"Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

There are things out there, in the weirder reaches of space-time where reality is an optional extra. Horrible things, usually with tentacles. Good thing there's a bureaucracy to deal with them. Based on the Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross. Learn more at our website: http://www.cubicle7.co.uk/our-games/the-laundry/
SBRPearce
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Location: Ohio, USA

"Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by SBRPearce » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:20 pm

The Laundry’s Department of Residual Human Resources (DRHR) is the sponsor of many exciting projects in their field of responsibility. Despite the fact that operators in other departments find DRHR’s subject matter gruesome and make jokes about their methods, the theorists and practical operators in the department’s Applied Extension and Usefulness Working Group (DRHR/AEUWG, or “Oog” for short) have an excellent esprit de corps (please, no jokes) and a commendable overall office morale rating. Employee satisfaction in most branches of RHR is high, which comes as a surprise to many people who haven’t had the opportunity to work closely with members of this department. Tasked as they are with supporting vital organizational elements such as Facilities, Internal Security and Operations, DRHR is one of the Laundry’s lynchpin offices, and a large part of the department’s attention is devoted to improving both the core competencies behind their success and looking forward to new ways they can further support the Laundry’s mission.

Project TREMBLE COMPLINE is devoted to supporting both these visions. It’s an on-going effort by the DRHR Office of Inventory Control to develop a definitive taxonomy of corpse-possessor exonomes, enabling DHR/OIC to build a complete picture of the prevalence, type, and capabilities of the sort of “demons” that make the dead walk. The catalogue the teams at Site DURABLE WICKET are developing has very real practical applications, allowing the staff to fine-tune summoning and binding algorithms so the caster can select Exonomic Possessor Entities (EPEs) for particular characteristics. For example, some EPEs will more willingly perform certain tasks, while others require frequent adjustment to their motivational geas, thus requiring a greater degree of supervision and more frequent need for intervention. For example, when directed to collate photocopies, many RHRs need to be “touched up” frequently to keep them on-task, which wastes valuable human productivity. If specific EPE strains can be identified that need less direct control and supervision for particular tasks, hundreds of person-hours per annum may be saved.

An even more exciting discovery is that some strains of EPE actually retard decay in their host-corpses. As one of the major expenses involved in the maintenance of RHRs comes in the embalming stages, wide-spread employment of these EPEs could save the department tens of thousands of pounds each quarter. And, of course, with the projected employment of RHRs set to rise in the future, current savings of time and money will only increase.

The outward-facing aspect of TREMBLE COMPLINE is the Needs Assessment Joint Working Group (DRHR/OIC/NAWG), an-interdepartmental liaison committee tasked with gathering, documenting and refining Statements of End-User Needs and Requirements from each branch of the Laundry that employs RHRs. Besides planners and team-leads from DRHR, the group also includes representatives from Internal Security, Logistics and all the other departments that employ the “walking dead” as part of their daily mission. A recent addition to the group is a contingent representing the Operations Division, who attend sessions with an eye to applying the COMPLINE catalogue and its methodology to the task of field threat assessment when dealing with spontaneous EPE incidents and instances in which EPEs have been corpse-bound by non-Laundry actors. DRHR is actually spinning off this task into a separate Working Group, tentatively code-named TREMBLE FUNFAIR, though the authorization for the project is temporarily stalled while they determine from whose budget the necessary funds will be drawn. FUNFAIR is expected to begin independent operation in the next fiscal quarter but one, and the presumptive head of the field team is already preparing a list of fascinating exercises to support the development of a comprehensive set of field data-gathering procedures and directives.

I've got more on TREMBLE COMPLINE if folks are interested, and additional info on DRHR's newest and largest research and production facility - Site DURABLE WICKET.

Zerblatt
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Zerblatt » Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:06 pm

Please, good sir, do continue! Excellent stuff!

I've just run my characters through "Lost & Found" from Black Bag Jobs, and two of my PCs have just reached the pivotal middle-managment threshold - and a minor project in this department could be a lot of fun!

You could turn this premise into an excellent follow-up mission to both "Lost & Found" and "The Greys" from the rulebook, as the former deal with RHRs and the latter with EPEs.

What do you think?

SBRPearce
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by SBRPearce » Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:18 pm

I certainly agree that the various TREMBLE groups might be an interesting add-on assignment for mid-level folks who've shown some proficiency with dealing with EPEs and RHRs.

