Ratched the Hatchet
The team enacts a massive con against Frank Incense, smearing his name as an outsider looking to make trouble for the local church, which under Grimes has been quite helpful during the lockdown. They double down on PPJ having done the right thing in warning Grimes (even though he betrayed the Johnson in this case), and Guy trades on his good rep locally to help sell it. Prot0 and Jonny both expend some of their rep trading on big names/connections from their pasts. Silke gets ahold of the team after a few days and tells them she has a plan- she has made contact with a dangerous spirit who hates disorder, and thinks that they can use PPJ to lure Frank into a trap, now that he is seen as a disorderly presence.
The team agrees, and Guy pilots a boat out towards a crystallized island, the team having spread the rumor that PPJ is trying to flee town by running the barricade. PPJ and Silke are both aboard the boat, and the rest of the team posts up nearby to provide cover. Some Knights of the Red Branch members engage the side time, as they were trying to set up a sniper position of their own. Some more KOTRB with Frank are closing in on speedboats, and Frank, Silke, PPJ, and Guy all exchange spells.
The team’s boat is partially disabled and drifts near the island, as the team shoots the KOTRB boats full of holes. Frank walks on water towards them, blasting PPJ and Guy with a dart gun that cuts off their access to magic. As he nears to secure them, a crystal spar shoots out from the island and impales, lifting him up and encasing him. Problem solved? Silke says a thank you to the crystalline entity and suggests the team get far away quickly. They do so.
They decide to handle Mama’s request next, and dig into Franklin Nockai- he seems to be linked to commuter and transient disappearances going back a ways, and their intel says he should be in or near the sub basement labs of the old NN HQ. They find the spot, and find increasing amounts of larger and larger roaches watching them, which seem to have some kind of gestalt consciousness. PPJ also reports astral space feels roachy. They find a massive vault door sealed up but on approach it swings open and 2 humans in dingy white robes (seemingly altered lab coats) greet them and welcome them.
They bring them to a back room where a cyber-samurai named Norbert is plugged into an old NeoNet server, from what Prot0 can tell he is running a constant memory loop program that seems to be serving the function of keeping him sane(ish). He insists they leave all their weapons and armor, and they do. They begin to be initiated into the cult, eating a strange nutrient paste, and noticing occasional disappearances amongst other members. They are told they will meet Nockai soon for a blessing of his protection, but don’t really make a plan of any sort.
Most of them are summoned to Nockai, Jonny tries to follow but is KO’ed by a guard. Meanwhile, Ratched is worried about the team not turning back up after she’s worked on the safehouse for a few days, and convinces Prot0’s drone to take her back there. The rest of the team finds Nockai seemingly trying to summon a roach queen, but something is messing up the ritual, creating a huge flesh monster composed of the missing cultists. There are also some incomplete merges assisting him. Prot0 sneaks off to Norbert’s chamber and edits his memory feed to trut Prot0 and hate bugs, and then blasts open the observation window into the main ritual chamber (a repurposed lab that the team worries might be the original site of the CFD/dragon experiment).
Norbert starts firing on the bugs and fleshmonster, as Nockai and the bugs attack the team below. Ratched and the drone enter from the front and slay some cultists before joining the fray, and then getting boxed in by more merges. It’s a total bloodbath, and Guy and Aleiron are both badly inured and nearly killed. They do emerge victorious, and Prot0 convinces the team to bring Norbert and the NN server back to their safehouse with them, and also save three cult survivors.
They return to the Nub and drop the cult survivors off, 2 join Aleiron’s cult, and 1 is executed by a Mama’s Boy who assenses him and apparently notices something sketchy. Aleiron buys the others a hotel for a bit. They then go tell Mama what happened, and she seems happy- she says she has been interfering in his rituals as best as she can but it is good to have it done with. She offers a boon for their service. Prot0 and Guy had already headed back to the safehouse with Norbert and the server, so they ask for free rent on their behalf. Mama agrees so long as they stay on her good side. Ratched and PPJ unlock some increased abilities, Jonny gets a large local rep boost, and Aleiron asks to travel to the metaplanes. Mama opens a portal to the Fey Realm and Aleiron dives through, barely saying goodbye, just passing her cult off to a child reporter in Seattle and asking Prot0 to make sure to get a badge to Taysacs.
The rest of the team, surprised at Aleiron’s sudden exit, heads back to the safehouse and recovers. Prot0 preps to do a deep dive on the NN server, and PPJ offers to watch his body while the rest of the team starts looking further into Murai/Reversers. They get some initial info from less secure server partitions- it seems Norbert used to be on a team with a cybersoldier named T1, who has been raiding black labs around town to keep himself and his team functional after their secretive employer was shut down by runners. Norbert was abandoned due to cyberpschosis reducing his functionality. But they get a few other leads of spots to look for more info.
Bubby also shows up with a curious magical-oddity investigator in tow. He introduces her as Aylin Carewell and says that she seems useful, curious, and trustworthy. The team grills her a bit and she seems solid and useful, so they agree to bring her along on the first recon as a test. They head to the only official Murai address they have, on the 128 corridor out at the edge of the QZ. They find evidence of a massive gunfight, seemingly between T1’s team and facility security. T1 won, and took over the facility with some scientist hostages. It’s unclear what they were up to there exactly but they seem to have used it as a base for a time, and the team finds a jump drive that escaped destruction to get Prot0 to look at.
Murai itself seems to have been running some kind of intense nanotech experiments with significant security, while on the outside looking like a run of the mill subsidiary or small medtech lab. Interior infection protocol and prevention looks intense though, and T1 and crew seem to have executed and burned most of the non-scientific facility staff, later executing the scientists as well. There is also evidence of torture. The team finds a mysterious button, and Aylin decides to press it. Everyone else leaves after making sure they haven’t missed anything else, and Aylin presses it, triggering the destruction of the facility through a series of humorous circumstances. The team escapes, and heads back to the safehouse to go over their info…