A Locked Room Mystery.


Bill Edge.


In order to illustrate some of the parts in my article on writing and GMing investigative adventures, I have included here one of the earliest adventures of that type I still have. Although very flawed, it still has some good elements, making for a rather different adventure. Additionally, and the conclusive factor in including it here, it assumes the GM knows the system being used, but has no such requirement on the players, who never find out the mechanics of the system they are using in any case. As such, it is good for introducing a new group to the science fiction system of your choice.

The adventure is set in 2029 A.D., in the Scottish territory of the Federation of European States, Terra. It is suitable for between 1 and 8 player characters, which should be generated in advance by the GM. Although originally written for Spacemaster (a I.C.E. product) it can be run under any system capable of handling modern and futuristic adventures. Some way of handling cyberware and psionics/magic would also be very useful but, given the nature of this adventure, the GM can quite loosely invent such rules as they go along.

GM’s Introduction.

A. General Plot Line.

By 4473 A.D. Terra is a polluted, irradiated wasteland populated by less than 10,000 beings who could trace their descent from humanity. Due to genetic damage, and the hostility of the environment, each is a cyborg - a human being within an android body designed to emulate, in every way, a human body but in fact far more resiliant.

From this tiny population arose two giants - Hrix, the last strong leader of humanity, and Scili, the greatest physicist ever produced. On the basis of Scili’s work on temporal theory, Hrix proposed a final crusade for the ten thousand. If a time machine could be developed from Scili’s theory, the ten thousand could alter the fate of parrallel timelines to save humanity from its fate. When that had been accomplished as far as possible, the ten thousand would flee to alternate timelines and live out a mortal lifespan there. Hrix’s crusade was taken up.

In 4473, after extensive tests, a single volunteer was sent back to 2029 to pave the way for a team designed to affect one node in the development of humanity. The team succeeded in their mission but suffered almost complete memory loss in the process - only some of their ‘chipped’ background and language skills remaining readily available. Can they return to their own time ?

B. Timeline. This partial timeline is to aid the GM in creating the atmosphere of 2029, and understand some of the NPC groups in the adventure.

1995 Secret testflight of gravitic drive in Siberia by combined EU, Russian, and Ukranian team. Drive later becomes known as the Helfen Drive.

1997 Second Gulf War. Berlin, Paris and Madrid are rendered uninhabitable by suitcase atomics. Baghdad rendered uninhabitable by UN atomic strike with US missiles. Peace of Saigon follows.

1998 Pan-European Defence Executive (PEDE) formed to coordinate EU High Commands. Manned Helfen Drive vessel completes Terra-Selene transit in record time. Germany, France and the UK derogate from European Convention on Human Rights due to public unrest.

2002 PEDE troops intervene in UK and France to maintain public order.

2003 PEDE given operational control over national forces of EU.

2005 Interest in Eco-issues fades - Greens fall behind Muslim and Christian separatists in European Elections.

2006 Manned Helfen drive vessel travels to Mars under EU aegis for first mapping expedition. Expedition finds artifacts of an ancient, advanced, non-indigenous life-form.

2008 Discoveries of Mars expedition released. Foundation of “Church of God the Alien”. Specialists in EU police forces centrally trained. UK police force routinely issued with firearms.

2011 European Federation formed. US and China demand free-market and free trade, and then impose trade sanctions.

2015 EF vessel reaches Jupiter system, manned landing on Io aborted due to technical failure.

2021 EF state of Great Britain divides into England, Scotland and Wales. All states ratify reentry into EF.

2023 EF cedes from UN, claiming abuse of powers by Southern states. UN responds with proof of EF human rights abuses, especially against religious and cultural dissidents.

2025 EF vessel establishes temporary colony on Titan. Discovery of Old Race craft wrecked on that moon, and dormant life form (later called Dozemann’s Motile Spore). Discovery kept secret.

2027 Rumours of DMS begin to circulate.

2029 DMS landed on Terra and taken to the North Rona PEDE Biowar Research Station off the Scottish Coast. Adventure starts here.

2037 DMS found to be harmless, rapidly reproducing and valuable for mood enhancement (scientists were in fact affected by a defensive mechanism of the DFS). Cleared for commercial use - intially psychiatric treatment, later becoming a popular pet and companion.

2055 Rhine Institute announces an increased occurrence of psionic ability, probably caused by contact with DMS.

2050- Race enters a period of introspection and decadence caused by long term affects of DMS contact. Colonies on outer planets fail. Earths environment deteriorates.

