The lost expedition. A prologue.

Abbey in the Oak Forest

When I started writing this in May, I knew I wanted a star vampire to be at the core of the conspiracy. Latching it to the Tunguska event, I had the means of arrival and declared it a spore with a fungus like ability to reproduce. I stayed pretty vague on the rest of the details as they were not required at the time. Now that the players have gathered information from the research binders they started looking more closely at the Tunguska event; it became self-evident that a prologue was the best answer. In my opinion it will give depth to the story and shed light on the organism itself. That being said, it also means that the Colonist must be better defined if we want a proper investigation type story. So here it is.

The Colonist

What happens to an ecology, when the parasite level reaches critical mass? The ecology dies.
— Hugh MacLeod, How To Be Creative

Alien Origins

The vampire in the Shoot at the Stars campaign is a fungus like entity that arrived through the Tunguska incident in 1908. The fungus is a parasite that migrates from star to star colonizing any ecology that it encounters, once the entire ecology is subverted, it becomes dormant for until a catastrophic event, planet collision, or even attempt by the inhabitants to send it out to space, enables it to reach the next stars. The organism is so simple that it can survive in most environment in its dried state, and will return to it when exposed to danger. When dried the organism looks like a white gray powder that could easily be mistaken for Anthrax.

– From Research Notes on S100A4 KU1/KU2/KU4

Einstein’s math was sound, faster-than-light travel is not possible. Unknowingly for the human race, this little tidbit of math is what protects it from most of the dangers of the universe.  The problem is that Darwin was also right. The organism known as the spore is a product of the adaptation trait, on a distant planet near a dying star. In the final days, before the star collapsed, the organisms living on the planet discovered a way to encode their unique DNA on hyper resistant spores that could travel the stars on the remnants of their planet. The dormant spore travels the void using meteors. In addition to the alien DNA the spore contain a really simple bio software algorithm that triggers when entering a new biosphere. The algorithm steps are really simple to ensure a maximum percentage of success. When connecting to the new biome, the spore begin establishing a bridgehead by mimicking the most simple organism it can find in the new locale. Afterwards it follows the evolution path to learn about the local biome DNAs, it then uses a high level organism from the host planet to act as scaffolding for its own DNA. To build this scaffolding, the organism harvest from local source and rebuilds the host completely by using available parts. This is where the colonization system can fail. Landing in a remote part of a world often means that the spore needs to lay dormant for a long time before being able to latch on a new organism. It’s parasitic nature also prevents it from colonizing barren worlds. Once the scaffolding material has been harvested, the spore enter the second phase of their programming. The graft the alien DNA to the protein base, allowing the parasitic organism to be reconstructed completely from local stem material.

The Tunguska Event

Historical sources tell us that the first expedition to the region of Tunguska following the fall of the meteor did not occur till 1921. What they fail to tell us is that the 1921 expedition lead by mineralogist Leonid Kulik is the first public recorded expedition. There was another one in 1909, lead by a geologist from the St-Petersburg Academy of Sciences. The record of which are currently unknowingly sealed in the Smolny Institute extensive historical library. The log was written by a journalist part of the expedition and was seized by the Cheka along with samples from the region in 1921.

Following our survey of the Tunguska region we investigated the possible presence of meteoric iron in a region just a couple of kilometers north. On the order of the expedition team leader, we used our remaining resources, equipped our dog sled and started our 3 weeks trip. Most of us were tired but happy, knowing that after this final trip we could finally go home to our loved ones.

Welcome to Ingelheim

Agents Goal : Escape the clutch of the conspiracy, discover its real goal.

Current Location : Ingelheim, Germany

Location Aspects : Cold, Small Town, Suspicious of strangers

Conspiracy Goal : After the failed attempt at recruiting the agents, the conspiracy will make every effort to get rid of the agents. The conspiracy is nearing its own goal, and will not tolerate any other change in plans. The loss of the research binders is unacceptable and they will make every effort to recover them. Luckily for the conspiracy, the binders were tagged with locators.

The Research Binders

S100A4 MR4 [0001]

Contains background information on the Tunguska event. The information is generic and contains eye witness reports of the event collected from various historical sources. See here for more information.

