Atlas Park decides to leave the group for a while, to reflect on recent life events. Jason abandoning him to stay with the Yakuza was a big blow. The rest of the team gears up for all possibilities in preperation for travel to Bug City, alongside Jane. She takes them all the best places. They board the charter plane, and have an uneventful flight, a nice change of pace from dodging AA fire in Africa.
Jane fills them in on the job- they are to find another runner team (lead by a woman named Sonora in the employ of Aztechnology) and retrieve another artefact from them. This one is a sextant, and has some sort of link to the map. The team finds out some about this- apparently Jane is able to use the map to roughly locate the artefact, which is how she found out it was in Chicago, and why she’s in a rush. Zuberi agrees that he will stay with her to help perform this ritual, once they touch down, and keep the team apprised of the map’s rough location via satellite link. They get a few hours sleep after prepping gear and planning.
They land, and the remaining team members drop off Zuberi and Jane at a hotel in Northside, and weld a scrap metal plow onto the SUV, before heading for the ABC complex at Trinity University. They fight off a go-gang on the way, gaining some bodies for Nomusa to feed on, and to use as trade goods with any ghouls they encounter. They reach the ABC complex, and trade a bunch of medical goods and 2 bodies (for study!) for info and a guide to a gate they can use to bring their rented/stolen SUV through the wall into the CZ. They sleep a few hours, fearing they won’t be able to in the Zone. They trade the guide some more for the backdoor he uses to open the old security gates.
They ram a pack of wild dogs who are attacking a raggedy family, and then feeling that they’ve done their good deed for the day, ignore the raggedy old woman and baby that they see huddled in a doorway a few blocks later. They head for the Hangman bar, near the Noose, to get wireless access and hopefully some info. When there, they trade the bodies with an older ghoul hacker for some info- the other team has indeed been seen in Chicago recently. In exchange for some ammo, he also points them in the direction of the Little Earth Sioux community on the old U of C campus, who apparently have a talented healer whose services the other runners may have sought out.
The team prepares to head there, hoping to catch up with their prey. They manage to drive on the highway, having to stop frequently to push aside rusting old cars that they can’t move with the plow. They arrive, and find that some folks have barricaded one of the former campus buildings, although their security seems to be a bit less stringent than its evident heyday- they only see a few patrolling spirits, and 1 sniper nest/lookout on their way in. They are ushered in the door to the Sioux medical building by an ex-military looking man, and meet up with an elderly woman to trade medical supplies for some info- they find out that Sonora, the mage they pursue, has lost another team-mate while crossing the CZ, and that she plans to pay Spire Enterprises, a smuggling operation trying to go legit, to carry the remaining team members to parts unknown. They apparently traded the last of their meager supplies to the Sioux for medical aid after being set on by dogs of some sort, and also for assistance cremating their dead friend, who they didn’t want used for more nefarious purposes.
The team loads back into the SUV and heads for the Spire building, plowing and moving cars on the way. As they approach, they hear some distant gunshots, shortly after catching sight of the distinct spiral of the building. However, TY, driving, receives an odd premonition, and swerves suddenly, just as the bridge collapses under them and the car plummets down, through a large sinkhole in the street below, into some sort of subterranean level. He prevents the car from flipping, and the team’s armor (as well as what’s left of the car) absorb the bulk of the shock- but it looks like they are on foot the rest of the way. And also underground. Neither of which are ideal.
The team fights off some hybird mantis spirit/dog monstrosities, and regains the surface. They approach the Spire on foot, while trying to stay warm. They encounter the tower under siege by a mafia faction trying to gain some new turf. They break the siege, calling in assistance from the mafia faction that currently controls the area, as well as providing some fire support from a distance. In gratitude, the head of Spire Enterprises agrees to fly the team out, on Sonora’s trail. Stopping to pick up Jane and Zuberi, they head for Denver.
On the way, they are forced to land to make some repairs, and stop at a waypoint that their pilot, Ricky Steelsky, has used before. However, it appears abandoned, and Rooster heads out to investigate- uncovering a cellar full of corpses and getting ko’d by a free-roaming spirit. The team takes the spirit out effectively, but on it’s death it opens an astral rift to the shadow plane, which Zuberi thinks is the Dark Realm. However, he decides to remain on earth, feeling his work there is not yet complete.
The team makes it to Denver, following Sonora’s trail, and calling in some favors to do so. They land a ways outside the city, and leave their non-licensed gear in the plane. They find out she has lost another teammate in a shootout, and is looking for a ride out of town. They eventually find out where she is meeting her ride (a national park in the PCC outside Denver), and race there to try to intercept her team. They arrive, but are slowed by an ambush by an unknown team, which (confusingly) takes place over and around a triad smuggling camp. Apparently, the pilot Sonora hired agreed to meet there as he had to drop off some new slaves, the team enters the campsite as these new arrivals are being processed, and the ambush breaks out. Rooster uses his command abilities to good effect to try to focus the triad’s fire on the opposing team, while LS and TY try to access the exiting VTOL that Sonora is aboard.
