This port may have been a corporate paradise back in the day, but those days are gone. The whole place has a rundown, dingy feel. A SuSAG company town, the area is dominated by old drug processing factories, many of them closed. The market collapsed for products from this world decades ago, and nothing has taken its place. The streets are filled with unemployed locals earning Credits as street entertainers, or selling unusual plants, animals and illicit goods to starport visitors.
The plants and animals are native to the world, but apparently not common to the starport area. All are very interesting, obviously the products of billions of years of evolution. Among the illicit goods are the usual services, some old model weapons, and a standard assortment of recreational drugs. One vendor, Mr. Linebarger, who goes to great lengths to be sure the players are not law enforcement, has a few very expensive, and very powerful, psi drugs. Only persistent players can even find this vendor, let alone buy from him.
Just as the group is settling in at a bar the star port alarms sound. Frantic and confused evacuation orders are announced; a shuttle is on a suicide course, aimed at the port. The port defenses are able to destroy the ship, but chunks of flaming debris rain down over the town.
The adventure can take place on any Terran-like world that has a robust ecosystem. The population is small, tens of thousands at most. Government is either corporate or otherwise dominated by its corporate benefactor, SuSAG. Only one continent is settled, the others mapped but unoccupied.
The players can be a mix of any types, with some medical, tracking or investigative skills, and, of course, combat training.
The GM should generate stats for the NPCs listed and several small animals suitable as pets.
During the disaster the players can run through the streets, dodging flaming debris while the city is bombarded, or they could sit tight and hope their building isn’t hit. If anyone is injured, they might be able to investigate in town (see below).
Several riots break out as looters take advantage of the situation. Depending on the player’s ethics, this could be good or bad. Some of the looters seem unusually violent, attacking anyone near them for no apparent reason. Security forces will shoot any looters on sight, but their main goal is to protect and aid the emergency services combating the fires.
Examining ship wreckage will reveal it was a shuttle used by SuSAG security. It was loaded with crates of a plant material native to another continent, but with no known commercial use or value. No flight plan was filed. Cockpit recordings show the pilot was mad with paranoia.
Dozens have been killed and hundreds more have been injured, the hospitals are overwhelmed. A desperate plea goes out to anyone with medical training. A player that volunteers to help will spend the next two to three days constantly busy, with almost no chance for rest or anything else, dealing with 2d6 patients every 6 hours. The populace will be very grateful and SuSAG will reward each player Cr 500 for each person they’ve saved, as well as an hourly wage.
Any players not directly involved with rescue or the hospital will have time on their hands. Talk in the street is of increased numbers of violent suicides, and people suffering from paranoia, over the last few weeks. It seems to strike randomly, and usually only for a short time (for those that survive). Locals call it the Freak.
A woman in an expensive, if conservative, suit soon approaches players not employed at the hospital. Ms. Hitton says she has been in port for a week, trying to outfit an expedition to find a missing associate of hers, a Mr. Smith. He came to this world months ago, to “negotiate supply contracts”, but never came back or sent word. Ms. Hitton says she can track his communications equipment, but now her plans are on hold as the people she contracted to fly her out are dead or in the hospital. She offers to pay well anyone that acts as pilots and guards for her expedition.
Secrets of the Forest:
It is simple to find Mr. Smith’s location halfway across the planet. The site is near an uncharted industrial camp of some sort. If the players don’t think to take precautions, Hitton will state they need to be careful, since they may be responsible for Smith’s disappearance.
The camp itself seems to have been abandoned for several days. Closer inspection will find several bodies, suicides. The workers are all dressed in SuSAG security uniforms, and the suicides were all accomplished with their side arms. As if it was a spur of the moment decision.
The camp itself seems like a harvesting operation, clear cutting the forest to gather a certain, relatively common bush. Aside from the main harvesting and packaging operations, there seems to be a side business in gathering unusual plant and animals for sale back at the startown, obviously the source of the items the players saw foe sale in the streets. All are still alive except for one, a sort of small, elongated cat-like animal, with very pale fur. In town the group had seen one, the vendor called it a kitton. This one apparently killed itself bending the bars of the large cage that it was in, apparently allowing others in the cage to escape.
One person is still alive in camp. He is suffering from extreme paranoia, barricaded in the main building. He will shoot anyone or anything that gets near him. If taken from the area or after several days still hiding he will suddenly return to normal, remembering everything, including suffering waves of depression and then blind fury and paranoia. If he survives he can explain about the rogue manager’s operations (below).