S100A4 MR4 [0106]

[KU3]

Animal testing is a complete failure. The non primate antigen are not able to support the growth factor of the spores, leading to a rapid cell degeneration. The cell degeneration is so fast that is creates huge amounts of energy and burns out the test subject. The same procedure applied to primates offers a much more interesting avenue of research. The larger primate seem to be able to sustain the burn rate of the spore. After careful monitoring, it seems the energy intake of the test primate increased by a factor of a 1000%. When we tried to reduce the amount of food given to the subjects, they quickly became agressive and attacked one another. We lost 2 of the 3 subjects, they were killed and “eaten” by Gargantua. After careful review of the events, it was theorized that the primate went for the closest primary source of antigen.

[KU4]

Following the orders of KNS the research team started testing the KU3 strain on human subjects. Thanks to the provided dossier – S100A4 MR4 [0039] – we were able to duplicate the research and derived a composite spore that we could inject in human subject. The higher intellect of the subject seemed to help in controlling the violent outburst that we saw in the primates. Once we started running protocol p6 to test the stability of the grafted spore we quickly found that the sought after stability would not be found in the KU4 variant.

[KU5]

Using the research notes provided by the chemists we were able to duplicate and reproduce his test results. The compound created using this process offers huge advantages compared to any strain we managed to create during our last research cycle. The effect still leaves the test subjects on the brink of death, but we feel that this hurdle might be completely preventable by lacing the material with some form of steroid construct. Samples are in route to research center in Moscow, Amsterdamand Ohio.

[KU6] – New research based on the KU3 strand. Will begin testing in the following weeks. Samples are in route to research centers in Moscow, Amsterdam and Ingelheim.

Without access to the original strain we feel the research might soon reach a dead end. Some advances could be made injecting the spores directly in a protein scaffolding. The fragility of the KU3 strain makes it unlikely that this method will succeed. Comparing our notes with those obtained from the 8 of heart could also lead to potentially promising variations. Given access to the original strain it is our belief that an air-delivered weaponized version of the KU6 variant could be finished in time for the arrival of the primary investor. We are therefore requesting additional funding.

Approved by Dr. Sorin Cimpeanu

Scenes

The angry farmer – He doesn’t like strangers.

The last hobo – He doesn’t drink the water.
The Syrians – They want respect.
The zombies – They drank the water.
The authorities – They are scared of the city – See Bhopal
The mayor – Turns a blind eye to the problems.
The bystanders – The work for Boehringer
Les minettes – Dr. Sorin Cimpeanu goes there to feed.

Everybody in Ingelheim is Infected KU5

Getting out of nowhere (Recap #11)

Stuck on a side track of the train running between Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Frankfurt, Germany, while getting gunned at by mercenaries or militia. The panoramic route once tranquil and relaxing, brought the Agents back to their sad life of plain old crazy.

Spotting a team of spotters on a ledge on the other side of the mountain the agents begin to clear out the wagon from the remaining civilian when they hear the high pitch sound of a hovering drone. So far so good, they begin walking toward the tunnel as they spot the flash of a surface-to-air missile being launched. A couple of seconds later the bridge exploded in a thunderous flash. The weight of the wagon adding to the damage of the AGM-176, the bridge had no chance, it started to break apart. As every horizontal surface reverted to a vertical state due to gravity.  Running from the collapsing girders Natasha fell as the bridge started to collapse and luckily was grabbed by Sean who just managed to get her back up on her feet and running toward the tunnel.

Once inside the brick and stone tunnel, the agents were able to take a breather, huddled together the civilian were crying and shivering due to shock and fear. Sanderson knew that most of them were suffering from shell shock, and that they would be marked for life by the traumatic event. Niclas was the first one to run, sure that the agents, sporting guns and looking like they knew what they were doing, were responsible for this. Sean quickly booby trapped the east entrance with shrapnel taken from the ground itself.

Victor is pissed and walks in the bullets

Sitting in the brick tunnel, militia came in both end of the tunnel – firing and moving, using standard German military covering techniques. Once both 3 man teams were in position, about 20 feet from the entrance, the dropped and started firing wildly at the agents. One of the civilians got hit by a ricochet just as Sean popped the blasting cap and collapsed the east entrance over the commando. Their ears bleeding, the agents now only had to take care of the west team; which redoubled their rate of fire. With Sanderson, Natasha taking pot shots towards the west entrance, and keeping the militia pinned, Victor stood up, ran west taking the militia completely by surprise. As he came close, the militia stood up to take him down, only to be gunned down by the concerted fire of the two female agents.

