staff, and a refuge suite at the Raphaelite Hotel.

This is a powerful contact for the PCs and one they may wish to keep to themselves!

Conclusion

An Alpha+ psyker is eliminated / given to the Emperor.
A world is saved from chaos.
The PCs gain access to a valuable knowledge resource

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License