Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
and a sad farewell to: ThinkTank
With TT and Kit on board to take Tate out, they start debating tactics. They decide to take a few more days to get some cyber upgrades and do some shopping, with Kit and Aradia taking a day trip to Cairo to shop the massive markets there. Aradia, unable to avoid temptation, goes looking for something illicit and special, and eventually gets put in touch with Am-Mut, a regional fence, black marketeer and info broker. She insists on getting their street names and checking their rep before doing business, but gets them what they need a day later after they check out. Kit buys schematics for Tate’s cruise ship, as well as some info on onboard security. Aradia gets some reagents, an ancient death mask that could be made into a focus, and also decides to drop a large sum on a mysterious weapon focus.
After spending some time examining the focus, they consult with Fargus Sol and do some internet research. It seems it is a legendary blade known as Ketel’s Dagger which can transform living matter to gems and crystalline forms depending on use and target. Sol says that since it uses blood magic to enact the transformation it would likely be quite addictive and might be an item that other’s seek to acquire, by force if needed. Aradia decides to trade it for a less dangerous magical sword, a Blade of Hark, which allows some level of spirit binding and control, and when bound as a weapon focus will make her a significantly larger astral threat.
Aradia and Kit decide to board the cruise ship as passengers to get some early intel, while the rest of the team approaches with all the gear on a zodiac provided by Ibn Hassan. Kit and Aradia spot some magical security, and confirm that the crew are either all bugs or maggots, and decide not to explore further until the rest arrive, though Kit inserts their new crawler drone into some maintenance raceways to skulk around and see if it sees anything. They also determine that there is definitely strong bug magic in and below the VIP spa area. Carol stays behind to get one more spa day, and also pilot in the escape boat if needed.
Tabasco learns how to pilot the zodiac, and after some trial and error and some withering looks from TT and Creature manages a successful stealth approach to the cruise ship. TT and Tabasco board via a tactical grapple, while Creature uses xyr web to stick to the side. Not seeing anyone inside the nearest chamber, Tabasco cuts through the porthole glass, and Creature manages to contort xyr way in. Using Tabasco’s radar and the plans Kit bought, everyone manages to link up, with Creature opening a door to the below decks area from inside, while Aradia bypasses the ward to allow everyone to pass through undetected.
They avoid some eerily efficient crew patrols (always in pairs and seemingly linked to some sort of hive mind or shared perceptive network), and head for what on the plans is supposed to be a bilge tank that seems to be the strongest magical location. They find it cut open, with some crude stairs welded together descending into it. Hearing more footsteps, as well as some voices, approaching, they dash down in. A horrifying sight awaits. At the far end is a massive bulbous, slimy entity, looking something like a huge putrid toad. In the center of the room is a Bug statue, similar to some they’ve seen before, this one obviously of the Scarab tradition.
Lining both walls of the room are various contorted metahuman forms in various stages of transformation, although they don’t look to be getting transformed into bugs. Instead, they seem to have some kind of small grub inserted into their heads, which seem to be causing the heads to massively swell and distort, consuming the rest of the body as they grow, and eventually projecting a mass of limb/antennae from the chin. The 11 bodies are in various stages of transformation, with the ones nearest the gum toad (as the team ID’s it) the most transformed. Two of these snap their massive, torso sized heads off of their shrunken husk bodies and charge the team on their spindly chin legs, targeting Aradia and Creature, as the gum toad flicks it’s tongue out at TT.
The team manages to dodge the initial assault, but are unable to connect with the enemies, who seem quite quick, until Tabasco targets the gum toad, who seems fairly sluggish. He manages to light it on fire, providing some better illumination in the dark chamber. Unfortunately, this refocuses the toad’s attention, and it quickly snags Tabasco with it’s tongue and begins to swallow him. TT gets off a solid javelin attack, destroying it’s mystical armor. Tabasco gets another arrow off, lighting himself on fire as well but badly injuring the toad. Meanwhile, Creature finds that xyr dwarf minigun is quite effective against the fast (but weak) head monsters, managing to slay one. The other continues to hyper-extend it’s jaw as the top of it’s head lolls back and it tries to chomp down on Creature.
Kit manages to prevent Tabasco from burning to death while the team finishes off the toad and remaining head, with Aradia loosing her air spirit on the grub/head monsters that are still incubating. 4 pairs of cruise ship guards dash down into the ballast tank, all moving disturbingly synergistically, and the team finds themselves straight back into combat. They all take some hard hits, especially TT, before Kit has a plan and manages to snatch the Scarab stone off it’s altar, and Aradia destroys it in astral space with her new sword. All of the cruise crew stop attacking immediately and sort of go limp, though their autonomic functions appear stable- Kit speculates that they are wimp clones, and decides to keep one for some experimental surgery.
