AMBER ZONE: Don’t Stick Your Nose In

An investigative scenario useable in any sci-fi setting.

Players’ Information:

By chance, the characters are witnesses to an accident.

A man wearing smart clothing and sporting a braided beard runs across a busy traffic intersection and is hit by a big delivery truck. People rush to assist (the characters can too, if they want) but sadly there is nothing that can be done, the fellow is dead. Emergency services soon show up and take charge. Everyone agrees that he seemed distracted, and that he was looking over his shoulder when he was struck by the vehicle. He doesn’t have any ID.

A Lost Wallet:

Sometime later, a little distance from the intersection, one of the characters notices a metal-cased wallet lying close to a wall. It is hinged, seems new, and contains a few low denomination credit bills, a key card for a residential property, a folded sheet of paper with some hand-written notes, and an access pass with a photo ID showing a man with a distinctive braided beard. It is the wallet of the accident victim.

The access card carries the name Hugo Lang, and it is marked with the logo of Gen Labs, a big local pharmaceutical company. The folded paper has a printed header consisting of a Gen Labs logo and an address. The handwritten notes consist of a list of scientific-sounding names and long alphanumeric codes – two are crossed out and have the word “toxic” written beside them, while another is ringed and has the word “Cops!” next to it. At the bottom of the piece of paper is a communicator number.

Referee’s Information:

Lang was a junior scientist at a pharmaceutical research company. He discovered that a local crime syndicate were acquiring illicit combat drugs, derived from extremely aggressive alien organisms, from the facility where he worked. The drugs were being diverted by the manager of the facility and were later collected by his syndicate colleagues. Lang witnessed the manager being friendly with the cops so decided to keep his mouth shut and began discreetly collecting information.

The syndicate were selling the drugs off-world, mostly to mercenary organizations and paramilitary groups. Local law enforcement were in on it too, forming an important part of the organization. They took a cut of the money in return for turning a blind eye, filing false reports, providing alibis, concealing evidence, threatening witnesses, and generally assisting the syndicate in their activities. Some officers used the drugs too.

Lang wasn’t the only one who had noticed what was going on. A large intelligence agency had been discreetly monitoring events and though he had been careful they had become aware of his activities. They approached him, reviewed his evidence, and asked him to assist them. The agency gave him the wallet containing the tracking chip, but Lang became increasingly paranoid, convinced that the criminals knew exactly where he was. He panicked, threw away the tracker, and got hit by traffic while fleeing.

What To Do?

The players may simply ditch the metal wallet – if they do the scenario is over. The players may choose to keep the wallet and do nothing. In a few days’ time they will be picked up by the intelligence agency, who have used the hidden tracker to locate them. They will be questioned, the wallet will be confiscated as evidence, and they will be politely sent on their way. Sometime later the news channels carry a story about a research center burning down.

The players may decide to follow some of the leads that they have discovered.

Footage Of The Accident:

The local holo-TV station is on a news loop. It carries a story (with holographic footage) of the incident that the characters witnessed, captured by a traffic camera at the intersection (it cuts off before the victim is hit by the truck). It can be called up and reviewed at leisure: if the characters rotate and look around the 3D footage, a group of uniformed local cops can be seen heading through the crowds towards the traffic junction. What the cops are doing isn’t obvious, but Lang seems to be running away from them.

The Wallet Itself:

If the characters fiddle around with the metal wallet the outer case can be broken open, though doing so will destroy it. Hidden within it is a small, extremely sophisticated electronic device, capable of acting as an inertial locator and able to transmit a powerful tracking signal on a specific frequency. The tracking device was given to Lang by the intelligence agency. He panicked and threw it away when he thought the local cops were using it to follow him.

The Address:

The address on the folded paper is a private facility owned by Gen Labs and located a few kilometers out of town. It can be seen as a satellite image and as a street view.

The List of Names and Numbers:

A computer search will reveal that the list of names are combat drugs, all with significant chemical differences, and the numbers beside them are their Gen Labs serial numbers. While most of the names are common brands some of the substances are not identifiable. Lang has noted that two of the unknown drugs are toxic. He has ringed a third – a common military combat drug – and has written the word “Cops!” next to it.

The Communicator Number:

The communicator number connects to a password-protected video feed. It is relatively easy to crack the security with the right skills, though it will require running the communicator number through a hand computer with an intrusion-style program and getting it all to connect. If the security can be beaten, the communicator number gives access to a live camera feed. It shows an apartment that has been ransacked (see Camera Footage, below).

