The team heals up and does some resupplying and research. Aemon discovers that Viktor Markwart is funded by the Catholic Church, specifically Cardinal Reginald Grimes, who is apparently a secret technomancer, as well as being stuck in the QZ. He has some runners accompanying Markwart, a combat mage named Archangel and a banisher named Silke, while they travel between enclaves offering safe haven to the religious and the emerged. Aemon, Toff, and Ro between them also get Markwart to trade info on the group they fought in the trainyards, who seem to be Dissonant Technomancers, who Markwart seems to dislike as much as they like him and his resonant kind. They are likely Discordians, the new dissonant group after the breakup of Ex Pacis. They seem to be working on seizing locations with major computing power to attempt to create dissonance pools, similar to the one they made in Geneva, this time absent intervention from the Corporate Court. The runners are understandably worried about the possibility of a return of Deus.
Ro also calls Thankyou to see what exactly he’s offering for their assistance: he says he will pay well, but will not delete the video, seeming confused that Ro would even ask. Ro and Aemon begin plotting to kill him, and then possibly go into hiding. Aemon also exchanges some stories about Ortega and True Communion with Archangel, who seems skeptical but intrigued. He also tells Aemon that a neo-A in town named Wulfgang Sturm is recruiting for a group to take on Aztechnology’s various interests, called Bright Star, a successor to the fallen Black Star . Toff spends some time astrally investigating the dragon leyline, and finds that it seems both relatively new and somewhat cultivated, as if someone grew it intentionally, and along a specific route. Toast further investigates the O’Connor loyalists amongst The Dragonslayers, and finds their new HQ, as well as checking in with Cecelia Velenthial, to warn her about the hit out on her. She tells him not to bother with the DS’ers, but he continues to look into them.
Ro and Senk steal a pleasure-craft and do some recon on the ghost ship while the rest of the team finishes healing and resupplying. They find that the island that the ship has washed up next to (or on) is an extra-territorial holding of Proteus AG, the biochem AA corp. The corp has been in full lockdown globally since the start of 2076, and this arkoblock is no exception. They have lethal defenses up, so they decide a guns-blazing approach is not the best route. Toff scouts astrally and encounters a crystalline entity, a spirit so rare that he was not even sure they existed til seeing this one. He does some research, and makes a deal with the entity (after it gives him some strange visions) that he will unbind it if it lets them approach the vessel and leave the facility undisturbed. It seems obsessed with organizing the island, though along what principle, who knows….
Chessick Allens-Whitehill also checks in, and tells them he’s been training Jane, as well as continuing his investigations and interviews. He fills them in on the sadistic cordon guards, the “Boston Transfer” drop-in’s, and his investigations into the origins of the new matrix- it seems Boston was the first city it went live in, and was where Danielle De La Mar first unveiled The Foundation, which just makes that addictive UV-zone all the creepier. He says he’ll be in touch with any further news.
Ro gets a call from Elbrun Cornich, a coordinator/inside man with Technicolor Wings, who wants to regain access to the train yards. Ro arranges for him to talk with Shane O’Connor, and Cornich hooks them up with a Carib League sub smuggler named Ron Deveaux to get them to the ship underwater. They pay him, and he seems pretty happy to be on the job, it seems he’s been mostly living in his sub and going a little stir-crazy since the QZ went up. Toff summons a spirit to conceal them, and they head out. They reach the ship with no trouble, and Toff stays in the sub to do his banishing ritual, while the rest of the team boards the ship.
They find bloodstains and damage from a fight and a violent search on the deck and in the captain’s cabin. They also find some navigational charts, and documents confirming that this vessel was funded by the Atlantean Foundation. Ro finds a secret panel hiding a blood-covered commlink, which they also grab. They head down under the hull, and Ro picks up sonar pings- what’s down there? Toff and Aemon assense, and get some bad vibes- whatever they are, there are 6 of them, and they are not identifiably metahuman. Toff has also been getting some vibes of some bad, old magic coming from deep in the ship, and knows the entity wanted him to check it out. He also had a dream the previous night, in which a spirit that he felt was Dunkelzahn appeared to him and seemed to approve of him doing this mission.
The team gets into a brutal fight with 6 hybridized paracritters of some sort- they look like some sort of bear/undersea lifeform fusion, although they seem to have naturally grown that way rather than have been stuck together surgically. They all look to be from the same species (or batch?), and they hit hard. The team manages to take them down just as Toff gets over to the ship and warns them that something is possessing and regenerating the dead bodies of the critters. The ones that Toast and Senk lit on fire aren’t getting back up, so they make sure to light all the corpses after putting them down a second time, as well as destroying some of the heads after Ro gets worried about regen.
Sensing an evil aura beyond the door at the far end of the hull, they scope out the ship, finding more old bloodstains, what looks like a trashed research area, and a smashed in part of the hull leading to a cracked open corridor flashing in emergency lighting- presumably some wing of the Proteus Arkoblock? They figure that must be where the bearcrabs came from at least. Toff blasts through the ward on the final door, and they blast it open to discover a roiling black tentacle cloud, emitting a deathly aura. Toff warns them of Shedim, and goes astral while the rest of the team confronts it physically. It seems to be guarding a rift or portal of some sort, and the entire team finds themselves slowly getting sucked in. Feeling that her death is near, Senk panics and flees, with Ro trying to talk her down.
