Tabasco gets a call from Emdachat Fahd, who tells him not to come by his condo- an anonymous caller warned tenants to vacate the building and then a dragon flew by and torched Tabasco’s unit. Other tenants who suffered losses are being compensated but Tabasco’s unit is to be left burnt and open to the elements “as a reminder”. Tabasco really wants to get out of town. Creature remains in hiding from KE for the time being, and Chew Gum and Dig dismantle all the ritual circles and lodges at CG’s Puyallup safehouse to get prepped to get out of town.
They decide to make some arrangements, and convince Shan and Shun to ride the team’s sub the long way around and meet them in Detroit. They try to convince a few others to come with as well, but only Iva Linus Hathaway takes them up on it after Vogel promises her funding for a weapons/armor dev lab and a job in his future ARES. Tommy Vermont also gives Tabasco contact info for a pair of paranormal PI’s in Detroit. Carol negotiates with Imaginary Annie for the final payout for calling Free Seattle correctly, and gets a big chunk of money- Annie seems to have leveraged the team’s info into a position of considerable power as a local fixer.
Dig decides to send his concrete construct along in the sub as well- it’ll be a little cramped but not too bad.The team hears from Miranda King, and gets the updates on her investigations into Spinrad’s assassination. Someone cleaned up thoroughly- the Feng Shui “construction team” turns out to be a high-end crew from GeMiTo, who were all found dead in their safehouse in Redmond, and the lawyer died of an unexpected stroke. Suspicious. She also provides a private number for Jonathon Blake to the team as a favor, the team doesn’t tell her what exactly it’s for.
Carol calls Blake, and they engage in a tense negotiation. Once Blake confirms that they already sold the data from the Journal, he says that’s unfortunate but that he has an idea for how they can still ensure their friend Maggie Magnusson’s freedom. He requires the team’s info on Dis (from the moon), and also requires all their data from their observation of the Entropy Circles- Aradia had told Aunt Clara about both of these and she had passed the info on to Blake. Carol reluctantly agrees, and the team preps for an evening of recon. Blake seems to know a lot about the team as well, so not much chance of running from this.
Dig makes a few watchers, and Carol sends over the drone swarm. Tabasco and Creep collab and determine that there are 3 possible locations for the next entropy circle, based on the pattern of the previous ones. The team finds Jaga waiting by the lake as well, causing some strange vines to grow out of the toxic lake. She agrees to help them with the evening’s activities, and the team splits into 3 pairs to also observe the 3 potential sites.
Carol and Jaga spot some furtive figures approaching their spot, and having seen noone at the other 2, the other 2 teams converge. Jaga conceals them while Carol observes and assembles his rifle. 7 toxic druids (who Tabasco recognizes as the fatberg harvesters from Redmond) start walking a ritual circle and burning toxic reagents, once ensuring they are unobserved (they don’t spot the team). Once the circle is mostly complete, a dark SUV pulls up, and a few people get out. 2 goons in suits emerge from the back with a drugged up person dragging between them, and another goon emerges from the front with a device- this looks to be one of the “portal devices” that the APEP Consortium rift jumpers have been using, but looks like it isn’t powered up right now. Creep notices it has a small orichalcum rod in it that they didn’t see in the last (used) one that they found.
As the team watches (and takes aim, and sneaks closer), the druids complete their circle and open a portal to what looks like the toxic plane of Miggon. Life is leached out of the area inside the circle by the poisonous miasma of that realm, and the drugged sacrificial victim dissolves in front of their eyes. The druids channel the power of the sacrifice into the waiting device, with the orichalcum rod seemingly storing the power. As the ritual closes, the team springs their trap. With judicious use of his spirits’ accident and concealment powers, CG is able to prevent the enemy from acting effectively, and the team makes quick work of slaughtering everyone.
