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[IC] Scenes from the Human Sphere

Wen stretched as much as he could in the tight confines of the shuttle, a skill perfected from his time spent shifting cargo from one end of Yu Jing space to the other. A glance out the shuttle window confirmed something he had learned long ago, One planet looks pretty similar to any other when you are passing by at supersonic speeds and 20k up.

Despite the time he had now spent in the team he still felt like a Rookie at times. Guess that’s what I get for taking the slow route after school he thought.

Listening to Jun going over the sitrep and bringing up her initial queries he nodded along with most of them. “Your Geist’ll be working overtime to get through all those cases, Jun” he remarked “You know how much the service loves its reports”
“'Sides, given how clean everything else looks I reckon someone has been through and done a wiping job on them. Best thing is to get in on the ground and start shaking the branches to see what comes loose”

Zhuang got a bit distracted during the voyage aboard the shuttle. He usually did during the investigative steps of any mission, and this time it probably would not be so different.

Always more of a grunt, Zhuang was quite capable of following orders and handling himself during a fight, but he never was the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, his career in the Celestial Guard was much more of a tribute to his influential family than his own merits. He would gladly rather be on a night of carousing in town than investigating the death of some big shot biomedical researcher.

“Oh well, just try to wrap your head around this situation. Serious cube anomalies. Now that sounds peculiar…”, he thought to himself before trying to jump into the conversation with the other team members. “Yes, yes, about time to start getting busy”.

Woo-sung shook his head in amusement at Lan, the old campaigner, catching a cat nap whenever she can. He wished he could be that at ease but he had not yet been able to shake off the nerves when first starting a new mission. Perhaps in time.

Inquiries . . . . Shakes his head again. At least with Directives you have a sense of what you’re walking into. An Inquiry, though? Could be anything. He turns the matter over in his mind, 32 year olds don’t die of heart attacks. Well, not usually, anyway.

Wen’s comment breaks his reverie and he nods in agreement at Zhuang’s comment, says, “Local authorities reporting no anomalies and paperwork checks out, yet here we are. Will be interesting.”

He smiles wryly thinking about the ancient curse, May you live in interesting times. He settles in for the trip and instructs his geist to start feeding him information on Sambor Duk and Kambu Province.

“Yips is about as reliable as a paper clip when it comes to research.” Lan remarked on her geist.

Yips popped up on in AR for everyone to see. Dressed in a racing suit and a helmet that obscured his face. It was a look from some 21st century entertainment show.

“She isn’t wrong. Give me something to drive though and I’ll show you what I’m good at.” He then faded away as sounds of engines blaring and tires squealing followed with him.

Yips was actually programmed to be chauffeur geist when she first got him. At first it was a bit grating as she would of liked something a little more well rounded but after having Yips helping drive her around Svarlheima tundra she never looked back.

“Might as well pick off some low hanging fruit from those branches while we can, Wen. Might even tell us which branches to shake later.”

As the sound of a drifting race car fade into the background, data starts streaming across the team’s AR fields - files, pictures, video, and audio recordings posted in caches for further research and a scrolling summary page beginning to fill with answers.

As the team sifts through the other files, the summary completes synthesizing data and provides the following:

Hong Monovithya - Senior Researcher at EbisuTech, a venture capital backed, privately-held biomedical and medical device manufacturer. From its short overview on its Maya site, EbisuTech is a leader in cutting edge bioengineered technology for a number of industry use cases: medical, scientific, civilian, and military.

EbisuTech was founded by the pioneering and visionary serial entrepreneur, Gorō Uekusa.

Hong Monovithya, of Khmer extraction, is something of a scientific prodigy - bioengineering PhD at age 26, holder of several patents, joined EbisuTech 2 years ago. The nature of his research, while technical by default, sits generally at the intersection of how silk and nanotechnologies interact with various tissues, genetic manipulation, and drug therapies. HIs work for EbisuTech is difficult to ascertain but several monographs are available authored during his short tenure at the company - one on in situ editing of silk sequences for clinical applications and another on teseum substrates. It appears that EbisuTech has no immediate products available for commercial use. Initial research comes up mostly empty but does show evidence of an existing contract under an Imperial intelligence classification but no more information is provided. His patents are related to quantronic switches useful for scaling some nanotechnology manufacturing processes.

There are no outstanding or recent Imperial Service cases for either Sambor Duk or Kambu province and no local cases or referrals to Imperial Service that fit the current fact pattern.

Wen flicked his finger up in front of his face, dismissing the AR display with the summary of EbitsuTechs contracts and research.
“Great, a private company with no products, no revenue and a mysterious contract that we don’t have clearance for”
“This is going to be like Paekche all over again”

“Private?” Lan asked dismissively. “We’ll see about that. The Party always tries and worms its way into any business it can.”

She then frowned at the high grade clearance seal for a contract from Yu Jing intelligence. It smelled of the Yanjing and further cemented her theory on EbisuTech having Party ties or at least serving as a Party asset. It was one thing to do an investigation it was another thing to get caught in an investigation involving the Party.

