A derelict superyacht hides a deadly secret in this adventure seed for The Esoterrorists
By Adam Gauntlett
In 2004, Ukrainian billionaire Andrej Teresenko (oil exports) commissioned the superyacht Starfire from AS Knutsson shipyards in Florø, Norway. Over 130 ft long, with helicopter landing pad, gym facilities, a large bar (complete with Steinway piano), private movie theatre and luxury VIP as well as ordinary guest suites, this was to be Teresenko’s crowning achievement. He died before he could enjoy it. The media says it was natural causes; Ukraine’s government suspects assassination, probably by the Russians. Whoever did it saved Ordo Veritatis the trouble, as Teresenko was a person of interest in a Dollarmen investigation. With Teresenko out of the way the trail went cold, though operation BLUNDERHEAD was never officially wound up.
However, the research division discovered the yacht as part of its ongoing trawl of the internet, looking for anything that might indicate Esoterror involvement. They found YouTube footage of the yacht, now just a rusty hull in a Norwegian shipping yard. Records indicate it was part-furnished before all work stopped, but nobody’s bought it, moved it or removed any of the contents since Terensenko’s death in 2006. Nor has anyone offered it for sale; the shipyard seems content to let it sit there and rust itself to death. Operation BLUNDERHEAD has been reactivated, and the agents are tasked with infiltrating the shipyard, getting aboard Starfire, and ensuring that there’s nothing more sinister than a ruined Steinway in that decayed hulk.
The agents may look over the records of operation BLUNDERHEAD or study architect’s plans of Starfire. The plans are still kept on the architect’s servers, so they can be had with Data Retrieval (0 point).
With this, the agents can get a good idea of the layout (as designed) of Starfire, and what to expect. This grants a 2-point pool to Infiltration or Evidence Collection (or both) while aboard Starfire.
If the agents go one step further and spend 1 point Research, Forensic Accounting or similar, they notice that among the many invoices that went out as part of the build were some significant spends on medical equipment. Except there’s no indication on the ship plans that a state-of-the-art medical bay was part of the ship’s design. It’s not uncommon for a superyacht to have a sophisticated surgery ward, particularly if the owner has health issues. However, Starfire’s design doesn’t allow for one.
Heading to Florø
Florø is a pleasant-bordering-on-quaint island town, the most western town in Norway. It has a coastal museum, lighthouse, deer center and brewery. The agents can get there by car, ferry or plane.
Founded in 1860 when fishing was much more of an industry than it is today, Florø gets much of its living from North Sea Oil, though fishing is still important. It was one of the most prominent towns in the area when transport by sea was still vital, but as highways became predominant Florø’s importance slipped. These days it’s the kind of small-ish town with little serious crime and not much to do.
The Knutsson shipyard is well-regarded by anyone who bothers to think about it, which isn’t saying much, since most folk in Florø have little to do with it. A family-run business since 1873, the shipyard’s been moribund since the late 1990s, when old man Knuttson died and left the business to his sons Jostein and Martin, neither of whom have the go-getting spirit their father had.
Reassurance or similar (0 point) finds out that for the last four years large cars with tinted windows visit the shipyard two or three times a year. Locals gossip that the shipyard’s involved in organized crime, perhaps narcotics smuggling. Cop Talk (1 point) pours cold water on this theory. When it started happening the local cops sent word to the authorities in Oslo and there was a brief inquiry, but it turned out there was nothing to the rumor. The cars are just wealthy clients making enquiries about new ship builds. Though it is odd; for all these inquiries, no ships get built. It’s never the same client, either, always someone different, though the cars are always the same. They belong to the law office of Advokat Erik Helgesson, Oslo; checking reveals this to be a Dollarman front, though Helgesson will die before he gives up any useful intel.
A.S. Knutsson Shipyard
Though neat and efficient, the shipyard is clearly (Architecture 0 point) an outdated relic trying to get by on equipment that should have been replaced years ago. There’s plenty of safety code violations and a case could be made for illegal dumping of petrochemicals, but nobody in Florø cares that much. They feel too sympathetic to the Knutsson brothers, two local lads struggling to get by.
The Starfire is berthed in one of the furthest corners of the shipyard, out of direct sightline of the main offices. Almost as if the brothers didn’t want to see it if they could help it.
The shipyard has a dozen permanent employees, mostly skilled trades, perhaps a score or more temp-hires when there’s a big job on, and there are a couple dogs on site, but they aren’t security-trained; they’re just big and noisy. Infiltration difficulty 3 to get into the site, falling to 2 at night when there aren’t as many people. The Knuttson brothers sleep at the shipyard, but nobody else does. In the event of trouble, they call the cops.
One employee, Geir Blomhagen, has an unusual sideline. Every so often, always a week before one of the cars arrive, he picks up a package from the post office and takes it aboard Starfire, where he leaves it below decks. He’s never looked inside any of the packages, though he knows from the return address that they come from medical suppliers. He’s scared to talk about this, but he drinks heavily ever since his boyfriend left him, so he sometimes lets things slip. Reassurance (1 point) gets him to open up.
Getting Aboard Starfire
If the agents get into the shipyard without trouble, they don’t need to make another Infiltration check to sneak onto Starfire. She’s unmanned and unwatched.