Site DURABLE WICKET, home to TREMBLE COMPLINE and several other DRHR teams, is the department’s newest and largest facility. This six-storey industrial building in Manchester was built in the late 1940s as a refrigerated warehouse for bulk foodstuffs. It featured a central cooling plant and enormously thick masonry walls lined with cork insulation that was a half-meter thick in places. It ended its commercial life in the mid-1980s and was more or less abandoned. In the early 1990s, a new set of owners tried to repurpose the old depot for office-space and light industrial uses, but it proved far too expensive to modify the building – rebuilding the walls to remove the flammable cork insulation would have been ridiculously expensive, and simply removing the insulated walls would have brought the building down. Even the cost of demolishing the place was too high, and so it stood. The last owner of record went bankrupt in 2000, and the building was left to rot. It was eventually acquired by the Laundry after an incident occurred there (Ref: ZEPHYR DRAEDEL CHAPBOOK, 2006), and site was given to DRHR in 2010.


The original cooling plant was demolished in 1992, but otherwise the hulking, windowless structure looks almost exactly as it did when the last trucks pulled away from the loading docks during the Thatcher era. The six floors are connected by rattling freight elevators, and the concrete floors and cracked tile walls are stained with ancient fluids that leaked out of the spider-web of cooling pipes that still nestle up by the ceilings. The Department of Internal Logistics’ Facilities Office (DIL/FO) undertook to repurpose the building to serve the needs of DRHR’s Applied Extension and Usefulness Working Group . This involved installing administrative offices, a canteen and a new generating facility on the ground floor, placing a capacious morgue and undertakers facility on the first floor, renovating the second floor to house a range of working spaces and labs peculiar to the needs of a group of research necromancers, and installing secure storage facilities on the upper floors. DRHR’s Office of Inventory Control has a very strong presence at the facility. Staff must always remain cognizant of the fact that DURABLE WICKET houses the largest collection of RHRs in Great Britain – and possibly the world.

Securing the Site - from without & within
The Laundry are very serious about site security at DURABLE WICKET, and the facility and its procedures are designed to reflect this concern. The building itself is surrounded by mostly-vacant commercial properties, and via cameras on the roof of WICKET, security officers keep watch on traffic in the neighborhood. Site staff park in an indoor car-park one street over, and all pedestrian access into WICKET is via an underground tunnel that leads from the car-park to a security lobby beneath the administrative offices. Access into the tunnel is controlled by key-card, with a powerful geas of aversion in place that would affect any non-Laundry personnel who tried to enter. Electric door-locks that require a key-card to activate are used to control movement within the facility.


Truck access to the site is via powered gates which are controlled from within the building, and the loading dock on the ground floor is physically isolated from the rest of the facility by security doors and lifts. The docks are deep enough that a large box-van can roll in and the doors close behind it, allowing WICKET staff to unload without anyone outside the building being able to look in.


Anyone trying to force an entry at WICKET is in for a challenge. The building itself is built like a bunker, the video surveillance system is SCORPION STARE-capable, and the loading dock approaches mount deployable “dragons-tooth” anti-vehicle barriers that rise up out of the pavement, making a ‘ram’ attack unlikely to succeed. The building is surrounded by a three meter chain-link fence topped with barbed wire and while any professional assault team would come equipped to deal with that, it still would slow them down in a wide-open target zone.


For all the attention given to protecting the site from an “Outside Incident”, in truth the site security team is more concerned with the possibility of an “Inside Incident”. The ordinary RHRs employed at most Laundry sites carry fairly well understood EPEs and are bound with time-tested geases that are generally not subject to failure. TREMBLE COMPLINE, on the other hand, is exploring new and interesting EPEs and testing a wide variety of geases which may have "non-obvious failure modes". All this means that the chance of corpse-walker “going off the rails” is far higherhere than elsewhere, and the site’s procedures are designed with this danger in mind. Where other workplaces have fire drills, DURABLE WICKET has "rising drills".


