The team heads to the port city of Georgetown, not wanting to return to Parimbo, where local authorities are apparently investigating the shootout, and catch a train to the farming hub of Fortaleza. From there, they scam some people at the government-run tourism center for the Inga Stone, and get approval for a research trip out there. They catch a tour bus out, and scope out the stone, after distracting the driver and bribing a guard spirit with Boston relics. Toff touches it, and gets an extensive vision: a 4th world civilization in what (at the time) was called Liaj, building and using the stone and other ancient sites. It seems to be of similar material to the pillars from Atlantis that the team saw in Boston. The civ was wiped out by the coming of the horrors, who were aided by a corrupted feathered serpent traitor in the civ’s midst. Apparently their attempts at building kaer’s were either also sabotaged from within or they were provided bad designs by the Therans. Their emissaries had given the Therans some of their blood magic secrets in exchange. Toast wonders why the Therans might betray their nominal allies….
They head out as this site has no major magical energy, and doesn’t seem like a likely focal point for the Logos ritual. They head back to Metropole to make plans to get to Iguaza Falls- the last possible site. They get a blimp from Pedrinho, already ruthenium cloaked, and also buy another emergency-deploy secondary blimp. They head out towards the falls after doing some research on their strange properties, and also learning about the radical environmentalist dragon Boiuna rumored to lair there. They make good time over the jungle, avoiding the various flora and fauna that try to attack them.
Landing upriver, they notice some strong magical activity at the base of the falls, and get a little astral info that there are some guards in old ruined tourist buildings at the top. They sneak up through the edge of the jungle, but are attacked by toxic spirits. After fighting them off, they are ambushed by 4 toxic Logos mages, who they also kill after taking some heavy damage. They get up to the top of the falls, and finding no more guards, begin surveillance.
The area below the falls is dotted with islands, on the largest/most central of which is a large barn-like structure. There are also some smaller buildings on some adjacent islands. Toff starts doing astral surveillance, but seeing that there are over a dozen medium to high-powered mages down there, Love decides to take the initiative and attack before they’re spotted, and launches a massive fireball at the barn. Unfortunately, this cracks the containment shield on the homemade nuke that Logos was working on that the team hadn’t noticed yet, and sets it off.
The nuke wipes out all the Logos members except one on one of the adjacent islands, flattens the barn and other structures, and almost kills the entire team, with the successive concussion, flame, and radiation waves that waft over them. The surviving mage manages to send off a watcher spirit before Gethin shoots him, and Toff goes astral to track the spirit while Chem tries to stabilize everyone else. Toff tracks the spirit to a site of some magical power, concealed deep in the jungle, and manifests. He sees a ruined 4th world city that looks like the remains of the city of the Righteous Province that he saw in his vision at the Rego Grande.
He flees, fearing detection, and returns in time to help keep the party alive. Also, Gethin has spotted a restrained dragon that was previously buried under an earthen berm, and Chem takes the blimp down to try to rescue it, although it’s harder to fly after the EMP blast. Chem determines that it looks like the Logos cult was planning to sacrifice the dragon and drop the nuke into the chasm that the falls are scoring into the earth below, presumably setting off some sort of large-scale catastrophe. With Toff’s material shaping assistance, Chem uses explosives to free the dragon and destroy the corrupting statue that seems to be magically binding it, and then flees as he passes out from radiation damage (luckily Chicago prepared him a bit).
They manage to limp back to Pedrinho’s mansion, and get healed up as he repairs the blimp, to send them out after this Righteous Province group, and complete the mission. They decide to tackle the digital mousetrap job while healing a bit more, and some of the team takes advantage of the cheap meditech here to get some major ‘ware upgrades. Fentin has been doing some research and found a low-grade local Renraku Computer Systems subsid to find a backdoor portal into their foundation, and hacks his way in, getting a perma-mark on the portal and anchoring the paradigm as a 90’s Japanese zombie apocalypse.
They decide to base out of Open Sourcerers turf and pay them for protection. They notice that some of their cybered-up child guards are wearing amulets and medallions to St Macrina, the same obscure saint that the Quantumists venerate. Before they go in, a strange module is delivered, and they are told by the child who drops it off that they are supposed to take it with them. Fentin scans it and finds that it seems to be an openable file of some sort, but can’t get much info. A pulsing “X” on the package exterior suggests it could be from the Exchange? Love opens it and volunteers to “carry” it in. He tries to open the wrapped present box that shows up in his home node, but there’s just another box inside, which has a tag that says “drop me in the null node.” They all slip into their trode nets or plug into their sim modules, and get ready to dive.
