Theoretical Science Foundation
History of the Theoretical Science FoundationThe TSF was established in 1999 as a government sponsored research institute. Its mission: to counter hostile alien invasion. Its method: to research aliens and their technology and develop such countermeasures. For the first 12 years, this amounted to a poor facsimile of the SETI program. The TSF was increasingly attacked by budget cutters as a waste of taxpayer money — a “solution without a problem”, as the press called it. Worse, the government put a number of quack scientists into the ranks in an act of political cronyism. It was then, of course, that the aliens landed. As the virus slew people by the hundreds of millions, these cranks and yes-men were adept at telling the government what it wanted to hear. The Grays would be defeated, they said. The Grays would give up and go home, they said. The Grays would embrace Christianity, they said. Less than one year after planetfall, those who saw the ugly truth had finally had enough. Twenty-eight men and women met in Pana, and simply moved into an unfinished TSF base and made it their own. The first few years were tough. Much work was needed to make the base fully functional. The government did not bother to investigate or even communicate with the wayward staff, and the TSF returned the favor. A hyper-isolationist policy was adopted — no contact outside the base, save for a few essentials and the occasional foray into Gray territory. This was maintained for a decade, until someone noticed that the staff was slowly dying off — both in combat against the Grays and the occasional death due to old age. The policy had to be modified, and so Beta base was built for recruitment (see below). Despite the stringent requirements for entry, the TSF has grown slowly but steadily over the years, now numbering over 350 members. Though small enough to maintain a literal democracy within their own ranks, most are apolitical. Most are uninterested or unaware that the USA has metastasized into the URA.
Composition of the TSF
Scientists still comprise the majority, if only barely. All receive at least minimal combat training in the event of a base attack by aliens (yes, this has happened more than once). Their true value, of course, is their research. All have aptitude and training above the norm (figure at least a d8 for mental attributes and science skill). They fall into three categories : physical, life, and psychosocial. The first (which includes Dr. Sharpe) seeks both to develop effective armaments, and to reverse engineer Gray tech and turn it against them. Life science deals with alien biology, including their minions and those altered by the virus (prophets). The psychosocials are the smallest and newest branch; they study alien psionics, psychology, and human sociology. Mostly statisticians, they are constantly stressing the point that humanity itself is mismanaged, unable to cope with the Grays even if given the tools to do so. The URA, they maintain, is not our salvation, but our doom.
Engineers are our unsung heroes. They have all the nuts and bolts knowledge necessary to make theory into reality. They perform all labor within the base, from the most menial to the construction of advanced prototype weapons. They manufacture all gear which cannot be outsourced to other agencies, either because such agencies are reckoned untrustworthy or are simply incapable. Ever hear the saying “a woman’s work is never done”? Well, neither is an engineer’s.
Agents are the “military” of the TSF. Almost all of them are vigorously anti-Gray. Probably because anyone who says otherwise isn’t even considered for recruitment. The Grays are public enemy number one, no exceptions. To date, no sortie has ever been planned against any human agency. They are the guys (and gals) who go into Gray territory to collect Gray artifacts and specimens. They also suffer the most casualties by far, so the rest of the staff is pretty sympathetic when an agent chooses to retire early. On the upside, there’s no shortage of people who hate the Grays. Despite the higher turnover of agents, the TSF actually turns down more applicants of this type than any other.
Administration is the smallest group, a small minority at every base but Beta. The head is called director, a job most scientists wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. It’s their job to understand the basics of all ongoing projects, set staff and funding priorities, deal with tricky supply issues (where do you get ruthenium?), and resolve squabbles among the staff. Their decisions are occasionally challenged, and can be overturned by a simple democratic vote, which has happened numerous times and is not considered unusual. The current director at Alpha is Sarah Sharpe (no relation to Oscar), a one-time scientist of the psychosocial branch. While not militant by any means, Sarah definitely advocates more interventionist views than any prior director.
