Voices Of Reason


Early in the last Saturday morning, 02:00 AM PST, science/psychology freelance journalist Marc Edwin uploaded the 17th episode of his monthly podcast, Voices of Reason, to his website. The 2h 17 min streamed podcast features an interview with established but obscure computational neuroscientist, Dr Samuel Heathby, MD,PhD, from University of Brichester. The interview appears much like the previous episodes of the Voices: a polite discussion, this time about Heathby's work connecting probabilistic models to neuroscience and biology. It is interesting only to academically-minded enthusiasts who comprise the ~100 regular subscribers; unremarkable to anyone else.

However, there is something special about this episode. As the Saturday morning progressed, comments started appearing on the site discussion board. Many were puzzled, some were distressed, and all contained keywords flagged by the Delta Green automatic internet dragnet. Around 09 AM EST, grad student Anna Wolmark from NY published a raving blog post, describing Heathby's ideas "leading to incredible results with profound implications". Unexpectedly, at 11:07 PM EST, mere 2 hours later, visibly distraught Ms Wolmark uploaded a video to social media with a rambling suicide message followed by the act. By noon, the Program was at full alert about a probable memetic incident. Within an hour, a DDoS attack had taken down the Voices server and a disinformation campaign was underway.

The following Monday morning at 9:00 AM PST, Agents are briefed in a nondescript FBI office in San Francisco, California. The case officer presents two leads: The Program has located one Marc Edwin, a physicist-turn-journalist. He has a desk in co-working office space and home address in Fairwood, a mid-sized city near the Bay Area. Dr Heathby is confirmed as a visitor at UC Berkeley, having arrived a little over a week ago at invitation of Prof Maillard, Department of Mathematics.

According to the people at the co-work office, Edwin has not come in today. Nobody has heard about Dr Heathby since Friday (when the podcast was recorded). He has no scheduled arrangements until tomorrow Tuesday morning, when he is due to give a seminar talk.

Handler's information

Where is Marc Edwin?

Marc Edwin and his software engineer friend Jacob Yang (who maintains the website) have spent much of Sunday at Yang's place trying to resolve the DDoS attacks, spam, and social media lies plaguing Edwin's website and internet persona. On Monday morning, he can be found at Yang's place. Later he will see a lawyer about legal recourse. Afterwards, he will return home. He will forget his phone at Yang's place.

Edwin is suspicious, but will talk if given a sensible reason. He was impressed by Dr Heathby, even though he does not fully understand his ideas ("interesting take on panpsychism, don't you think so?") Afterwards, he felt inspired to edit and upload the episode immediately.

Where is Dr Heathby?

The reason nobody has heard about Dr Heathby since Friday (when podcast was recorded at Edwin's home), is that has stayed in his quarters, single-mindedly preparing his presentation for the Tuesday seminar. While he will ignore email and phone unless they concern the seminar, he is easy to reach … in theory.

However, the unnatural chaotic forces at work provide obstacles to anyone wanting to talk with Dr Heathby out of the seminar hours. If they show up at his apartment, Heathby has left to fetch take-away food. He also may take a walk in a park, or talk to Prof Maillard at her office, or sneak into any unused conference room and write equations on blackboard into the night. Agents who pursue Dr Heathby require two wins (pursuit rules, Handbook p 45), at -20% disadvantage from Chaos. Tracking credit card purchases etc is possible. Heathby forgets his phone somewhere along the way.

If Agents gain access to the apartment, it is untidy but not exceptionally so. There will be handwritten notes about his work all around.

If they manage to meet him, Dr Heathby will eagerly explain his recent scientific "revelation", Crawling Singleton Conjecture.

Prof Maillard and colleagues

Prof Maillard is knowledgeable about Heathby's previous work. She is excited about the seminar, as Heathby has only alluded to his ideas during the past week. She or other faculty may remember him recounting the aurora during his "epiphany"(potential clue with Occult/Unnatural). They are not familiar with the Voices, save for post-doc Henry Smith-Olafsen, who is acquainted with Edwin and introduced him to Heathby.

Prof Maillard and senior colleagues are able to interpret his notes if shown.

Wolmark's video

Agents may gain possession of late Ms Wolmark's blog post and video recording. Occult/Unnatural roll with some context (podcast, Heathby's notes) hints about occult connections to Crawling Chaos and Azathoth (+1 unnatural, 0/1 SAN).

Watching video, 18 min, to the gruesome end causes additional 0/1 SAN loss.

Samuel Heathby's Revelation

Until recently, Samuel Heathby's research into computational models of the human brain and biology was innocuous, if obscure. Unbeknownst to all, his research has always veered near the veil that hides the darker truths about the nature of reality. A little over a week ago, during his flight from Warwick to SF via Amsterdam, he started making unexpected connections between his previous work on Markov blankets and definition of life.

To his cosmic misfortune, the flight he had booked took him over Greenland during a moment of unnatural stellar conjunction. Extrasolar energies hit the Earth's magnetosphere and found his mind a suitable receptacle. Thus, when other passengers took pictures of the gorgeous aurora borealis, while running old simulations on his laptop he stumbled on curious results that made no sense.