2452 Virus destroys all DMS life forms. Psychiatric and physiological disorders ravage race, almost all of whom have some relation with DMS. Final decline of humanity begins.

2452- Population and environment decline. Body armour and prosthetics develop into robotic body and robo-senses attached to a human brain. Non-essential technological innovation continues at a very slow rate.

4425 Scili develops multiverse theory of time.

4441 Hrix launches the last crusade of the Ten Thousand.

4449 First Time Machine developed.

4473 PCs leave for 2029.

C. About Timetravel.

The multiverse consists of the universes spun off at each probabilistic moment. Travel is possible from any universe to any point on any other, and actions taken there can affect the future of that universe. The method of timetravel developed by Scili requires a “carrier wave” from the home date and universe, and allows travel only into the past of an alternate universe. Existence in an alternate universe normally makes return impossible, but Scilli’s machine counters this via the “carrier wave”.

In game terms, whatever the timetravellers do cannot create a paradox, since their existence is not predicated upon events in that universe, but cannot alter their future.

I did not develop this idea very well, but as it typically only emerges to influence the players actions in the last few minutes of play, I am happy to leave it skeletal.

D. The PCs mission.

The PCs mission was to remove the DMS from North Rona, destroy it after investigation, and return to 4473. No one is sure what effect this will have, but in the long run it can hardly be worse than leaving DMS intact. The PCs succeeded in this but, at the moment of death, the DMS showed an unexpected defence. It wiped the memories of all the party to a very basic level - all permanent memories are very deeply buried. Each PC has a number of pseudo-memories programmed to varying depths to allow them to complete their mission - these are very lightly buried, and will gradually emerge as the PCs attempt to make use of them. At the very least, these include languages, potted history, and certain 21st century technical and military skills.

In play, I allowed the PCs to keep recognition of objects around them, a common language, and whatever history the player felt like importing from their own knowledge. Gradually, history and current affairs to the due date came back to them. Skills I handled slightly differently. Some characters I would give hints to that they had some knowledge of a particular sort of activity. For instance, one character removed a pistol from their pocket, and I described it down to brand, muzzle velocity, effective range etc. (I don’t do this normally I hasten to add). As they turned it in their hand it felt ‘right’, and when they needed to use it their skill was fully accessible. The same could be done with technical skills like computer use. More general skills, like lying to people and gauging their reactions, I let emerge as they used them. The system I used supported telepathic (psionic/magical) skills, which I equipped one character with, and I handled that by deciding myself when they used a particular skill, telling them how they felt as the power welled up from deep inside them, and then resolving the skill as normal. They got the idea !

Because this ‘McGuffin’ works best if the players have no idea how competent they are, or otherwise, I never let any of the players see the game characteristics of their character. This is a singularly good adventure for introducing people new to your system, especially if it is complicated or has a reputation for being so. On the down side, a character with amnesia is a little difficult to get into in a novel way, and players tended to race into the problem solving parts and ignore characterisation. That said, I think there is a lot of scope for good role-playing, if you get a good player. Most games of this I have ran involved the players thinking they were some sort of terrorist group, then aliens, then robots, then alien robots, then travellers from a distant time ... I think anyone would be entitled to a degree of emotional turbulence in the circumstances !

Stage 1 : The Apartment.

A. Introduction. The adventure begins in a small apartment in a middle class area of Inverness, now a built up city rich with the proceeds of petrochemical revenues. Here, the players should begin to learn about their environment, and become aware of their dangers.

B. Site. The apartment consists of living room, kitchen, bedroom with a single double bed, and a bathroom. All rooms have windows with closed blinds. The only way down to ground level is through the locked and barred front-door from the living room, down one flight of stairs to a communal area with a pay-to-use comms. room, laundry etc, and then out a secure front or rear door. The apartment is on the second floor of a four storey building, and is one of twelve identical units in the building.

C. Clues.

(1) The Living Room.

(a) On the dining room is a hastily made mechanism plugged into the mains. It connects with a metal plate under a bell shaped glass jar, within which are the charred remains of some form of plant life - actually the DMS, which was electrocuted after investigation.

This might seem a little odd, but I figured it this way. The PCs were fanatics, who blamed the DMS for their sterile lives, and the death of their world. They wanted to make sure that it could not release spores, as sometimes happens on the death of vegetation-like creatures, and would not be aware of any obvious danger before it was terminated. Assume relatively poor information on the DMS after its mass extinction, and a desire for caution on their part. More to the point, they wanted some sort of ritual ‘execution’ of a life-form which had effectively destroyed their world.