He hitchhikes the team in, and they begin trying to get the lay of the land. They spot a fortified government building of some sort in the distance, and decide to make for that, hoping it is the master control node. The team all uses their knowledge skills to pick appropriate appearances and Fentin adjusts them to match the paradigm (Love is a sort of anime girl, Fentin and Toast are urban survialists, Chem is a prepper, and Toff is a supersolider). They sneak and fight their way through the streets, communicating via walkie talkies to fit the paradigm, and reach the command post. They observe a vidgame-style puzzle, and manage to electrocute a huge zombie herd, gaining access to the government building, and the thanks of the survivors therein. They agree to try to retrieve a “cure” from a nearby downed chopper in exchange for access to the maps in the building (which should tell them where and what the nodes and data trails in here are).
They find the chopper, and get into an entirely predictable boss fight. They once again figure out the puzzle, and defeat the boss, which has a sad look of intelligence in it’s eyes. They grab the cure and hoof it back to the command post, where they make the deal & get the map. The node mapping all seems pretty obvious (a library, construction site, etc), and the data trails are sewer tunnels. Fentin manages to edit the paradigm to clearly mark where the AI “mousetraps” are based, in order to destroy them. They also find some prisoners in the basement, but unsure of their nature (trapped AI’s?), and not wanting to cause a variance, they leave them be. They head out, and reach the construction site. Love and Chem cause a distraction by turning on equipment, while Fentin sneaks to the foreman’s trailer, kills a zombie inside, and uses the plans therein to re-sculpt the paradigm a little to make the mousetraps foreign objects- the team is very disturbed to see how quickly everything turns against them after this.
Feeling good about the main job, they decide to fulfill their side-jobs. Love, Chem and Toast head for the null node to drop off the mysterious package, and Toff and Fentin head for the archive to try to steal some paydata. The null node run goes pretty well, in that they drop it in with no trouble, but they have trouble leaving- as advertised the node seems to suck the very life energy out of them. Love almost falls in and uses an anime trick to escape, which sets off a variance. Toast and Chem flee to the portal in the morgue, and Love struggles to keep up as the world turns against him. Fearing the worst, Chem convinces Toast to exit, and manages to help Love reach the exit. Chem stays to make sure the rest of the team makes it.
Toff and Fentin get in a fight with a zombie gator, which they once again figure out a puzzle to defeat, and which once again has sad, intelligent eyes: Fentin thinks these may be more trapped AI’s? Regardless, they make their way above ground and spot a trashed library, overrun with zombie birds and dogs. Fentin sneaks in while Toff keeps an eye out, but unfortunately gets attacked by dogs and badly bitten. Unsure of what a zombie bite will do here, they decide to flee, and Toff provides cover fire while Fentin retreats to the sewer. They reach the portal with no trouble and all exit. Task complete! Surprisingly, when they awaken, they find themselves all holding matte black commlinks marked with a red X, and after booting them and setting up security, all receive an invite to join the Exchange. They do, with some caution, not sure which faction has approached them. They try to reach Ut-Napishtim to confirm but are unable.
After training a bit and restocking supplies, they team heads out via blimp once more, heading for the area they believe the Righteous Province to be holed up in, based on their research. They also read up on their supposed powers, and their creation and use of strange homunculi known as invunche. After refueling in Manaus, and bribing port authorities after calling in an Exchange favor, they head out and travel a few days to the deep, deep jungle. Using assensing and blimp sensors, they manage to triangulate in, and follow a river towards the site. They set down a ways out, and sneak up on foot. Surveilling the area, with the cloaked blimp overhead providing a tactical view, they see that the ruined city has been cleared of jungle a bit, and seeded with sangre del diablo trees. They also see some of the invunche moving around.
Using spellcraft and careful movement, they sneak from ruined structure to ruined structure, approaching the river crossing to the cliff-face settlement that seems to be where the RP is based. They cross the river undetected, and use a recording of one of the shaman’s calls to lure some invunche out. They slay them in a surprise attack, and breach the cave entrances. They make their way in, following some creepy chanting, and are almost surprised by an ambush as the rest of the invunche and half of the mages attack. Fentin is nearly killed by an invunche’s blow (they seem to be magically boosted), but they manage to kill them all and ko one to question later.
Toff stays behind to fend off a wave of spirits in astral space, as the rest of the team approaches the chanting. They find 5 powerful brujo’s arranged in a pentagram, with reagents and ritual objects aplenty. Gethin destroys their protective magical dome as they hurry to complete (or pause?) their ritual. Chem decides enough of this after seeing the black, crackling orb hovering in the center of the circle, and lobs a grenade in. The brujo’s scatter, but the explosion destroys the circle, which cause the sphere to lance out negative energy at everything living in the room and then implode inward, sucking the dwarven ritual leader in with it. Everyone takes some damage, but the Brujo’s bear the brunt of it, and the team is able to mow them down without taking much further damage themselves. They once again ko one to question.