Toff gets in some good blows in the astral, but is horribly wounded, and the team gets off a few good shots in physical space but don’t manage to disrupt the spirit before it retreats to the astral plane. Toff manages to hit it with a powerful spell, but it grabs him and compels him to come with it as it retreats through the rift. Ro dives towards it, and manages to grab Toff on the barrier between Earth and whatever deathly plane is on the other side. Senk, finally convinced to overcome her fear, comes to the rescue and targets a disturbing stone statue that seems to have been at the center of the ritual circle that opened this rift. She manages to destroy it with 2 well-placed grenades, and due to some extreme luck and judicious use of grapple guns, the team manages to avoid getting sucked in.
They get back out on the top deck and leap over to the mini-sub as the ship is ripped in half, with the fore getting sucked into the rift as it closes, and the aft rapidly sinking. Toast slips off the sub, and falls in the murky water, but seems to avoid CFD infection. They also see that the crystalline entity that Toff made a deal with seems to be “organizing”, or at least crystallizing, large portions of the exterior of the island and arkoblock, so they hightail it out, hearing the facility guns opening up as well. The team gets Ron to drop them off at their purloined yacht, the Silent Stream., and pay him for his services.
They heal up and contact Erika Knowles, who fills them in on some of Proteus’ secret projects from their Fringe Division. She suggests that the bearcrabs were likely vatgrown biodrones or heavily adapted critters of some sort, possibly with some mild uplifting to increase their innate intelligence. Given their dual-purpose adaptation to land and sea, and their strength and resilience, she assumes they were intended as facility guards, and either were sent to investigate the breach caused by the ship, or were cordoned off due to possible exposure/infection. She says she would love any more info the team recovers on Proteus, and would gladly fund a run on their facilities but figures it would have a low chance of success, given their extreme paranoia and full lockdown. They sell her a biosample Ro grabbed, and also warn her of Shedim.
Chessick, having showed Jane some hacking tricks while cleaning up and decrypting the data on that commlink, also makes good copies of all the charts they found. It all seems to relate to the hunt for the lost isle of Atlantis, the ultimate goal of the Atlantean Foundation. It seems there were a few different major dig sites that this crew had been working at, looking for relics, and they recently found something in the Baltic. There are some measurements and scans of the carved (or possibly petrified?) relic they destroyed, though no good pictures- it seems like the scientists didn’t fully chisel it out until madness had already overtaken them. But it almost looks like some twisted stone infant, of some sort of species or metavariant the team has never seen or heard of….
From the vid diaries on the ‘link (which belonged to the head of security for the expedition), they find that the crew started experiencing odd accidents, deaths, and disappearances after unearthing the artifact, and that they got approval to bring it back to Atlanta for a more experienced team to handle. However, the occurrences continued during the voyage, and the sec head lost control of the area below decks and the engine room after the science team staged some sort of surprise attack, and begun a ritual using the object. He retreated to the captain’s cabin and held them off as long as he could, reporting that they had changed course at the last minute and slipped into Boston, shortly before the sound of splintering wood caused him to end the recording, and hide the ’link.
Doing some digging, the team finds reference in A.J.‘s journals to a community with large numbers taking over a cemetery near the NeoNET towers, and think this might be where all the bodies of the missing crew wound up- possessed my Shedim, and holed up in a spot full of potential reinforcements. They warn some others about this risk as well, and plan to look further into it. Toast accepts the contract on Neutral Ground to kill Peregruzka, as well as the one to protect Mayor Meghan. Not sure how to get downtown, given the dangerous nature of the streets there, they decide to do a job in the Catacombs first, clearing out some vamps and ghouls for Mama’s Boys. Apparently a lot have moved in recently (possibly evicted from the cemetery by Shedim, and the Labyrinth by headcases?), and there are also a number of new conversions, as there are rumors going around that HMHVV infection can stave off CFD infection. There has also been a lot of activity by a group called Fear the Dark, taking out members of the Nub community as they try to expand outwards.
The team also encounters Scarlett, who tells them that Four Corners has fallen- apparently the hyper-athletic youth who was their main headcase herder either was infected all along, or got infected along the way, and let all the infected loose on the unprepared community. Scarlett and a few others made their escape via the tunnel she had prepared into the Catacombs at the team’s suggestion, but everyone else is presumed dead or infected. Ro and Aemon are also approached by someone they’ve only heard of through Thankyou: April O’Mally. She says that she is the one who has been helping TY find Gilgamesh Initiative facilities and feeding him tips, but that he betrayed her after the Chicago lab, and didn’t give her the info recovered there. She believes that the Daedelus fragments that merged with (or overtook) TY has been corrupted by Deus fragments from the ACHE.
She reports that there is a war developing in the Exchange: the original Daedelus and their faction vs. the “new” Daedelus and their faction. She offers her assistance to the team in preventing the iteration of TY in the QZ from releasing the blackmail info, and in killing him, in exchange for the team doing the run on the GI lab and giving her the info instead. She also reveals that she is no longer really April, but instead a personality named Alice who has overtaken the April host after Alice was no longer to keep April’s mind coherent and alive with her invoked memory stimulator. April offered Alice use of her body in exchange for letting her die, on the condition that she would continue to seek revenge against the GI for what they did to her. As Alice was already well along this path, she agreed. The team agrees to the terms, but tells her they have to do a few other jobs first. They also call the Turing Army, and get a quote on the bounty for TY/Daedelus, hoping to cash in if they are going to take him out anyway. Zoh Rothberg says she’ll have explosives ready soon, also, so that’s next on the list after vamps, ghouls, and assassins!