(b) In one corner of the room is a TV, turned on, but with the sound muted. At some point the programme (“International Mixed Mud Wrestling - LIVE from New Paris !”) will be succeeded by the news. The news is read by Dorian Hinds and Suzie McNaghten - the style of the programme is fast and furious, with little screen time wasted on showing the newscasters (photographs and live footage, often wildly inappropriate, is preferred). Below, in the order presented, are the news items of the day.

OK, so I think the newscasts are the best part in Robocop. Also, this is quite a good way of getting some information to the PCs pretty quick. I also like PCs being awash with information in a world where not everything that happens is of any relevance to them whatsoever. Some players will ignore the TV if anything more interesting is around, so if you like the newsitems (and your own additions!) you might like to save the most vital ones for after the PCs see their own faces on television. This does catch their attention.

Federal. Henry Windsor seeks increase in pension rights granted on abolition of monarchy. Picture of “Charles and Di” wedding and divorce mugs. Brief interview with “A Spokesman for the Priory De Sion” - an old Frenchman demanding a return to constitutional monarchy under the descendents of Jesus Christ, who he insists include Henry Windsor.

Federal. Attempted bomb-attack on the Basque President by an anti-Federation group. Three policemen were killed (graphic footage and computer simulation of the effects of the blast). “President Henri Wizen” condemns “men of violence”.

Federal. Riots at the Van Danekin Enlightenment Centres in Bonn and Madrid, after a speech by SAM (Scientists Against Myth). Brief speech by Professor Edwin Hall, University of Edinburgh” criticising “this cults use of carbon dating and erroneous grasp of evolutionary theory” which allows them to credit the Old Race with the paternity of mankind.

National. PEDE Chief of Staff “General Olafson” speaks of the need for increased defence spending at a Glasgow conference. Graphic of military power of EF, US, UN and China. Footage of suitcase atomic strike on Paris.

National. New robotic techniques developed under an EF grant are deployed in Scots oil fields. Voice over on increase in safety accompanied by footage of bends, drowning etc..

National. Fire on North Rona (Shots of EF hovercraft fighting fire). Interview with a PEDE Colonel who insists that North Rona is a restricted access experimental sensor base, and not (as the interviewer suggests) a biological warfare base; and that the inhabitants of North Scotland are quite safe. Shots of plague victims, woodcuts of the black death.

National. Increase in gang warfare over the last twelve months (montage of scenes of crime) has led the Edinburgh police to call in experts from Rome and Cardiff. Advertisement for “Neurogen Defence Spray” (“first commercially available variant of the famous Gdansk civil pacification gas !”).

National. Debates in Scots Parliament over state funded hoverlink with Germany. Shots of politicians arguing on essentially right of centre themes.

National. Satanic Coven discovered operating in Northern Scotland - implicated in ritual child abuse, killings to enforce coven decrees, and theft of firearms (including automatic weapons) from an EF base. EFP Spokesman “Inspector G. Grundy” warns the public not to approach and points out compufit of the coven (some quite good likenesses of most of the PCs).

I chose this cover story as one that, at the time of playing, combined folk demon status with a hint of ‘phoniness’. The GM should feel free to replace this with some other cover story, if they prefer.

In one session, one of my players was very curious as to how they had allowed primitive 21st century technology to capture any image of them, and got in a position where he could press Grundy for an answer. Having demonstrated to me that you could never plan everything in advance, I managed to persuade him that EFP had access to mask-mapping software, officially not perfected for nearly a decade, which the PCs had not taken account of for this date. I’m not wonderfully happy with it as an answer, and think that PC cock-up is just as good an explaination !

The same player (doncha love them) later asked why they had gone to all the trouble of stealing 21st century weapons, rather than just bring their, presumably, superior equivalents back from the future. I would suggest that this was to minimise changes to the timeline beyond what they wanted to effect. They were probably also instructed to act within human norms during the raid on the DMS site if possible.

Foreign. Earthquake in Chine kills 150,000 (shots of disaster). UN team is sent in to give aid, but EF team refused access unless willing to comply with unspecified “totally unreasonable conditions”. “Brona Timkin - Minister for World Development” makes plea for China to forget politics and “remember the children” (shots to match).

