The team rests up after the stressful last minute last mission, secure in the knowledge that at least Stuck isn’t trying to kill them. They all decide to sleep at CG and Dig’s safehouse in Puyallup, and Carol has to try pretty hard to pretend that it is a cool, normal spot (boiling ash wastes, reagent harvesters, scrappers and rotting plants for neighbors). However, they figure that CG’s magic lodge might offer some protection from any further Black Lodge surveillance, so seems like the safest option. Carol manages to rally Tabasco a little bit from his panic/depression/confusion. Tabasco heads out early in the morning, having called in a favor with Tommy Vermont and Jimmy Kincaid, who use old KE connections to help get his mom’s body released to him. With Emdachat’s help he has a small ceremony and says his goodbye’s. Then, to pay Kincaid back, he informs the team he’ll be busy for a day or so helping him with a job, and will report back later.
The rest of the team checks comms and gets some news: Aradia has taken shelter on Spinrad’s Lux Resort Island in Lake Tapps to hide from the BL, after getting worried about the tail that Nyssa Hallas spotted. Spinrad has also curtailed his public appearances and upped his security after that. Kit is off working on Shadow Chaps business, and is trying to subtly encourage other cities to oust Dawkins Group-corrupted leadership and add at least one Monad to every leadership group, as they seem slightly harder to effect with the reprogramming due to the multiple/blended personalities they carry. Disturbingly, Maggie Magnusson has gone missing- Creep checks in with the Coven of the Crypt and Elijah, and both confirm that he’s missed planned meetings and not shown up at his usual haunts. Does the BL have him? The team plans to investigate further.
On top of that, Creature is contacted by the Alley Cat Express dispatcher, Wizard, and warned that KE has an arrest warrant out for xyr- the mage that assensed xyr recognized xyr as a drake, and xe has a pretty unique appearance, so ACE has to “officially” cut ties, but wanted to pass along the warning. As the team heads out to the van to start looking for Magnusson, CG, familiar with the environs, spots a small surveillance drone watching them. He uses animal control to find a nearby raptor, which dive-bombs the drone. When it makes contact, the drone explodes, blowing off the birds foot and causing it to inelegantly crash into the nearby building. Dig heals it and gets it airborne again, though missing a foot. He debates making a concrete replacement limb, but decides it’s probably best not to. He also rides his new concrete homunculus around a bit, delighting Creature.
Fearing that the drone was also the BL, the team uses a bunch of Creep’s C-Squared to scrub down the safehouse, and Carol and CG purchase Hunter-Killer drones to patrol both this and the Redmond safehouse to watch for (and destroy) future surveillance drones. Worried about what this all means, though, they decide to hold off on looking for Magnusson in case he’s revealed anything to his captors, and instead do one of their Underground jobs. CG also leaves another message inviting Jaga along to the investigation of the Entropy Circles in 2 days time. Carol convinces the team to do the book return job first, since then they can make a single trip to the Underground to return the book and do Shan and Shun’s job down there, whatever that entails.
They do a little research, and find out that the man, Tigran, who checked the overdue book out from the Astral Great Library of Alexandria is a known collector of esoterica on Anderson Island, an almost entirely private enclave of the extremely rich and elderly. They also find some creepy rumors about him, and contact another Anderson Island denizen, Kaden Becksworth, who has beef with him. Becksworth explains that he wishes to hire a team to investigate Tigran due to some connections to some missing persons, and that they can combine efforts. He says he will tell his cook to prepare dinner for 5 guests so that the team has an excuse to visit, but that they shouldn’y bring anything visibly alarming to the island as it will alert his various neighbors’ suspicions.
Wanting to have some options for carrying the magical book back safely, CG buys a bio-fiber bag, abd Dig suggests a detour to the Fort Lewis zoo so that he can learn to shapeshift into a kangaroo. Creature is thrilled, and everyone else agrees a trip to the zoo sounds fun. They strap the Zodiac to the roof of the van and head over, all wearing civvies or light armor, and with weapons concealed or broken down in the van. The enter through the MP-secured checkpoints, and find the zoo most pleasant. Dig learns what he needs about kangaroos, and Carol spots someone watching the team. He sneaks off and observes as the team leaves, but the watcher spots him so he decides to approach for a casual/pro “I see you seeing me” type chat. Unfortunately, it becomes apparent that someone is remote-rigging the watcher as Carol start to talk, and the watcher explodes, sending Carol flying and shredding his armor.
