The Big Smoke, Part 1

Gridlock%20(6)After a string of historical adventures it was time for another science fiction based story. Since their re-introduction in ‘Gridlock’ I had thought it was a shame that the Macra were a very under utilized Dr Who monster.

Giant crabs that can hypnotise people really stood out and the fact that they thrived in toxic atmospheres made them ideally suited for stories about pollution. To this end I decided it would be based around a industrialist, Corbin Wilon, who falls under their sway while scouting a world they’d infested. Returning to the colony world where his businesses are located, in the year 2111, Corbin uses his factories to poison the air, making it more suited for his alien masters.

On the colony of Chist Corbin uses his money to put the government in his back pocket, his lawyers win any legal cases against him and his experts falsify data to show that his factories aren’t breaking anti-pollution laws, even as the population are forced to use air respirators on a daily basis.

Tapping into recent events I decided that the ‘rebellion’ would take the form of protestors, leading to riots as they clashed with the police. Their numbers would be regularly culled by the Macra who dwell in the pipes beneath the city, joining those people who are abducted from the street to be fed to the Macra in the factories.

When the time travellers arrived they would get caught up in a protest, pushed along to the colony space port, just as planetary inspector Avrin Agalis arrived. The plot would hinge on whether they could expose Corbin before the planetary inspector was also hypnotised by the Macra.

A riot would break out and regardless of the player characters actions all roads would lead to Hibson, the organiser of the demonstration. If they were arrested by the police they’d share a cell with him, if they escaped Hibson would be on hand to help them get of the area.

The only thing that was important was that they met him so he could pass on information about what was happening on the planet and give them the next lead. The organisation had discovered that Corbin was importing crates. The factories used raw materials from the colony so there was no reason he needed to be importing anything.

The organisation believed that they were illegal chemicals and Hibson would ask the player characters to investigate the cargo hanger at the space port. In truth the crates actually contained Macra eggs, harvested from the world where Corbin had found them.

The space port would have security and the hanger would have heavily armed guards. The characters could bluff their way in or use stealth to sneak into the secure area. Either way the discovery of the eggs would give them an idea of what they were dealing.

From there they could try to get the planetary inspector alone, gather more information, deal directly with the Macra or confront Corbin. The more overt the actions the greater the opposition they would face from corrupt police officers.

To completely eliminate the Macra I needed to give the player characters the ability to purify the air. I established that the colony had a number of chimney-like  air scrubbers which Corbin had shut down, publically because they cost too much money but secretly because it sped up the pollution levels he needed for the Macra. Turning these back on would prevent the Macra from being able to breath.

The game featured just the Inspector and Phillipa. After arriving and quickly buying air respirators from a street vendor they were caught up in the protest. I described the colony along the lines of Blade Runner; crowded streets filled with neon lights, floating hover cars casting spotlights from above and a thick clouds bellowing from the hundreds of factories.

Only after the game did I happen to see news footage from the 1950s of the poisonous smog that blanketed London. In retrospect that imagery would have worked well, a thick deadly fog that obscured whatever threat lay in the city.

From outside the space port they witnessed the landing of the planetary inspector, his photo taken by journalists while the protestors demanded better air quality. The police started to move in to quell the protestors, donning riot gear and banging their batons against their riot shields.

Noticing that some of the protestors were using hand held electronic devices to organise their movements the Inspector was able to work out an escape route. They slipped away as violence broke out.

They ran into Hibson who introduced himself as the protest organiser and used his van to get them out of the area. When the Inspector introduced himself Hibson mistook him from the planetary inspector.

I played Hibson as bit of a stereotype. He was dread locked,  well meaning but out of his league, left in chare after the more senior members of the group vanished. Taking them to his headquarters, in the backroom of an all natural food shop, he explained the problems with pollution caused by Corbin and his suspicions about the imports at the space port. He hoped that the Inspector would find the evidence he needed to shut the factories down.

Deciding to maintain the ruse the Inspector and Phillipa returned to the TARDIS, spending a story point to dig out a fake planetary inspector badge appropriate to the era. The Inspector did want to find out  everything he could about the colony from the TARDIS data files but I limited it to just confirming that the entry said it was a human colony. I reasoned that the Time Lords wouldn’t have details about every single planet in the universe, at least not in great detail.

Heading to the space port the Inspector showed the security guard his badge, claiming to be the planetary inspector. As the security guard had recently watched the very public arrival of the real inspector he flat out told the Inspector he wasn’t who he said he was!

To be Continued….

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