If the group stays in the camp area, every 1d6 hours they all suffer sudden waves of depression, lasting several minutes. Failing a save on their Con, they think of suicide. The first wave is mild, but later ones become stronger, and they must save versus their Int. A failure of that and they either become violently paranoid, or seek to kill themselves for 3d6 minutes.
Smith’s ship is abandoned in the forest. He had set up recording equipment, documenting the camp’s operations. All of his equipement is Hortalez et Cie, obviously he is an investigator working for them. His body is nearby, a suicide as well.
Ms. Hitton will confess she is indeed at HeC investigator. Her company had invested heavily in SuSAG operations here decades ago, even though many of the planets records had been sealed since before the Second Survey. Breakthroughs in synthetics had gutted the market for goods from here, so HeC was using the investment as a write-off. Suddenly one department started making record profits and HeC wants to know how. With no luck in town, she needed to go into the field for answers. This camp is the answer; a new drug someone is keeping under wraps.
What these suicides mean is unknown. A side effect of the drugs? Someone using the drugs as a weapon?
In fact the suicides are caused by kittons. A cat-like mammal analogue, only about 3 kilograms, very cute, with large eyes and pale fur, hunting in packs. They are psionic, causing their prey to act passively. In the psi-saturated environment of this old world, their powers make them moderate predators. Against defenseless humans, their powers kill at a whim. When a kitton gets hungry enough, it begins to target random minds around it, causing severe depression. When afraid, or protecting its young, a kitton causes in humans extreme paranoia. This manifests as either hunkering down and defending a ‘nest’, or flight, moving as far and fast as possible. Both cases are coupled with extreme violence.
A rouge manager, Mr. Ward Conire, in trying to keep his position in a big shake-up a few years ago, found records from the pre-Psionic Suppressions that this world supplied powerful psi drugs. Conire has been able to develop an illicit industry, using bribed security forces to harvest plants on one continent and using an old, abandoned factor back at the port to produce the product. He ships it out, disguised as legitimate drugs, to certain trusted starship captains. His bosses look the other way since he is making huge profits, and bribing everyone who finds out. Those not bribable end up disappearing.
Lately some of his security officers had the bright idea of making extra profit on the side by selling unusual plants and animals caught when they clear cut a region. Kittons, and many other things, have been sold on the streets of the startown for several weeks now, about the time when the Freak started hitting.
Anyone with Streetwise or Admin can find that most of the suicides occur around those pet vendors, or places they store the animals.
Back in town things have gone from bad to worse. While all the fires are out and the initial medical emergency dies down, the suicide rate is climbing fast. SuSAG security is shooting more and more Freaks, as several kittons have escaped in the chaos and are cowering in fear around town. The kittons still in captivity are not being fed as much as they should, thanks again to the chaos of the shuttle disaster, and a hungry kitton means random suicides.
Aside from seeing news reports of attacks across the town, and security announcements of martial law, the group will be subjected to Freak attacks if they go to a bar, wander the streets of town, or just stay in their hotel. If they consider just leaving the planet the authorities will “deputize” anyone that has worked in the hospital, as the medical emergency is not over, just shifted to shooting victims. For her part Ms. Hitton will promise significant rewards for helping her figure out the drug trade angle, and if it is involved in the Freak incidents. Being a cold hearted executive type, she is hoping it can be weaponized, resulting in huge profits for everyone.
If after several days the players have not figured out the kitton connection, an escaped female gives birth. This is a disaster as she and her nest mates start putting out the paranoia Freak stronger than ever, with dozens effected per day. Murders and suicides overwhelm the remaining security forces. Only Conire and his top lieutenants are immune – they have psi-shields, as does Mr. Linebarger.
The kittons. Ridding the town of kittons will eliminate the deaths, but tracking down the escaped animals will be difficult. Hitton will demand they be saved, for study. Those already taken offworld have caused numerous deaths, and within weeks authorities will arrive, banning export of such a dangerous animal.
Mr. Conire. He was thinking small; short term profits immediately realized. The disaster can be blamed directly on him and his lax operations. He and his cronies will attempt to get offworld as quickly as they can, maybe bribing the players to take them if they have a ship. Cleaning his tracks he and his security men will kill anyone who can trace them offworld, so the jump should be eventful.
Ms. Hitton. HeC will want to invest in military applications of the drugs and possibly the kittons. Depending on how the players treated her she may reward them handsomely, or leave them twisting in the wind.
Mr. Linebarger. He seems to have stumbled on the psi drug operations, and decided to profit from it. A wild card, he might be Naval Intelligence or Ministry of Justice, tracking psi drug users. He might be a Zhodani agent, building up a sleeper cell. He could be a (naturally) paranoid hippy, selling mind altering drugs, or a cold-blooded killer, taking advantage of the situation.