As a number of civilians were also caught in the blast and a rare turtle exhibit was damaged, much chaos ensues. Carol ditches his shredded armor, and tries to steal a zoo sweatshirt from the gift shop, but is spotted by an alert teen at the till who shouts “thief!”. Luckily CG intercedes and has a spirit conceal Carol while he uses his cyber legs to leap over the fence near the exit and sneak back to the van. The only thing of note he got from the watcher before they exploded was that they had on a “Marry Me…” shirt, so they do some MAMA research with the face image, and find that she was one of the more vociferous hardcore fans who were decrying the team for shutting down the servers (at Alice’s lab) and who believed this was sabotage/some kind of false flag by a competing game.
They decide to continue the mission, though Carol feels a little vulnerable with no armor at all. Luckily he brought his diving gear, just in case. They Zodiac out to Becksworth’s dock, setting the van to loop around on GridGuide till they return. Becksworth greets them with drinks, and they eat a nice dinner in his 3 season porch while they discuss the mission. He explains that he has sent the staff home early and that he has sufficient ECM running that they can talk freely, and tells the team how he is rich enough to live here, but moral enough not to like the culture- he tries to enforce some kind of pro-social code on the island, and has found runners to be the best tool to do so, since the local KE branch is regarded as the ultimate chill reward for desk jockeys to ride out their careers at. He doesn’t condone murder, but will edge up to the line in order to achieve his goals.
He provides the team intel on how to gain access to Tigran’s property and get into the mansion itself, though he says that the esoterica wing has been inaccessible to him. He explains that Tigran had a guest from out of town recently, and hosted a small dinner party with some close friends, and that the disappearances started soon after- staff and off-islanders, but still. He says that the debauched locals have been known to hunt runners and other for sport, engage in snuff parties, and other such heinous activity, so he assumes something bad is happening. He wants the team to document what is up and get him proof, while retrieving the book. They agree, and head out. Dig flies over in bird form to surveil, and spots 2 huge dogs patrolling the grounds. He uses animal control to get them away from the team’s planned entry points, and get them distracted digging for something.
CG and Creep approach on foot, sneaking through the island’s tastefully dense woods which separate the properties. They climb a try and hop over the spiked fence, using CG’s spirit concealment to avoid detection. Carol, using scuba gear, and Creature, a natrually good swimmer as a sea drake, take the water route, and sneak up from Tigran’s dock, using the code Becksworth provided to access the ornate gate at the top of the stairs up from the water into the yard. Disturbingly, they spot clawed drag marks heading into the property, and Creature confirms they are metahuman, and seem to have been buffed out/painted over a bit, but not well enough to fully conceal on close examination. They also find some massive dog turds in the yard. Carol starts to shove some in his pocket to analyze later before CG rushes over to suggest they just poke through it with a stick to see what they find.
They find some metahuman bone fragments, as well as what looks like chewed up cyberware screws/mounting plates etc. This explains why the dog’s are still so distracted with their digging and appear to be fighting over some large bones, perhaps. The team enters the mansion through the conservatory window that they were told was loose, and easily avoid the maintenance drone that is watering plants inside. Sneaking across the grand foyer, Creep spots that this whole place seems to be reassembled from disparate components of multiple other fancy structures- the owner’s rep as a collector is apparently accurate. Spotting a warded area, they assume this will be the collection they seek. Dig offers to sneak the team through, but isn’t super good at it, so CG stays outside to stand guard with his spirits.