“J’en ai assez de cette merde…”

With the primary threats taken care of, the agents and their civilian ? walk out to a snowy German mountain side. About 50 feet from the train track the agents spot 3 snowmobiles, one pulling a snow trailer. After a short debate the agents and civilian load up and start driving toward Ingelheim – the nearest German town, the fated train next stop. As the reach the crest, they see that getting to Ingelheim might be really difficult, a couple of hour train ride would likely translate in a two day trek. Under equipped to withstand the cold, they hit the “Return Trip” button of the GPS and double back. Driving in the light underbrush, 2 patrolling snowmobiles start to chase them, firing light machine guns, hoping to take them down. Zigzagging through the forest, with the second agent returning fire, they manage to disable one of the pursing ski-doo using a precise shot to the engine, which locks up and explodes. The other chaser begins to bridge the distance pull up to the side of Sanderson’s ride, as they exchange fire, the second soldier on the snowmobile stands, ready to jump on the agent’s machine. This small distraction made the militia driver look behind while he should probably have looked forward. The snowmobile momentum went to 0 in about 1 second flat as it hit a gigantic pine tree, the driver and passenger never stood a chance. The pine tree will live on as if nothing has happened.

Nearing the edge of the woods, they see a large manor sitting on the edge of a cliff. Around the perimeter our Agents can spot well armed guards, snowmobiles and an airplane sitting on a short runway. Sanderson, takes note of the length of the runway and knows that it takes a pilot with an extra set of balls to fly this baby. The runway ends just before a cliff of at least 500 feet. As they take in the security measures, they are distracted by noises coming out of the woods behind them, as the agents turn to meet the newcomer they are scared shitless by a gray black gorilla. As the agents take the details in, they sadly notice wires coming out of its head. The gorilla snatches a civilian and throws it around like a rag doll. The shaken agents not missing a beat concentrate their fire and take down the 800 pounds beast.

If it looks like a duck

Rapidly assessing the body, McGee sees that the wires coming out of the head of the body use an insulation technique not seen since the 1950’s. Over a riot speaker system, they can hear a German voice asking them to lay down their weapons and parley. The voice offers a truce. Knowing that the gunshots and explosions alerted the militia, they decide to accept the offer and walk to the manor gate. At the gate they can see that the militia are weary, but not stressed. The agents weapons are confiscated, and they are then escorted through the manor main door. Once inside the manor, they can see that their first impression of age was not wrong, this manor smells of rot and mold, the humidity really high. They are brought to a room with a fireplace, as the door closes behind them, they can see a hidden side door farther in. After about 15 minutes, an older gentleman comes in with a glass of wine and official looking dossiers. The glass looks like the Saint-Grail, and the man holding it doesn’t do anything to dispel the Dracula feeling you get from him.

“It cost me/us a lot to bring you here. Please heed my offer, it should simplify our lives.”

A man of action more than word, Nikodim Stepanovitch, makes an uncomfortable pitch where the agents would work for his group helping to create a cure for almost all of Man’s illnesses. “I have seen the folly of man, and I will not let it repeat itself. This research must not fall in their hands, if it ever does, we will see an arms race that could completely destroy the human race. And this time their would be not stopping it. ” He looks genuinely interested in making sure the research progresses and from his looks the agents can tell that this old man has seen his fair share of horror. “We would be ready to offer you a truce, as we think you misunderstood our intentions, and to prove that we are well-meaning, we would be prepared to employ you to help us in our quest to understand and develop this cure. As we could see from these – he points to the dossiers – your skills would be very handy in a variety of ways.”

The Leprechaun

After completing his speech, he excuses himself, leaving behind the dossiers and an almost empty wine glass. The dumbfounded agents look at one another, unable to decide how to take the offer, or even how to refuse such an offer. Victor is the first to break the silence, and walks to the chair, as he sits down he takes the first dossier and starts reading. Sean dabs his handkerchief in the glass, and quickly pockets it.