Foreign. Civil war continues in the southern states of the US. Georgia state assembly declares for Neo-Baptists after repulse of US Army (shots).

Foreign. Corruption trials on competition for Selene Mining permits begin in the UN Court of Justice.

Foreign. World Trade Figures are released. EF is doing well.

Sport. Select your favourite. As a Rollerball fan, the Perth Perch were down 45-23 with two casualties against the Glasgow Groupers.

(c) On the TV is a pile of 50 tri-d photographs (the camera is under the sofa). All show the PCs (in small groups) at the zoo, in a park (in Edinburgh), by the sea, in the street stroking cats etc.. On the back of each picture is a script and language unknown to the PCs (the writing is on the “Jan and Me in Front of the Monkeys” level, and is in the birth language of the PCs).

With some groups, this seemed too much of a giveaway too soon. Most groups, however, pass the photo’s around the whole party to test everyones languages on them, and then ignore them for the rest of the adventure. So maybe it isn’t too obvious a hint at this stage.

(d) The telephone on the north wall is attached to a compact, but clearly handmade, electronic device with a single red light on. If someone tries to tap the line, the red light will come on.

Now, this seems too primitive to me. I would have a more complicated mechanism, with the ability to spoof tracing technology, and block taps. A reverse trace, which traces any attempt to trace, may also be amusing.

(e) The PCs. The adventure starts with the PCs in this room, so they can be dealt with here. If less than 8 PCs are to be used, there are two alternatives - assume unused PCs are not on the mission; or assume they are present, and more heavily affected by the DMS effect. In the latter case they are in a deep, unconscious trance (actually brain dead). The latter approach is likely to test any group of PCs, especially a small group, as they are likely to believe their companions are alive and take them everywhere.

It occurs to me that the latter variant could be made really weird if we assume that the cyborg on-board computer can identify the death of its host, and still function. What about if the dead can be led around and, if questioned, will only respond with <foreign gibberish> “I’m sorry. I am dead” (repeated in all languages onboard) ? I think this gives too much away, but if you prefer atmosphere to mystery, this might be a good variation.

Each PC (and dead PC) present has the following : a EF ID card; licences for any vehicle that have skills in (assume parked outside); a credit card; a 9mm automatic (and full clip); a keyring (containing a key for a flat in Inverness, a key for a house in London, and keys to any cars or motorcycles they can use); and between 3500 and 4000 ECU notes. In addition, one character must have a left luggage key for box 4451 Edinburgh station (this is marked, none of the other keys are). Sharpeyed characters may notice that, although the credit cards have different names and signatures, to match the ID, the numbers are identical. The credit cards do not function as such, and are in fact ‘keys’ to the time machine.

(2) Kitchen. The kitchen is very untidy and the bin is full. It contains tinned and fresh food, but only a small amount of each is eaten (1/2 full cans etc).

The cyborgs have very limited nutritional needs. I have also had plastic explosive hidden in milk cartons in the fridge, but this produced so much interest and puzzlement in the first groups to play, I axed it from later sessions.

(3) Bedroom.The bed has not been slept in. The group has left their gear hear - listed separately for each potential PC for the GMs ease. In fact, human nature being what it is, the PCs gear does tend to be together. The GM might like to allow each PC a chance to ‘feel’ what belongs to them.

1- carryall (2 pistol clips, one half used; detailed aeronautical map of Scotland and the Isles; dark clothing).

2- carryall (2 clips of ammo; dark clothing with blood stains); briefcase containing high-tech burglary and hacking tools (by high tech, I mean 21st century!).

3- carryall (3 clips of ammo; 9mm pistol; dark clothing); briefcase containing high-tech electronics and mechanics tools.

4- carryall (2 clips of ammo; dismantled LMG, tripod, 6 drums of ammo; light weight SMG, 3 clips, 2 claymore a-p mines).

5- carryall (housebreaking gear; 2 clips ammo; SMG with 3 clips; 4 fuses; 3 timers; 6 blocks of plastic explosives).

6- carryall (2 clips ammo; SMG, 3.5 clips; 2 fuses; 1 timer; 3 blocks of plastic explosives); motorcycle gloves and helmet.

7- carryall (2 clips ammo; mountaineering gear; dark clothing (hole in the chest of the jacket, but no blood)).

8 - as 3.