The rest of the team enters a large, fancy library and collection room, and Dig uses his catalog spell to seek the Book of 9 Gates. He finds where it is supposed to be, but it and 5 other magical tomes are absent. Carol hears some faint chanting from below, and focusing in, identifies 6 chanting voices and also Tigran, seemingly chatting to a sacrificial victim about how it’s a shame they have to die, but immortality has a price! Creep, wanting more intel, looks around for a vent leading down, and finds one cleverly concealed in the fireplace. He sneaks down it and sees a real horror show: 7 cloaked figures consuming a sacrificial victim while a pile of bodies rots in the corner, and it quickly becomes a horrific orgy. He reverses the direction of the vent fan and heads back up.
Dig uses his new concrete spell to cover over the secret door to the basement that his catalog spell also found, and Creep starts a massive fire in the fireplace. With the vent fan reversed, this quickly floods the basement with smoke, and they team hears some panicked voices and coughing from below, as well as some rattling and banging from behind Dig’s concrete barrier. Carol notices 3 voices begging someone(s) else not to leave them, but the team is still surprised when 4 vampires snap out of mist form in the room with them. The vamps also seems surprised to find the team there, and a fight breaks out. Carol panic launches a lube grenade, splattering essentially the whole room, and Creature manages to catch 3 robed vamps in a web as well. The one remaining vamp levitates to get clear of the lube, and launches himself at Carol, pulling two memory blades to attack. Carol frantically dodges as he, Creep, and Creature all return fire.
The other 3 vamps all return to mist form and start to float away out the door to the foyer, where CG awaits them, and uses his Fear and Deathly Aura powers to send them fleeing further into the mansion. Dig begins to chase them with his huge wad of magical concrete, aiming to trap one. The flying vamp is eventually felled by a grenade from Creature, though this also destroys much of the room and injures the team in the confined space. Creep, noticing that the vamp seems to be regenerating, grabs one of his swords, and is badly shocked by a defensive system, before using it to decapitate the vamp, ending the regen. Carol puts on his respirator and rushes into the basement to grab the book. Weirdly, it is much less horrific than what Creep saw- some kind of illusion perhaps? There is only the one sacrificial victim, and they show evidence of 4 vamp bites but no cannibalism. The other 3 robed chanters all seem to have suffocated. Carol debates taking multiple books, but based on their size and weight decides to just grab the one.
Upstairs, CG kills one of the mist form vamps in astral combat, while Creature fries another in drake form with an elemental blast. Dig tries to capture the 3rd in concrete, but the vamp, seemingly misunderstanding his powers, frantically tries to shift back to human form and is bisected by the closing trap. Having killed everyone in the house, the team decides to leave. They control the dogs again, who merrily chase each other around, fighting over a human spine they dug up, and head for the exit. Creature, in drake form, swims back to Becksworth’s incredibly fast and grabs the Zodiac to pick everyone up, as they all hear some sirens approaching in response to the gunfire and explosions. Becksowrth asks what happened and Creature sends a video file, after which Becksworth will no longer make eye contact and seems disgusted.
They pilot the boat back towards Seattle proper, but spot some drones approaching from ahead and behind. Luckily CG’s powerful spirit is still concealing them, but the boat is fully visible. Dig turns into a bird and ditches them, and Creature decide to swim off on xyr on also. Carol frantically tries to get back into his diving gear but tips it all overboard and almost falls off himself. The remaining 3 decide to swim for it in a group with spirit assistance (plus silence and concealment), and they all manage to make their way to Ketron Island, where they eventually sneak aboard the ferry back to the mainland and get back to the van. A success (of sorts)! Now to return the book…
They also link back up with Tabasco, who reports that he provided some overwatch (along with other runners) for a meeting Kincaid brokered to end the syndicate wars. It seems that Urubia and the Triad were kind of behind the whole thing, using the chaos to bolster their own power, and in Urubia’s case build up a whole new multi-gang syndicate in Redmond and begin buying her way into Puyallup. Nobody seems fully happy with the outcome otherwise, but the killing had gotten out of control and was effecting bottom lines, so a tentative peace seems best for all parties, especially as everyone figures out the changing situation re: Free Seattle, with the Referendum outcome announcement coming tomorrow!!