Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
With Kit’s rough location data on the TM they need to rescue for Remo, the team does some research. Wherever they’re being held (and whoever by) it seems likely to be in the Carbonado/Crocker Mine complex, which after some digging turns out to be Mafia smuggling turf. Tabasco warns the team that Gianelli mafia shouldn’t be trusted (he feels burnt by his experience of Enzo corrupting Urban Brawl still), and they debate a few different options before deciding on stealth recon.
Creep gets dropped off via stealth VTOL while Aradia and an air spirit accompany in the astral. The area seems to be covered with ash clouds and runs over the powerful leyline Aradia had spotted at Grand Council Lodge. Plenty of cover and distractions, but harder to do their own surveillance. They find a sort of main entrance to the abandoned mine, and head in, moving slowly and looking for defenses and traps.
It looks like an active smuggling zone, but noone seems to be around at the moment, and there aren’t any detectable devices, sensors, etc. Aradia sends the spirit to search for irregularities, and it reports back that deeper in the mine is an area aspected towards Toxic Dog. Reporting back to the team, Tabasco suggests that this is likely another of Alice’s facilities, as he knows she follows that corrupted mentor. They gear up and head over while Creep keeps an eye on things.They also add some stealth mods to the van, and park it off track in the ash wastes to keep it from getting spotted (or stolen).
Heading in, they follow a winding path as Aradia navigates towards worse and worse feeling background counts. They eventually reach a mana barrier, and Kit sends a drone through, which spots a tunnel lined with explosives with a blast door at the end and a motion sensor above. Aradia sneaks herself and an invisible Kit through the mana barrier, and Kit sneaks up and hacks the motion sensor with nanites, but there’s a terrifying person inside so they bail. They then jury rig the explosives to blow the door. They then head back and cross the mana barrier with Aradia at the same time Tabasco comes through from the other side and waves his arms a bunch to trigger the motion sensor, before getting yanked back behind Kit’s shield as the explosives go off.
The team races down towards the door as the tunnel caves in around them, with Tabasco’s armor somewhat blasted. They get in a fight with two rail drones firing assault rifles and a horrifying toxic spirit inhabiting a mutating dog body (with extra legs and mouths). Carol gets pretty fucked up but Kit keeps him in the fight and the team prevails. They enter a server room, which was badly damaged in the explosion, but is connected to an adjacent chamber. Kit rips some data, and is distressed to find that this seems to be a major “Marry Me…” server, before getting chased off by the upsetting e-entity again.
The team enters the next room and hears many voices crying out for assistance, saying they were kidnapped and just woke up and can’t see anything. One of them seems to be the one who sent the message. They pull some tarps off some vats and find a bunch of brains wired together into some sort of meat computer, even worse, each brain seems to correspond to a major expansion, area, quest or NPC in “Marry Me”. Creep smashes the speaker on the jar closest, and suggests they don’t bother trying to save these brains, as this is obviously the outcome of the mind/body separation work that Alice was up to in her other lab.
Kit refuses and tells the rest of the team to go on while they stay behind and try to save at least a few, if they can figure out how.They also mini-weld shut some ceiling valves that seem prepped to spray Cleaner-Cleaner on everything, but also see that a countdown clock has passed the 4 minute mark, and the brain vats are all draining liquid onto the floor. They break open 2 vats and manage to get a little liquid in one busted end to slosh 2 brains around in, choosing 2 of their favorite expansions.
The rest of the team chases after Alice, but Carol stumbles into more rail drones and is nearly killed. The team takes them out and continues, finding Alice’s lab. Creep and Tabasco decide not to document and continue pursuit, and head the other way with Creature in tow. Aradia and Kit heal Carol, who goes to document the lab while Aradia mind probes one of the brains. It knocks her out, but they confirm that these are kidnapped TM’s from the missing persons list Tabasco has, and worst of all, they don’t know that they’re only brains in jars. Carol gets a ton of data to review later, and also finds a problem- the lab is flooded with a currently inert compound that is highly flammable when combined with some second element, aka a binary explosive! They need to get out of there.
As there’s only 90 seconds left on the clock, they flee to where the rest of the team went. Meanwhile, the rest of the team has found one of the mine’s boreshafts, and Tabasco has managed to shoot his grapple hand up to the ascending elevator therein. Creep and Creature start climbing a ladder stuck into the rock. Another toxic dog drops on Tabasco and nearly kills him before Carol and Creature (drake elemental attack very good vs spirits!) manage to take it out. However, the elevator reaches the top and Alice blows some charges, trying to drop it on Tabasco. Luckily he makes a heroic swing to the side and Creature catches him with a web. A massive explosion behind them seemingly destroys the lab and blows a huge dust cloud up the shaft.
They make it to the top of the shaft, and Aradia cleverly sets off an acid trap left for them using a trid phantasm. Kit and Aradia hurry the brains back to the van outside while the rest of the team chases. Carol is the only one fast enough to catch up to Alice, who seems to be riding on a massive dog spirit. He triggers a grenade trap without taking damage but chooses to continue the chase as the tunnel collapses, separating himself from the team. Racing around another corner, he is shot and nearly killed by some Ex-Ex rounds, and the team has to dig through the collapse to get to him before he bleeds out.