The reminder of Paekche got a small laugh out of her. “Maybe. Maybe not.” She looked over to Zhuang. “If it is I guess we’ll just have to let our arm twister loose again. It worked out well from what I recall.”

Zhuang nodded smilling. “It will be my pleasure to be of service. Mysterious private companies with ties to the Party always get on my nerves. I hope we have some time to browse around shops in Sambor Duk, though… I’ve heard good things abouth their excepcional weaponsmiths.” Zhuang was reminded of an old song lyric from the 20th century, something about “being guided by the beauty of our weapons”. That was magnificent poetry, as far as he was concerned.

As the team discusses EbisuTech and weaponsmiths, the pilot’s voice cracks into AR with an update indicating they would soon begin their descent into the Shentang atmosphere. A few minutes later, you feel the slow turbulence of the outer atmospheric layers and then see the warm amber glow of the heat shields carving a contrail through the afternoon sky.

Thirty minutes later, you are on the ground at Imperial Service HQ in Yián Xiáng, squat surface buildings, brutally functional in appearance and hinting that much of the complex is underground. You are met by a military escort led by a dour sergeant who appears only able to speak in grunts and monosyllables. From the tarmac, you are whisked away in an IS Fiend transport to a hangar where you are waived through security and led to an elevator that takes you down to the 8th level.

Here you enter a quiet and finely decorated series of conference rooms. At the door of one you are greeted by a lean woman who introduces herself formally as Aowen Shouzhen, your Shentang Ye Ji handler for the current inquiry. She motions to a full bar indicating you are free to help yourselves, then she sits, waiting patiently as you each grab a drink of your choice.

As you take seats she says, “Welcome to Shentang,” and calling each of you by name she begins her briefing.

"I do not need to explain the purpose of your Inquiry - I trust that the Emperor has made himself clear to you. I am here, however, to ensure that you are prepared for the task ahead, with both intel and matériel. We will see to the latter momentarily. We will first turn our attention to additional detail you will likely find useful in your investigations.

At that, information begins to scroll in AR. She continues, “Hong Monovithya, a promising young mind, dead of a heart attack at 32. You have the autopsy, pathology, and toxicology reports - nothing seemingly abnormal. And, it should be pointed out that there is no bias intended here. By all accounts, he died of a heart attack. But, that’s not exactly the point, is it?”

“As you are aware, Imperial Service intelligence has reports of cube anomalies and procedural irregularities. I can confirm for you that the ‘irregularities’ are within both the local coroner’s office and the police force. It is suggested that you seek to understand the exact nature of those irregularities.”

“He worked for EbisuTech here on Shentang, in Sambor Duk. You will be flown there tomorrow morning to begin your investigation. His employer is one Gorō Uekusa, who may or may not be a known name to you - he made a name for himself some 20 years ago with a few successful drug therapies that made him very wealthy. He has since managed to turn that large fortune into a much smaller fortune with several failed ventures. His latest company is backed by a small group of VC funds, all Yu Jing, betting that he can find his magic again.”

“EbisuTech has no products but was formed with some intellectual property that they are hoping to monetize. It is our understanding that the company’s initial line of research is of . . . military application, hence the location in Kambu, in proximity to specialized chemicals and arms factories.”

“You will depart tomorrow morning 0700 from this airfield for Sambor Duk. You do not need to let me know what meetings you want and when, but these can be arranged by this office if you wish and you will have the usual IS remit and investigative powers. Beyond that, you are on your own - do what you need to in order to answer the inquiry. Failure is not an option. I expect local authorities to cooperate with your investigation. If they do not, please do report the exception to me and we shall bring them into . . . compliance.”

“You will housed here at this facility tonight. Finally, what questions, if any, do you have for me and I will endeavor to provide answers.”

Lan happily helped herself to a glass of Caledonian whiskey. Nothing like a liquid lunch to fill out a boring meeting.

Ye Ji Aowen filled them on a lot of info they already procured on the trip over. Some of it was new like a profile on Goro Uekunsa.

Lan only had one question as she downed her glass of whiskey in one go. “Hong’s cube. Do we have access to it and can we host it? If not. Why?”

Hong’s cube was an obvious choice to start at. Along with the anomalies and irregularities they’d be able to talk with the sheut. What better way to get a grasp on a case when you could talk to the dead man yourself.

On top of her question she sent over a requisition list of equipment she’d like to have waiting for them in Sambor Duk.

Lan beat him to the best bottle of Caledonian whisky so, to avoid embarassment, Zhuang went over to a triple-distilled Rodinian vodka and poured himself a glass.

“These Ariadnans are strange folk, but they are certainly experts in alcoholic beverages”.

As far as he was concerned the briefing was informative enough. He was sure that the rest of the team would come up with answers about the intrincacies of the investigative procedure. But there was something about the inquiry that made him wary.

“That hypotethical non-compliance… I have a feeling that it might be more probable than it should. Maybe it is just a feeling, but should we expect, how can I put it? Hmm, impolite forms on non-compliance?”

Regardless of the answer there were some items that Zhuang had in mind.

