for Transhuman Space
by Steve Horgan
This adventure is for the Transhuman Space setting, but could easily be changed to fit another sci-fi genre. Locations and parties can also be changed within the setting to fit into an ongoing campaign, or because the GM likes it better. Any large 4th or 5th wave city could serve as the backdrop for example. With a bit more thought the scenario concept could be translated offworld, though it would probably have to be a moon or planet location, such as Luna or Mars, as opposed to an asteroid or habitat.
It is assumed that the PCs are either work for Executive Decisions Incorporated, p. TS94, or for another security agency that has a good working relationship with EDI. They may also be a freelance group that has either worked for EDI before or has a very good reputation for decisive covert action.
An urgent message is received from the EDI European office in Berlin, calling the PCs to London immediately, with an onsite briefing on arrival. If the team already works for EDI then this how they earn their salary. If they don't then the job rates $10,000 a head plus all necessary expenses, including the quickest air transport that can be arranged if that is required. Note that 5th wave airports are CR5 and security is extremely tight. It is effectively very difficult to smuggle illegal weapons or other materials through them and attempts to do so are treated very seriously.
In London the PCs are directed to an EDI safe house, a top floor apartment in a terraced three-story building in Maddox Street. A streetmap for a suitable area location can be found here.
The apartment was rented while the team was in transit and is within striking distance of the likely target at the Ritz Hotel, which lies to the South. Once at Maddox Street, they receive a briefing via VR, the key points are:
- A Xox has escaped from an asteroid research station in the Main Belt where EDI have the security contract. Dr. Abdu Jinjiri, a ghost, had illegally copied himself in order to have the best possible laboratory assistant. While the station authorities were disturbed by this they considered the benefit of a new and capable employee outweighed the ethical difficulties. Dr. Jinjiri escaped with a mild censure.
- However, the Xox has become unhappy with its position and has engineered an unauthorized departure, hacking into the station's security system to gain control of a laser communicator and then beaming itself to Earth.
- It used Dr. Jinjiri's identity and funds to gain entry to the UK and to rent a cyberdoll, p. TS122, before the escape was discovered.
- EDI's employers are very keen that this matter be handled discreetly, with the Xox recaptured and either returned to the lab or, if necessary, deleted. As an illegal Xox, the target also has every incentive to avoid the attention of the authorities.
- Since arrival in London the Xox has accessed another bank account that Dr. Jinjiri keeps secret, mainly from his ex-wife. However, it is EDI's job to know about things like this and they have been tracking the transactions.
- The Xox drew $1,000 in cash, a little odd in a 5th wave city, and then used normal credit transactions to obtain a room at the Ritz hotel in central London and to engage a private security company called Peregrine Protection. It paid Peregrine $10,000 for unspecified services. Research on Peregrine suggests that it specializes in bodyguard and protection work for corporate and celebrity clients.
- Once in London, the objective is to snatch the Xox and return with it the safe house, where the Xox will be subject to a "technical debriefing" by an EDI specialist. The specialist will arrive at the Maddox Street location in approximately one hour.
A minimum level of legal Equipment is available at the safe house; London is a CR3 city. Bear in mind that this mission was thrown together in a hurry, so very specialist items will not be present regardless of legality. Weapons to hand are electrolasers, which are legal, and pistols, which are not. The team can use any skills that they have to attempt to acquire anything else of course but EDI are very keen that the mission progresses rapidly and will not allow an extended delay.
A streetmap usable for the Ritz location and surrounding area can be found here.
This is central London, less crowded than in the early 21st century but not subject to the radical de-civilization effects of some other cities. Public surveillance is used on a need only basis, but the areas to the south of the Ritz that are around Buckingham Palace or near any of the Royal Houses along the Mall have intensive real-time LAI monitoring. Any suspicious and especially any armed activity there will result in an immediate police response that will escalate very rapidly if the problem appears serious.
North, east, and west of the Ritz there is traffic monitoring on the major roads but no comprehensive surveillance. By 21st century standards traffic is light. The parks do not have surveillance except where they abut onto Royal Palaces and Houses as previously stated.
The Metropolitan Police ("the Met") are the main police presence but there are army sentries on the Royal locations. If an incident occurs then the escalation ladder is as follows:
- Metropolitan Police, normal police patrol/response: Two to four officers, a mix of baseline and genemodified humans and bioroids, with police armguns, p. TS155, and medium nanoweave vests, p. TS159.
