Stage V. The Only Way to be Sure

Protoss Ex Machina
About 8 hours into the siege of LV-427, a small Protoss craft uncloaks as it enters orbit and hails the habitat, requesting permission to land. Fighting its way through the Zerg-filled sky, the ship lands in the courtyard, and a trio of grim-looking Protoss emerge.

High Templar Tenaris, flanked by the hulking Thraos (and shadowed by Anmidon), asks to be taken to meet with the Military Commander and the Elder Psi. They have come in response to a psionic signal, almost certainly the same thing that's causing the Zerg to swarm. The signal seems to be coming from inside the planet, in fact directly beneath Rock Ridge. It contains no message or code that they can discern, and comes from no kind of being or natural phenomenon that they're familiar with, but seems to be a beacon of some sort – a constant, low keening that can be heard (by those with the ability to listen) for thousands of light years.

They insist that the Zerg will continue to swarm – the next wave is only the second of dozens they monitored on their way into the system – until the signal is found and terminated.


Secret Underground Lab

A search of the facility computers turns up an encrypted sub-system, requiring key-card access (or successful Computer Hacking -3 and Cryptography -3 rolls), concealing a subterranean laboratory complex below the facility. The lab computers are disconnected from the facility's network (there's a manual uplink cutout in the lab to keep it from being hacked from above), and a set of elevators hidden below the sub-basement. Seismic sensor confirm that something is down there, including what sounds like burrowing Zerg.

One elevator shaft was breached by a Nydus Worm, but the other is theoretically functional, though locked out from below. A critical success at Electronics Op (Security) will override the lockout; otherwise, they'll have to descend the elevator shaft – there are access ladders, though rappelling lines are faster (and levitation faster still).

The lab is a sphere about a mile in diameter, with an external bulkhead surrounding the primary storage and workers' habitat (which convert into the Killing Fields in the event of invasion). In the center is a reinforced inner sphere (a quarter-mile in diameter), which hold the secure labs and subject containment facilities. The signal – now clearly detectable to anyone with psionic sensitivity – is coming from within the central sphere.


Automated Defenses
Once inside the lab, the team must deal with the security systems, including a network of hyperspectral optics (Vision 16), imaging radars (Scanning Sense 16), motion sensors (Vibration Sense 16), and sound detectors (Hearing 16), all feeding information to a central security computer which coordinates a handful of lethal and non-lethal countermeasures. The latter consist predominantly of array-mounted gas sprayers and sonic barriers (both completely blocked by a sealed battlesuit), which go off when triggered by any sensor detecting an unauthorized entrant. The former includes lethally-armed defense globes, laser and monowire fences, and a handful of SID-209 security droids.

Battlesuit sensors will detect a defensive system in time for the PC to attempt a defense (usually a Dodge) on a successful Per-based roll against Electronics Operation (Sensors) -4 (or -1 if actively searching); personal Danger Sense advantage allows a flat Perception roll (plus ESP Talent, if any).


Hacking the Defenses
Overriding the local micro-controller of a particular defensive unit requires some means of connecting – only the doors have a local access pad; the rest can be accessed only by way of Cyber-psi (most likely the Netrunning or Remote Control abilities). Either way, roll against Computer Hacking -4 to gain access, and one of Electronics Operation (Security) -5, Electronics Repair (Security) -5, Lockpicking -5 (for doors only), or Traps -5 (for fences and plasma-shock panels), to actually disable or seize control of the object. (Successful rolls against additional listed skills count as Complimentary skill use.) Anyone with admin-level access to the Central Mainframe (see below) can control the entire security system; such access can't normally be gained from a local micro-controller, however, nor can one node be compromised by connecting from another, as the system has physical cutoff switches (small explosive charges, actually) that automatically disconnect compromised nodes.

Armored Doors: The Killing Fields are dotted with standard doors at virtually every threshold or passage, which snap shut to redirect intruders past additional defenses when the system goes active. Heavy doors are reserved for the complex entrances and the Facility Control Room. All doors fail into the shut position, so interrupting power or overloading electronics causes them to close (or remain shut).
Standard: DR 150, HP 50 (Homogeneous).
Heavy: DR 200 (Hardened 1), HP 200 (Homogeneous).