During a week of increasingly frantic study at Berkeley, the "bug" was a seed that blossomed into a theory of uncanny principles that govern earthly life and human consciousness. (Prof Maillard and colleagues put down his disheveled appearance and behavior as jet lag.) He made final breakthrough by Thursday evening, and explained the core of thesis in the podcast episode. Luckily, not many understood.

Crawling Singleton Conjecture

Study of Heathby's notes (or independent work after listening to the podcast) imply unspeakable truths about the nature of life and consciousness (study time 1+1d6 hours; 1/1d6 SAN and +1 Unnatural). Study attempts require relevant scientific training (one of Science: Mathematics, Physics, Neuroscience, or Biology at 70%+; or Math/Physics at 50%+ and relevant support skill).

The conjecture suggests probabilistic laws that apply to any systems with such complexity that they can be modelled with "crawling Markov blankets". (This includes all life since Earth's primordial soup.) Moreover, the results imply an explanation to the hard problem of consciousness: biological beings and their thoughts are a projection that arises from a "singleton" (namely, Azathoth). However, it is conjecture: Heathby has not yet a full proof but only an intuitive outline.

The first 1+1d6 hours of study results in "breakthrough" of understanding. Afterwards, SAN 0/1 per hour of study. Hitting BP causes Addiction or Obsession Disorder, focused on the Conjecture. At 0 SAN, become another conduit like Heathby.

Hypergeometric Conduit

Dr Heathby's mind has warped into hypergeometric conduit. While his surface thoughts and mannerisms remain, inner reflection and control is no longer there. His only purpose is proving the Conjecture, which has also a charisma effect: If people hear him talking about the Conjecture, they may become enthralled (CHA vs POW test at -20%). If they lose, everything he says appears profound and important for 1d8 hours, and they will study the Conjecture if possible.

Study group

If three or more persons who have "broke through" start studying together "to work details of the proof" using chalk, blackboard and laptops, they are in danger of performing Call Forth Those From Outside to summon physical manifestation of Nyarlothotep (activation chance [10 % x participants] after each 1d4 hours, +10% from each conduit; WP 40, time 1d4 hours, SAN 1d20/1d10 performing ritual). If not activated after 8 hrs, scientists lose 1d4 WP, call it a day, go home and continue the next day.

If Crawling Chaos is successfully summoned, the manifestation assumes an unsightly altered form of one participant (Handler guide p 242; SAN 1/1d10).

Agents should somehow prevent or stop the seminar. If Heathby suspects such attempts may take place, he will be sneaky and e.g. reschedule the event without Agents' knowledge, or find a "replacement audience" in the physics faculty coffee room.

During the seminar, scientists may be persuaded to stop, but with difficulty. After turning into a summoning, they won't listen: some will be aggressive towards anyone disrupting the "study group" while others continue the ritual. Apprehended outsiders (who are intelligent enough) may contribute to WP sacrifice (POW to resist a forced INT test).

Stopping the incursion and rewards

Destroy the podcast (1 SAN) and notes of Heathby's work (1 SAN); permanently prevent a study group happening (SAN 1d10). Destroy physical manifestation (1 SAN).

Complications / adventure hooks

Most subscribers listen to streamed audio on the website, but maybe someone downloaded the episode?


Marc Edwin

Blogger and podcaster.

STR 10 CON 11 DEX 12 POW 11 INT 13 CHA 13
HP 11 WP 9 SAN 51 BP 44

Skills: Persuade 40% Science (Physics) 40% Science (Math) 20% Science (Philosophy) 10% Art (Journalism) 50% HUMINT 40%

Attacks: Unarmed 40% (Damage 1D4–1).

Dr Samuel Heathby

Computational neuroscientist, a conduit of chaos.

STR 10 CON 9 DEX 10 POW 10 INT 18 CHA 14
HP 9 WP 10 SAN 0 BP 0

Skills: Persuade 40% Bureaucracy 40% Science (Math) 90% Science (Neuroscience) 80% Computer Science 60% HUMINT 40% Unnatural 40% Alertness 20% Stealth 15%

Unarmed 40% (Damage 1D4–1).
Improvised melee weapon (chair): 30% (Damage 1D6).

Disorders: Psychopathic.

Special effects: Crawling Singleton Conjecture, Hypergeometric Conduit, Study group assistance (see above for details).

Prof Eleanore Maillard

Professor of Mathematics

STR 9 CON 10 DEX 11 POW 12 INT 18 CHA 11
HP 10 WP 12 SAN 58 BP 48.

Skills: Persuade 40% Bureaucracy 50% Science (Math) 80% Computer Science 40% HUMINT 40% Accounting 35%

Unarmed 40% (Damage 1D4–1).
Improvised melee weapon (chair): 30% (Damage 1D6).

Henry Smith-Olafsen

Generic, stressed math post-doc

STR 10 CON 11 DEX 11 POW 10 INT 18 CHA 9
HP 11 WP 10 SAN 47 BP 40.

Skills: Persuade 30% Bureaucracy 30% Science (Math) 72% Computer Science 40% HUMINT 35% Accounting 18%

Unarmed 40% (Damage 1D4–1).
Improvised melee weapon (chair): 30% (Damage 1D6).


This was an entry to the 2020 shotgun scenario contest. Written by aqsalose

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