All staff receive the pre-war equivalent of six-digit salaries, paid seasonally, making for a nice nest egg when they retire. Raises are out of the question, but a member may re-apply for a longer contract, subject to the review of their peers. First contracts are for a year, then two, then three, then four (the maximum). Yeah, some do go senile and get the boot. They don’t usually take it very well, but since they’ve typically amassed a cool million, few cry for them. The washout rate on first-term members is about 30%. Agents are permitted to cancel their contract at any time and receive a prorated pay; non-combat types forfeit their pay for the season.
Bases and Base Facilities
All bases are subterranean and hardened against bombardment, up to and including a nuclear strike (not that anyone has fired a nuke in decades). All have quarters to house the entire staff in relative comfort. Multiple children, a rare event, can make it a bit cramped. There are also communal areas for recreation, hygiene, and meals — at least one of each for every 50 inhabitants or fraction thereof. Privacy within one’s own quarters is unquestioned; it’s considered the height of rudeness to pry into such things. Like Vegas, only worse.
Supply rooms take up a substantial space in every base. Everything from imperishable foodstuffs to transistors is here in quantity. All necessary materials to survive a months-long siege are stockpiled just in case such a thing should actually occur. To date, all base assaults have been brutal but quick.
Laboratories and workshops are where the scientists and engineers do their thing. While they resemble their 21st century counterparts, the collapse of society has made some materials hard to find or just plain impossible to get. On the upside, a century of determined research has produced tricks that pre-war scientists never dreamed of. The medical needs of humans are, incidentally, addressed in the life science labs.
All bases have at least one hangar for vehicles. These, and a lift for personnel, and the only normal means of entering a base. Beyond each is a long, metal hallway guarded automated defenses — conventional weapons for Beta and Delta, laser emplacements for Alpha and Gamma. Alpha and Gamma also have facilities for alien containment. (Only one actual Gray has been captured alive, which was regrettably slain when it began summoning endless hordes to assault the base. Other Grayspawn have been successfully captured and investigated.)
Alpha is located under what was once the Pana Country Club. It was the first, and remains the nucleus of TSF efforts. A smallish minority actually live topside in Pana itself, in a vague attempt to look like farmers. The rest live underground. Alpha is home to about 100 scientists and 20 veteran engineers, as well as the leanest and meanest of the agents (sometimes referred to as the “Dirty Thirty”). These are the guys sent on the most difficult and dangerous Gray-busting missions. Alpha also has its fair share of vehicles, including four aircraft that have been mothballed even since the Icarus array went up. All equipment prototypes are developed and built here, and all sensitive research topics (nuclear and mind-control are two that spring to mind) are likewise studied here.
Beta Interface (usually just called Beta) is near Arlington Park, which is near Champaign-Urbana. C-U supplies a goodly chunk of recruits, scientific and otherwise. Applicants are studied for a month or more, to determine if they possess the necessary aptitudes and (even more important) attitudes. Freeloaders interested in only a paycheck typically reveal themselves in short order and are not invited back. Successful applicants receive a rigorous three-month course in their field (basic training for agents), as well as orientation in vault dwelling. Non-combatants are stationed at Beta and are assigned to investigate technological innovation from outside the TSF, keeping the foundation somewhere on par with other institutions, notably the URA. They are also expected to keep an eye out for hints that less savory experiments are going on, hopefully to provide warning if someone is doing something rotten. Agents are deployed to whatever base needs them the most, typically Gamma. Beta has a teaching staff of about 20 members, with perhaps 80 or so first-term rookies. Another 20 or so would-be recruits are usually nearby.
Gamma Outpost (usually just Gamma) is north of Pana, actually just within Gray-held territory. The site was very empty prairie beforehand, and still bears no topside hints of its existence. They make plenty of trouble and don’t want to attract even more. Their job is to penetrate Gray space, looking for any conspicuous activity. This includes unusual and undocumented life forms, unexplained mass movement of the infected dead, and of course actual Grays and Abominations. Recon is their main objective, but frequently they get into fights. They will not hesitate to call in the Alpha hit squad if they find something important, and do so just about every season. Most missions don’t turn up anything useful, but those that do have led to some of the TSF’s most groundbreaking research. Gamma usually holds around 30 agents, 10 engineers to keep the place running, and a few administrators.