Defense Globes: SM -4 to attack, DR 50, HT 12, HP 20 (Unliving), Vision-16 (Hyperspectral), Motion Sensor-16, Skill-16. Globes will target any unauthorized biological or mechanical entity detected, based on the threat-priority assigned by the Central Mainframe. They're arranged in such a way as to create effective crossfire zones and preclude finding cover – virtually every location, from blind corners to bathrooms, is in the field of fire of at least one (but usually two) globes.
Laser: 3dx5(2) burn, RoF 4, Rcl 1.
Entropy Needler: 8d(5) imp corr, RoF 8, Rcl 2.

Fences: Most often set across doorways, along narrow passages, or other choke-points. They can be disabled by inflicting enough damage to the panel – DR 50, HT 12, HP 50 (Unliving).
Laser: 6dx2(2) burn cut (grid: 1d “hits”).
Monowire: 2d(10) cut (grid: 1d “hits”). Moving slowly: 1d(10); running: 3d(10).

Plasma-Shock Panels: 10d(2) burn sur + 10d cr dkb; 5 sec recharge. Usually arrayed along narrow passages or in airlocks (disguised as regular bulkhead), so that it's coming from multiple sides. They can be disabled by inflicting enough damage to the panel – DR 50, HT 12, HP 100 (Unliving).

SID-209
Weyland-Yutani Corporation's premiere state-of-the-art security droid, tied in to the lab's security system via encrypted wireless. Any movement detected by the security sensors which doesn't correspond to an authorized biological or synthetic (as tagged in the central mainframe's IFF and security-surveillance systems) causes a SID-209 to deploy, to investigate and respond as necessary. Because the of Zerg incursion already in-progress, all internal security systems have gone lethal, and all SID-209 units have deployed to engage intruders.


Zerg
The Zerg have already penetrated the facility – a Nydus worm has torn into the cafeteria and begun disgorging Zerglings, Hydralisks, Roaches, and Chokers, all directed by a psionic Brood Mother, Zytharris. Although they have yet to penetrate the Facility Control Room or Containment Area, the outer complex is swarming with Zerg, who are immune to the non-lethal countermeasures; virtually every combat will involve Zerg as well as lab defenses, in a big messy three-way. Zytharris is able to see through psionic invisibility (including Ghosts and Dark Templar), and telepathically transmits that ability to all of her minions as long as she's alive; further, she can use the sensory organs of any minion, though she can't use active psionic abilities on those who aren't in her physical presence.


The Killing Fields
Knowing that Zerg can burrow through just about anything, ultimately including even the thickest composite neo-steel bulkhead, the lab's inner defenses are designed around a set of Killing Fields, which surround the inner complex, Facility Control Room, and Containment Area. The upper and lower levels, as well as a wide ring around the inner complex, consist of the lab's living habitat – offices, storage, living quarters, dining and recreation areas, etc. In the event of a large-scale intrusion (such as a Zerg attack, or raid by Dominion or rival corporate forces), the defense grid becomes active. Non-lethal measures are deployed as a first token attempt to preserve lives, but all systems go lethal if the incursions isn't immediately halted. Presently, the Killing Fields are in full combat mode, fending off the Zerg invasion, though they'll target other intruders (including any PCs detected) just as willingly. The human inhabitants – scientists, technicians, security guards – were unfortunate but inevitable casualties, once the system went lethal.

The Killing Fields are arranged in such a way that, though there are many ways to pass through, each one will take an intruder through every kind of defense – past armed globe-turrets, through lethal fences, across plasma-shock panels, and into the kill-zone of an active SID-209. Hatches seal in order to make the route more circuitous, twisting though what look like innocuous crew quarters and mess halls concealing deadly defenses, attempting to force intruders to double back, but the internal bulkheads and hatches aren't necessarily sufficient to stop someone with the right hardware from simply blasting or cutting through. However, even such a direct path will have to cross each type of defense at least once in the trip, and at present will also have to contend with the Zerg who are swarming the facility.


Facility Control Room
All of the complex defenses are controlled from the central mainframe, in the command room at the entrance to the Containment Area – and inside the perimeter maintained by the Killing Fields, sealed off from the facility's outer sphere by heavy armored doors at the central level, fore and aft. It's in lock-down mode, but this can be overridden at the access panel as for Hacking the Defenses, above.