Meanwhile, Carol has been chilling at the resort, and is approached by one Georgiy Abolev, who says he is a rep for the APEP Consortium, the magic/artifact hunters who were recently acquired by MCT. He fishes for info about VDH’s hoard, and offers large payouts in the future for other magical oddities, etc, giving Carol his number. Carol, with amazing perception, notices that his room was subtly searched while he was out, and calls Abolev on it. Abolev admits it was his people who did it, but nothing is missing, and he seems to be attempting to use it as a power play- “we can reach you anywhere”. Carol feels like he successfully won that social encounter by noticing it though, and expresses his displeasure in the skill level of the team Abolev used.
The next day, Carol plans to just chill more while the team does the job, but ends up deciding to get a second boat from Hassan and heading out to extract them when he realizes noone made an exit plan. He refreshes a bit on how to drive a boat, and zips over to the cruise ship, arriving quickly but not stealthily. Having lost comms with the team when they went belowdecks, he heads for the porthole Creature used to enter, and yanks open the compartment door from outside, using his grappling hook. Comms back on!
Creature and the air spirit finish off the grubs still in the transformation process, and the team prepares to chase after Tate, with Aradia sending her spirit off to search him out. As they follow the spirit, TT spots some chained plastic explosives all built into the lower area of the ship, that, if detonated, will definitely sink the vessel, so he offers to stay behind and sort that out while the rest of the team pursues.Kit heads for Carol’s zodiac with one of the wimps in tow, and manages to toss it down and wingsuit down after themselves. A very crispy Tabasco follows. They zip around the front of the boat to try to intercept Tate, who looks to be heading for an escape craft of his own.
Aradia and Creature give chase, with Creature faster. Xe gets lines of sight on Tate just as he is about to step off the cruise ship onto an emergency launch, which is starting to lower down the side. Xe fires with xyr minigun, and perforates both Tate and the rubber boat. Aradia, racing towards the deck, goes astral and summons a fresh air spirit, commanding to to engulf the wounded Tate. Seeing Tate about to press a detonator, Creature shouts a warning, and Kit manages to jam the signal just long enough for TT to clip the wires midway down, and prevent about half the explosives from detonating, the ship doesn’t start sinking. Unfortunately, the other half in the areas above/the spa/etc all do still detonate on a light lag, burying TT in a mound of debris after shredding his body. Creature cries out, seeing him flatline on the TacNet and heads back down to see if he can be saved.
Aradia jumps down to the zodiac, and has the air spirit drop Tate’s body in after is suffocates him. Kit is able to stabilize the unconscious Tate, while Carol restrains him. Creature manages to retrieve TT’s trashed commlink and one javelin but not much else, as he was blown apart and then crushed quite thoroughly. Though his face is hard to remember, Creature does not think xe will forget this view… Xe dashes back upstairs and webs down to the zodiac as announcements from the ship’s captain try to keep the passengers calm, especially since no other crew seems present/sentient at the moment. Kit gets them out of there before anyone can try to climb aboard, and they call up Hassan from the water and request a safehouse.
He directs them a bit west on the Mediterranean Sea, to an abandoned part of the former Libyan coast, where they link up with Bedouins traveling with a camel caravan including some dot camels. One of the Bedouins takes the zodiac and heads back out to sea, while the team covers up to blend in and hops aboard. A few hours south in the middle of the desert, they enter a secluded cave which looks like a smuggler’s cache. The Bedouins start their own fire and stay a short distance away, though seeing both the team’s injuries and the captive, say they are happy to help dispose of any corpses as needed. The team rests around their own fire for a bit and mourns TT, whose large sunny absence is noted.
Carol calls up Vogel, and gives him the intel on the Horror cult, and the suspicious fact that both the newly built cruise ship and the explosives were ARES manufacture. Even with the dot camel’s signal boost and Kit’s quality ECM, they are only able to text. Vogel gets back and says that Tate, under his new name, seems to have gotten added to ARES payroll during the bug dragon battle in Chicago, so seems to have fled and switched allegiances when he saw which way the wind was blowing there. But Vogel is distressed about what exactly he was up to and what ARES knew… as is Carol. Aradia mind probes Tate once she has rested a bit, eager for answers.
