After a short rest, the team take off and fly til K is exhausted again. Upon waking, they can’t figure out where they are, why they are here, or what they are doing. LS recalls that they were heading back to the city, and they gradually piece together the rough outlines of their quest once LS finds the diamonds in his pocket. K assures everyone that it’s a curse of some sort on the diamonds, and they hope it will recede with time.
They rest for the night, uneventfully for once, and K powers them the rest of the way to the crater edge once he wakes. K and LS locate the tunnel with Baelor’s assistance, and they head for the nearby abandoned settlement where the car is parked. While striding in, Arlen Thompson emerges from the main building, and hurries over. K flies down and goes visible, and converses with AT. AT seems unusually excited and on edge, but K assures everyone it is ok.
He seems unperturbed to hear that their memories have been altered, but is thrilled that they got (some of) the diamonds. He pays them, after TY talks up the price. He calls forth a guard who delivers a suitcase full of untraceable credsticks. Then AT and the guards take off in a rugged-looking armored limo. The team loads up in Rooster’s car and on TY’s bike and head for the city.
When about 1/3rd of the way, the regain matrix connection, and K and LS receive a series of increasingly frantic messages from Madame Gavral. She was initially just worried aboout their well-being, but then becomes more agitated after a steel-grey haired man with golden eyes and his two guards, a heavily cybered Eastern European woman and a young First Nations woman, come in asking after K, TY, and LS. She then left two more messages: one warned that something seems wrong with AT, and she is worried, and another that she is going into hiding, after she did some research. She forwards them the address to a matrix site.
They are unable to get ahold of AT or MG, so they race back to the city as quick as they can. UB! sets up a payment with the skin noters while K and LS do some matrix research. The site is called DIVE, it is a VPN dedicated to sharing info and rumors on dragons. They find a series of recent posts by a “RedOwl” that they think might be MG, and come to the disturbing conclusion that the great dragon Lofwyr might be looking for them. He does not have a reputation for kindness.
After further research, TY is slightly encouraged to learn that Lof is apparently an old enemy of Mujaji, who TY has vowed to destroy. This only worries everyone else more. Tobias and Rooster decide to go into hiding ASAP, and LS begins to looking into the price and availability of tickets to Earth. They also find out that a coveted and powerful artifact called the “Jewel of Memory” was bequeathed to Lofwyr in Dunkelzahn’s will (“To Lofwyr, I leave the Jewel of Memory and a bit of advice: consider your works and the possibility that, in the eyes of the Universe, you are no more or less than any of the Earth’s creatures. I tried it, and it works wonders.”), and are worried that this may have been stolen and cut up. Worst of all, they don’t even know for sure who they just sold some diamonds too, although they paid with real money at least.
LS returns astrally to the vicinity of the abandoned town, and assenses to try to gain a feel for who they gave the diamonds to, but he thinks the aura looks like AT’s. While checking newsfeeds for any mention of Lofwyr or other dragons on Mars, they stumble across promos for a new show called Prime Runners. UB! is instantly enthralled, but everyone else is worried. They think the rigger, Geargrinder, might be the missing dwarf Mikko Asparen. They also worry this may have to do with LoneStar’s secretive “Project PR.”
They close in on the city and TY and UB! take the bike towards the skinnote meet, while LS and K head for AT’s. The payment goes off without a hitch and they head to AT’s as well, although UB! inadvisably brags about scoring the mundane diamonds he pays with in the crater. They see numerous ARO spam geotags for Prime Runners.
At AT’s, K is allowed up the elevator by the doorman, who keys in the 40th floor, and says AT has a standing order to let him in. They emerge from the elevator into an abattoir: two decapitated gaurds have sprayed their arterial blood all over the walls of the foyer. There are also signs of a struggle. Once TY and UB! arrive, they head across the lawn, past the fountain and garden. K is distrubed to notice the strong wind on the building top, which used to be kept at bay by a mana barrier. Seeing AT’s mansion door is ajar, they head in.
There are more signs of struggle in the entry, but the rest of the ground floor is clear. They head upstairs to the master suite, and discover AT’s nude and mutilated body lashed to the bed. His eyes, tongue, heart, and genitals have been carved out and are missing. There is surprisingly little blood, until they look in the bathroom, and discover that the bathtub is mostly full of it. K determines that the amount of blood in the tub is close to the total amount that a person would contain. TY, thinking back through his superstitions and knowledge of magic, gives a quick lecture on the nature of the magic used based on AT’s wounds, the missing organs, and the bloodbath (literally- ha). He speculates that some sort of sacrificial blood magick was involved, and tells everyone of rumors he has heard that some adepts can take another metahumans form if they kill them and bathe in their life’s blood.
TY also suggest that this may be the work of the Xhosa, his ancestral enemies. Although the rest of the team is less sure, there may be more than one dragon on Mars involved in this intrigue. While discussing their escape plans and next move, they are blasted by a number of bright spotlights coming through the windows. As they notice the sounds of multiple helicopter rotors, they head an amplified voice tell them that they are surrounded, and to come out with their hands up.
Next up: will they meekly go forth to meet their would be captors?