Scattered around the room are several lab personnel, perhaps a week dead. At a glance, it appears that several junior scientists and technicians were standing in a group at one side of the room, gunned down with automatic small-arms fire. A few tried to flee for the door, but none made it more than a few steps; the dents in the wall suggest anti-personnel (hollow-point) rounds rather than armor-piercing. A white coated doctor standing at the main console was likewise shot from behind, his back riddled with small entry wounds, and the computer panel before him coated in gore from messy exit wounds. The final figure, dressed in an expensive ballistic-armor three-piece suit, standard issue for rich corporate executives, seems to have died of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, after having pushed aside the doctor's corpse and done something at the interface, then shot the computer several times – destroying the monitor and console. A 10mm machine pistol is still clutched his hand; a discarded magazine lies at his feet (and another across the room, presumably where he was standing when he shot the scientists), and the clip in the gun is missing only one shot.

Central Mainframe
The mainframe computer was only mildly damaged by the executive's tantrum-provoked gunfire, smashing the console and causing a glitch in the storage array I/O. Given some way to connect (a Hacker's Rig or cyber-psi abilities), gaining access requires only a Computer Hacking -6 roll; success opens up the security systems (Electronics Operation (Security or Surveillance) -2 to control them) and information stores (Computer Operation -4 to search for specific data).

The first thing anyone gaining access notices is that the system is in an alarm state: there are multiple vault breaches in the Containment Area, and the internal defenses have been compromised. The entire Containment Area is locked down, all entrances sealed; it's also the source of the signal, and therefor must be opened if the signal is to be stopped.

A roll against Expert Skill (Computer Security) to review the logs reveals that the admin password was changed and the computer immediately locked out, followed shortly by several failed access attempts; according to internal surveillance feeds, this occurred in the moments leading up the mass murder-suicide, about a week ago, and was immediately preceded by an argument between the executive and the scientist at the console. The audio feed is lost in the I/O glitch, leaving the PCs to guess at the exchange (though a successful use of Psychometry can reveal more).

The Experiments
Examination of the data files – mostly text and recorded experimental write-ups and documentation – reveals the facility's purpose: experimentation involving the use of Zerg bio-forms and DNA in various military roles – including “living battlesuits,” hybridized super-soldiers who need no battlesuit or weapons, cybernetic systems to control individual Zerg lifeforms, and even efforts to use Zerg DNA sequences to breed humans with psionic capabilities. The results of these experiments – the ones that survived – are kept in the Containment Area, each sealed within a reinforced vault lined with psionic and electromagnetic damping fields.

Maintaining Control
A clever techie might decide to set up a remote interface, allowing him to control the central mainframe (and all attached security systems) after leaving the Facility Control Room. A quick Computer Programming roll can grant continuing access, allowing the techie to take a Ready maneuver in order to issue commands to the system remotely, from anywhere in the lab. This includes patching surveillance feeds onto suit readouts, etc, but using any particular system requires a Ready and an appropriate skill roll.

Self-Destruct
Should they think to check, they find that the system has a failsafe in the event of a massive security or containment breach: overload the fusion reactor, causing a thermo-nuclear explosion, which will turn cause a containment failure and eventual overload of the terraforming reactor above. Once initiated, Self-Destruct cannot be overridden before detonation.


Containment Area
Reaching the source of the signal will require opening the Containment Area, and dealing with whatever lies inside. A search of the storage manifest reveals two likely culprits, both flagged as Extreme Psionic Hazards: Subject 899 and Subject 1117.

Releasing the lockdown on the Containment Area requires a roll against Electronics Operation (Scientific) or Electronic Operation (Security) -2; when this happens, the signal abruptly cuts off for a moment, then resumes, much “louder.” Anyone with Detect (Psionics) must roll vs. Will-3 or be mentally stunned (for turns equal to margin of failure, then roll vs. Will each turn to recover). Moments later, it quiets again, and the computer begins to sound alarms as various external damper fields drop, followed by the unmistakable sound of the inner bulkhead being ripped open from the inside.

At which point all hell breaks loose, and a calm feminine voice begins to announce throughout the facility: “Attention. Emergency. All personnel must evacuate immediately. You now have twenty-three minutes to reach minimum safe distance.”

Z-Soldiers
Flagged in the system as Biohazards and Uncontrollable/Unstable/Violent, the subjects with 100- and 200-Series designations are Zerg Organism Metabolic/Bionic Interface Experiments, or 'Z-Soldiers'; human subjects have been bonded to suits of “bio-armor,” and experimental notes indicate they the hosts' nervous systems were taken over by the Zerg tissue. Although clearly humanoid, they're just as clearly Zerg, with heavy layers of violet chitin covering their bodies, yellow insectoid eyes, jagged teeth and claws. Stat-wise, they correspond to Infested Terrans (100-Series) and Advanced Infested Terrans (200-Series); they're bestial and aggressive to non-Zerg life by default, but all come under control of Subject 1117 once he's free. Although they have no weapons (other than claws and teeth) to begin with, they're smart enough to pick up the discarded M-41A Pulse Rifles of the facility's dead security forces; at least half of them are likely to be armed by the time they encounter PCs.

