With Jones in the VTOL asserting that she’s been running “comms off” since DeeCee, the team decides to still not take any chances, and links up with her on the roadside, jamming her just in case, before heading to the Kiss Me Quick. Carol and Creep decide to stay there overnight and continue to examine Roderick Kensington’s lunatic manuscript to stay awake, while the rest of the team heads back to the Tin Can safehouse to rest up. CG convinces everyone to swap the walk-in freezer for a permanent ritual space, and gives them all the debrief about what’s he learned about the area and who he’s made connections with.
Carol and Creep find an illustration of what looks to be a Tarot card in Kensington’s notes, and the team spends a while speculating what it might mean. In the morning, the same crew of local runners (Smaug, Lunatech, and SINder) show up to collect Jones on behalf of Weathernight, and Carol negotiates for some pay. She says she’ll be in touch next time they have another job for them, and Carol and Creep head back to the safehouse, deciding to rest a bit during the day while the rest of the team figures out some logistics and personal agendas.
For one thing, the sub has arrived from Seattle. The team decides not to offer Shan and Shun space at their safehouse, so Creature volunteers to show them around and give them the lay of the land. Iva has a SIN from Vogel, and Dig purchases a license for his construct, so the only one they have to smuggle in is Jaga, and the van is well-equipped for that. CG puts in a call to Rubberhead and pays for access to a quiet dock that night out near the airport in Windsor. They pick everyone up and get them back to the safehouse with no trouble- Iva is excited to get to work in her new dev lab, and Jaga begins setting up the greenhouse.
Meanwhile, Tabasco and CG decide to go investigate the Platinum Joytrolls club, with Tabasco heading straight in (after being stripped of weapons) and CG investigating outside. Tabasco quickly gets made by the owner Marv, who seems to know an uncomfortable amount about him, and tells him to return the next night with whoever he wants to bring from his crew for a longer convo. CG gets spotted and also spots a neo-anarchist German gnome named Castiron, who after being impressed by his ogre belly provides some info about the area- the whole block is owned by Marv and informally referred to as “the Platinum Zone”, composed of the titular strip club (trolls of all genders and body types!), to the Brickhouse (a legendary venue), to some restaurants, cafes, and apartments. CG spots some warded underground areas as well but doesn’t get any info about those.
Dig has headed to the Oakland County Zoo to seek out Red Mages, but finds none. However, the area would be a great power center for such an order, so Dig decides to try to build one up. He makes some awkward matrix posts, and rejects the first response from someone who seems like the wrong sort of animal enthusiast, and awaits further replies. He does meet a Zoo employee named Roadkill who seems quite enthusiastic and helpful, though not very knowledgeable about magic. She implies she could help move product or other things if Dig needs, and they trade contact info. She also agrees to rent Dig time in a rarely used loading dock once a week for his magic order, assuming anyone else ever shows up.
They head back, agreeing to return tomorrow, and everyone awakens the next day wuith CG, Dig, and Jaga all having had weird shared dreams again. Dig is not sure if this was enhanced by the strange crystal his talismonger insisted on selling him, which he insisted wouldn’t do anything. This time, the dreams show two different underground cities, one teaming with bugs (and as Roderick had said, too many shamans and not enough Queens), and one seemingly a massive, lovingly-tended to ossuary, including bones appearing to be from bug hybrids. Disturbing! They decide to use the hair they acquired to track down Roderick and ask more questions. With the help of a massive spirit from Dig, they find him and discover that he has a Tarot card in his possession.
They show him a few of theirs, but it isn’t until Dig describes the shared dream that Roderick is willing to show them his. It’s a card they haven’t before: The Eclipse! This also seems to be the same card illustrated in his notes. He claims the card gives him visions. The team briefly debates taking it by force, knowing how valuable it is, especially on the Seelie Court, and Creep once again speculates that this guy might be a former Coimiediai, based on some various info in the team file. For now they decide to leave him be, after he starts getting suspicious of their lengthy, silent convo.
They head back south and pick up CG, who had split off for the morning to do some Grave Binding for the People of the Book interfaith burial society. This will justify his presence, and the presence of his magical lodge, in Hamtramck, if the team needs that cover story. They all head back to Platinum Zone for the meeting, except for Creature, who is still off with Shan and Shun discussing what the Sea Dragon might want to get into/out of Detroit.
The team is once again disarmed and ushered back to a meeting room by a Boston survivor with a strong accent. They find Marv waiting for them casually carrying an old autocannon- Carol tries on some jibes about the old model and Marv mostly plays along. He is accompanied by a wiry and somewhat tense human man dressed in specifically unmemorable casual wear, and a very nattily dressed Black dwarf who is fully bald. Marv says there’s no need or introductions until they clear a few things up, and that the team isn’t leaving til they have this convo. Creep blusters a bit and Marv says everyone can still leave as friends but it’s cards on the table time.
The trio quickly reveal that they know a good bit about the team- the dwarf seems like the intel guy of the 3, and knows Tabasco, Creep, and Carol’s history reasonably well, he seems less familiar with CG and Dig, though he’s aware of their Tzuri Group ties. After the team all confirms that they are aware of multiple ARES factions and the infighting therein, and that they aren’t loyal to either Knight or Otto’s factions, the dwarf seems to suggest that he’s aware that Carol at least is working for another faction, though it’s unclear if he knows about Vogel or not. The team seems to pass whatever kind of test this was, and the trio agree to share some info and hire the team on for a job.
The wiry human introduces himself as Rifleman, who Tabasco had previously messaged on Jackpoint about the mysterious gathering of mercs in NW Ohio. He explains that he and some other like-minded individuals are trying to field a small force in town to try to limit the damage of Latvian Gambit, which is bound to be a total clusterfuck, especially for the civilians in town. It seems like the team knows a bit more, specifics-wise, about what ARES has planned, overall. The dwarf intro’s himself as Ringmaster, and after some back and forth, suggests that he is working for/with Arleesh, which gets the team on-side a bit more. He explains that their theory is that Otto never stopped being a bug shaman and has managed to effectively turn a significant portion of the corp towards the bug agenda from the inside, slowly and over years, only now openly moving to take control.
The job they want the team to do is to extract one Dr. Ellis! Only Carol has met her, but the others are familiar from the team file. Ellis has apparently been integral to Otto’s plans and would be a valuable intel asset, but they assume she’ll be well-protected and that Knight will likely be after her as well. The team agrees, and Ringmaster sends over a dossier with her location details and the intel they’ve been able to gather. Before they can discuss anything further, the server knocks at the door and passes Rifleman in an infochip. He slides it onto the screen in the corner, and the team watches the breaking news.
A massive explosion shook ARES HQ tower in Downtown moments ago, reportedly killing the entire Board of Directors except for Damien Knight himself, who has now assumed total control of the corp, saying that in honor of their memories, he will not appoint a new board, merely an emergency advisory group (which seems like it will have no real power). Listed amongst the dead in the bombing is Carol’s dad, Michael Turpentine II. Tabasco tries to offer some comfort, but too quickly, and Carol dashes off to be alone in the bathroom for a bit, where he turns off the TacNet and does some novacoke. Adding confusion, Michael III, his brother, was named to the advisory board, a major promotion.
Ringmaster buys some drinks for the team, and tells them to try to get Ellis soon. Although ARES PR has labelled this as a terror attack, he thinks it was almost certainly Knight deciding to take the shackles off and begin operating with no real oversight, which implies things are about to get bad in Detroit. They also get a message from Vogel offering condolences to Carol and telling them that things will be accelerating quickly from here, with Knight apparently increasingly paranoid and prone to outbursts.