As the first step in avoiding this sort of problem, the staff keep careful tabs on every corpse on the premises. When they arrive, the dock handlers tag each corpse with a bar-code that’s used to record its location and status. When they go from the loading dock up to the morgue, the morgue attendant scans each corpse’s tag to record receipt of the body. When they’re done processing it, the body is scanned out of the morgue and into whichever storage unit it’s placed into. Corpses removed from storage for experiments are scanned out of storage and into the lab, and at that time their record immediately changes from “Inert” to “Active”. A centralized computer system allows the Office of Inventory Control to track the recorded location and status of every corpse in the building.


In the morgue, bodies are treated to retard decay and are usually ‘wrapped’ for storage. This involves wrapping the inert corpse in several turns of industrial plastic wrap, secured with either nylon cargo straps or (when the supply of straps run low) duct tape. The wrap contains any fluids that might leak from the recently-embalmed corpse, and the dust tape makes it easier for the handlers to move the bodies around. Strictly on the QT, the handlers on the WICKET staff also believe that the straps and tape will buy them crucial seconds of warning if any of their charges “wake up”, though it’s usually only inert corpses that are prepped in this manner.
If a body is going directly to the testing labs, it usually doesn’t get wrapped – the scientific staff have complained about the hassle of “de-mummifying” their test subjects, and disposing of meters of slightly slimy plastic-wrap adds to the site’s waste stream. Almost everything that goes in the trash on the upper floors is classified as either Medical Waste or Thaumologically Active Waste Materials. Since remediating these waste categories is expensive and requires adherence to reams of regulations, there’s an ongoing effort to minimize the amount of trash generated a DURABLE WICKET. (Yes, even the dust-men have to be cleared under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, or at least the ones that handle TAWM.)

When I get the next installment ready, it'll touch on some of the projects ongoing at DURABLE WICKET, as well as some "non-obvious failure modes" in the site's internal and external security. And, at some point, I need to do something with the image I have in mind of a group of clip-board types from the Home Office wandering around the dingy, frigid Upper Levels doing a physical inventory count - when the lights go out...

Having been in a university building during a "shelter-in-place" Active Shooter Drill - where staff are instructed to block the door instructed and hide under their desks, I have to wonder what a "Walker Drill" is like. And since some EPEs transmit via electrical conduction, did the renovation drawings specify non-conductive doorknobs?

Zerblatt
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Zerblatt » Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:13 pm

SBRPearce wrote:When I get the next installment ready, it'll touch on some of the projects ongoing at DURABLE WICKET, as well as some "non-obvious failure modes" in the site's internal and external security. And, at some point, I need to do something with the image I have in mind of a group of clip-board types from the Home Office wandering around the dingy, frigid Upper Levels doing a physical inventory count - when the lights go out...

Having been in a university building during a "shelter-in-place" Active Shooter Drill - where staff are instructed to block the door instructed and hide under their desks, I have to wonder what a "Walker Drill" is like. And since some EPEs transmit via electrical conduction, did the renovation drawings specify non-conductive doorknobs?
I would think that all staff would have to attend the "Barricade the Doors! Building Security in the Event of Zombie Attack Workshop" training course, from the Agent's Handbook ( p. 69). Non-conductive doorknobs would also seem prudent and a _very_ good idea.

Even just a computer glitch would be nerve-wracking until someone does a head count. Imagine klaxons going off and "Walker alert!" blinking over every emergency exit then a slightly worried voice over the PA announcing: "We have a walker in section 2-B! I repeat: We have a walker in section 2-B!". Someone would have to go on and manually check...

By the way, one of my players noticed that Chainsaws defaulted to Heavy Machinery. That could be a very fitting inventory item in the Emergency Kit hanging around next to fire extinguisheres and what not. ("Ok, I go to the emergency kit and get an axe or something... Whaaaat? I go for the CHAINSAW!")

Good premise for a scenario. I wouldn't mind playtesting if you write it up!
Last edited by Zerblatt on Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Zerblatt
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Zerblatt » Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:22 pm

Would RHRs count as employees (minions, underlings, etc.) for a PC with Status above 40+?

"Great news, Bob! Your promotion into glorious middlemanagement has finally been approved! Just think of it, Bob, you own section, people of your own to order around! New loction, too, I hear. Recently refurbished. Let me know if there are any vacancies, eh?"