Army sentries, static positions around Royal sites only: For to 10 per location though only 2-4 will usually be on post at any one time, a mix of baseline and genemodified humans and bioroids, with battle rifles, p. TS155, and heavy nanoweave vests, p. TS159, under full dress uniforms.
- Metropolitan Police, backup: Two to four officers as #1, above, in a marked police Air Car, p. TS193 2-4 buzzbots, p. TS121, with NAI control and real-time VR feed to both the officers on the ground and central control.
- Metropolitan Police, Tactical Firearms Unit: Six to 10 officers, in marked police Air Cars, p. TS193, a very capable mix of humans, bioroids and bioshells running SAIs and ghosts, with battle rifles, p. TS155, heavy nanoweave suits, p, TS159 and light infantry helmets, p. TS160.
Two to four RATS, p. TS124, with electrolaser rifles, p. TS155, and 15mm mini-missile pods, p. TS155: These are usually loaded with tangler warheads but a range of munitions are carried.
- Army Special Forces, 22nd SAS Regiment: 12 soldiers, in military Air Cars, p. TS193, an elite mix of humans, bioroids and bioshells running SAIs and ghosts, with battle rifles, p. TS155, and ground combat variant Centurion battlesuits, p. TS160. 4 Combat Nagas, P. TS124, with 10mm PDWs. These are typically used for reconnaissance before a battlesuit assault.
Note that if it gets to this level then the PCs are probably doomed. UK Special Forces do not make arrests and have absolutely no tradition of taking prisoners.
The Ritz Hotel has maintained its status as a luxury establishment and it is a large and busy building with hundreds of guests and staff, the latter a mix of biosapients front of house and cybershells behind the scenes. It maintains both a physical desk and concierge service and a VR lobby. There is a discreet use of AR within the hotel.
For security, there is NAI surveillance in all of the public areas and the plainclothes hotel security team has four biosapients on duty at any one time. They are armed with electrolaser pistols but they are very reluctant to draw them in public.
Dr. Jinjiri is a research scientist, and has few skills that are relevant to the Xox's current plight. However, he is also very intelligent and his Xox has all of his attributes. Escaping was not easy and the Xox is well aware that staying free may pose even more of a challenge. It has some hope that the use of the concealed bank account may have masked its trail, but it has also made other arrangements.
The Xox is in its top floor suite at the Ritz. One Peregrine Protection operative is in the suite with it at all times. Another lurks in the hallway and elevator area on the same floor and another is in the hotel's main lobby. The Peregrine personnel have electrolaser pistols, light nanoweave vests and radio intercommunication. They are close protection specialists, with good pistol and unarmed skills, but they are not fanatics. The terms of their contract with the Xox are that the police are not to be called except as a last resort.
The team has to come up with a plan to grab the Xox and get it to the safe house without initiating a police response. There are a number of ways to do this but any approach will probably contain the following elements:
- Confirm the visual appearance of the cyberdoll -- this was obtained from a rental agency that operates out of a VR storefront. Matching the price paid from the transaction history to their pricelist suggests that a standard appearance model was hired. This may lead to the possibility of mistaken identity in any relatively crowded location.
- Determine which room the Xox has in the hotel -- the two approaches to this are probably either to bribe a member of staff or to attempt computer intrusion as in p. FW128. For bribery relevant skills, Acting, Fast Talk etc., should be used. In 2100 human hotel workers are generally better paid than in the early 21st century so a reasonable sum may be required. For intrusion, the hotel system has an NAI with Computer Operation-15.
- Subvert the hotel surveillance system -- as above except that bribery is a much tougher proposition. There are also the additional approaches of physically interrupting camera feeds, power or even the hotel microframe.
- Defeat the Xox's Peregrine bodyguards -- traditional methods will probably be used here, the problem is to do it without alerting the hotel security or having a call made to the police. A large-scale distraction, such as a fire alarm, is a possibility but will probably only be effective if the hotel NAI or the surveillance system has been subverted in some way.
- Getaway -- A ground or air car can be hired at $150 a day via VR. It is a short drive to Maddox Street.