Most of my adventures have a fairly low level of violence, and I tend to work on the basis that a situation where a PC is outgunned with a shotgun vs. a pistol is as atmospheric as one where he is outgunned with an LMG vs a SMG. So this amount of hardware is very exceptional in my adventures. Regular players twigged this very quickly, and instantly expected a very high level of opposition. Other players, perhaps more used to more violent campaigns, took it as unexceptional, if good, kit, and acted accordingly. I think this is a good illustration of my point in the article about GM/player familiarity.

(4) Bathroom. Apart from recycled toilet paper, and environmentally friendly soap, the bathroom is sparse and uninteresting.

D. Events.

(a) Starting the PCs. The PCs should come round (not all at once, space out over a few moments) to see any inactive characters in a trance (eyes open, stood or sat as they were in the moment the DMS died. At least one is sprawled over the table, having activated the electrocution device. The PCs are awoken by the ringing of their doorbell. At the door is a youngish man, dressed in business clothes, stroking a white cat. He will introduce himself as Barry from upstairs, and explain that he just wanted to introduce himself to the new tenants (there are some nice chances here for lines like “and you are ..... ?”). In fact, he is Shamus Farne, a plainclothes policeman investigating the PCs as potential criminals wanted for whatever the cover story is. His partner, Eloise Jute, is waiting outside listening to the interchange, and will raise the alarm if he is attacked. Shamus will make a positive ID of the PCs, and then make every effort to leave, discarding upstairs cat as he does so. Five minutes after Shamus has called, four policemen will arrive to help stake out the building, while they wait for a SWAT team to arrive. Twenty minutes after this Jacques Casson (a US agent in Scotland) will telephone the PCs, having learnt of their location.

Unknown to the PCs, unless they are clever enough to see through Shamus, a clock is ticking as soon as they come around. Twenty five game minutes will give them enough time to get thoroughly confused, but still leave them feeling as if things have just begun. If they are really together, and seem set to leave before Jacques rings, have him ring them as soon as you realise this. If they never contact Jacques, most of the guidelines on the adventure which follow are of limited relevance. Good luck !

His conversation will run much like this : “Listen, don’t talk. EFP will have a tap on this in a few moments. The police are outside, waiting for a SWAT team to arrive in the next hour or so. Get out now. If you want passports and an out bring some samples to the Unicorn in Edinburgh tomorrow night 8.30. Any quest ... Oh ******”. The red light comes on and Jacques rings off.

If the PCs take Jacques advice they will have to deal with Eloise, Shamus and four dutiful, but entirely sensible policemen. If not, the SWAT team will arrive in 45 minutes and raid the apartment in an attempt to recover DMS and learn who the PCs are working for.

For some reason, PCs tend to have a lot of trouble breaking out of the apartment, especially smaller groups. Very often, their non-human nature becomes apparent through surviving fatal wounds, which is a shame, as I prefer that to come out later. But any clash can have the potential to drop hints to PCs about their nature eg. they can see in the dark better than their opponents, they can carry one another up and down stairs at a run without going out of breath etc.. Of course, your players may just think you are a bad, or absentminded, GM, who has let them get away with murder. Cest la vie.

Stage 2 : On the Run.

A. Introduction. These are general notes on the perils of travel for the PCs, and should be borne in mind whenever the PCs are out in the open rather than holed up safely.

B. Dangers.

(1) The general public. The pictures of the PCs are adequate (no better) but not all people are good with faces. Most will have seen the news item, but not taken it in. Of those that do, most will tend to think “? .... naaa”. The PCs should be fairly safe if they avoid being all together at the same time, being in line of sight of someone actually watching the news or reading a paper, talking about the cover story. The GM should, however, ensure that the PCs always feel in danger of recognition, but, when recognition does come, is just too late to do more than seriously inconvenience the PCs and keep the professionals on their trail.

The memorable group who purged a supermarket where the checkout person recognised them demonstrate admirably the limits on the power of the GM to keep atmosphere on track. Still, I did get to use some weapon tables I never used before.

(2) Federation Police. All FP are well trained, and have been alerted to keep an eye open for the PCs. Thus, while they are fallible, they are quite likely to become suspicious if they spot the PCs. The polices first priorities are to confirm their identity, notify HQ, and then attempt an arrest if plausible.