Subject 347
The “pinnacle” (and final) attempt at making a Zerg bio-battlesuit was Subject 347, which promptly assimilated the nervous system of the human wearer and took control of all suit features and function, including a sonar-organ that detects invisible enemies, and another organ that generates a visual distortion field. In appearance, Subject 347 is still humanoid but even more Zerg-like than Z-Soldiers (hunched, with abnormally long arms ending in vicious talons, and an inhumanly-large mouth), though if the vision-clouding organ is functional, it appears hazy and indistinct like a heat mirage. Flagged in the computer as Extremely Uncontrollable/Unstable/Violent.

Subject 412
The 400- through 600-Series experiments abandoned the idea of “battlesuits” worn by human soldiers, instead moving to cybernetic systems and drone-piloting software. Most such experiments were dismal failures, but Subject 412 was unique in that the control system used neural-net learning based on cybernetic feedback from the Zerg tissue; only this was able to allow effective muscular control of Zerg physiology, but at the cost of basically handing control over to the Zerg organism – which promptly developed signs of its own volition, and was put into cold storage. Visually, there can be no mistaking exactly what Subject 412 is: a Zerg cyborg, with advanced Terran optics for eyes, reinforced super-fine talons, and the same psi-static field generator and imaging radar as SID-209s. Although it had no armaments within its cell, Subject 1117 has mounted machine guns salvaged from automated defenses. Flagged in the computer as Extremely Uncontrollable/Unstable/Violent.

Subject 899
After cybernetic control was abandoned, the 700- and later series focused on the normal by which sub-sapient Zerg are controlled: psionics. After several early failures, a psionic human subject was able to bond with a Zerg bio-suit and control it, without being overcome by the Zerg parasite; this was considered the program's greatest success, until Subject 1117. The scientists lost control of Subject 899 at the same time that Subject 1117 broke free, and both had to be contained. Subject 899 is more human-looking than previous subject in silhouette, though its skin and features are clearly Zerg. Flagged in the computer as Extreme Psionic Hazard and Extremely Uncontrollable/Unstable/Violent.

Subject 1117
The signal which has drawn Zerg, Protoss, and (consequently) Terrans to Aldebaran-4 is coming from Subject 1117, the first successful genetically-engineered Terran psi, designed using Zerg DNA sequences and force-grown to maturity in hormone-bath vats. The result: mostly-human in appearance, though with glowing yellow eyes, an abnormally large head, and hairless, almost translucently-pale skin, shot-through with purple veins (particularly around the temples). In temperament, the subject became obstinate within months of activation, then violent, and in fact was able to telepathically incite other subjects to act out. The only solution was to lock both Subject 1117 and Subject 899 (with whom 1117 seemed to have formed a psionic bond) into cold storage, within state-of-the-art psionic damping fields.

Although child-like in appearance (and to some degree, in mentality), Subject 1117 is anything but a normal child. Raised in the lab, never knowing anything but tests, he hates his creators (and consequently, all Terrans) with an abiding passion. The other Zerg subjects have been his only friends, and the only beings for which he has any sympathy. Someone with a great deal of charisma and diplomatic ability might be able to calm him down temporarily, but he's a ticking time-bomb of psionic rage, and will begin tossing things around and popping heads like a Scanner at the drop of a hat.

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The various Zerg experimental subjects within the lab complex treat Subject 1117 as their Over-Mind; their mental state is tied to his, staying when he stays, raging when he rages. If Zytharris has been slain, he takes control of the remaining normal Zerg as well; likewise, she takes control of any surviving subjects if 1117 perishes.

If both are alive, they make telepathic contact as soon as he's free, and immediately begin to coordinate their efforts. Their main desire is to escape, specifically with as many lab subjects as possible (for re-assimilation into the Zerg collective), but neither is opposed to killing some Terrans and/or Protoss on the way out — or trapping them in the lab to perish in the reactor overload.


Endgame & Escape

The only way to stop the psionic beacon is to somehow deal with Subject 1117, which requires opening the Containment Area. The inevitable result of that is the escape of all contained subjects, and the initiation of the facility's Self-Destruct Sequence. This leaves the PCs with an army of Zerg experiments one side, and Brood Mother Zytharris' detachment on the other, with a countdown to annihilation in-progress.