After healing a bit, Toff mind probes the 2 ko’d prisoners before Speed decapitates them, to finish the job. They find out that RP had been given shelter by Aztechnology after being banished from Amazonia for their extremity, shortly after the founding. They were also then involved with establishing the Apep Consortium after being chased out of AZT by Dunkelzahn and some others. However, they still have some allies there, deep within the corp, and have been receiving aid in returning to Amazonia to end life and sow discord after the recent war. Apparently their power in Apep has somewhat eroded during Apep’s recent acquisition by MCT. The RP apparently follows a leader known as The Smoking Mirror, which is the same name that Toff heard used to refer to the corrupted traitor dragon from the 4th World. SM is apparently somewhere in AZT territory, but not clear exactly where. They also get the name of the DISA agents who are assisting RP in their activities.
The team tightbeams all this info to Frosty Jane, in case they don’t make it out, and gives Pedrinho the info about the traitors within DISA. They blimp back to Metropole, jury-rigging a system so that they don’t have to stop at Manaus and recharge, feeling worried about potential trouble there. They return Pedrinho’s blimp, and get healed up and purchase some new implants and trains some tactics and skills as they review the data from the Quantumists, who live up to their name as the world’s best crackers. They also receive a mystery payment for their services, and after doing some digging, determine that Wuxing Inc paid them, and has made some gains in accessing shipping around Amazonia due to DMAIC approval, so apparently Pedrinho’s plan worked. Also this suggests that Wuxing is either the employer or corporate sponsor of the Q-mists, which is interesting, to say the least. Based on the obscure imagery of Catholic saints observed in the QM truck and amongst the child cyber-soliders at the dump, the team also thinks they may be affiliated with the singularity-seeking extremist group Ta Makrinia.
They decide to deal with The Pupper Master Killer before leaving, just to get him off their backs. They set a trap to try to lure a puppet out, hoping Fentin can backtrack it. Toast buys an attack chopper, using the rest of his Boston money, and Chem gets a rocket launcher. They spring the trap, and manage to trace some encrypted communications to an apartment building in Rio. Speed pilots over there, before having second thoughts about possible collateral damage from the explosion. She tries to bank away at the last minute but Gethin fires anyway, and the guidance system Chem added to the missile sees it home, destroying a large section of the building.
The puppet also detonates, causing a mass casualty incident in the populated area they sprung their trap. The team flees on foot. The chopper crew lights up the target apartment with HMG fire, just to make sure, as Speed ejects from the chopper, not wanting any part of these unprofessional antics. They flee and swap spoof chips as government attack choppers are inbound. Regrouping at the safehouse, they check in with Neutral Ground and find that the bounty has been raised again, but that the PMK is no longer on the contract. Fentin gets video footage from the apartment of a man using a secret exit to try to escape, but still being incinerated, so they figure they got him. However, Toast receives a message from someone saying “Well Played” and signed “PMK”, so either he’s messing with them from beyond the grave, or the man they killed was merely another puppet… Regardless, he’s off their case, so good enough for now!
Checking in with Jane, she confirms that post-chal’han, she wishes to retain their services for another job, dealing with the horror threat posed by the RP affiliates within Apep and/or AZT. She also encourages Speed to stay with the team as a leveling influence, and plays up the bushido thing real hard. Speed is flattered. Reviewing the Qm’s info, they find a ton of data about potential 4th world scourge survivor sites, suggesting that there is likely a cache in or near the Pyramid of Unis in Egypt, where Apep has a digsite active. The Black Lodge seems frustrated that Apep got there first, but says they have some agents on location to keep an eye out. The team also finds out that it is the BL who are trying to kill them, and that the BL are very interested in the cache hunt, and get a list of possible future assassins.
They also get a ton of data about the BL, including structure/organization, membership restrictions, and their involvement in tons of different conspiracies throughout history. They are apparently behind the Masons, Templars, and Illuminati as well as other groups, and are implicated in numerous assassinations, plots, and coups. They are also directly responsible for setting Hestaby and Lofwyr against each other during the dragon war, so the team decides to sell this data to Lof/ Saeder-Krupp, which Jane approves. They call Simon Andrews, who flirts with Gethin quite a bit, and bonds with Toast. He gets them a sizable amount of money for the data, and thanks for their continued choice to go with SK. He also throws in a bunch of free chopper upgrades.
Love also swaps his whole arm for a cyberarm, to get rid of Gwynplaine’s mark as well as limit his power further, feeling stressed about another occasion on which he almost killed his friends. He also then makes a further pact with his spirit, as his spirit is pissed about his diminished power, to allow his to access his spirit’s magic in exchange for his luck.
Next up, off to Egypt!