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A hole where a book should be


Contributed by Luddite
Wednesday, 06 February 2008

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
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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 39C
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
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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?

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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’).

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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’.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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!!

Dnouement 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.

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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

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