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Satellites are stars. And we're using them to set your horoscope.
On October 4th, 1957, astrology stopped working.
That was the day that Sputnik launched. Suddenly, a new star was born, and every astrological chart on the planet was obsolete. It is a testament to the decadence of this ancient field of study that no one noticed. Not for ten years.
It was on the tenth anniversary, October 4th, 1967, that we found the paper. An auspicious date, that, and highly significant. That was the day we made the breakthrough: that satellites and spaceships are stars, man-made stars, and that, to truly predict the future, their existence and position must be taken into account.
We tried it. It worked. And it has kept on working for 43 years.
The Working Group on Astrology:
The Working Group is a loose network of friends and acquaintances, all high-ranking managers or scientists working for NASA, the Air Force, or private aerospace firms. The group began as a circle of friends in the physics, astronomy, and aerospace engineering graduate programs at CalTech in the late 60s, who shared interests in space travel and the social and cultural changes that were sweeping the country. Although interested in the occult, most didn't take it seriously, and thought of it as an entertaining seasoning for an otherwise wholesome but bland life preparing to join the military-industrial complex.
That changed when one of them, Jacob Eisenhorn, discovered the papers of Jack Parsons in the CalTech library. Jack Parsons was an occultist and rocket engineer in the 40s and early 50s, best known for developing early solid rocket fuels and participating in the Babalon Working with L. Ron Hubbard (look him up). Eisenhorn took the esoteric somewhat more seriously than the rest of the group, and read the papers with some interest; most were useless or incomprehensible, but one stood out: a two page longhand essay musing on the symbology and esoteric significance of space travel, and suggesting that horoscopes would have to be reworked to include man-made stars-and that, some day, man might deliberately change his horoscopes to suit his needs.
The idea struck a chord with Eisenhorn, who developed the early mathematical models of what became Satellite Astrology, and who tested them on his fellow classmates. As they realized what they had discovered, the group made a pact: to enter the space industry, to achieve positions of power, and to use those positions and the knowledge they had discovered to Do Good.
It wasn't until the 90s that they gained enough influence to make any real changes, and they firmly believe that the relative peace and prosperity of that decade was their own doing-some of them can be quite disgustingly smug about it. However, they failed to anticipate Bush vs. Gore or 9/11, and the oughts decade has proved the limits of their power. Several of their highest-placed members have retired, including Eisenhorn. This has rather curtailed their activities, and recruiting replacements has been difficult. The last of the original group is now on the verge of mandatory retirement, and the current economic crisis has shown painfully that, even when they apply all of their resources to a problem, it's not always enough-the US economy has been enjoying the best horoscope they can give it since 2007, and they still can't give it a better forecast then “gloomy with chance of sun.”
As if that wasn't enough, one of their new recruits, Adam Thorpe, was killed in a home invasion burglary a year ago, and his copy of the Astrological Manual was stolen. And lately they've noticed a suspicious pattern in Russian satellite orbits-almost like they're changing orbits to deliberately frustrate their efforts...
The group consists of about twenty members, scattered around the country but concentrated in California, Florida, and Texas, at the various big NASA centers. About half work for NASA, the rest for private aerospace firms like SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance. They keep in touch by phone and email, but have little day-to-day coordination; their operations are sufficiently long-term that they don't need anything more elaborate.
The group has no formal structure or leadership, but Dr. Jacob Eisenhorn, formerly a NASA planetologist and now retired, comes close. He was the one who discovered the Parsons paper in the first place, and is the one who usually plans the satellite shifts, which he circulates to his colleagues via email for comment before implementation.
Once a year, the group gets together at Eisenhorn's house in North Carolina for a cookout. This is the only time when most of them are in the same place together, and they use it to plan their operations for the next year, and to decide what their priority will be. The decision-making process usually consists of a long, informal debate over several days, followed by a vote.
They can manipulate the fate of nations. Not very often and not very precisely, but that's a lot of power to have.