TY is unable to hack the VTOL- it seems they are running dark. However, LS overpowers Sonora’s mental defenses, and finds out where they are going (LA) and who they are working for (an Aztlan blood mage). The opposing team seems to break off once the craft leaves, though they leave 3 of their number behind, dead at the hands of Zuberi, TY, Nomusa, and LS’s attacks. The team makes a quick exit in a car, before the triad has time to figure out what’s going on and start shooting them. On their way south to link up with Jane and Ricky again, they pass some emergency vehicles seemingly headed for the park. Rooster and Nomusa decide to ride back into Denver proper and fly to LA on a commercial flight, hoping to get some good recon in on Sonora’s employer’s meet site before either their team or Sonora arrive via slower VTOL smuggler travel. The rest of the team decides to stick with Jane, as LS figured out that Sonora has been staying ahead of them partially by using the sextant to track the map- and Jane is worried about the blood mage making a play for the map as well. They decide to pressure Ricky to take the shorter but more dangerous Mojave route, to try to cut down Sonora’s lead.
Rooster and Nomusa arrive in LA with no trouble, and meet up with Alex Foxfire, an LA Ancient, who takes them to a safehouse that Jane arranged, and provides them with some weapons and ammo. They scout out the warehouse where Sonora is meeting Itztli, and also are approached by an odd man, who says he belongs to the Sylvestrine Order, a Vatican affiliate, and that they are also seeking the artifact- he warns Rooster of the supposed curse on the item, and says that only his order can keep it safe. But, he offers his and his brothers’ assistance to the team, based on Rooster’s attempts to save (or at least keep out of harm’s way)the civilians in the Denver shootout.
The rest of the team flies the Mojave, TY has some distressing waking dreams while they travel. The local mana field is distessing and anger-filled. However, an old man (in appearance at least) manifests inside the plane and says that due to LS’ good rep in the spirit world, he will guide them safely through. However, this is a one-time favor, and LS is instructed to tell others not to come here- the spirits are taking it over for themselves. LS also asks what else he can do to help, and is told to strike out at Horizon where possible. They arrive in LA, and meet up with the rest of the team. Having just recently seen a car enter the warehouse (within Sonora’s expected window of arrival), they decide to storm the place. They hire some Ancients to help, as the gang guarding the warehouse (the Burning Angels) is an enemy. Rooster also calls the Sylvestrines.
They assault- TY hacks the building node and unlocks the doors, and Baelor and Ancients on bikes storm the gates, with a van crrying the team right behind. They mop up the Burning Angels inside, as well as 2 combat mages and a blood spirit left to slow their pursuit, but are unable to prevent Itztli and Sonora escaping in some mini-subs. However, there are a few more left, so they give chase, pausing for long enough for TY to slave all the systems together, and to grab some waterproof crates to strap on the back for gear. The Sylvestrines insist on protecting the Burning Angels who were wounded in the fight, but not killed, and will not let Zuberi execute them. He is annoyed.
The team follow an ARO breadcrumb trail through a series of winding and branching underwater tunnels and caverns, and soon find themselves hopelessly lost and reliant on the trail provided. Fortunately, they find theire target: they emerge into a larger air-filled cavern, and find Itztli waiting to make good his exit via a larger sub, but delayed by wrong direction currents. Itztli sacrifices Sonora’s lone remaining companion to cast a large barrier spell, and one of his guards apparently ko’s Sonora when she tries to intervene. The team manages to defeat his 5 guards, and one of his bound spirits, while Sonora comes to, and offers aid to LS in breaking the barrier. They succeed, and manage to kill Itztli before he is able to finsih mind-controlling the whole team (although TY, Zuberi, and Nomusa fall under his sway). He is, by far, the most powerful mage they have ever fought. Sonora grabs the sextant and tells the team to “RUN”! as Itztli was apparently equipped with a powerful cranial bomb. They manage to avoid harm, although the cavern takes some damage and fills with smoke. They vacate the area via the mini-subs after Sonora also warns them of the curse, and tells them to stay away from the sextant.
They head back out, and the Sylvestrines once again offer to take and protect the artifact. The team looks to Jane, who refuses. They leave the area before more Burning Angels arrive (the Ancients and Sylvestrines held off the first reinforcements). They drop Jane at a private jet, and get paid- she has also arranged for them to stay at a fancy OC hotel for a week to R&R, and says she will foward the bloodmage bounty that the Draco Foundation offers, if she can claim it. She also covers LS’ needed hospital stay (from multiple stimpatch crash) after Rooster gives her a hard time. Zuberi also gains a contact in the Denver Golden Triangle Triad, after calling them through Kayin, and explaining that they were fighting the same people as the triad, not trying to fuck up their op in Denver.