Delta Assembly (usually just Delta) is the newest base, less than 15 years old. As the name implies, Delta was formed to accommodate the growing need for manufacture of specialized equipment. While Alpha could have expanded, the idea of putting all the eggs in one basket was deemed strategically unsound. Furthermore, actual engineers were increasingly spending their time just producing the necessary materials for their work. Proposed by a clique of retiring engineers with good business sense, a number of public factories were set up to handle such tasks. Metals, ceramics, plastics, and simple electronic components are made in the formerly sleepy hamlet of Onarga — one of the few towns that is larger now than it was before the war. Shipments to Delta receive maximum priority, though nowadays Delta is only a small customer. Delta has no scientists, only a slew of about 70 enginerds, a somewhat lackadaisical garrison of a dozen agents, and a handful of administrators.
Recently, there has been talk of establishing a super-secret Epsilon base, as insurance against a massive assault from the URA. Most don’t support the notion, declaring themselves non-partisan and thus not a target for conquest. It remains to be seen if our potential conquerors agree, especially when they outnumber the TSF by about three orders of magnitude.
TSF Inventions and Equipment
Not every operative carries every invention on their person; even with the respectable resources of the TSF, it’s not yet possible to mass produce these items. Still, most operatives have a few tricks up their sleeve, including:
Armor-Available in various degrees of protection. The amazingly robust lab coat is standard issue for non-agents entering potentially dangerous area. “Power suits” provide similar protection and more-than-human strength. “Disruptor armor” is likely the best armor produced anywhere, providing both superior armor and invulnerability.
Weaponry-Lasers are commonplace, and pretty damn deadly. Even more wicked are the plasma weapons, specially designed to turn very large aliens into large puddles of goo.
Non-lethal weaponry: The stun rod and stun launcher are ideal for capturing specimens, as well as pacifying pesky humans who give you trouble. Such attacks are “psychic”, “disarming”, and of course “stunning”.
Adaptation: Special issue lab coats are often made resistant to noxious effects: vacuum, chemical attack, radiation, etc. Usually only one modification at a time.
Detection: Motion sensors, low-light goggles, x-ray scanners, and the more usual EM sensors are available.
Invisibility: The Snell Suit is uncommon even in the TSF. Employed only rarely, because people assume that while you’re invisible, you’re up to no good. They’re usually right, too.
Flight: A few 22nd century jetpacks have been produced but haven’t seen much use. Design of flying “power suits” has basically gone nowhere. Damn Icarus array.
The Toxigun: Harmless to humans, lethal to Grayspawn. Regrettably, no formula for actual Grays. Not effective against prophets, either. Still working on formulas for Abominations and (possibly) Stalkers.
Force fields: Always a favorite among us nerds. The Mental Static Device, intended to ward off psychic assault, is being researched by this team. Still in the experimental stage.
Mind Control: Normally an anathema to any decent individual, turnabout is fair play where the Grays are concerned. Not designed for use against humans, only a fiend like Igor Kurkatov would modify it in such a way.
Basically, nearly ALL the listed powers are either on the drawing board or in actual production. No telling what crazy scheme will be the next to succeed.
Vehicles: Yeah, kind of boring, but you kind of need them. The vehicle fleet consists of:
The Crawler : Basically a large ryder truck on half-tracks. Used to ship tons of shit just about anywhere.
Wolfhound APC: Not truly a tank, but armed nonetheless with laser cannon and twin STS missiles. Can carry 8 agents and equipped with an alien containment pod. Vehicle of choice for heavy assaults.
Stormdog: An upjumped sports car. Twin machine guns, resistant to small arms fire, bullet proof tires. Performs very poorly offroad, and roads nowadays are so crummy that the vehicle’s top speed is pretty moot.
Blazer Bike: Great fun, essentially zero protection. Most are outfitted for off-road use. Some talk about giving them cool abilities. Wiser heads prevailed. Nothing says “steal me” like a bike with a cloaking field.
Valkyrie Aircar: The flying car everyone dreamed of before the invasion. Damn the Icarus array, again.