In which Victor learns secrets from the other agents.

On Sophie Sanderson

Left the MI6 after anonymously leaking informations to the media, she is suspected by the British Secret Service and is considered a threat to the Crown. The documents leaked have caused at least 4 agents to die in the field, after their cover had been blown.  She is currently on the list of the 100 most wanted criminals of the British Commonwealth.

On Natasha Romanov

Left the KGB after she was told that her husband died in the field. Untrusting of the official story, she left to find her husband. The KGB brass considers Natasha could endanger deep cover agents around the world trying to  obtain information about her dead husband.

On Michael McGee

During his third tour in cold war Germany as a combat engineer, Sergeant McGee was found bloody and unconscious in the “Death Strip” of the Berlin Wall. Unable/unwilling to explain when and how he had gotten there, he was  charged with dereliction of duty and promptly sent home to finish his contract as a desk corporal. During is last medical check-up, a small metal object was found under his skin and extracted. Due to pressure from McGee the doctor entered shrapnel in the examination file.

On Sean Cormack

Known IRA bomb maker, Sean Cormack was suspected of being the mastermind behind the explosion of a bus on February 18, 1996. Secret Service have identified a possible link between Cormack and one of the survivor. Chelsea Leatherby, 3 years old at the time, lost both her parent in the incident. Placed in the public care system, she received access to an anonymously set-up trust fund. It is the bellief of Her Majesty Secret Services, that Cormack might be the secret provider of this money.

After a short discussion where the agents come to the conclusion that this is a trap. Nikodim Stepanovitch enters the room and seeing Victor in the chair stands near the fireplace, the picture of a perfect European gentleman. Sean walks over and explain that they will not accept the offer. He could only have said so, but he took out a luchador mask, “The Leprechaun”, puts it on and tackles Stepanovitch directly in the fireplace. As the man starts burning, yelling a most inhuman sound. He turn to dust and it floats to the walls. They quickly try to open the two doors, which are locked from the outside, Sanderson looks around and decides to find a third way out. “Since we are in a castle, there must be secret passages.” Looking really well she triggers a small mechanism which opens a small door that gives on a set of stairs. With no other choices but to go down, they line up and walk down.

As they get down to the bottom floor, clearly under the mountain rocks, the see medieval cells. The cells have been used recently and reek of human misery. They walk further in, wanting out of this hell, they arrive to a pristine room containing the best and worst science has to offer. Every instrument organized in a perfect production line designed to extract human blood, quickly, efficiently and without causing too much pain. Looking around the room, the agents spot a bookcase containing 5 research binders labelled S100A4 MR4 [0001],  S100A4 MR4 [0014], S100A4 MR4 [0039], S100A4 MR4 [0050] and S100A4 MR4 [0106]. As the agents started looking more closely, the compound alarm blared to life, the lights went down and the security lighting subsytem took over. They started running up some stairs to emerge from a side door of the manor. Looking around at the commotion the agents saw Nikodim Stepanovitch walk out of the main doors and order his men around to secure the perimeter.

It did not take them long to evaluate their possible options, between running out, blasting out on snowmobiles or just stealing the plane and flying out. Running to the plane, trying to keep a low profile the agents managed to get on-board and prepare for on flight movie. Oh yeah, some militia managed to spot them, and get dead the same way. Sanderson took the stick, gunned the engine and once the plane started moving became a small arms fire target. With the four other agents providing covering fire, they took off after a brutal drop at the cliff. The plane managed to stay airborne just in time to turn its side toward incoming RPG fire. Using all her piloting skill, Sanderson dropped the plane at a 90 degrees angle and dodged the incoming fire. Staying low the agents managed to get enough distance between them and Dracula’s manor. Now having more experience leaving in-flight airplanes, they decided to grab the available chutes, get them on and jump out while setting the plane autopilot to fly for as long as possible. Hopefully confusing their pursuers.

Floating down over the Ingelheim valley the agents can admire the beautiful landscape, the small farms on the outskirt of the town and the huge pharmaceutical complex that is named a couple of times in the stolen research binders.

Welcome to Ingelheim, we hope your stay will be pleasant.