Although the group doesn't have a central treasury, most of its members are fairly well-off thanks to stock market horoscopes. And they're well plugged-in to the mundane power structure-they serve on various community boards, they're on a first name basis with their Congressmen, and they know who to call if they want to get something done. They can't order the police to arrest you, but the cops will listen to what they have to say.
They've known each other a long, long time. They trust each other. In-fighting is not an issue.
Their power is maddeningly imprecise, and not very useful on a day-to-day basis. It's all very well to manipulate the national horoscope, but it doesn't help you much if a couple of TNI agents are pointing guns at you.
They have no central organization, leadership, or treasury; they're scattered around the country and meet in person only rarely. If something happens, it will take time for them to mobilize, potentially a lot of time, especially if Eisenhorn is taken out.
They have no real contact with the Occult Underground. Dr. Eisenhorn knows one or two people, but that's it. They've never heard of adepts or chaos magick or godwalkers; they know about avatars, but think they're immutable, fixed elements of the human consciousness, not something that can be changed. Their understanding of the occult is a mix of 1960s hippie LSD-dreams, Renaissance-era grimoires, and hard-nosed steel-plated science. The first time they encounter an adept, they're not going to know what they're dealing with.
They have a lot to lose. They have families-extended families in many cases-positions of authority, personal wealth, the respect of their peers. They're very vulnerable.
Satellite Astrology is a Mind skill. It does not involve the casting of spells, although it can be used to cast minor rituals and thematically-appropriate significant and major rituals. Instead, it is used to predict the future and, with the right resources, modify it. Uses are classified as minor, significant, or major. Satellite Astrology does not have to be an obsession skill, and adepts can use satellite astrology; however, the significant and major uses can only be used by someone who has Satellite Astrology as an obsession.
Any use of satellite astrology requires an absolutely up-to-date catalog of stars and satellites, and either a computer, a genius (Mathematics 80% or higher), or magic to assist with the calculations. The times listed assume access to a high-end computer, a desktop machine with multiple cores and a lot of RAM. The GM should adjust them appropriately to reflect different resources-someone working on paper is going to take days even for a minor prediction, no matter how smart he is.
Also, it should be noted that there are a lot of military satellites whose orbits are not public knowledge. The working group knows the orbits of most of these, thanks to their USAF contacts, but others will have some difficulty; not knowing this information imposes a -10% penalty to minor and significant skill uses, and makes major uses effectively impossible.
Satellite Astrology has two basic uses: prediction and manipulation. For prediction, you can:
Minor Use: Spend about eight hours working through charts to cast an accurate horoscope, and make a minor Satellite Astrology check. This horoscope will be vague, but absolutely true; it will be concrete enough to be useful, but vague enough to be frustrating. Horoscope predictions will never be of the form that something will definitely happen, only that they will be an issue that must be dealt with. For example, if the GM knows that a group of voodoo-practicing street thugs are planning to kill a character, his horoscope might indicate that he will have conflict in his immediate future, of a violent or at least strenuous nature. A matched success will indicate that the conflict will definitely be violent and it will be with a group from his past that he has wronged.
Significant Use: Spend about eight hours working through charts to cast a horoscope that is both accurate and precise, and make a significant Satellite Astrology check. In addition to a general horoscope, on a success you can name a skill and learn what your next roll for that skill will be: make the roll now, note it down, and use it instead of actually rolling. The roll is your “natural” roll; when it's time to actually use it, it can be modified with shifts, passions, and obsessions. You cannot discard the roll, although you can engage in some harmless activity to use it up safely if it's particularly awful. The roll expires after one week.
Alternatively, you can cast the horoscope of a nation or other large group. This will tell you roughly what issues that group will confront over the next year-economics, the environment, political turmoil.
Major Use: Spend at least a month working on a horoscope and make a major Satellite Astrology check. On a success, you can predict the next seven rolls, in order, of skills of your choice; these can be all from one skill or a mix.
Alternatively, you can cast the horoscope of the entire world.
