Saturn Ascending

Working in the Lab

Octavius and Solomon adjusted their respirators while Thessa’s creepy scuttled closer and closer to the TLF research station. Assessing the local topography, Solomon suggested an approach vector that had a bit more cover, so they approached from the east. Octavius broke the silence by talking about coming here to find his brother. Solomon said he was here as an insurance adjuster to check on the damage.Thessa remained aloof. The area 30m around the facility was smooth, finely manicured sand. The building was squat, flat roofed, white, 20m x 10m, and had only a single story above ground. In front of the entrance was a 2m high, 5m wide, 10m long reinforced canvas arch. A flag of TLF’s logo, a yellow flower with 10 long thin petals, waved from a flagpole just outside the arch. Two rovers were parked under an open sided canvas tent, and there was space for one more. There were large cameras with zoom lenses and infrared sensors at every corner of the building. Thessa sent her creepy to take a closer look while meshing with the public section of the building. As the creepy got closer, 1m hexagonal stone pads rose up from the sand, spun to shake off the sand, and then resettled in front of her. They led to the door. Solomon and Octavius followed, taking a slightly different path that eventually led them to the same pads. At the end of the archway, the building door slid open. Inside, a holo-projection of a handsome salesperson bowed hello. An AI greeted Thessa in the mesh: “Welcome to TLF’s horticultural relocation lab. TLF is a leader in feeding the minds and mouths of tomorrow. Our stock has consistently outperformed four out of the six other companies in the same market space, and our research facilities were recently awarded contracts by two leading hypercorps. Our latest annual report is being meshed to you now, along with two complementary passes to our botanical gardens located at our head office on Luna. Please, come in and see how we are growing life and growing profits.” The company, Ecologene, didn’t list TLF in its holdings. Solomon used a rep check to survey his scientific friends for information on the company. Troublingly, none of the eighteen scientists (including agent Michael Murza) were really scientists at all. If the purpose was research, they had quite a poor research team. Octavius reflected on the situation, slightly troubled that his memories of training with agent Michael Murza on Titan included memories of being in a bouncer morph… even though Octavius had never been in a bouncer morph and had never been to Titan. The projection, Argo, mimicked Solomon’s clothing and complexion when talking to him, and tried its best to look more cephalopod when talking to Octavius, and reverted to his original handsome salesperson form when talking to Thessa. The entry room was 8m wide and 12m long with a door on the wall to the left and a reinforced double door on the far wall. The crew noticed bumps in an arc across the reinforced door, and quickly deduced that it was from kinetic weapons bullets fired from the other side on the closed door. Argo noted that another AI, Circe, controlled the secure lab. There had been a security event, but he said the company security team had come and gone without any issue. He asked Circe to open the door, but got nothing but silence. Solomon scanned the area behind the door, finding an 8m x 10m wide area with a large console station and many monitors. A clear glass tube 1m in diameter went from floor to ceiling in the far right corner. A turret with a machine gun hung from the ceiling, pointed towards the door. He could also make out three motionless synthmorph forms. Octavius, well versed in infiltration, snuck out to the roof, finding an access vent big enough for him, slid down, and into the secure room. The room was brightly lit, and very clean except for a patch of black mushrooms growing on the console chair. Octavius snuck along the ceiling, and skillfully cracked into the turret, spilling the chain of bullets to the floor. He then went to the console and opened the door for the rest of the crew. They inspected the bodies. A steel was laying by the left wall, two medium pistols with flux ammo next to his body, his front riddled with bullets. A slitheroid was slumped over one of the chairs, a few large holes in his skull casing. The last was a synth at the door, with several bullet holes in its back. Octavius took the pistols. Solomon took samples of the fungus. The team crawled 30m down the elevator shaft into a room 3m x 3m at the intersection of three corridors. The corridors went 50m in each direction, each ending in a reinforced glass door, 1m x 1m glass vestibule, leading to a 50m x 50m x 10m tank. The first tank was filled with lush green and red plants, mostly ferns. There were a couple empty areas where it looks like some plants were ripped out and taken away. There were three orange lumps covered with black mushrooms. Thessa broke through the mesh’s security with a critical success, invading the system without Circe’s knowledge. She then subverted the doors, and sent in a drone to check. The orange lumps were the remnants of uniforms with all the biological parts eaten away, leaving just the synthetic. The second tank was a collection of green and red cacti, with ten orange lumps covered in black mushrooms. The third was completely filled with water and green and red kelp. The water was very murky and they saw an empty hazmat suit swaying slowly back and forth in the artificial current. Solomon took samples. Whatever ate away at the uniforms did not eat away at the ferns, cactus, or kelp. Thessa subverted the security cameras and replayed the recent events. It showed Michael Murza and two other individuals in the tank, collecting samples of the green-and-red kelp. There is a dim red flash of light, and then the three start moving frantically as the organic parts of their suits start to melt away. Two swim towards the vestibule, while Michael swims straight up and wrenches open an access panel in the ceiling. He hauls himself up a ladder and out of the water. The other two never make it to the door, their skin and bones quickly eaten away by a growing black cloud. Back to reality, Octavius and Solomon check their suits – the joints and seams are quickly wearing away while the synthetic parts look good as new. A quick scan of the air shows the black spores that attach to anything organic and quickly produce a black fungus. The party evacuated and looked for where Michael’s crawlspace emerges. They found the access hatch wide open, but no trace of Michael. Scanning the air, they found trace amounts of the fungus have already escaped onto the Martian soil. They closed the hatch and contacted their client. “Get back here as soon as you can,” he said, “We need to assess the infection and then plan next steps.” As they regrouped, the team talked about Michael. Interestingly, they all had the exact same memories of training with him on Titan. The memories were faked, and not well-integrated. Back in Elysium, they returned to the same skyscraper. The boardroom was dimly lit with black walls and a table made of fabricated cedar. Three people watched an animated projection on the far wall of Saturn, highlighting several moons and larger objects in the rings. The image faded to black as the crew entered and the individuals turn to face them. The menton morph in green synth-leathers and red LEDs bowed, “Let me start by apologizing for so abruptly recruiting you for this mission. We can explain everything and can reverse any negative effects you have suffered. My name is Fletcher, and this is Zimmerman, Doctor Kim, and Angel,” he gestured to the plain synthmorph, a female morph with hands for feet, and the screen behind him which now showed the faces of three women quite similar in age and appearance. He explained that they are representatives of a highly skilled, cross-factional group that fights threats to humanity. They have been watching each of you for months, weighing the benefits of recruiting you. Your egos were redirected when you egocasted in, and implanted with a memory that would give you more incentive to join the mission. You all performed admirably, and they have informed their superiors of your actions. David offered his samples, and the crew is rewarded by +10 i-rep. The three-faced Angel disclosed her research on TLF. It is not run by Ecologene at all. Instead, they suspect the exhuman Blessings Forgotten. She was a leading biologist before the Fall, conducting critical research into countering TITAN biological threats, but her current motives are unknown. We believe she operates out of somewhere in the Saturn system. Doctor Kim mumbles, “But why would she put an expensive research station on a planet so far from any of her other facilities?” Zimmermann replies casually, “Why would you put your suitcase on a plane you never intend to board?” Fletcher looks grim as he turns to his colleagues, “Now we must find our old friend Michael. If he is infected, we may have no choice but to eliminate the risk.” He turns to you, “Head back out to the desert and try to find him. We will try to locate him from here. Good luck, agents.”


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