Firestorm Interceptor: Meant for shooting down UFO’s. Now it gathers dust.
Skyranger Air Transport: For airborne assault and retrieval. It also gathers dust.
People and Personalities of the TSF
Two of these guys you already know, but a refresher can’t hurt. The rest stand out even among the oddballs which characterize the TSF.
Oscar Sharpe: (Physical Scientist, Contract Level 4): Sharpe was recruited from C-U almost 11 years ago. Despite his ridiculous appearance and occasional penchant for the heroic, he is actually regarded as a sober and sensible researcher. Not easily swayed by bullshit, his fixation on the Maya of legend was viewed as a harmless and humorous eccentricity. Now that Fate has provided two insane super-powered Maya clones, few find the situation either harmless or humorous. Least of all Oscar.
Igor Kurkatov: (Physical Scientist, Contract Level 4): A URA expatriate, Igor took the liberty of erasing all records of himself from any URA databases he could access. While he is, in fact, against the Grays, it is also clear that the URA has not solved the problem and may in fact be collaborating with the aliens. Regardless, new leadership is called for. And he obviously has no compunctions about employing TSF technology against his one-time masters. Though utterly ruthless, ever Igor doesn’t want the URA to collapse into anarchy. He is doubtless planning something surgical and devoid of anything resembling morality.
Isaac Marsh: (Administrator, Contract Level 4): Formerly head of the physical science team, Marsh was essentially drafted into the position. He loves science, hates politics, but no better candidates presented themselves. Particularly adept at temporal physics; quickly grows irritated by anyone he thinks is slacking off. Age has not sapped his intensity in the least, but at age 81, he’s likely to keel over dead any day now.
Vishali D’sousa : (Life science, contract level 3): Head of the life sciences team after only 4 years, her studies into the Prophecy virus are beyond compare. She was the first to isolate the virus and begin mapping its alien protein chains. She hopes to create an antigen to combat its effects, both to save the terminally afflicted and possibly return prophets to normalcy, should they so desire. She also has a winning bedside manner and frequently visits patients in the infirmary, even when she isn’t directly overseeing their treatment. Will admit that the aliens are often “too creepy” for her.
Crystal Kemp (Agent, Contract Level 2) : Nobody is quite sure how Crystal survived this long. Very cute, very friendly, but also totally scatterbrained. Kemp has repeatedly ventured into obvious ambushes and come out unscathed. She’s a walking, talking statistical anomaly. Her fierce loyalty to her squadmates is offset by the fact she’s typically unaware of the threat. It’s also hard to explain why you’d put a plasma rifle into the hands of someone you can’t trust with a pair of scissors.
Wolfgang Krause: (Agent, Contract Level 3) : Sergeant Krause is, without a doubt, the most sarcastic man in the TSF. He delights in the discomfort of his fellow agents, mocking them mercilessly for any perceived flaws or mistakes. He’s almost made it an art form. Somehow, he gets others to enjoy the Schadenfreude, as well. Agent Kemp is one of his favorite targets, but lately he’s found the Sharpe/Maya thing to be worthy of several choice remarks.
Adam Blake: (Agent, Contract Level 4): Blake is overall commander of all agents, and an excellent choice for the position. Charismatic as hell and a crack shot with a plasma rifle, Adam is nevertheless not the least bit pushy or overbearing with the administration or other non-combatants. Has made it plain that the aliens scare the hell out of him, but you’d never guess it if you saw him in the field. Also quite a ladies’ man, his otherwise stellar reputation is marred by a anime-style love triangle with two of his supposed subordinates. The two women naturally hate each others guts.
Lance Blackshear (Engineer, Contract Level 4): Lance is Chief Engineer at Delta and a total workhorse. No nonsense, no padding of estimates, no fucking around. When you give him a job, that job gets done, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way. Administration is kind of worried, though. They know the private sector has offered Blackshear huge sums to work for them, maybe even produce TSF gear for private interests. Few actually think Lance would spill classified intelligence, but losing him would be like losing a hand. Your dominant hand.