Manipulation is the shifting of satellite orbits to alter fate. Needless to say, this is not something that can be done simply or easily, and the Satellite Astrology roll covers only the planning; actually shifting satellite orbits requires high rank in government agencies, multiple Contacts or Bureaucracy skill checks, the promising of favors, and the like-any shift should be a major undertaking.
An arrangement of satellites for the purposes of creating a single shift is called a constellation. The effect of a manipulation lasts as long as the constellation does, but a satellite cannot be used in more than one constellation at a time. In general, the more specific a manipulation is, the harder it is.
Significant Use: You can shift satellites to give everyone in an area of about one miles radius a 10% shift, plus or minus, to one area. The area of skills that will be affected should be fairly vague-conflict, mediation, art-and it applies to everyone, friend or foe, in that area. The effect will last for one hour, but will recur periodically, about once a day, for as long as the constellation is in place. Planning this requires at least twenty-four hours of calculation and a major Satellite Astrology check. Assuming you move satellites immediately, it will take a minimum of your tens die roll in weeks before the shift takes effect, and it will require you to move a number of satellites equal to your ones roll (you can use your obsession, passions, or other effects to flip-flop these!). Matched or critical successes halve the number of shifts or the time needed.
You can reduce the number of satellites required in exchange for a longer lead time, trading one satellite for an extra four weeks; alternatively, you can reduce the lead time by a week at the cost of needing two extra satellites. Lead time cannot be less than one day. Matched successes either require no lead time at all, or use only one satellite-you found a cluster of satellites that are already almost in position, and you only need to move one satellite to achieve the constellation.
If you want to target a specific cluster of rolls-violent conflict instead of general conflict, painting instead of art-you can do so at the cost of requiring two extra satellite shifts. You can also make the shift apply only to a broad category of people, rather than to everyone, at the cost of four extra shifts; however, this category needs to be broad enough to apply to at least one in ten people, and to have meaning in any society: you could target males, females, soldiers, or children, but not Americans, Crips, or people with one eye. You can also use any avatar type as a target class. Also, since the category is symbolic rather than literal, it may have unexpected consequences-soldiers might include mafia hitmen, for example.
You can also use this to interfere with someone else's significant constellation. Negating someone else's efforts takes half the time and satellites needed to do something yourself. A major constellation won't be effected by this.
Major Use: You can shift satellites to give one single person, somewhere on the planet, a 10% shift to one area for a period of a day. Or you can effect a nation-state, or everyone on the planet, not just people in one area, and the effect lasts for eight hours at a time instead of one. Or you can pick one skill roll that you know will be made at some point in the future, and choose what that roll will be; for example, you could ensure that the next Firearms roll made to assassinate the president is a critical failure. Planning this requires at least a week and a major Satellite Astrology check; the lead time and number of shifts are calculated in the same way, except they are quadrupled.
You can also use this to interfere with someone else's major constellation. This requires half the time and satellites needed for a regular major use.
Dr. Jacob Eisenhorn In His Own Words
It was me that found it, you know. The whole thing was more of a lark than anything else. Me and the other boys, we were just looking for something fun, to give us a break from studying. Some people did drugs, some people joined the protest movement, some played sports-we huddled around ouija boards trying to contact Albert Einstein to help with our physics homework. He never did answer, the schmuck.
Anyway, I found it in the library basement, the papers of Jack Parsons. And I made it work. And we made it work. You know, it was thanks to us that none of those missing Russian nukes ever turned up in an American city? That was us-our very first working.
The internet, that was us, too. Not just us, of course; I'm not so totally self-absorbed as to think that. But we nurtured the boom, we kept it evenly distributed, and we made sure it popped early enough to not start a second Great Depression.
Things haven't been going quite as well these last few years, as you may have noticed. I'm still not sure the interference is too blame. It's such a shame, really. We aren't trying to advance the US over other nations-we're trying to help everyone, everywhere.
