In the first act, the characters accept a job offer from the shade of a murdered artist, investigate his death and learn of the involvement of the Solipsists.
A face reflected in glass, the colours indistinct, ghostlike; a man's face, framed with long brown hair, young but ageless. Beyond is a small formal garden and, beyond that, an emerald lattice stretching to infinity. The last word in virtual chic.
"I want you to find out who killed me." He turns from the single-pane window that makes up a wall of the spacious, elegant room. "And why."
His name is Greg Heller; a week-old full Copy of the acclaimed oneiric artist. This morning the original was found in a hotel room in Zurich, shot through the head. As far as Heller is aware the killing was motiveless, but it was clearly a professional operation.
Less than an hour after the murder there was a break-in at Heller's apartment in LA. The intruder, a young woman, was seriously injured in a firefight with the arcology's security force and has not yet been identified. The preliminary investigations, in Europe and California, have failed to find any obvious link between the incidents.
[reaction of the players' support team to the case (but need recurring NPCs first)]
From Artsutanov the most rapid way of getting to Earth is a three hour OTV trip to a low orbit station followed by an hour transferring to a scramjet and making the atmospheric re-entry. By contrast, a trip on the beanstalk requires three days.
Once on Earth a flight on a suborbital lifting body can reach any major airport within two hours. The major clues are in LA, and so the characters will probably want to go there first.
Heller's address is 13042 Heaven's Gate Arcology, Santa Ana, California. The mile-high pyramid of Heaven's Gate overwhelms the smaller towers of Newport Beach and Irvine, but is in turn dwarfed by the less-exclusive arcologies of southern LA.
The apartment is very much like its oneiric counterpart, save for the view over the park of the third level atrium, four floors below. That and the shattered windows, crimescene markers, Arcology Administration security drone and bloodstained carpets.
The arcology's security team was alerted by the apartment to an intruder and responded within two minutes. The supposed burglar fired on them and injured and rendered unconscious by their return of fire. Heller will grant the key to the apartment's security system, and the recordings of its cameras.
[description of security camera footage]
Forensic sweep of apartment reveals no other activity within the last three days, and the presence of seventeen people during the week before that.
[some desription of dating, leading (possibly) to another clue]
The intruder is currently in a coma at XXX hospital. The Heaven's Gate administration has turned over the investigation to the AYC without any attempt to identify her.
A media search on the intruder will find 514 possible matches in the last decade's high school graduation images for the C2 region. This search of approximately five million images will require approximately five minutes on the AYC database. A further two hours of jinn calls will narrow the range to nine possibilities.
[insert more investigation details and false leads here]
Finally, the search will narrow down to Rachel Brennan, an ex-LIT physicist. A call to her parents will establish that they haven't heard from her for two years. They grant access to genetic records which confirm her identity.
An hour later the search through the recent media archives will be complete. The results are as follows:
|87||Subject is in background of news report on Solipsists.|
|No other matches with greater than 10% probability.|
[Add many false leads: have fun with this]
The First Global branch is not busy; it is a small-town bank, somewhere in the American mid-west. There is a short queue for the tellers: a couple of businessmen are talking shop; a young couple, giggling to some private joke; a rough-looking man in a leather jacket; a family, two young children restless, bored; an old man. A young woman enters, joins the queue; she has blonde hair, is wearing a short dress of red velvet.
A few minutes later the unshaven man with the jacket nods, and everybody begins to scream: the woman in red has drawn a machine pistol. She turns rapidly, covering everybody, eyes bright with the thrill of it. Her accomplice draws his own gun, starts demanding money from the terrified teller.
The family's father is the town sheriff, off duty, but armed. When the woman with the Uzi is facing away he goes for his gun. She sees, swings around, empties a magazine into him. The scene fades to black.
The woman faces away from the Oneiric fantasy; she is breathing rapidly, sweating slightly, not yet fully returned to Reality. "Can you believe that some guy paid me £500 to kill him like that?". Greg Heller's lover, Celeste Edelman, has thrown herself into her work since hearing of his death. The team are in her studio on Venice Beach: they have been waiting for the racting job to end, watching on a wall-screen.
If asked about her apparent lack of concern: "What the hell do you think I am? Of course I'm fucking upset. But look, Greg's not gonna be dead for long, so I'm not getting hung up on it"; like Heller she is a Patternist.
[much detail of motivation and background here]
No forensic evidence as to identity of killer: clearly a highly professional task. This is in stark contrast to the amateur nature of the break-in at Heller's apartment.
A forensic nanoprobe sweep will reveal only cells from Heller's body: there is no other recent biological detritus. This is a clear indication of a highly professional hit.
A bio-med team is scouring the room for sections of brain, in the hope of finding any recording devices to extract snapshots. So far they have had no luck.
A rough picture of the events of the past week can be reconstucted from his jinn, security imager and forensic probes.
|Mon||Updated scan for Copy.|
|Fri||Heller flies to Zurich|
|Sun||23:30||Killed in Zurich|
|09:47||Security imager records break-in|
|11:00||AYC investigation begins|
A check of relevant forums will give the following profile of (selected) assertions:
|75000||Heller was greatest artist working during last decade|
|69000||Heller was greatly overrated|
|52000||Heller was killed by obsessive fan|
|45000||Subject wished to sleep with Heller|
|23000||Heller was killed by Mafia|
|20000||Heller's lover had him killed for insurance purposes|
|16000||Heller's death was suicide|
|7800||Heller's recent mythological sequence has a political subtext|
|5900||Heller's death is new artform|
|4300||Heller was killed by PraeSec|
|2700||Heller was assassinated by intercorporate conspiracy|
|2200||Subject has had affair with Heller|
|1700||Heller is not dead|
|1200||Heller was Belter spy|
|700||Heller was Martian spy|
|400||Heller was reincarnation of Elvis|
|350||Descent of Ishtar provoked Cult of Ereshkigal into killing Heller|
|(Italicised entries are for calibration purposes)|
The future of Ad Astra