(3) Special Forces. There are three agencies to worry about : Federation Intelligence, the CIA, and the Nigerian Special Operations. FI is on its home territory, and will tend to act on police information; the CIA has a mole in FI, and will tend to act on FI information; while the Deputy Director of the CIA (EF) is an NSO agent ... Thus, the chances of the PCs falling into the hands of just one of these agencies is quite slim. FIs priority is to find out who the PCs work for, and why they destroyed the DMS. The CIA and NSO, who are not so well informed, believe that the PCs are mercenaries who have stolen state of the art biowar samples from PEDE to sell to the highest bidder, and will act to protect or eliminate the PCs accordingly. As the agencies gradually become aware of the PCs superhuman powers (through analysis of recordings from North Rona or the PCs own actions), the attitudes of all three are likely to shift.

It is perhaps worth noting the way these shift. The PCs, given their amnesia, tend to place a lot of weight on what their enemies believe of them. I find the following possibilities useful : (a) the PCs are ‘bionic’, and therefore backed by China, which is believed to have made great leaps in this area; (b) the PCs are robotic, and of a standard unattainable by humanity. Humanity has begun to mess around with Old Race sites, and maybe something has noticed - the PCs are machines sent by the Old Race; (c) the PCs are themselves aliens. Note that the threat rating of the PCs will just keep increasing through these theories.

C. Travel.

(1) Aircraft. The airports of all Scotland have been alerted, but only the larger ones actually have police on watch. The smaller ones are meant to fax the ID of any charter people to FEPHQ, but this is a cumbersome process.

(2) Boat. The lines out of Scotland all require ID checks, and the police have been alerted. Of course, there are lots of smaller vessels which would be easier to travel on.

(3) Rail. The police are checking rail links but, with the increased emphasis on public transport, the sheer number of people travelling makes this a fairly safe option. Plain clothes police keep an eye on most of the major stations, however, and smaller stations are probably safer.

(4) Road. Eloise will have photographed all the number plates of parked cars etc. while awaiting the SWAT team, and so the police will be on the lookout for those vehicles very quickly. Dumping them and stealing others is a temporary expedient, but it will leave something of a trail across the countryside.

D. Encounters.

(1) Railway stations are protected by security firms, as are the larger shopping malls. In most other places beggers and down and outs congregate (disproportionately Arabic speaking due to a backlash of bigotry). Some are drug addicts and can be violent.

(2) Advertisements have shift to very hard sell, very product orientated. These products include genital deodorants, the new G-cars (based on Helfen drive), role playing holidays (tacwar survival, alien invasion, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), labour opportunities on Selene, and the latest in disposable clothing.

(3) Scotland has become, to a certain extent, multilingual. The upper classes and well-educated often speak 3 European languages, while many elements of European languages have entered lower level slang.

Stage 3 : Preliminary Investigations.

A. Analysis of the remains of the DMS. Commercial analysis will take at least 4 days, and produce the conclusion that the DMS is a creature of an unknown kingdom - it is also very likely to alert the authorities. A quick examination by a good biologist will cause complete puzzlement and a conclusion that it may be some sort of mutated lichen. Such a biologist would be very likely to insist on learning where it came from, and trying to keep it for further investigation.

B. Investigation of North Rona. If the PCs go haring up there they are very likely to be captured or killed, despite their superhuman powers. Equally, access to information on the base will be very tough. Good use of archives will reveal that North Rona has been a military base since 2017.

C. The Cover Story. The vast majority of those hunting the PCs believe the cover story. Inspector G. Grundy, however, knows the absolute basics about the truth, but relies largely upon Detective Inspector Barry Castles, who is fully briefed on the affair to the full extent of the EFs knowledge. Neither would reveal anything voluntarily, but neither are expecting the PCs to attack them. The crime centre is in Edinburgh, and the pair would be easy to abduct.

D. The Writing on the Photographs. If the PCs can get a University linguist to help them out, they may learn something useful. This should only be a bonus for good play, so the GM should feel free to have experts ignore ‘faxes and phone calls, and require a pushy and clever personal approach to even get a hearing. Even if they persuade someone to have a look, there is a big chance that it will be regarded as a hoax. If they can get a serious hearing, the expert will congratulate them on their ingenuity. The script and language is an amusing combination of modern languages, to which paleolinguistic rules of evolution have been applied. The rules haven’t been applied perfectly, and the choice of starting languages is rather strange, but it really is very good ! No one would speculate how much time has meant to have passed.

E. The PCs. Although their memories are blank, their bodies should provide some clues. The GM should not stress their superhuman attributes, but allow them to deduce them gradually, as I have touched on before.