Seeing that Alice and dog are headed deeper into the mines instead of out, the team abandons pursuit and heads back to the van, getting out of there. Meanwhile, Kit has contacted Remo and S@m to try to get help uploading the 2 rescued brains before they shrivel and die. They jury rig an upload system using the RCC, van comms gear, and a satellite uplink, and manage to upload brain/persona copies into the Endless Archive. They aren’t full e-life forms, without the magic of the Tarot, or Big D’s “Jack-B-Nimble” program, but it’s at least a form of life and preservation, and who knows what else could occur. They thank the team but are horrified at what they found, and Remo feels a little bad at the level of favor this ended up being.
The team heads back to the safehouses and review the data: Alice has a plan of world domination through financial markets, and to that end has a few fundraising ops going: Marry Me is a big one, each brain she brings online adds new layers (and lairs) to the world, and gives the game it’s unique lifelike/dreamlike feel. She’s become a critical dev for the game, and it’s highest paid employee. She has also been selling her mind alteration skills to anyone willing to pay locally, using a purloined ARES AIMAD device in conjunction with Dawkins Group Project:Orion sleeper agent tech apparently stolen by the Null Sect and traded or sold to her. Her local clients include most major corps and syndicates as well as the Shadow Chapters, which explains some things Tabasco has heard.
They get the layout of her local network: which bars she kidnaps from, which gangs she works with, and her contact for selling the leftovers to the Death Ships: a fixer named Natalia. They also find out that she’s been helping the Halloweeners infiltrate the ACHE for some reason in exchange for recovered DEUS tech leftovers. She’s also after rumors of something called the “Kechibi Code” which seems like some sort of financial/predictive specialized AI. She modelled her program on Danielle delaMar’s “100” as well as the advances of Thomas Roxborough at UniOmni, though neither appear to be directly involved.
Also, the crazed e-entity that Kit encountered seems to be her former mentor, and originator of these projects, Dr. Halberstram, a true mad scientist thought dead. She’s trying to figure out how he was transformed (or created) in his current form, not to cure him but just to know. She seems to enjoy keeping him localized as a crazed defender. Anyway, she seems like a true supervillain with ridiculous goals, but maybe the skill and tenacity to at least cause extreme chaos?
The team, realizing they’re sitting on a gold mine (ha) of paydata, decide to take some time and think about who to sell what to, but warn people off the kidnap clubs for now at least. They rest and recuperate, and the next day Creature heads to OtherCon to make more contacts for the Sea Dragon. Xe meet all sorts of interesting characters there, and make some good connections, deciding to once again use local Merrow communities as an in for the Sea Dragon, by helping them out against Aqua Arcana experimentation and trying to get them recognized as sapients officially.
Xe quickly latches onto a hip Vashonista named Soresha, who says she is new in town but seems adept at making connections, and helps Creature make the rounds and meet some people. In the surgeries and mods hall, Creature spots the quiet street doc from Fenris Nacht, who intro’s herself as Trickster’s Daughter, and seems to possibly be a fox shifter. Creature gets some minor mods from her to cement the connection in case xe needs to rely on her medical skills (and discretion) in the future. Xe also wanders a bit, and spots various advocacy groups, panels, costume contests, fandoms, etc, as well as a “We Remember: The NIght of Rage” exhibit that the hotel seems to have put on with the Tacoma MoM chapter (they sheltered many that night using a formerly secret Underground connection, now another level of the hotel).
Eletheria also tasks Creature with observing corps at the con, as many use it as a recruiting opportunity for beings with unique abilities. EVO is well-represented of course, and seems relatively benign. SK is recruiting through a drake named Scale, who seems a lot less fun than Simon Andrews, but similarly loyal, and gives the corp a good sell. He’s also staring daggers at a merc corp called “New Assets”. which appears to be drake-only, and is also recruiting, offering peer alliance as an alternative to servitude to the “Greats” to their fellow drakes.
Creature buddies up to the NA rep, Tommy Talon a bit. He seems friendly enough, but is also a vain LA type. He seems intrigued by Creature, but recognizes that xe already has a bond to a Great, so doesn’t have much to offer beyond being a potentially useful connection out of town. Xe also make friends with some local couriers for (and the dispatcher of) the Alley Cat Express, aka ACE- some side work that Creature and Tabasco amongst others might find useful from time to time. They seem to be friendly with Jimmy Kincaid, amongst others, and Creature recognizes one of them as the decker from one of the team’s that helped distro the items from VDH’s hoard.
Creature also sees Proteus recruiting pretty hard, which is interesting as they are an AGS AA-corp, but do have a local Arkoblock. Their reps also seem to be meeting with some other corp reps using the Con as a cover: Creature ID’s reps from both Maersk and Wuxing, which worries Eletheria, as all 3 are involved in ocean experiments and shipping, and may be trying to cooperate against the Sea Dragon. She declares it’s time to teach them a lesson, and tells Creature to get the team ready for a job.
Tabasco also calls Rahel Juric, and tells her they haven’t forgotten about her. She seems agreeable to an open timeline for most stuff, but throws it out there that she would love paydata on the ARES rep, and also wants to know what happened to the CAS rep who was supposed to be at the gala but never turned up and has been incommunicado ever since. As the CAS was one of the sector owners in Denver, it makes sense they would want a say in a new treaty city, though it hadn’t occurred to the team before. Anyway, they missed their shot and apparently folks back home are steamed and want answers…