Wen poured himself a glass of filtered water, he would never get used to his colleagues willingness to drink on the job. If he had tried it while back in uniform or on the ship he would have found himself out pretty fast. Either a job or the airlock. That first ships captain was a mean one…

“Irregularities in the police force, huh” he said taking a seat at the table “An Imperial Agent asking questions in such a case will get a lot of action happening. Watching who goes running where can tell you a lot as well”

At Lan’s question Aowen smiles grimly. “In accordance with his will, Hong Monovothiya’s cube has been donated to the Tin Ka Ping Foundation. A venerable scientific educational organization and charity of which Mr. Monovothiya was apparently a member. We have inquired discreetly and the Foundation is . . . not inclined to grant cube access. At least not at this time.”

Aowen then nods at Zhuang’s question. “I do not anticipate extremes of non-compliance . . . however, you are well aware that in carrying out your official duties it is always possible. You are Imperial agents. You are well trained and I expect you will do what it takes to protect yourselves and the mission, should it come to that. As ever, it would be better to avoid conflict wherever possible. We need cooperation, not butcher’s bills.”

Aowen turns and smiles to Wen, “Indeed, Wen Zhang.”

“Something about old world crafts, environment they’re in, and their isolation from the Human Sphere for decades from what I’ve read. Better than the PanOceanian trash… well unless it’s the rum. I’ll give them that.”

Lan kept her comments to herself concerning Wen’s choice of beverage. Seemed someone had aspirations higher than a Zhanying rank. With 13 years in Lan already had hit the glass ceiling. She was a fighting eagle for life. She, like most of her rank, had earned the right to drink where ever and whenever they wanted.

“Hmmm, no procurator willing to get us in or just not willing to go against the foundation?” The question was slightly redundant as she already knew the answer.

Lan had no such hold ups though. Zhanying were a preferred tool for such dirty work. Rules bent or broken they would get their way to get a suspect or solve a case. They’d talk to Hong sooner rather than later no matter what the Foundation threw at them.

Lan flashed Zhuang a look. One that meant: We’ll keep the head busting discrete and minimal.

“Add another organisation that has an interest in Monovthiyas death then” Wen remarked “One that is willing to turn down a… request from the Judiciary”

Something pinged in the corner of his eye and he blinked up the message from the Quartermaster regarding the tactical armour he had requested. A flat refusal along with a few choice comments on his belief regarding Wens bravery for requesting such protection on an investigation mission.
There followed an increasingly heated exchange of messages leading to Wen pacing up and down at one end of the briefing room.

“Damn Lizard, probably been hiding in his bunker since he heard of Paradiso!” Wen snarled as he returned to the table, snagging a bottle of Tsingtao beer out of the bar as he did so.

“List of involved parties in the cube is getting longer, I’d bet a decent bottle they probably don’t have it anymore. Easier to refuse access than admit that someone else has already gotten hold of it.”

Roll on Lifestyle (D2) for the Medium Combat Armour: 20, 12
No successes and a complication (so 2 heat or GMs call).
That could have gone better…

“Do not worry. I was, apparently, under the wrong impression that the non-compliance might be related to a possible corruption of local authorities, not just their annoyance with outside parties involving in their affairs. That is quite alright, I do not wish to step on their toes, unless it is required.”

Meanwhile, the message from the Quartermaster seemed to corroborate that this inquiry would not require that much firepower: the non-lethal ammo was easily approved, but the sniper rifle immediately dismissed.

Momentum: 2
Heat: 12

After a quiet night at Imperial Service HQ, the team is back on a flight early in the morning to Sambor Duk. The flight is uneventful and as you approach the city, ancient wat architecture suddenly and splendidly materializes out of the emerald jungle and mist of Kambu province.

Your flight taxis to a private terminal at the airport where you are met by a driver and taken to your hotel, the Plaza Borei Angkor, in downtown Sambor Duk. You are greeted by a private concierge, given your keys, and an announcement on comlink and AR that any amenity, including but not limited to car and room service are available 24 hours.

Wen will ping the others on the local commlinks “We need to make a call on who is the top of our list. I make it that we currently have 3 prime groups to chase down. The Coroner & local Force, EbitsuTech and the Tin Ka Pings.
My money is starting with the Coroner. That is where the Service found their ‘irregularities’ so there are probably people there that can be leant on to spill what they know that triggered this whole thing”


Lan got herself checked in and all her geared sorted. I twas nice being in a hotel compared to Imperial Service barracks for once while on a job.

Lan@all: Corner and local force are the logical starting point. Will hopefully help us fill in some of the holes in our knowledge of the case. I’ll get the Hound started and we can move as soon as everyone else is good.

Lan accessed the IS Hound Interceptor from her comlog and gave it the order to start up. She was always fond the the smaller and quicker interceptor compared to the lumbering oaf that the Fiend was. It might of stuck out of a bit more with the Imperial Service markings and no way to change them easily like a Fiend could but she didn’t care. Using the reputation of the Imperial Service always came in handy until it doesn’t.

After checking in and unpacking, Zhuang directed his attention to his comlink. The other team members were also ready to get started.
“That seems like a good place to start. If they know something and we can get it out of them it will be better to be aware of it before we chase the other leads.”