#Morningstar 7: Medical issues
* The Enforcers think information on how to remove the slave chips can be found in Central Medical, somewhere in the dark decks. They have told the other families they expect cooperation when a method is found.
* A multi-family team has ventured through the dark decks to Life Support, and discovered it to be under the control of a breakaway faction known as the Provisional Government. The Keepers have established diplomatic relations and begun investment. The PG has sent a diplomatic team to the City.
* Along the way, the Families discovered an abandoned genetic engineering lab, which was apparently used in the early years of the city for a Supersoldier project. When the Maintenance Collective tried to seize it, they were driven off by the descendants of the experiment, gone feral in the dark…
* While they were away, the Throng traded with the Puppeteers to gain educational materials, which they use to meet the Keepers’ request from the Call to Order.
The Maintenance Collective consult the mind of INC-07 in their group consciousness and learn that immediately after the Awakening a number of the very highest-ranked members of the former political and military elite were executed after a show-trial.
The Maintenance Collective talks to the Provisional Government, trying again to recruit some of their bots into the MC. This time, they succeed, gaining eyes and ears in life support.
The Enforcers also negotiate with the Provisional Government, gaining access to the life support system and investing in it.
Major Petrova, Sister Mercy (a Keeper medical expert), and an Enforcer scout called Yuri the Silent head into the dark decks searching for Central Medical in an effort to find a way to disable the slave chips. They are well-equipped, with the Enforcers having hardened uniforms in case they run into that mobile radiation source, and Sister Mercy bringing a comm unit to keep in contact with the City. They also have a team of Enforcer techs and Keeper data extraction specialists for getting the required data out of the medical databases.
Yuri takes the most direct route, making good progress but leading them right into an area of radioactive contamination – perhaps fallout for MRS-1? The Enforcers’ hardened anti-rad suits protect them, and the Keepers’ vacc suits prevent them from breathing in any of the contaminated particles, but Sister Mercy begins suffering early signs of radiation sickness, and the entire team is contaminated. on the plus side, they’ll be able to easily retrace their steps with a Geiger counter to find their way back.
After escaping the fallout zone, they are forced to take a more circuitous route. They encounter a lone bot, a survey model with tracks, cameras, and a few manipulator arms, endlessly banging itself into the wall of a corridor. The bot looks like one of the MC’s Listener allies, but is unresponsive, trapped in its loop. Sister Mercy calls it in to the MC, who say they will send a retrieval team. The MC warns that other bots may be nearby as the Listeners have taken to hanging around in flocks, but the expedition doesn’t encounter any more until they make it to Central Medical. The facility seems to be in lockdown, and as Yuri approaches, a dusty security bot activates and commands him to halt. When Major Petrova approaches, it declares that the area is a critical facility and admission is not permitted. Petrova uses her bridge access, and Mercy backs her up with the Keepers’, but the bot only lets them enter after they have laid down all visible weapons.
Inside, Central Medical is all white and clean, with soothing music. Following the instructions of the security bot, they follow the green path to reception, where they are scanned. Immediately, there is are sirens and a warning of “contamination detected”, and the entire group is instructed to follow the red path to decontamination. This leads down a very short corridor to a decontamination area, where the group are instructed to place all clothing and equipment in the burn bags provided before proceeding to the personal decontamination showers. Mercy hacks the medical interface, allowing them to decontaminate their equipment (easy enough as they’re in vacc or radiation suits), so they don’t have to discard it. When they are given the all-clear and return to reception, Mercy and her data extractors are told to follow the blue path to radiation treatment, while Petrova and her group are diagnosed with a variety of minor ailments and told to follow the yellow path to general admissions.
Both paths lead to a maze of twisty-turny corridors, all alike, punctuated by signs pointing to various parts of the hospital. In radiation treatment, Mercy and her team are scanned, quizzed, then given a cocktail of drugs to counteract their symptoms. Everything appears normal. In general admissions, its a different story. Each team member is sent to an individual examination room staffed by a medical bot. Yuri’s one identifies a number of minor problems (growing up in a tight ecosystem in a spaceship isn’t good for you), then says he has a pre-cancerous lump in his bowel which needs removing and injects him with an anaesthetic. Petrova’s bot notices similar minor problems, then when it gets to the old bullet fragments in her arm, says “this will have to come off”, and pops out an amputation saw. Petrova dodges out of the way, uses her bridge authority to try and over-ride the bot, then shoves it into a closet when it freezes. Hearing screams and sounds of various struggles from the corridor, she storms nextdoor to find Yuri out cold on an examination table, with a bot about to make an incision in his abdomen. She snaps off the laser scalpel, and after some shoving and dodging, manages to use the hospital internal comms to shut down all the bots. The team gets off lightly: one dead (apparently autopsied), and an assortment of minor injuries. Yuri will wake up in a few hours if left to recover by himself.
While Petrova and the Enforcers have been struggling for their lives, Mercy has been getting to grips with the hospital’s expert systems. Presenting it with a scenario of a medical emergency in a distant settlement requiring Stasis for transport, she gets the walkthrough on putting someone in a Stasis Pod, and transmits the data back to the City. Then using her bridge codes as an entry point, she sets the data extractors to work on taking over the system. It takes a while, but soon she is elevated to Chief Surgeon, with control over the entire hospital network. Which lets her see the problems with the docbots – and that her team had been inexplicably locked in.
After fixing that, she issues herself the required supplies, and heads over to general admissions to patch up Petrova’s team and wake up Yuri (for some reason they don’t trust the bots anymore). After that, there’s a bit of research into the slave chips (which turn out to be compliance chips, standard issue, and in the hospital’s inventory). Actually removing them is tricky, requiring neurosurgery – but there’s a command code system, and a field control unit which will allow them to be deactivated. Mercy suggests they would make really good parole chips, but when this is rebuffed by Petrova, orders up a control unit from the hospital stores. If they can get physical access to the slaves, the Enforcers will be able to turn off their chips. Mission successful!
The Keepers negotiate with the MC for assistance in securing central medical. The MC secure the route and do basic repairs, and in exchange get to induct the medical bots into their collective consciousness (which gives them some strange thoughts. do humans need to be maintained?) The Keepers get a need for debugging to fix the hospital systems, but they now have a renewable medical surplus, and are well pleased.
The MC also examine the bot the expedition found. It turns out to be SRV-157, a Listener who went missing a week ago. Diagnostics show them trapped in a loop, so the MC team does a hard reset, which restores function. Unfortunately, 157 doesn’t know why they’re so far out, and doesn’t remember anything from the past week. Its an unpleasant mystery, but one the MC are happy to leave for now.
The Enforcers try asking politely for the Throng and Puppeteers to turn over their slaves to be de-chipped. When that doesn’t work, they go for the hard option, declaring the heads of both factions to be criminal slavers and outlaws. The Keepers back them up, as does the Provisional Government, but the MC stay neutral. The Enforcers then Call in a Debt on both factions to get them to hand over their slaves. With three families against them, neither is in any position to refuse, but they are also no longer well-disposed towards the enforcers. Throwing their weight around so nakedly has made the Enforcers some enemies. The Enforcers then offer the newly-freed slaves the protection of their family, effectively recruiting them.
The Keepers make a final investment in life support, activating the system and confirming themselves as its undisputed controllers. The Enforcers benefit from lifted spirits, while the MC becomes engaged in protracted squabbles with them over use of surveillance data and continuing bad blood over slavery. As the Age turns, it looks like battle lines are being drawn in the City…
This was a great session, with the fallout and unfinished business from earlier sessions naturally generating plot. And there’s still plenty of stuff left for the next age.