But, we do as needs must. I want Adam's killer found. I want him found, and I want him dealt with. What do you need to make that happen?
Personality: Amiable, friendly, given to reminiscing, and very easy to underestimate.
Appearance: Like a wizened old grandpa.
Obsession: Giving mankind power over their own future. We make the stars now, and we can make our own destiny, if we only realize it.
Fear Passion (Helplessness): Failure. He sees what's happened over the last ten years as a personal failing, and it gnaws at his gut. He won't let it go on, no matter what it takes.
Rage Passion: Fascists.
Noble Passion: Mankind is better than we know. We just need to be given a little nudge, to realize what our true nature is.
Wound Points: 40
Body: 40 Frail
General Athletics 15%, Struggle 15%
Speed: 30 Arthritic
Dodge 15%, Driving 30%, Firearms 15%, Initiative 15%
Mind: 80 The Best and the Brightest
Bureaucratic Jui-jitsu 65%, Conceal 15%, Contacts in NASA 60%, Notice 30%, Planetology 80%, Satellite Astrology 80%
Soul: 70 Noble
Charm 50%, Lying 50%
Contacts in NASA: Dr. Eisenhorn still knows a lot of people at NASA and elsewhere in the space industry, and he can call those contacts in. However, his Contacts skill represents the bank of favors he built up in his time at NASA, and he's no longer in a position to replenish it. He can use a major check of his Contacts skill to arrange for a satellite shift, but each time he does this it will drop by the sum of his ones and tens rolls, to represent favors expended.
Violence 0H 0F
Unnatural 6H 1F
Helplessness 2H 2F
Isolation 1H 1F
Self 1H 0F
Inventory: A loose collared shirt and trousers, usually tan; Apple iPhone; two ballpoint pens; car keys; wallet with $60, credit card, driver's license, Medicare card, Costco membership card, and expired NASA ID card. He owns a .22-caliber revolver, but does not carry it and will not use it except to threaten.
Possessions: A comfortable two-story house in a semi-rural area of North Carolina; 2006 Corvette (his retirement gift to himself); bank account with about $10,000; government pension worth about $40,000 per year; assorted mutual funds and treasury bonds worth about $360,000. He also has an ample library, almost exclusively on astronomy and related sciences; he has several rare antique books on the sciences, worth together about $20,000. An occultist perusing his library will likely be disappointed-the most esoteric volume is The Golden Bough. However, the papers of Jack Parsons, including the original essay on the symbolism of space travel and several documents in code that he has not been able to decipher, sit in a safe deposit vault in a nearby bank.
Dr. Li Yang In His Own Words
It's a very interesting phenomenon, and the biggest mystery I am aware of. It's difficult to research it properly, especially since I have my other work for JPL that I have to do. Most of what I've done has been to refine the mathematical model, eliminating some of the inconsistencies-the original version was radically simplified to make it possible to calculate by hand, whereas modern computers make a more detailed, accurate analysis feasible. But we really need to find a neurologist or a psychologist, to try to determine what's actually going on inside the brain.
My working theory is that it's some kind of neural phenomenon, yes. If not, then everything we know about physics is wrong. So I'm operating under the assumption that it's neural, until such time as I know otherwise. That theory is reinforced by the fact that the distance of the object from the earth appears to have no bearing on its effect-a satellite in low earth orbit has the same degree of influence as a satellite in geostationary orbit, which has the same influence as a star light-years away. Only its position in the sky appears to matter. If this were a physical phenomenon-if the objects were actually emitting some kind of force influencing events on earth-than we would expect to see the effects fall off with distance. So I think the assumption that it's neurological is reasonable, at least for the moment.
To be honest, they haven't really done much with the whole thing. I don't want to sound too dismissive, but they've never really tried to understand what's going on-just to apply it. I mean, their applications are absolutely worthwhile, but I would think that they'd be a little more scientific about the whole thing.
So, yes, at the moment my main concern is to find a neurologist. Or a psychologist. So far I haven't found any that seem... Suitable. I'd appreciate any recommendations you could make.