The Key Card:

The residential key card is to Lang’s home. Searching through online records using Lang’s name will turn up his address, located in a quiet area of town: the key card opens the door. The interior of the apartment has been torn apart, though nothing seems to be obviously missing. A hidden camera filmed the event, though the device is difficult to find (see Camera Footage, below).

If asked, one of the neighbours remembers an unfamiliar vehicle parked nearby at about the right time. It was an expensive model, some bigshot’s plaything, which is why it stood out.

Camera Footage:

A hidden camera is located in Lang’s apartment, covering everything except the bedroom. The camera has a few days memory storage and this can be gone through. Files show him wandering around, wearing different clothes, and occasionally eating. The last footage of Lang is time-stamped an hour before his death and shows him getting ready to go out. He seems nervous and can be heard to say to himself “they’ve got to know about the tracker chip”.

Time-stamped at about half an hour after Lang’s death, footage shows two heavily built individuals enter the property. They can be seen carefully going through his possessions (they are searching for his Gen Labs access card). After a few minutes they deliberately smash the place up.

The Access Card:

The Gen Labs access card is issued to employees and allows them to open locked doors within a specific site. Once Lang’s death is officially announced the card will be cancelled.

The Gen Labs Research Center:

The compound encloses a vegetated area of several square kilometers. A boxy four storey building stands at its center. The structure consists of a maze of atriums, foyers, offices, conference rooms, storage facilities, and well-equipped laboratories.

A secret deep level facility that can be accessed via a central elevator shaft is located below the main building. It is normally locked down and securely guarded but when the characters arrive the elevator doors are open, and security is deactivated.

Within the facility new forms of combat drug are being developed from alien creatures, exotic chemical cocktails designed to enhance the physical abilities of the user. Unfortunately, while these drugs have remarkable short-term benefits (including greatly increased strength and endurance, a sense of euphoria, and insensitivity to pain) they trigger repeating psychotic episodes and cause severe long-term health issues.

Something Seems Wrong:

As the characters approach, the compound gates stand open, and the building is dark. A vehicle is parked nearby. Lang’s access card opens the doors but there is nobody around. The power and security are off, the air smells of smoke, and there are strange noises from deep inside.

The manager of the facility arrived less than an hour before the characters. He shut down the power and emergency systems, set a few fires around the place to destroy evidence, and released the alien creatures. His whereabouts remain unknown.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place:

The characters get a good way inside the center before they encounter anything. They begin to find damage from weapons fire, spent cartridges, and human bodies – security guards – who seem to have been killed by animals. A number of strange carcasses are also discovered, fanged scaly bipedal beasts the size of a large dog, with injuries inflicted by weapons fire. It looks like they took a lot of hits before going down.

There are still alien things lurking in the secret facility: these are the bizarre creatures that the combat drugs were derived from. Some are large, some are small, some are swift predators, others are clawed pouncers, and others attack from ambush. They were released from their pens by the manager and are panicky and aggressive. And there are human subjects too, though their condition is not known. If they are still alive, they should certainly be considered dangerous.

Shortly after the characters enter the center, a number of big vehicles filled with members of the syndicate arrive – two individuals can be identified as the men who destroyed Lang’s apartment. The syndicate have decided to take matters into their own hands, destroy the evidence and kill any witnesses, and make it look as though it was all a horrible accident. A couple of plain clothes cops are with them to help deal with problems. The thugs, armed with handguns and shotguns, begin to sweep through the building.

If the characters try and fight the thugs it will attract the creatures, and likewise conflict with the creatures will quickly draw the attention of the thugs – the characters will likely get caught in the middle. If they try and stay out of the way (perhaps by hiding) the thugs and creatures will meet and a bloodbath will ensue. Eventually, the characters will get noticed (possibly by beasts with enhanced senses) and they will be forced to run or make a stand. It is recommended that the referee ramp up the tension, perhaps with the characters cornered, ammo running low, and terrifying alien organisms closing in.

The Cavalry Arrive:

Just when the characters are about to be overwhelmed and all hope seems lost, the intelligence agency arrive in grav vehicles. They have been tracking the characters or (if the characters have discovered or lost the tracking device) they have tracked one of the syndicate thugs.

As they sweep in, they shine lights and use speakers to announce their presence. Their G-carriers land and disgorge troops clad in distinctive armor and uniforms, who move through the building taking out the last of the creatures, arresting the corrupt cops and any surviving syndicate thugs, administering first aid, and if necessary rescuing the characters.

There are few consequences for the characters and few material rewards. The intelligence agency has achieved their goal and shut down the supply of drugs. The characters are not implicated so no charges will be pressed. After any necessary medical treatment and a thorough debriefing, the characters are released. They have, however, come to the attention of the intelligence agency, and that organization may approach them with interesting proposals in the future.

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