If it is confronted by the team, the Xox will run rather than fight, since Dr. Jinjiri has no combat skills to speak of. As it is in a tough cyberdoll body, the Xox is quite prepared to take physical risks in order to escape e.g. jumping through windows, climbing down drainpipes etc. If cornered, it will try and tell the team why it really fled from the asteroid base and plead with them for help. At this point the PCs may be in too much of a hurry to listen, however.
If the team sweep the Cyberdoll for surveillance devices then they will find a tracer nanobug concealed in its clothing by Peregrine. If they don't then they will be quickly followed.
Once at Maddox Street, the EDI specialist will hook the cyberdoll up to a microframe and get to work. If the tracer has not been dealt with then a 4 biosapient Peregrine reaction team will interrupt proceedings. They are armed with electrolaser rifles, tear gas grenades, p. B152, and wear heavy nanoweave vests and gas masks. Their plan is a stealthy approach followed by a quick assault to recover the Xox.
After two hours of hacking, the EDI specialist engages in a lengthy VR call and the team is then given further instructions. It seems that the Xox used the cash to make a backup copy of itself at the transfer station and then had the teradisks shipped to another location in London. It is imperative that these be recovered as well. The specialist has the location, but sensible PCs will probably want to directly interrogate the Xox. If they do then the Xox will certainly tell them what is really going on.
At this point the GM can decide from one of two explanations depending on which is most appropriate to his players and any ongoing campaign:
If the team tends towards the transhumanist point of view -- the Xox is from Exogenesis Station, p. DB17. The station has been sold to Nanodynamics, a large transnational, but a conflict has developed with many of the transhuman station staff that is escalating dangerously. EDI are providing security for the Nanodynamics "transition team" and the Xox alleges that in the course of their operations EDI personnel have forcibly edited Dr. Jinjiri. If true, then this is an extremely serious crime as Jinjiri is a citizen, not anyone's property. In this case the teradisks have been sent to Nigel Brotherwick, a very wealthy ghost and transhumanist. Nigel is also an old friend of Dr. Jinjiri and has many contacts within the transhumanist movement.
If the team tends towards the biochauvinist point of view -- the Xox is from Wolf Station, p. DB23. This station has been the subject of a catastrophic accident, which has killed most of the personnel there. Nanodynamics have covered it up by an elaborate deception where most of the staff have been converted to shadows and placed in a VR simulation of their own workplace. The idea is that they will gradually be managed out through natural "deaths" or otherwise cutting off contacts with friends and family. EDI are providing some security for the operation, though in this case they are not immediately implicated in any criminal acts. The Xox says that Dr. Jinjiri is dead and that it is a copy of his shadow. Even while in an effective VR prison, Jinjiri worked out what had happened and engineered the copy of himself as a way of alerting the outside world. In this case the teradisks have been sent to Nathan Rice, a wealthy and well-connected US citizen living in London who has recently retired from "government service." His daughter also died at Wolf and is a shadow there. He recently had a call from her in which she told him that she never wanted to see him again.
In either situation the teradisks are at a house in St. James's Street (see usable map here.
This is a three-story terraced townhouse with a SAI security system. There are two highly skilled LAI cyberdoll guards armed with electrolasers on duty. St. James's Palace is close by just to add a complication.
It's up to the team to decide what to do.
They can finish the mission for EDI: unless they were very quick in capturing the Xox then the teradisks will have been loaded at the St. James location and Nigel/Nathan will have been briefed by the Xox's backup. He and his AIs will be alert for trouble and they will not hesitate to call the police. A successful covert action under these circumstances is not impossible, but it would be an impressive achievement.
Or they can cut their losses and EDI will pull them out, while frantically trying to formulate some alternate strategy. The team will be paid, but there is the possibility that they now know too much for Nanodynamics' liking.
Or they can side with the Xox, either overtly or by covering its tracks. It will consent to deletion if that is deemed necessary. There is also the complication of the technical specialist at Maddox Street, who is a loyal EDI employee.
If they have sided with the Xox then the team has the option of contacting Nigel/Nathan. In either incarnation he has reacted very badly to the Xox's news and is determined that Nanodynamics will pay. He will consider engaging the PCs to help him and makes an excellent patron. Nanodynamics and EDI make dangerous enemies, however.
Article publication date: July 22, 2005
Copyright © 2005 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.