Personality: Focused, precise, and not very interested in people; he always looks faintly harassed when he's talking to others, as though he's worried he's making a mistake. He never refers to satellite astrology by name, preferring euphemisms like the “phenomenon.”
Appearance: A skinny Asian-American nerd in glasses.
Obsession: Understanding the universe.
Fear Passion (Self): Dr. Yang is secretly half-convinced that he's not actually as smart as he should be, and that he's somehow fooled everyone around him. As a result, he's an extreme perfectionist, and doesn't take failure very well, either by himself or others.
Rage Passion: Bad drivers. Long, painful story.
Noble Passion: Expanding human knowledge and understanding.
Wound Points: 50
Body: 50 Dorkish
General Athletics 15%, Stay Up Late 50%, Struggle 15%
Speed: 40 Uncoordinated
Dodge 15%, Driving 30%, Initiative 20%, Video Games 25%
Mind: 90 Super Genius
Astrophysics 90%, Conceal 15%, Neurology 10%, Notice 15%, Paradigm (Scientific) 60%, Satellite Astrology 60%
Soul: 40 Introverted
Charm 15%, Fade Into the Background 40%, Lying 30%
Violence 0H 0F
Unnatural 3H 2F
Helplessness 1H 0F
Isolation 0H 0F
Self 2H 1F
Inventory: A ratty T-shirt and jeans; Google Android; two ballpoint pens; car keys; wallet with $20, credit card, driver's license, and JPL ID card. He always has a backpack with him containing a Hewlett-Packard laptop running Linux, at least one reference book (usually more), and stacks and stacks of paper covered with equations and ideas.
Possessions: A small apartment that looks unlived in; a battered 2001 Saturn; a job at JPL paying $60,000 per year; $10,000 in a savings account; $1,000 in checking, $20,000 in student loans.
Lt. Gen. Abraham Freeman In His Own Words
When they first approached me, I thought they were fucking crazy. And they apparently thought that, since I'm black, I must be some sort of covert hippie infiltrator of the military. I forgave them for their mistake and they forgave me for mine.
It's... Been an interesting twenty years, it really has. They're good people, I'll give them that. Naïve, but well-meaning. I tend towards right of center, so we can have some real... Interesting arguments.
I don't really get into the technical details of it. Eisenhorn sends me the orbit plots he wants, and I do what I can to sneak it into the satellite's maneuvering plans. Mostly we argue over what to do with the damned things. We had one gentleman at the last cook-out-I'm not going to tell you who-who insisted we needed to prioritize gay rights. Now, I'm against don't-ask-don't-tell and I don't give a damn what you do in the bedroom with a consenting adult-or, hell, with three consenting adults, whatever-but with two wars and a deficit the size of Michigan I'd think we have bigger priorities.
As for the Russians, that's a real problem. Whoever's over there has got control over a lot more satellites than we do, might even be an official arm of the government instead of a bunch of illegal do-gooders like us. I got the math-boys of the group trying to figure out what they're trying to do, besides stop us, but it's not easy-there's a lot of satellites up there, any one of which could be doing anything. And with this business with Adam-nasty business, that. I've taken to carrying a little something for any comrades that show up.
Anyway... Where were we? Right. They're good people, and we've done a lot together. But Eisenhorn still hasn't figured out, you can't change human nature. He thinks he can. He's done a lot of good trying to, but he hasn't managed it yet, and he never will.
Personality: Calm, forceful, gruff; he sees himself as the token realist in the menagerie.
Appearance: An aging but still tough African-American fighter-pilot, ramrod-straight in a military uniform.
Obsession: Protecting America. Period.
Fear Passion (Helplessness): Nuclear war. He served on some strategic planning groups in the 80s. He still gets nightmares occasionally.
Rage Passion: Upper-middle-class people who've lived their lives in comfort, have never really experienced or seen hardship, and assume that everyone else is exactly like them.
