Nailsuit Variations: The Time Sentinel

Various Pelgranes have written mini-posts inspired by a different filtered image of a mysterious man in a suit of nails. Robin’s contribution is a scenario hook for Ashen Stars.

The lasers accept a contract from the vas mal Institute for Temporal Folklore to investigate reported appearances of the Time Sentinel on a hypergas extraction rig on the planet Protomartyr.

Multiple cultures speak of the Timekeeper, a polyluminous entity from the far future who appears periodically in the present day. He approaches individuals to warn them that they will soon be killed, unless they accept his assistance. Because they are crucial to an upcoming moment in history, and the events that will kill them are anomalous or somehow chronally disharmonious, the Timekeeper plucks them from the timestream until the threat has passed. Without this intervention, the timeline might split into an infinite number of parallel multiverses, meaning that everything is possible and nothing is real.

Yeb Andton, a crew member aboard the gas rig, contacted the ITF after observing a being matching the description of the Timekeeper placidly strolling a gantry during a gale. As in the legends, the humanoid figure glowed a rainbow of colors, and was spiked with countless nail-like protrusions. In the folklore each spike represents a person crucial to timeline stability who the Timekeeper must protect.

On arrival, the lasers find no one but Andton willing to confirm a Timekeeper sighting. The team receives a frosty welcome from the Six, the council of owner-operators that runs the rig. They then discover that the Six has become five. One of its members, Dan Daccreg, has vanished. Stranger still, he emptied his bank accounts, converting his wealth to gems before going missing.

In mid-investigation another member of the council might vanish, too.

In fact the Timekeeper is a holo-illusion. One member of the council is using it to lure the others to leave the rig with a big wad of cash. As each Sixer is a confirmed egomaniac, all easily believe that they’re crucial to the time stream—and that the denizens of the new time period they’ll temporarily dwell in will shower them in praise and comfort if they arrive with money to spend.

Having encouraged them to rendezvous on a rocky crag, the culprit murders them. The perpetrator pockets the loot, and increases the chance of eventually inheriting the entire rig as the last Sixer left alive, as their tontine-style charter stipulates.

Whoever isn’t the culprit is one of the next potential victims. The surviving councilors are:

  • Ana Das, the engineer who designed the rig, gained ownership through genius and sweat equity, and can’t stop reminding everyone about it.
  • Jale Irtis, the indolent financier who swept in at the last minute to save the project from bankruptcy, and hasn’t since lifted a finger to keep the company running.
  • Mike Shannon, the tormented, irascible gas mining expert who thinks no one else is ever doing their job right.
  • Krk-Krk, who resents the others for refusing to allow him to ingest workers who die on the job.
  • Dun Ho, the rig’s administrator and recruitment officer, who complains that he does all the work, pulling the others’ dead weight.

For the role of culprit, pick the GMC you think your group will bond with, playing that character perhaps a tad more sympathetically than the descriptions above suggest.

Ashen Stars is a gritty space opera game where freelance troubleshooters solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — all on a contract basis. The game includes streamlined rules for space combat, 14 different types of ship, a rogues’ gallery of NPC threats and hostile species, and a short adventure to get you started. Purchase Ashen Stars in PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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