The team, having confirmed that the church is somehow connected to the disappearances, decides to gear up and return for some recon in force. They recruit Ut-Napishtim to infiltrate the church while wearing surveillance gear, posing as a local homeless man. They will then wait for his report as to what mysteries are occuring within, at which time they will enter guns blazing. Or so the plan says.
K does a bit of research into the aura around the core, and finds a lot of disturbing rumors, but not a lot of known fact. Arlen Thompson warns of a sickening aura in the astral space around the area, and asks K to report back on any info gathered.
Meanwhile, Tobias gets some potentially useful info: according to Elton Massey, the church they are investigating seems suspiciously similar to some of the fronts for the Universal Brotherhood. Massey fills Tobias in: the UB was a charitable front for a conglomeration of insect spirit hives which used soup kitchens and outreach programs as a cover for abducting host bodies for the spirits. After many of these organizations were shut down under governmental suspicion of their activities, Knight Errant was tasked with destroying a large hive in Chicago. Unfortunately, the hive was much larger than initially believed, and when the team set off a tactical nuke, they unleashed untold numbers of insect spirits into the unprepared city, setting off the cordoning off of Chicago. It is now the wasteland known as Bug City.
Massey seems eager to redeem KE’s reputation in this regard, and tells Tobias to call it in if he needs backup, if it does turn out to be insects. T relays this info to the team, and K returns with his news, and they realize that they may be involved in something a lot more serious than they had intially imagined. Still, they need further proof before anyone will act on it, and Ut’s inside, so they head out.
K flies invisibly to a nearby point and waits for the go signal, while everyone else idles nearby in a freshly stolen car. Ivan, still not having conquered his alcoholism, is having trouble resisting Tobias’ offers of drinks, so he gets out and heads down the street, looking for coffee or tea. He finds a little bodega, and can’t resist the proprietor’s offer of a shot of liqour in his tea. This steadies him out, and he slips back into the car.
In the church, Ut eats dinner (well disguised of course), and tries to subtly acquire some useful info, but nothing really turns up. He eventually lays out on a pew when the workers call lights out, and is pretending to sleep when he all of a sudden loses control of his body and sees himself rise, with two others, and head towards the back. They exit through a secret panel in the utility room, and slide down a long, dark tunnel.
The team, seeing Ut’s gps dot move, and suddenly disappear, move in. K flies through a second floor stained glass window (HCB follows on jetpack) while the rest of the team cuts and blows through the front door. The neighborhood comes out to watch, and Ivan threatens them. They keep watching, but keep their distance. The remaining sleeping patrons all stumble to their feet and seem to be trying to prevent the team from gaining access to the back of the church, but K overcomes the mental conrol enacted upon them and sends them out into the street, opening the way.
Using various visual spectrum viewing equipment, they eventually uncovet the hidden tunnel, and slide down (K flies). They notice a disturbing sight on the way: the tunnel appears to be melted, clawed, and chewed straight through the many meter thick walls of the core, as well as the earth beneath. They emerge into a small room with a number if tunnels leading off. Picking up Ut’s signal again, they head in that direction. UB!, overenthusiastic as always, kills the other 2 abductees with a wayward grenade, but they rescue and revive Ut. They then fight off three grotesque mutated forms, humanoid in shape and size, but not at all human in appearance.
Seeing that they are in a dead end, they double back, and head down the rightmost path. Tobias, leading the charge, gets ambushed by two more mutants, taking some damage, but the team makes short work of their stinking, unarmored flesh. Tobias smears some blood on his body armor to cover his scent (since he was both thermally and optically cloaked), but stops when it starts eating through the plate. They continue onward, and reach a descending tunnel, which gives off an unpleasant odor of rot and decay. K is somewhat distraught by the astral vibe here, but doesn’t want to project, to avoid attracting unwanted attention. The team notices that their comm signals are extremely degraded, and imagine they will soon lose wireless connectivity. Tobias takes this opportunity to set up a deadman’s trigger which will call in KE if he should not return.
The team presses on….