While everyone else is off researching the spaceport and doing prep and recon for the next run, K and UB! are on very different journeys. UB! attempts to find love. K attempts to find a greater truth, and a better understanding, of the magical world.
UB!, after waking up covered in Problem Children graffiti, and realizing that he is actually in the gang, is extremely happy. He asks Jaro to accompany him on a romantic outing to Heliopolis, where he is planning to upgrade his cyberhand with some alphaware. To his surprise, she agrees, and they head out in her car. UB! shows her the sights, such as they are, and then enters surgery. Not the most romantic thing ever, waiting for your date to regain consciousness after an operation. But to her credit, Jaro doesn’t just bail and drive back to Mars City leaving UB! stranded. She spends most of her time in the Red Delta, exchanging war stories with Kano. UB! has the surgical team add a magnetic attachment to his hand, after hearing that HCB got one. He also upgrades from the single cyber blade to wolverine claws, and adds a shock palm enhancement. However, all this additional ‘ware necessitates expanding his hand, so he now has a visibly oversized cyberhand. He also takes this opportunity to upgrade some of his old ‘ware to alpha grade, freeing up a little essence.
Him and Jaro head back to Mars City, she’s a little frosty, but they part on decent enough terms. UB! doesn’t feel like he either succeeded or failed at getting closer to Jaro, and hopes for better luck in the future. He decides he needs his own ride, though, and purchases a Scoot brand scooter, as it’s all he can afford. He upgrades the armor a bit, and rides around getting the rest of the gear he thinks he will need, after the team informs him of the spaceport plan. he gets a new ‘soft, a chute, and a grapple gun, and feels pretty ready to go.
K attends a meeting of HOotCL a day after the mansion raid. He travels invisibly through the undercity, then hires a cab and dons a dustmask (for pollution, he says) once he reaches the uppercity. He is still somewhat injured from the last run, but is eager to initiate, and so goes ahead with it. The meeting proceeds as normal, although many members seem not to recognize K, as he had previously attended with bandaged face. Feeling his usual uncharismatic self, he tries to participate appropriately, and makes a few good points without making an ass of himself.
After a few hours of talk, Thompson introduces the topic of K’s initiation, and asks K to leave so they can vote, and adds that he can say some short remarks if he wishes. K tries to keep it simple, and short. He fails to impress, but doesn’t totally flop, and on that note he leaves. He walks a short ways down the block from the cafe, and leans against a wall. he is trying to keep calm, but slips into panic a few times. About half an hour passes before one of the group members summons him in. The rest of the group is sitting in a semi-circle facing him, with an open spot for him to sit. They all appear fairly neutral. He initially attempts to match their expressions, but quickly abandons this and allows himself to appear nervous.
Thompson says that they had a very close vote, and that he is pleased to announce that K has been authorized to initiate in the HOotCL at level 1, as a provisional member. The vote was 7-5, so K knows there are some who opposed his joining, but Thompson and Gavral seem to have pushed heavily for him in thanks for the jobs he has done for them. K thanks everyone, and makes an effort to remember everyone’s names. Thompson tells him the time and place of the ceremony, tomorrow, in the warehouse district near the spaceport highway. The meeting slowly disbands, and K heads to the site to scout.
He finds the building alright (via cab again, to avoid detection by LoneStar), and doesn’t notice anything obvious nearby that looks like a threat or trap. However, the building blocks his attempts to astrally enter, with some sort of astral security. K recognizes that it is not a mana barrier, as those have a specific presence, but something more mundane (and also more permanent). So he deduces that this is a regular testing facility, and goes and finds a nearby hotel recommended by th cabbie to hole up til the morning. He orders some food (and three wakeup calls) and then tries to center himself and rest. He is too nervous to do very well at this, though he does eventually manage some sleep. He has a healthy breakfast early the next morning, and arrives at the test site two hours early.
He passes the first hour alright, but then starts to freak out and feel queasy, but gets in it hand just as two cars pull into the lot, and 6 cloaked figures enter the warehouse. The last one in beckons K to the door. K approaches, and enters the warehouse. He is still unable to assense thru the walls, and feels disconnected from his usual manasphere as soon as he enters the building. He looks about, and all he sees is a spiral staircase far across the warehouse, with a single dim light shining down on it. He sees some weird flashes at the edges of his vision as he enters, but can’t pinpoint them, so ignores them, but is put a bit on guard. He flies towards, but slams into an invisible barrier on the way, taking light damage. He determines (astrally) that it is a dual barrier, and destroys it with spellcraft. It shatters, revealing rows and stacks of boxes reaching to the ceiling. There is one obvious entry point, but K knocks some other boxes aside to find a different way in.
he begins traveling through the crate maze, taking his time and proceeding cautiously to avoid further surprises. He eventually emerges on the other side, and sees the stairs ahead again. However, he also senses two astral presences approaching, and prepares spells to defend himself. Two firey forms coalesce out of the aether, and charge in for the attack. K hastens his responses, and begins launching powerbolts at the elementals. They attack him physically, and begin lighting the crate maze on fire. K fells one, but the other goes still, and he feels his astral presence under attack. He switches to astral space, and is nearly ko’d by the elemental there, using a dead man’s trigger to cast a healing spell on himself, and maintaining consciousness. He finishes off the elemental, and goes back to meatspace.
He slaps a second stimpatch on himself, having used one earlier to overcome drain damage, and heads towards the stair. The fire is raging out of control behind him. He seems unable to make any progress, every step he takes, the building seems to move with him, as if he is walking in place. Recognizing the effects as a powerful illusion spell, he manages to just barely wrench his mind free, and slogging forward as if thru molasses eventually reaches the stair, still feeling the increasing ambient heat of the fire growing behind him. He ascends the stairs.
As soon as he reaches the top, all light goes out, and he loses his connection to the manasphere completely. He can barely see his hand in front of his face, and all of a sudden, he is confronted all around him with images of disasters from his past-every time he has failed, or embarrassed himself. The parachuting accident in which he lost his legs replays again and again. As he pushes forward thru the images (on sheer force of will), some of the images become different versions of events which occurred to him: things that he did right or well, but which now play back as failures, deaths, and disasters. He is panicking, and it is getting darker and darker: he is totally isolated, his magic gone, all his senses bombarded by his failures. But still, he manages to push on….
And finally lays his hand on a doorknob. Swinging it open, he feels his magic return, and sees the six cloaked figures gathered in a semi-circle around a ritual marking on the floor. They beckon him into the center, and congragulate him on passing the tests, both physical and mental. He is now to be initiated, having completed his Deed. They require him to provide a ritual sample (hair, blood, nail clippings, etc) both for this ritual, and to tie him permanently to the group. He agrees, and they begin. K can feel his awareness of the magical world growing as the figures around him chant and gesture….
Next up: The Spaceport!