SBRPearce
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by SBRPearce » Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:51 pm

RHRs are office equipment. In fact, they'd probably be classified as "Equipment, Facility, Multi-use [Dangerous]", in the same category as a fork-lift - they're a handy tool, but it's very easy to kill or maim someone with one and cause a lot of damage if ithey're used improperly. You need to take a basic training course and then re-certify on a regular basis.

Like any other sort of balky, complex office equipment, especially the kind that's developed in-house - RHRs are supported by the organisation itself. If there's any problem, the end-user is advised to call an internal Switchboard number that connects them to DRHR's Office of End-User Resources and Outreach (DRHR/OEURO, AKA "The Help-Desk of the Living Dead"). These are the folks who you call if your RHR isn't working properly. In a non-life-threatening incident, OEURO will walk you through a series of simple command actions intended to re-set the RHR. (This sometimes requires the end-user to simply put their telephone on speaker-phone, so the junior necromancer at the help desk can read command-strings in Middle Enochian out of a three-ring binder directly to the RHR.)

In the event that your RHR is trying to kill you or someone else, please hang up and call your building security staff first.

Zerblatt
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Zerblatt » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:52 am

SBRPearce wrote:(This sometimes requires the end-user to simply put their telephone on speaker-phone, so the junior necromancer at the help desk can read command-strings in Middle Enochian out of a three-ring binder directly to the RHR.)
Ah, I see a potential problem that could arise from this that would turn into an "interesting" obstacle for the PCs: You have a zombie-related incident - you're holding off a raging RHR with one hand, desperately waving the phone with the other, and the voice on the other side babbles something in middle Enochian followed by "Did that work? No? Ok, let me try this then..."

SBRPearce
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by SBRPearce » Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:10 pm

If they're raging at you, you really ought to be calling building security. No doubt the nice fellow at the Help-Desk of the Living Dead told you that, but while you're waiting for some response to that call, he doesn't see how it would hurt to try and fix the problem in the meantime.

Of course, getting close enough to the raging RHR to read the accession number on its forehead so Call-centre-guy can look up the particulars on that revision of the geas on his computer is a bit dangerous. I expect that command override features are a basic enough function that they're practically identical no matter what revision the RHR's operating under - shouting "Freeze!" in Enochian normally always works.

And if it doesn't, Call-centre-guy will need to escalate the Response Ticket to another operator. Can you hold, please?

(The DRHR crew refers to the adhesive stickers on each RHR's forehead that displays their barcode and accession number as their 'chem', after the Hebrew inscriptions supposed to animate the Golem of ancient legend. It's just jargon, and misleading as well - removing that label will not disable the RHR or cause it to stop moving. All it will do is complicate the paperwork for DRHR's Office of Inventory Control - they get very snippy with people who de-label the goods. It makes balancing their control reports a nightmare - nobody wants unrecorded inventory going "walkabout"...)

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Mytholder
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Mytholder » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:17 pm

Zerblatt wrote:
SBRPearce wrote:(This sometimes requires the end-user to simply put their telephone on speaker-phone, so the junior necromancer at the help desk can read command-strings in Middle Enochian out of a three-ring binder directly to the RHR.)
Ah, I see a potential problem that could arise from this that would turn into an "interesting" obstacle for the PCs: You have a zombie-related incident - you're holding off a raging RHR with one hand, desperately waving the phone with the other, and the voice on the other side babbles something in middle Enochian followed by "Did that work? No? Ok, let me try this then..."
"Have you tried killing them off and raising them up again?"
Gareth Hanrahan
Line Developer - Laundry Files

Zerblatt
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Re: "Inventory Control", or Fun With RHRs

Post by Zerblatt » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:08 pm

SBRPearce wrote: Of course, getting close enough to the raging RHR to read the accession number on its forehead so Call-centre-guy can look up the particulars on that revision of the geas on his computer is a bit dangerous. I expect that command override features are a basic enough function that they're practically identical no matter what revision the RHR's operating under - shouting "Freeze!" in Enochian normally always works.
Mytholder wrote:"Have you tried killing them off and raising them up again?"
And if it doesn't, Call-centre-guy will need to escalate the Response Ticket to another operator. Can you hold, please?
"Oh, sorry, your model must be a Service Pack 2, let me get Trevor for you!"

Great stuff! This has made me laugh inappropriately at work several times this week alone! I'm putting this to use in my campaign as soon as they complete "Shadow over Kafiristan".

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