Friday, June 5, 2015

Most Wanted Conspyramid 5: ARIES and its spawn

This half column indicates the other advanced tech experiments and deniable agents that Eagleton is running out of the MEDUSA branch.

Level Three Node: Advance Research Institute for Engineering Sciences: ARIES

Madam Frigia: When Francine Curry was captured in the PCs territory (ideally by the PCs well before they uncovered the conspiracy) she was taken into SHARP custody. There Roy Alexander and Madge Eagleton found her and (with a little shove from Virgo) Eagleton pushed hard to have Curry moved to her custody where MEDUSA could set her up with a lab. Once again in possession of the position and respect that she had lost years ago Curry produced in spades, with her cryogenic and life support technology being critical for Cross Station and her business expertise letting her asset run deniable high-tech assets for MEDUSA. Of course she lacks even Eagleton’s faulty moral compass so her assets are straight up criminals that know enough to occasionally take targeting orders.

* Modify Ht. Attack so it applies only to her ice powers, but also her Intelligence score. She is the target of Virgo experimenting with her powers to make people smarter and now has an I of 21

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they have backtracked from Cross Station’s records (most likely) or have found the buried linkage between Shadowjack’s secret ID and ARIES. The institute is, on the face, exactly what it claims to be – a high tech think tank focused on life support systems for medical and space use and the study of ultra-low energy environments (i.e. cold and dark). The staff has some good jokes about this – they have the “Ice” labs and the “Dark” labs, which have been in reduced use since the accident that made Shadowjack. 90% of the staff are also exactly what they appear to be, and they hold Curry in a certain awe – she’s brilliant, her work is the cornerstone of this, and if she’s a little cold, well, big deal. Her cover identity is government provided and very solid. It will take a lot of infiltration, research, hacking or super-powers to uncover direct criminal activity that ties ARIES to the deniable tech assets or back up to Zodiac. It would be easier to trace funding and product deliveries to trace their support to MEDUSA and their output to Cross Station. Once they have that it might blow Curry’s cover but unless they find the ties to Shadowjack or Zodiac there’s nothing actionable, just morally questionable.

If the PCs go after them anyway Curry will counter with a calculated fury – she’s finally got what she deserves and these idiots want to take it away from her? HA! Frigia is a clever, dangerous adversary, and will call in some support in the attack from Vindicator and Sagittarius in sniper positions.  This is a great opportunity to change the facts on the ground in your campaign because if the PCs lose Frigia will pack them in cryogenic suspension chambers that won’t suffer a dramatically appropriate malfunction for months or years.

Level Two Nodes: Jacks of Shadows
Shadowjack: Jack Shelton, rather than being a college student, was working at ARIES when his black ole machine went haywire. Seeing him as a powerful tool Frigia supported his dark side, setting him up with the remnants of her own criminal enterprise. Now Shadowjack runs Jacks of Shadows, a large criminal consprtium of up and comers, and with carefully-funneled-to-make-it-look-like-he’s-stealing-it-from-his-old-boss technology supports a handful of high tech super villains on whom he calls for enforcement or when he’s given targets by Frigia (which he has learned not to question). In addition to technology he can smuggle them into Cross Station for medical work if they really need it, making him an all-purpose agent and fixer.

* Change level to 5: he’s a solid player in the underworld now
* Training raises his C to 12 and S to 15
* His bullwhip is pretty weak for a special weapon; feel free to modify it to something more potent. Personally I made it a Gravity Control device in the shape of a whip, where contact will increase or decrease target gravity, invert them sideways for a bit or do a ton of knockback. He has gravity studies in his origin so it fits.

If the players are nosing around here it’s because they’ve either backtracked from Cross Station or found some evidence that his contract super-humans are working for him. While it’s possible that they are just investigating his crimes it works a little better if his huge gang is so slick that the PCs only learn of it when they start nosing into his activities. If the PCs are nosing around Shadowjack will make a run at their base (if they have one) trying with his stretching and darkness powers to sneak in and investigate them, or will otherwise try to steal possessions or information.

Even if this doesn’t work his power set it makes it very likely he’ll get away. That means the heroes chase him back to his base, which is exactly what he wants – he’s operating in a relativelt run down building that he stuffs to the gills with his goons. This situation should feel like The Raid: Redemption where once the PCs are in the building it’s a fight until you can fight no more against endless streams of mooks, except in pitch darkness and with gravity playing tricks on them.

Level One Node: Deniable Tech Assets
Beekeeper, Boogeyman, Snowblind: Shadowjack has at least three supervillains on contract. He provides them with what they need to repair their tech and access to medical facilities at Cross Station, as well as paying contracts and legwork/prep for their own heists and actions and in return they do favors him him that come down the reporting tree from Frigia. Some of these are deniable back ops things for Eagleton’s branch of MEDUSA and some of them are, if the top levels of this column are in play, from Zodiac for their theft of inventions and weapons, kidnapping or blackmailing of scientists or just killing people. None of the three of them know and none of them care. In Boogeyman’s face he doesn’t need Shadowjack to fix his tech, bht the prospect of the people at Cross Station fixing his face is pretty powerful.

* No need to make any changes to these three - by my earlier design they should be levels 1-2, but I think it works better if Shadowjack is pulling in people of varying levels.

If the PCs are nosing around here in a conspiracy sense it means they’ve made some connection between any one of these three and some percentage of their actions that lends itself to a political or espionage level. It’s less likely that someone will dig into where and how they repair their technology or get medical help (unless Brian Michael Bendis is running the game), but the GM can use any entry path he likes, and the players might well decide to investigate everything if they’re truly detective characters.

Shadowjack, if he starts to realize there is trouble, will try to lay low – he’s much more likely to have one of these guys give him up then he is to convince them to go after the PCs with murder in mind. They’re just not that sort. They’re also not crazed and easily targeted like Od or Ebony Angel, and are smart enough to know when they’ve been sacrificed. So Shadowjack’s best play is just to vanish and trust them to do the same. If they ask he’ll even get them to tickets to escape, which might be what gets him.

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