They find out that Tate seemingly got corrupted by V’golkatl after the team gave him the bug dragon to try to heal (before they knew it was buggy). V’Golkatl was apparently already using the dragon for its own designs, and convinced Tate to join it, as Tate came to view the coming of the Horrors as inevitable, and wanted to be on the winning side. He tried to bring Chicago contacts who were loyal to him along with, but most either refused (like Creature) or were killed during the chaos of his escape. He came to ARES’ attention due to the team, and Candice Phillips passed him up to Michael Turpentine II and III to run. In exchange for info on the last few nests in Chicago after the battle, they got him out and are using him to ferret out other nests in the Mediterranean region. They manages to insert him as head of a local Scarab cult using the artifact that Aradia destroyed, as Tate has no magical abilities of his own. He seems to have independently acquired the gum toad and the Crawlers (carol ID’s the grub/head monsters as something he saw in his vision of Kadath), and used them to maintain control of the artifact and also begin his own secret breeding program for lesser Horrors.
Meanwhile, ARES had him implanting various A/AA/AAA mid-tier execs and the like with various bug spirits that they think will be controllable, as what they believe could be the ultimate in corporate sabotage and infiltration. Luckily, Tate is very detail oriented, and the team gets the full list of all the converts, and this seems like a pilot version of this program, based on ARES’ success in it’s Project:Apex bug soldier hybrid experiments. Tate doesn’t think ARES knew about his current Horror activities, but they were very happy to provide him a lot of latitude as long as he kept up his target numbers.
Feeling like they’ve plumbed his mind as fully as they can, Kit kills Tate with a medical cocktail, and they trade his body to the Bedouins for a ride south. The Bedouins put it on ice in a large case, and also ice the wimp that Kit has hauled along. The team sells the list of names to Hassan, who compliments them on their work and says if they need more jobs in the region to get in touch. The next day they head south, and Carol starts to worry. TT is probably fairly identifiable, even in his exploded form, and they left the body there with distinct javelins and such scattered about. That night when they rest, Kit posts a memorial to TT on Jackpoint, and users there quickly link it to reports of a “shadowrunner terrorist attack on a cruise ship” that are being spread around. Someone also mordantly jokes that they’ll repost on Neutral Ground to get people off that bounty.
Carol finds that his corp credit card has been cancelled, and he doesn’t have any messages from his dad, bro, or Candice. He starts freaking out and planning to disappear in the desert and join up with Vogel, which Vogel seems excited about, but eventually talks him down from. Carol also passes along the general info about what Tate was up to for ARES, which Vogel is glad to know, and just seems like more motivation for him to take over. Carol makes a plan to get a fresh SIN or a few, and fake his death when they get to Asamando, using some bio-material removed from some major cybersurgeries he plans to get. They travel across a few countries in NW and central Africa to reach the ghoul nation, slipping over most borders deep in the desert without encountering anyone, and paying the ghouls at the Asamandan border with Tate’s body. The Bedouins leave the team at the outermost transit station, saying they have their own business, but recommending a few people and places in town for runners on the go.
Aradia and Creature get some minor biosculpting down in streetside walk-in clinics, while Kit just changes their appearance, and with the help of a curious aristocratic British “family doctor”, implants an ASIST rig into his wimp, effectively making it into a second body/biodrone for them to rig. Kit posts this info to Jackpoint as well, and gets a pretty wide range of responses, from the horrified to the impressed. Kit and the second body then help the doctor, Baxton Gresh, to do a series of surgeries on Carol, including giving him a False Face mod. Using the leftover tissue from that surgery, Carol pays off a fixer called The Butcher to report that Carol died of his wounds and was transported to Asamando and consumed, with the proof being some of his face in the Butcher’s possession. Aradia also calls in a favor with Juan Xiuhuitl, who flies the Brooch of Shifting over to AZT"s regional office (they are one of the few corps doing major business in Nyamkopon), and altering Carol’s aura to a different aspect, to throw off any attempts to magically track him. His low essence should also help here. The Butcher also offers them more regional work anytime they’re interested.
Aradia calls some Chicago contacts to report Tate’s death, and has another depressing checkin with Lothan, who is not doing well and has moved fully to his basement where he listens for tunneling in the walls. Aradia calls Goober to go check on him, and throws in a lot of money to start a “bug city survivors” PTSD support group at the Wisest Troll. The team all buys fresh SINs using Vogel’s contacts, and Hassan gets them suborbital tickets back to Seattle on a business flight where they won’t get searched (though they’ll still have to check and seal all their combat gear). They see some large, flagship-y Taco Temples on the way to the airport. What a vacation! As they swoop down towards Seattle, they are all a little depressed to realize that they have less than a week til they owe rent again…. time to get busy!