Noble Passion: His comrades in arms, both in the military and in the Working Group.
Wound Points: 60
Body: 60 Tough as Boot Leather
Endure 60%, General Athletics 40%, Struggle 30%
Speed: 60 Fast Reflexes
Dodge 30%, Driving 30%, Initiative 40%, Pilot Fighter Jet 60%
Mind: 70 Strategic
Administratize 70%, Conceal 20%, Notice 40%, Paradigm (Military) 50%
Soul: 60 Forceful
Charm 40%, Get His Way 60%, Lying 30%
Violence 4H 0F
Unnatural 3H 1F
Helplessness 2H 2F
Isolation 1H 0F
Self 1H 0F
Inventory: Military dress uniform; Apple iPhone; ballpoint pen; wallet with $40, Pentagon ID card, credit card, driver's license, and a Ugandan thousand-shilling note (for luck). He carries a Beretta 92 9mm semiautomatic pistol when he can, but given the nature of his job it's often not possible.
Possessions: A house in a nice neighborhood in Virginia; a job at the National Reconnaissance Office planning satellite overflights, paying about $80,000 per year; about $20,000 in savings. He has a car-a 2005 Cadillac-but his job gets him a chauffeur, so he doesn't drive it much. In addition to his Beretta, he owns a small collection of guns, including an M1911 .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a .30-06 Winchester hunting rifle, which he keeps in a gun safe in the garage.
Using the Working Group on Satellite Astrology
The Working Group are meant to be patrons or allies. They have real power and can offer real payment, magickal, monetary, and even political, but they can't steal the show themselves and there's are some very good reasons why they would want the PCs to do their dirty work rather than doing it themselves-not least of which is that their average age is well over 60. They'd make rather poor villains: their methods could be played as Orwellian if you want, but they'd only survive up until the PCs discover their identities, at which point any violently-inclined group is going to obliterate them.
One thing that I would emphasize is that they are not a tightly-knit organization like TNI or the Sleepers; they're more like Mak Attax-a group of individuals who all happen to know each other, and who the PCs encounter as individuals, not as a group. However, while they may bicker and argue with each other, possibly even in front of the PCs, they will present a united front if threatened.
One of their members, Adam Thorpe-a recently recruited 32-year-old NASA astronomer-has been killed. The police are treating it as a home invasion robbery gone bad; he was shot twice in the chest, then once more in the head as he lay on the floor, and the house was ransacked. The police have had no luck catching the killer-and one of the things that was missing was his copy of the Astrological Manual. The Working Group wants his killer found, and the Manual recovered. They're willing to pay, preferably in money, in horoscope manipulation if that's not good enough-they're scared, and badly.
Dr. Eisenhorn still has the papers of Jack Parsons locked in a safe deposit box. He's pretty much given up on deciphering them-some are in code, and most of the rest are so heavily symbolic that they might as well be, or else they're obsolete analyses of solid rocket fuel mixes. But Parsons was one of the people responsible for the Babalon Working; he corresponded with Aleister Crowley and was a very (very) close friend of L. Ron Hubbard. There's no telling what's in there, or who might want it.
Also, there's the issue of the interference. Most of the group still isn't sure that it's not just coincidence; those that are sure have no idea what to do about it. But, if it is real, then there's no question that something has to be done. Leaving aside the question of dealing with the Russians directly, the group wants very badly to know what they're trying to accomplish, but crunching the orbits of thousands of Russian satellites to figure it out is a task beyond most supercomputers. Magick, however, might have a better chance.
MCLowell | profile | Oct 26, 10 | 2:45 pm
Jeebus this is win.
Requiem_Jeer | profile | Oct 27, 10 | 5:32 am
We likes it, we does, precious!
Wellbutrin | profile | Oct 27, 10 | 8:48 am
Glad to hear you like it. : )
MCLowell | profile | Oct 31, 10 | 1:03 pm
Well spank my ass and call me Sally, I think we've got a winner here.