Count Alam Kertzov’s xenoarchaeology expedition to Tavisol (X686327-4) outside Imperial space failed to report in as scheduled. The count’s popularity in the Imperial court resulted in a general request for assistance in ascertaining the whereabouts of the count and either rescuing him or reporting back that he is safe with appropriate supporting evidence. The 150,000 credits is payable upon verification of the count’s safety or return.
Funded by the University of Collette and the Azeus Corporation, the primary mission of Kertzov’s expedition to Tavisol was to investigate rumored alien artifacts. Kertzov, in the past, published widely derided theories about a species co-existent with the Ancients. He believed this expedition would serve to bolster his claim. Specifically, he cited that he had come into possession of a mysterious artifact: a globe 30 cm in circumference and made of a strange material. Kertzov has yet to explain how he obtained the artifact or what studying it revealed about Tavisol. He has also refused to allow independent scholars and scientists access the artifact.
What is known of Tavisol is that it is a lightly populated planet, off the main trading routes. A jump-4 capable ship is necessary to reach there, though those who take the job to return Kertzov to safety are given the location of a deep-space refueling cache Kertzov himself set up. Players can find little in the way of information outside of this. No significant writings have ever circulated widely enough to find. The few small merchants who have visited Tavisol report that the population is too small to support much trading and though the locals were friendly, all sensed they were pleased when visitors left.
Kertzov, who has theories about a species either concurrent with the Ancients or shortly thereafter, suggested to his family that he had heard credible rumors that Tavisol possesses potential evidence bolstering his case and that the artifact provides the corroborating evidence. He spent a year preparing and planning for the journey, including refitting an Armstrong-class ship he named Illustrious. Because of Tavisol’s location outside the Imperium and Kertzov’s concerns about securing his finds from others, he also hired a sizable security detail, mostly of former Imperial Marines.
When the players arrive in system, they find The Illustrious orbiting the planet but with no signs of life. A cursory inspection reveals a sizable hole in the port side of the ship—in all likelihood from a breaching entry. If the players explore the ship, they discover that no one is on the ship, but signs of a violent confrontation are visible. The ship’s logs include an ever more disturbing series of reports from Kertzov after going planetside.
Kertzov and the security captain, Neelin Fost, met the local population (humans) who live in a single settlement. They then drove to a series of ruins along a set of hills some 50 kilometers southwest from the settlement. After a couple of days, Kertzov signaled trouble, sounding very unlike himself. The captain of the ship sent the remaining security detail planetside to assist the count. Upon landing, the team came under heavy fire and contact was lost.
A few hours later, aboard the ship, the captain noted a shuttle from the settlement approaching. The captain ordered it to identify itself and its purpose but acted too late. The captain and whoever remained aboard apparently lost the ensuing battle.
When the players land on Tavisol, they will find the settlement welcoming. They will notice oddities such as people saying decisions must be referred to the council and then getting an answer a few minutes later. The settlement of 10,000 seems to be almost entirely adults all within the ages of 30-60. Their leader, Kais Xen, is affable and accommodating. He denies any attack on Kertzov or the Illustrious. He also says he provided guides to the ruins, but all returned that day, leaving Kertzov to his task.
The players can accept a guide from Xen or find their own way to the ruins. Near a colossal bioship embedded deep into the surface, they will find a grisly scene. As they approach the ruins, numerous bodies are publicly displayed, posed in grotesque horror. Close inspection reveals these to be members of the security detail and researchers who joined the idiosyncratic expedition. The bioship’s debris field is scattered widely and includes numerous artifacts, though none seem to work. The ship has been here a long time, for much of it is overgrown with vegetation.
The players will find Kertzov in the interior of the ship, protected by several robots. He rambles on incoherently and references a second artifact, both of which are near him on pedestals and glow faintly. The robots will defend Kertzov, and it is questionable if he can be persuaded to leave voluntarily. While the players will receive a fee for returning his body, the count alive is far more valuable.
Tavisol is inhabited by a small colony of humans who journeyed there aboard a generation ship before Sol possessed the jump drive. The colony had fled Sol because, their history says, they were persecuted for their embrace of cybernetics. They went so far as to embed cybernetics into all citizens to allow for an instantaneous voting mechanism. The citizens govern themselves with a form of total democracy. Every citizen has an embedded chip. All proposals are sent to the chip and each citizen casts their vote mentally. The ease of this method means that a single citizen votes thousands of times every day. Everything is voted on—from simple zoning ordinances to electing leaders. However, because of that, the size of the colony has been arbitrarily limited to 10,000. The generation ship they arrived on, 75 kilometers in the opposite direction of the ruins, houses 75,000 colonists still in cold sleep and a trove of anagathic drugs that current citizens consume to live extraordinarily long lives. However, despite these secrets, they did not attack Kertzov or the Illustrious.
The artifact Kertzov brought with him had been exerting a mild psionic control over him for several years. It had, in fact, manipulated him to conducting the expedition. At the ruins in Tavisol, Kertzov found a second, identical artifact, which greatly increased the psionic control over Kertzov, driving him insane.
The artifacts are, in fact, siblings from an ancient species outside the Milky Way. The species had sublimated to a form of energy. They left behind an army of robots they called the Verg. Once the species had sublimated, they realized the two brothers had evil intentions and chose to exile them. The artifacts are their prisons. As an added security measure, they sent the artifacts away from each other. However, the species failed to understand the drive of the two villains to reunite.
Kertzov came into possession of one of the artifacts while conducting a dig on another planet. While short-term exposure does not affect people, the long-term effects on Kertzov were powerful.
Once the siblings were reunited in close proximity, their power increased, and they manipulated Kertzov to activate the Verg, bringing them back to fully functioning servants to the siblings. The Verg killed the security team and then used the shuttle to attack the Illustrious and bring down numerous components to repair the bioship. The remains of the settlement’s generation ship will provide the last components to make it operational again.
The players could be affected by the artifacts. Once at the bioship, they have an hour before they will need to resist the affects, which are to serve them. The artifacts have a combined PSI of C. If they (the artifacts) pass a Very Formidable (14+) check, the players must pass a Difficult (10+) INT check to be aware of the suggestion and fend it off. This check must be made every hour. If the artifacts are separated by at least 10 km, their individual PSI power is 4. Kertzov will be free of the siblings’ control if he is taken 10 km away from both artifacts, even then, it will be 2D6 hours before he returns to any sense of himself. He will be overwhelmed with grief and horror at what he perpetrated under the siblings’ influence.
The only way to escape the influence for the long term, other than successfully resisting, is to separate the artifacts—sending one hurtling into space. The only sure way to destroy them is to send them into the nearest star or gas giant. If players fall victim to the effects, they will feel a compelling urge to go to the generation ship and harvest it for parts. They can resist every few hours to see if the psionic influence can be broken—briefly.
The citizens of Tavisol will defend themselves and their generation ship. However, they will assist the players if it means they will be left alone in peace to pursue their way of life.
Skills: Recon 1, Gun Combat (energy) 2, Melee 1
Attacks: Laser Rifle (5D+3)
Traits: Armor +4, Heightened Senses
Programming: Very Advanced
Skills: Admin 1, Investigate 2, Leadership 1, Persuade 2, Science (Xenoarchaeology) 3