They quickly flee the scene, and send Blake a nicely written summary with all the relevant feeds attached. They also hire a courier from ACE to deliver the quicksilver camera plates that CG took of the ritual (after taking photos of them for themselves). Blake reports that he finds their work satisfactory, and will release their friend once he receives the plates. The team decides it’s time to go, and picks up Creature from xyr hiding spot in Puyallup.
Creep insists on buying everyone Taco Temple on the way out of town, forgetting that he can’t eat. The team stops at a spot in Renton, planning to head out of town through a remote border crossing mostly used by hunters and loggers in the Tiger Mountain Wilderness area. Unfortunately, it seems the Puppet Master Killer somehow divined their location, and another Marry Me… fan/suicide bomber detonates after dashing into the van, shredding the team’s armor and coating the inside of the van with tacos and human flesh bits.
In a panic, the team heads for the border, and ends up having to bribe their way through due to the KE warrants out for Creature. However, the SSC border guards seem happy to fuck over KE and take some money for what are otherwise clean-looking SINs. They comment on the state of the van but Carol does his best to cover. They head out on I-90 at high speed, amidst the auto-haulers and long distance rigs. They notice a spirit following them, which swaps with another spirit at sunrise. Dig goes astral and questions it, and it seems like the border guards likely sent a spirit to keep an eye on them, since they pretty obviously seemed like runners.
They pause at a rest stop to let Dig use a water spirit to wash themselves and the van, leaving a horrifying pile of human remains and tacos mixed together in a slurry in a disused field at the edge of the rest stop- a fun investigation for whatever unfortunate someday discovers it. They head back out, wanting to reach the UCAS border before resting. Tabasco buys a second car, and gets ripped off, to see if they can trick the spirit that’s following them, but it just moves to a point between the 2 vehicles. They reach the Sioux Nation border, and the van clears easily with their good fake SINs. Tabasco and Creep get searched after telling the border guards that a spirit has been following them, which makes the guards suspicious. They totally destroy the interior of the car, but as they actually don’t have anything illegal, they just confiscate some of their drugs.
Both cars power on through another day and finally cross back into the UCAS, finding a motel in SW MN to rest up in. They take a full day to sleep and recover, and then head for Chicago, where Tabasco trades his (now shredded) Americar for van interior repair and armor repair to Goober, who seems excited to see Carol and Creature, though surprised at so many other new faces on the team. He shows them the Battle of Chicago Memorial and park, and tries to sell Tabasco a jetpack, but after a disastrous test flight, Tabasco decides not to buy. Goober also reports that the survivor support group he’s been doing with Lothan has been really helpful, and takes the team to Freaktown to replenish their drug supplies.
They see some exhausted party-ers there who seem to only be on their feet through extensive substance use and have a somewhat horrifying ecstatic visage- but, as Goober says, the dance must go on…. They also get some updates on the situation in Chicago. The CZ has been renamed the “Reformation Zone”, and the ASPS has been working to formalize the dance rituals and limit casualties. 3D and Hoodsville managed to drive Null seeding out of their host using some knowledge shared from Howard and Philips INC after their anti-Null work in Seattle, but the Chicago deckers took heavy casualties. Also, Mayor Presbitero has found a new target to use for his fear-mongering agenda now that the bugs are gone: the city’s Infected population, using Fear the Dark and other bogeymen as justification for cracking down on ghouls, vamps, and others as the city gets further rebuilt and corporatized- though the RZ still feels like a party.
With their van newly kitted out with a wide selection of mismatched interior panels, including some asorted carpeting, they load back up and head for Detroit. As they approach, they get sent the new ARES SINs that Vogel promised, and get some info packets from his agent on the ground, Gloria Weathernight, who gets them some updated maps and demographic details, and tells them to meet her at a cafe on Vendor’s Row. Seeing the 8 meter tall wall that encompasses the sprawl, the team prepares to head into ARES’ home town, hoping to wrest control of the corp over to Vogel and put an end to this bug nonsense.