Salamander's Gold



Background

In 2030, a scientist and politician named Ramón Salamander disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Salamander had been wildly popular, internationally lionised for saving humanity from starvation with his Sun-catcher system. It was only after he vanished that the World Zones organization – successor to the United Nations – discovered that he had been planning a coup to install himself as world dictator when he went missing. The scandal almost broke the WZO apart, and the clean up and the unravelling of Salamander’s various schemes and criminal conspiracies took years.

One of those conspiracies involved the theft of art treasures on an almost industrial scale. Salamander was a man who liked the best of everything, and his agents had stolen pieces from some of the greatest galleries in the world – including the Louvre and the British National Gallery – replacing them with fakes. Most of the pieces were eventually recovered from Salamander’s various palaces, but a few of them were never found, including the thrones of Pedro II of Brazil and John VI of Portugal, both of which were taken from the Museu Histórico Nacional in Rio de Janeiro.

One of Salamander’s most capable agents was his unacknowledged illegitimate daughter, Narella Drakos. Narella’s mother was Maria Drakos, an immensely wealthy Greek shipping tycoon, and Narella was a fixture of Europe’s rich set. She cultivated a reputation as a beautiful, twentysomething airhead with a habit of falling in love with the wrong men – usually two or three times a week. A prominent gossip columnist in the 2020’s once said that she had “a giggle that could drive Mother Theresa homicidal”.

Beneath her act, Narella had inherited her father’s scientific and organizational brilliance in full measure, as well as his ruthlessness, but she lacked his ambition. To her, the human race was a source of diversion, not an object of conquest. She thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of leading his exclusive cabal of art thieves, thwarting the best security systems in the world and stealing its most carefully guarded treasures with nobody any the wiser. She vanished in 2031, just before the WZO uncovered her activities, and became something of a cause célèbre in the decades that followed.

The Story

The year is 2028. The Conquistador is moored off Rio de Janeiro, and Narella Drakos is at the centre of a wild round of partying by the rich set of America and Europe. Under cover of which, she’s quietly casing the Museu Histórico Nacional, planning to steal the thrones of Pedro II and John VI as surprise birthday presents for her father.

Andreas Roth is also in Rio. He plans to find Salamander’s missing cache of treasures, the ones that were never recovered after his disappearance. To do that, he intends to plant customised subspace homing beacons on the two thrones, so that he can track them to wherever Salamander hid them. He’s also evaluating Narella Drakos as a possible recruit for the Alexandrian Society. She’s due to vanish in another three years; history won’t notice her absence. She’ll need some remedial training to bring her up to speed on twenty-seventh century technology, but her abilities would make her an ideal agent.

Then the players’ TARDIS arrives in Rio. If the Doctor is at the controls, they may be aiming for the 2016 Olympics and simply have missed. Another Time Lord with a more reliable TARDIS might simply be a tourist, or actually be looking for Roth.

In any case, as soon as the TARDIS lands, it will register two low-power subspace pulses nearby. The signals don’t contain any information, and they’re too weak to reach further than about Mars; they’re obviously some kind of local homing signal, not an attempt at interstellar communication. But no Earth technology of this era could possibly be generating them.

The players will presumably want to investigate. When they emerge from their TARDIS, they will discover that it’s landed at the top of the Corcovado Mountain, near the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Twilight is starting to fall, and the city, spread out beneath them, is lighting up.

Their TARDIS will be able to supply a tracking device that will lead them in the direction of the homing signal. A K9 unit can do the same job. The signal is coming from a couple of thousand feet below. They can reach the city by using the Corcovado Rack railway or – if the GM wants to add some local allies or even provide a “hook” for introducing a new player character – befriend some of the multitude of tourists visiting the mountain, and beg a lift down.

The signals will lead the characters to Tijuca, a district in Rio’s North Zone. They seem to be coming from somewhere inside Tijuca’s Hard Rock Café – until a minute or two before the characters arrive, at which point the tracker will register them moving away at speed.

The characters can elect to follow the signals. If they linger in the area for long, however – and especially if they display high technology fairly openly, or talk about their frustration at losing their quarry – they will be approached by a small, scruffy-looking, dark-haired figure at some indeterminate age between his late teens and early twenties. Fabiao Caricas is a small-time petty crook who makes his living pickpocketing, burgling, and lifting unconsidered trifles from Rio’s large tourist population. He’s just seen something very strange, and the characters conversation and/or gadgetry makes him think that they might be willing to pay for his story.

Fabiao was lurking outside the Hard Rock Café, watching a tall, fair-haired tourist and weighing up his chances of picking the man’s pockets, when a car pulled up and the man got into it. Then the blonde man glowed, shimmered, and turned into a shorter, darker-haired man in some kind of uniform. For a little extra cash – or an exceptionally good result on a social roll – Fabiao will “remember” that it was a security guard’s uniform from the Museu Histórico Nacional. If the characters don’t already know Roth, having Fabiao tag along with them will be a good way to point him out to them.

If they go to the Museum, the characters will find it hosting an exclusive charity benefit event, attended by Narella Drakos. Roth, having used a Shimmer to impersonate a security guard and plant the tracking bugs on the two thrones, is also attending the party. If he’s already met the characters, he will know they are a danger to him as soon as he lays eyes on them. If not, he will mark them as potential threats if they say or do anything to suggest that they can detect the subspace homing beacons – Earth technology of this era is incapable of picking up subspace signals. He’ll do his best to have them killed or captured as soon as possible; probably by having some of his local hirelings ambush them when they leave the museum.

Rescue will come from an unlikely source. Narella Drakos met Roth a few days ago and found him intriguing – and perplexing. Despite all the resources of her father’s organization, she’s been unable to find out anything about him, and she’s been keeping an eye on him – partly because she’s worried that he might be an agent sent after her by a law enforcement agency, and partly out of pure curiosity. When she managed to overhear him on his ‘phone to his henchmen, setting up the ambush, she decided that the characters might be able to tell her more about him.

If the characters don’t manage to fight off Roth’s ambush, Narella’s men will come to the rescue. Even if they do, Narella will likely extend an invitation to them to visit her on the Conquistador, especially if they display advanced technology, like a K9 unit, in the course of the fight – she’ll be fascinated.

The characters now have a choice. History says that Narella will succeed in stealing the thrones. They shouldn’t want to interfere with that, and they might even decide to help out – it will give them a chance to remove Roth’s tracking devices from the thrones. It may be a fun change of pace for the troupe to play at being Lady Christina de Souza, just this once. They also have to decide what to tell Narella about Roth – and if they decide to reveal at least part of the truth, how to do it in a way that won’t make him seem like an attractive potential ally. And if any of them are familiar with the career of the second Doctor, they’ll also know to keep out of Salamander’s way. The ultimate aim is to keep history on track and force Roth to butt out of interfering with it, although there is an intriguing possibility that Roth – or even the characters – were the ones responsible for Narella’s disappearance, meaning that they may have to encourage Narella to deal with Roth or else skip forward a few years to 2031 to rescue her themselves. The truth is for the GM to decide.