She would have been impressive had she ever launched, but now she’s a rusty orange hull. The swimming pool on the upper deck is empty, save for a shallow puddle of rainwater. She has four decks above the waterline and two below, and for the most part she’s exactly what she appears to be: an abandoned superyacht, part-furnished. The Steinway rots in the bar, alongside leather bar seats and walnut fixtures that have long since perished. The en-suite VIP cabins with their luxury furnishings are ruined. Even the flatscreens, never connected, were left here, though at the time it would have been easy enough to remove and sell them to some deserving Florø household, no questions asked. It’s as if the workers were too frightened to touch anything after the commission fell through.
Evidence Collection (0 point) finds Blomhagen’s trail. He always goes to the same place – the bar – and leaves the package on the Steinway. This can easily be told by the marks in the rust and dust. What’s not so easily told is what happens after that. Whoever removes the package leaves no trail.
Evidence Collection (1 point) notices that although the ship ought to have two below-waterline decks, there’s no obvious way to access the second deck. Architecture (1 point) or another point spend Evidence Collection finds a concealed access hatch that leads to the second below-waterline deck.
It is immediately clear, on entering the second below-waterline deck, where all that medical equipment ended up, back when Starfire was built. This equipment wouldn’t shame a top-rated surgical facility. None of it is in good repair and blood and viscera are liberally scattered over every surface. The entire deck stinks like a midden and is slick with greasy fluids. The medical packages Blomhagen brought aboard are here, torn open, their contents presumably used – everything from plasma to harvested organs from China.
Also here is what’s left of Andrej Teresenko, impossibly, necromantically, still alive.
He’s just a torso , his eyeless head endlessly twitching, but he still has a tongue, so he can speak. Intimidation means nothing to him now, but Reassurance might work, if the agents promise they will kill him. He has no combat stats or relevant abilities, Health 3. If the agents try to rescue him to interrogate him later about Esoterrorism or the Dollarmen, the GM should decide what happens next. He probably won’t survive long without the Nurse’s constant attentions, or really specialized medical care.
Back in 2004, Teresenko was already aware that the authorities were coming for him. He wanted a way out, so he could enjoy his wealth somewhere sunny and peaceful. For that, he needed the best plastic surgery money could buy, and he spent a full year looking for someone to suit his exacting needs. That’s how he found the one he calls The Cutter, and The Cutter was his way into the Dollarmen. He promised the Dollarmen access to The Cutter, so their own people could enjoy new identities. In exchange, the Dollarmen would help him hide the loot. Teresenko built Starfire so The Cutter would have a safe haven, then faked his own death and delivered himself into The Cutter’s hands.
‘I didn’t know,’ he weeps with ruined eyes. ‘I didn’t know …’
What Really Happened
Teresenko found The Practice. Specifically, he found a Surgeon-Nurse husband-wife team, Ilya Litvin and his wife Yana, medics in the 1914-18 war fighting with the Austro-Hungarian army, shot by their own side in 1916 for reasons unspecified in the historical record – though as is so often the case, history lies. The Litvins made the transfer to the other side of the Membrane, and for decades afterward made hospitals in Kiev a living nightmare.
Teresenko offered them what he thought was safe haven, but the Litvins didn’t care much about that. However, the Practice wanted new victims and Teresenko offered a steady supply, without all the fuss and bother of having to look for them. So Teresenko got his Cutter, and the Litvins moved to Norway. The Dollarmen soon learned their tame plastic surgeons were nothing but. The Dollarmen decided to make lemonade from their lemons and now use the Practice as impromptu interrogation experts.
‘Tell us everything you know, or we will leave you here …’
The Litvins soon got bored of sitting aboard ship and have been making regular trips first to local medical facilities, then further abroad. They always return to Starfire. It’s their comfort zone.
Ilya and Yana Litvin
Stats as per Unremitting Horror, p. 81-90. The team has no Mortician, so nobody cleans up, which is why the surgery is in such a state. Both still wear military uniforms under their medical gowns, and Ilya has all his campaign medals. He’s also tagged on medals from every other military campaign he’s ever witnessed since 1916, not caring very much which army the medals came from. His skull is over-stuffed with brains, so his Alertness modifier is +3. He’s also grafted new, better hands onto Yana, so her Scuffling is 13. They treat Teresenko like a pet, but he’s also a useful guard dog. They don’t keep his eyes in his head, but in a handy liquor-filled jar so they can see the concealed entrance point. Anything those eyes can see, Yana can see. Infilitration Difficulty 8 somehow gets through that door without being spotted. Otherwise the Litvins know how many agents there are, what weapons they carry, and when best to ambush them.
This scenario seed was inspired by this YouTube video.
Adam writes, and writes, and writes. Among his credits are Pelgrane’s Soldiers of Pen and Ink, Dulce et Decorum Est, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby, and Silver Ennie Award winner The Long Con. You can find him on Twitter at @ag_Karloff, and online at http://karloff-shelf.blogspot.
The Esoterrorists are occult terrorists intent on tearing the fabric of the world – and you play elite investigators out to stop them. This is the game that revolutionized investigative RPGs by ensuring that players are never deprived of the crucial clues they need to move the story forward. Purchase The Esoterrorists in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.