The team, still accompanied by Ut-Napishtim, pauses at the descending tunnel to decide what to do. HCB has a stunning realization: the job that the Yak have been asking him to do involving the Bunraku parlors is probably tied to this one! A simstim environment would be perfect for infesting people with bug spirits. He calls in to tell them that he might have info on the job soon.
K calls Arlen Thompson to tell him that he will be out of comms range shortly, and report that it seems like the disappearances (and tunneling) may be the work of bug spirits and their allies. Thompson seems understandably perturbed at this news, and cautions K to be careful and stay in touch if he can. After this, the team descends to the second level.
They explore the twisting, mazelike caverns, encountering many horrors. They fight more mutated humanoids, and discover a series of rooms filled with what seem to be cocoons, containing humans in various stages of mutation/transformation. They destroy them all with fire an explosives. They fight two large beetles who fade away when killed. They also encounter a few mages, one of whom is fairly powerful, and does significant damage to the team with a lightning storm. After they kill him, K finds a stone shelf covered with ritual supplies, that look like they could be used for some sort of summoning or conjuring rite. The mage was also wearing an ankh necklace similar to those the team saw on many temple leaders in Heliopolis. Thinking back, HCB decides that the bugs they fought looked somewhat scarab-like, and the team decides that there may be a Heliopolis connection.
After clearing the second level, they descend yet again. They destroy a few more rooms full of cocoons, and after mapping more of the tunnels, come across a terrifying sight: an enormous three headed, many armed insect, who appears to be laying eggs, which are being tended to by two humanoids and two more beetles. HCB, ever the lunatic, fires up his jetpack and crashes straight into the Queen’s soft underbelly, doing significatn damage to both of them. The mages launch spells at the team while the beetles charge in, keeping them distracted while the Queen smashes HCB. Luckily, his jetpack sends him sailing down the tunnel, barely avoiding imminent death. The Queen, injured, breaks free from her lower half, and chagres the remaining team. She quickly ko’s Tobias, sending him flying back down the tunnel, where only his luck saves him from death.
The rest team up on the Queen, having dispatched all her tenders by now. K casts spells until he goes unconscious, and UB! takes up Tobias’ gauss rifle, while Rolf peppers the Queen’s heads with arrows. They notice that she seems to be almost instantly healing from much of the damage, but the injuries to her heads remain. Ivan and Ut sneak around behind her as she enters the tunnel to wail on UB!. Although he is ko’d, his armor holds up while Ut loads a stachel full of grenades. He chucks it up towards the ceiling, right above the Queen’s head, and Ivan and Rolf simultaneously shoot it, setting off a massive explosion, decapitating the lone remaining head, and sending the tunnel roof crashing down atop the Queen’s writhing corpse. The body begins to dissipate as her energy fades back to the metaplanes.
The team collects themselves, and Ivan discovers a hidden tunnel bored through the rock, that seems to head straight towards Heliopolis, for as long as he can see anyway. Ut collapses the entrance. He gets as many members walking as possible, and hauls eveyone else towards the exit. On the way, they encounter a Kinght Errant Firewatch team, accompanied by Elton Massey, Arlen Thompson, and other members of the Hermetic Order of the Crimson Lands. They help the team reach the surface and provide transport to medical facilities. Thompson tells K that he was worried by his last call, and when he couldn’t sense him astrally or get him on comms, he decided to come in person. Fortunately, Massey had a similar idea in regard to Tobias after seeing some of the early news reports from the church above-the attack, the mind controlled people, etc.
As they approached the church, they were attacked by some local humans and spirits, but fought them off with the help of some non-bug locals, including a large African man with two cyberarms who introduces himself as Thankyou. The skin note people get in touch with Ivan shortly, and he fills them in. They recommend Thankyou, having recently used him for a courier job. They also pay the team a sizable sum for their efforts, and tell them that they now have access to a quality private clinic, where they can purchase deltaware and gene/nano-tech.
Tobias decides to make an art piece of the trid recordings from everyone’s cybereyes of the moments when they lost consciousness, and nearly died. Massey also tells him that he wants the team to further investigate the Heliopolis connection. HCB gets in touch with the Yak and fills them in, and they tell him they will have a hitlist to him shortly of all the prominent and important figures that may have become infected in their bunraku and simstim parlours. Thompson tells K that he wants the team to undertake an astral quest to destory the queen (and whoever else may be behind this outbreak) on the metaplanes. Thompson also tells him that this will allow him to initiate to level 2 in the HOotCL.
The team rests and recuperates in the hospital, while trying to decide how to spend their hard-earned funds. They debate over which job to take next, and hope it doesn’t kill them-they came a little close for comfort this time.