The ultimate resolution is very much up to the GM and players, and how they decide to “deal with” Subject 1117. Possibilities include:

Final Boss Fight
The PCs fight their way out of the complex before certain destruction, squaring off against Subject 1117 and the other experiments, as well as whatever remains of Zytharris' brood. Assuming they've gotten control of the central mainframe, they needn't worry about the lab's automated defenses anymore – and clever PCs will have active control of them, allowing them (including all surviving SID-209s) to be used against enemies. Even with the countdown, time isn't likely to be a factor unless they dawdle (stop for first aid, FP recovery, etc); the major challenge is simply overcoming the various assembled enemies. That done, they may climb or ride up the elevators and join the evacuation.

Peaceful Resolution
Charismatic characters with good diplomacy or other persuasive skills (and some lucky rolls) might be able to talk Subject 1117 off the ledge, and keep him calm for long enough to leave peacefully with the Zerg swarm. This may or may not be a good thing for humanity (and Protossity), as it amounts to handing over everything the scientists learned about breeding powerful psionics to the Zerg, but the PCs may feel sympathy for 1117's plight and decide that it's the most moral resolution. In this case, the Zerg cease their attack and withdraw peacefully, allowing the PCs to leave without further incident.

While the Getting is Good
If the GM is ready to wrap things up – the PCs are too injured to fight on, the session is lingering into the wee hours of a work night, etc – Subject 1117 can simply decide to leave. Unless these specific humans have earned his enmity, he has no special reason to go out of his way to kill them – and might even take pity on them, lifting those too injured to climb. The Zerg follow him out, and the Swarm takes to the skies, leaving the PCs (and the rest of the Terran forces) to their own fate.

Start of Something Bad
If Subject 1117 is neither destroyed nor persuaded to leave peacefully (or if the GM wants to continue the campaign with one or more enemies from this adventure as villains), he can escape and establish a large hive cluster on Aldebaran-4. In this case, he takes control of the Zerg on this planet and begins plotting his revenge against humanity … the Terran forces are all-but-defeated, and while the PCs can still pull off a narrow escape, victory over the Zerg at this point is hopeless. They must withdraw and plan their next moves carefully, possibly looking to the Protoss for aid. (This can also be the result of the PCs all dying, though of course the campaign will have to continue with new PCs in that case.)


Ending 1: Extermination
Subject 1117 was destroyed or neutralized, and the psionic beacon is no longer drawing Zerg to Aldebaran-4. Once they're back up the elevators, the PCs find that the siege has broken; communication with the Megaera confirms that the approaching Zerg swarms have disengaged, but the matter of the local hive remains. Calculate the casualties and determine surviving forces for both sides — Hotel Company can reduce final Terran casualties by 2% x Margin of Success against Physician-20; Electronics Op (Medical)-13 and Surgery-15 are both Complimentary. Regeneration reduces Zerg casualties by 20%. That done, play out the Mass Combat proper as the Terrans, with the aid of three Protoss warriors (TS 8, (Arm); TS (10), Art, C3I; and TS 8, (Arm), Rec), as well as the Megaera (TS 100, Air, Arm, Art, C3I, F), no longer tied up in orbit, attempt to destroy the Zerg hive.


Ending 2: As Suddenly as They Arrived
If the PCs can come to a peaceful accord with Subject 1117 (or somehow win over Zytharris after destroying 1117), he will agree to stop the beacon and depart with the Swarm. The team ascends the elevator to find that the the Swarm is taking to the stars – along with any experimental subjects that made it to the surface. The surviving Terran forces are loading up and preparing to return to the Megaera, the Protoss party boards their own ship, and the credits roll.


Ending 3: Narrow Escape
Subject 1117 (or another psionic experiment, possibly 899, or one not detailed here) escapes the lab, and begins a struggle with the local Zerg hive-mind for control. The result is a slight lull in Zerg activity, even some in-fighting as he overcomes the strongest minds in the collective, during which the Terrans may be able to escape. The PCs emerge from the elevators in find the evacuation in-progress; the Protoss ship is there and undamaged (and they're willing to give any human PCs a ride), but they might have to fight their way across the courtyard against the Zerg who overrun the walls. (Or, they might luck their way through a melee between the Swarm and the experiments without getting noticed. It's up to the GM.) Once aboard, they can make for space (and again, may have to engage in some ship-to-bug combat to escape, or might be able to sneak out in the chaos) … the credits roll, but is this really The End?

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