Two variants here. In one, the cyberware is not unrecognisable as mechanical, and so the (part) mechanical nature of the PCs emerges when wounded. In the other, the cyberware is so advanced as to appear more like a strange kind of living flesh and tissue, leaving the alien origin route open.

Stage 4 : In Edinburgh.

A. Box 4451 Edinburgh Station. Inside the box is a shoulder bag - “Compliments of Crual and Fardman. For that last minute packing !” is emblazoned onto the side of the bag. Inside is 15,000 ECU, another set of IDs for each PC, 2 9mm automatics with clips, a spare credit card, and an extra key to the London house.

B. The Unicorn. This is a very expensive basement club in the heart of Edinburgh. It is a theme club and the night the PCs go is ROMAN NITE ! Let the PCs feel incredibly out of place as they stand in the entrance surrounded by toga-clad revellers before they see they can rent costumes. ROMAN NITE ! has two moods (a) relaxing on chaise lounges eating grapes, listening to roman style synthesised music and watching the live entertainers; (b) dancing to roman music with an incredibly obtrusive beat in the midst of flashing lights, smoke, laser lights, and projections of 20th century roman epics onto the walls and floor. Some time soon after 8.30 Ngo Muasha (an NSO operative) will approach the PCs, explain that Jacques couldn’t come, and try to get the PCs out as soon as possible. While he is doing this Jacques will spot them, and hail ... The CIA and NSO won’t come to blows over this, and if Ngo cannot persuade the PCs to flee “a damned PEDE” the two will probably agree on a joint offer to the mercenaries. This could be a great opportunity for confusion, argument, and compromise. The PCs may well expect CIA/NSO to have all the information; CIA/NSO will expect the PCs to have biosamples and a price. Depending upon events the party might break up amicably, or after a firefight, or end in the PCs emigrating to the USA or Nigeria.

If the latter happens, the GM should console himself with the knowledge that mankind was saved before the adventure begun, and wing it !

Stage 5 : To London ?

A. Getting the PCs to London. If the PCs consult a national telephone directory, they will find a Crual, Farquarhson and McKewn - a firm of solicitors in Aviemore (the Cairngorms). This is a complete red-herring. If they try the English or full EF directory they will find Crual and Fardman, a firm of estate agents in Southern London.

B. Travelling to London. This should not be too difficult, although the ticket instructors have been ordered to keep an eye on travellers (do they bother - do they heck).

C. At Crual and Fardmans. C&F is a small estate agents (30 or so staff). The PCs may decide to go in in the hope of being recognised - unfortunately the house was rented by the first time traveller, not one of them. Assuming the PCs believe that their keys match a house sold or rented by C&F the only way to find out is by burglarising their offices. This will be fairly easy, but the PCs are then left to match their keys with copies kept by the estate agent. Just as well cyborgs don’t get tired and have a good eye for detail. Eventually they will find a match - 24 Muscovy Avenue, rented for twelve months from a date three months ago, by Cristina R. Pacis.

Stage 6 : 24 Muscovy Avenue and Beyond.

A. 24 Muscovy Avenue is a small terrace house in a good part of London. It is obviously closed up, unfurnished and with all the power off. Searching the house will reveal nothing (but should be made very tense), but in the cellar is a metal box, 10m by 5m by 2m, with a dull black sheen. There is a single door, without any obvious mechanism but with a small credit card sized slot. Inserting the card will activate a high-tech scanner (the PCs will feel a slight tingle) which will recognised the PCs as cyborgs. The door will then open, to reveal a very high tech interior with ten seats and a single, computerised, control panel. The panel is complex and indeciphrable, but there is a red bar on the arm of the control chair - emergency chronological return.

One of the PCs will press this, rest assured. It only gets tough if the rest of the PCs try to get out of any blast radius by waiting outside ...

B. Apart from closing the door and changing the display the button will not seem to do anything. When the PCs open the door they are in a scientific chamber whose glass windows look out over a Venus like atmosphere. Watching nervously are a group of humans armed with strange weapons (actually, very powerful lasers), one of whom asks something incomprehensible. If everyone stays calm, Hrix will eventually explain the PCs origins and mission to them, find out it was successful, and congratulate them, before arranging for state of the art psychiatric help !

The GM might be interested in knowing how the adventure actually ended for most groups. I am a fairly hard GM, but this adventure has a high completion rate - in part because very few physical threats are capable of causing PC deaths. Two groups ended the adventure in a particularly memorable way, however.

The first group succeeded in avoiding the attentions of the government agencies, and returned through time. Upon arrival, however, they came to the conclusion that Hrix’s Crusade of the 10,000 sounded dangerously fanatical and authoritarian (a good point which Hrix’s behaviour on that particular run made even better - it was late, I was tired, he was over the top, especially with his offer of psychiatric aid). Rather than trust him with a time machine, they pinned down his bodyguard, and hit switches until they went somewhere ! It turned out to be Southern France at the time of the Albigensian Crusade - an adventure I really must write some time !

The second memorable group got themselves too caught up in the government agencies machinations, and ended up pretending to be servants of the Old Race, who needed help reporting back to base. Having established that they were dangerous, but out of contact with their leaders, they then went to a rendezvous with Inspector Grundy, and began to threaten the safety of the human race. They had checked the rendezvous for protection from a covert special forces or police attack, but given the stakes, this did not seem a likely response for the government. Once Grundy decided that they were too dangerous to survive, but currently vulnerable, he triggered a Fuel-Air-Explosive strike from the air on his location. They had some hints that something was happening, but I think would not believe a GM would ever allow a group to be exposed to something like that, and just watched the show. The holocaust that followed was, I ruled, more than even their frames could take, and they all died.

This adventure had quite an impact on my GMing. Although rather simple, and with limited role-playing opportunities, it did give me a chance to explore some SF ideas. It later became a root-tale for one of my longer campaigns, set in a world 30 years on where some of the PCs frames had been captured by contemporary science, resulting in an imbalance in development; and alien presences were exploring the solar system avaraciously.

Important NPCS.

CASSON, Jacques. The best CIA illegal in Europe, Jacques is a French-Canadian placed in Scotland, posing as a Frenchman in order to gain some slight leeway. He is a professional, whose only flaw is a tendency to over-estimate the opposition. Slightly built, but well able to look after himself. Favours a mustache and, for the time, formal dress.

CASTLES, Barry. Detective Inspector in the EFP. A young policeman who spends most of his time in anti-terrorist (ie. political) operations, and who has a very high security clearance. His promotion has been as a result of a “fast track” technological scheme. He is skilled, ruthless, practical and has a lot of common sense - including an unjustly accurate view of human nature. He is heavily built, and rather sentimental when relaxed.

FARNE, Shamus. Detective Constable in the EFP. Intelligent, witty detective with special training in public relations. Looks scholarly and quite soft, but is actually decisive and quick witted. Somewhat out of condition and had a high regard for his own skin.

GRUNDY, G. Inspector in the EFP. A pragmatic policeman who knows when not to buck the system, and how to get results. his career was endangered some years ago by a torture investigation, but the storm blew over. He has had a colostomy, and so is no longer as athletic as he once was. Otherwise, he is a very capable 46 year old career policeman.

HRIX. Leader of the Ten Thousand. Strong, persuasive leader. Imaginative and quick thinking. His cyborg is that of a 36 year old Indo-European male.

JUTE, Eloise. Detective Sergeant in the EFP. An Ex-PEDE Private who entered EFP after an accident during a chemical warfare drill. Methodical where Shamus is brilliant, competent where he over-extends himself. Cool under fire, but more likely to react to gunfire with retaliation than get her head down and await reinforcements. Athletic middle age.

MUASHA, Ngo. NSO Agent. A relatively inexperienced illegal who has only just settled into his cover as an English export agent. He has never fired his gun in anger, and, despite a quick mind, is likely to hesitate before making any irrevocable decision on the instant, primarily due to his lack of experience and of confidence.

The PCs.

Avoiding game mechanics, the 8 pre-generated Spacemaster characters for this adventure carried out roughly the following roles :

1. Pilot, scout and diplomat, with some psionic powers.

2. Driver, scout and technician, specialising in security systems.

3. Driver, scout and technician, specialising in electronic and mechanical systems.

4. Soldier, good at small arms tactics and use of all weaponry available to the team.

5. Soldier and demolitions man, good with the SMG and locating security systems.

6. Motorcyclist and boat pilot, able to support (5) in demolitions.

7. Diplomat, skilled in law and mores of the time.

8. Soldier, good at small arms tactics and use of all weaponry available to the team.

The cyborg frames made them superhumanly strong, agile, and quick; immune to bleeding, shock, poison etc; able to take vastly more damage than a human could without passing out, although having taken that much damage the frame would be destroyed; very acutely sensed, able to see fine detail, in darkness, and with excellent range perception.