and introducing Avocado and Teeth
Holly attempts to take the Executioner out with spellcraft, but is felled themselves by a powerful air spirit. Guy’s air spirit takes out the Black Lodge spirit enveloping Holly, and Kinnie dives out the window to catch Holly before she crashes into the ground, and then spirits him back to the safehouse to do some emergency medical interventions. 6C fires on the Exec from cover upstairs, while doing his best to dodge the return fire/spells, giving Hotkey time to do some desperate remote hacking on the terminals that possessed Agent X was trying to access.
It looks like the shedim got part of the way into the hardwired system, but haven’t disarmed the data bombs yet, so HK does some quick work and gets 2 out of 3 files before the system is destroyed in the spell battle and he gets dumpshocked. He starts sifting through data while the rest of the team exfiltrates. 6C with a spirit using its movement power on him is able to outrun the Exec on foot as a distraction while the rest slip out the back. The Exec wrecks their van though, so Guy dips into his savings to get an even beefier one for their next showdown.
6C heads straight for STV, not wanting the Exec to be able to track him via the mark back to the safehouse, and helps fend off the tail end of a shedim attack. Schmidt has lost an eye in the melee, and it seems like a number of STV employees were injured or killed- the shedim seem to have used suicide Hoppers to breach the exterior defenses, in search of artifacts that weren’t actually there- apparently the BL got one over on them. While the rest of the team examines the data at the safehouse, Aylin heads to Georgetown to check on them, and finds the tail end of a bug assault on their hidden vaults- she is too injured to get involved, as is the rest of the team, and records from hiding while some FedPol shock troops kill the last bugs, as well as the magical Catholics, with some FABIII sprayers, and make off with some artifacts, after grenading the civilians that Radha Ran was trying to protect.
Back at the safehouse they find the BL’s ultimate plan: they’re going to use some power site downtown as a trap, and lure both bugs and shedim there. The Exec will kill as many as possible while a BL ritual circle channels that energy into a massive sacrifice ritual allowing them to take full control over the Spirit of the City of DC, giving the BL full magical supremacy there. The team is obviously worried about this possibility, and makes plans to escape town after trying to stop it, no matter which way it goes. They make a deal with Schmidt to sell her the info exclusively for now and release it after, as per Agent X’s wishes, and to only share public safety relevant portions ahead of time. They also give Fargus Sol Aylin’s vid from Georgetown, and some of the info.
He helps them set up a deal with the IOND to safely siphon off some of the magical energy from the BL ritual, only possible if the team can kill the Exec, preferably with his own blade (as he will be the focal point). Sol warns that the IOND will surely turn this to their advantage locally, but they’re definitely a less evil option. The team also gets a video from Ben Maddox of him launching a suicide attack on a convoy carrying President Colloton’s head of security, Evan Corcoran, who Maddox is sure is a shedim. He uses a FABIII grenade that causes some permanent astral scarring on a block of downtown. The team makes a plan, gears up, and hires some backup: the free spirits from the bank vault will help provide some additional counterspelling support, and a new-in-town Face with a decent rep, named Avocado, helps them get some more money out of Schmidt, and agrees to run leadership over the TacNet for the upcoming battle.
They get word that it will take place at the Washington Monument, on the National Mall, using a disgruntled STV employee as a lure- it seems the BL had a second mole inside. He is rumored to be carrying the Devil’s Seal, which the team knows is secure with Arleesh, so they’re sure this is the trap that X warned of. They also make plans to give the 2 blades to Arleesh, if they can get them. They take Guy’s new SWAT tank on the road, and Avocado bluffs their way past the cordons enforcing the military curfew around Downtown and the Capitol. Hotkey hacks their vehicle ID into the shedim forces IFF system and they sneak up through their lines, creeped out by the fact that the ritual that the BL is doing, using the Washington Monument as a focal point, appears to have created an astral shallow opening onto some bizarre metaplane.
Kinnie, using drones, spots the Executioner slaying foes, and Guy sends up a spirit along with Aylin to kill his ally spirit. They succeed but Aylin is badly injured and Guy’s spirit is destroyed. They race up in the tank, dodging spellcraft and missiles, and the mages on the team dispell his sustained magic armor. Kinnie tries to pin him with a grav grenade, and manages to snag a lot of bugs and shedim, but the Executioner escapes and nearly slays Kinnie. Aylin and Holly are both killed in the ensuing battle, though Avocado manages to slap some trauma patches on Aylin in time to save her. Holly vanishes however. The tank is destroyed by spells and explosives, but due to sustained fire, dispelling, and offensive magic, they finally take the Executioner down, which helps break the BL line and send the ritual out of control as the bugs and shedim overwhelm them. The surviving team members hunker down under layered alchemical barriers and barely ride out the ensuing magical explosion, which levels the monument, as well as much of the battlefield, and seems to close the astral shallow as well.
Some of the energy is safely channeled off, and they manage to get the 2 swords safely to Arleesh in the ensuing confusion and chaos, getting 2 Tarot cards in reward. Trading and selling info they gained in the process of this lengthy investigation, they also get some updates over the next few days as they rearm, heal, and get some new magic and implants sorted. The Black Lodge seems to have lost a lot of their local leaders due to the psychic feedback of the ritual’s disruption, but they likely still have local infiltrators throughout government and corporate structures. The Keyholders (the 3 not lost to the Shedim anyway) have apparently relocated to St Louis, prompting some curiosity about what sort of things the BL might have smuggled in while helping construct the Archology there, using metaplanar materials.
Reports of more Project: Apex strikes throughout DC and a lot of MeFeeds of urbex types wandering around in abandoned hives and dens suggest that the bugs seem to have moved on as well- or been forced to. Is ARES actually living up to their word? Meanwhile, the shedim seem to have cleared out en masse where possible, due to losing some of their high level government connections. They presumably still have military ties, and reports circulate of newly unkillable guards showing up in MCT Zero Zones, due to their merger with Apep Consortium, which the team now knows has deep shedim ties. They also hear of gatherings of shedim in Yakut near the Tunguska crater and outside Kinshasa, in the Congo.
Meanwhile, the corps are using the recent instability and “major terrorist event” resulting in the destruction of the Washington monument as proof that President Colloton is out of touch and that citizens would be wise to turn to the corps for protection. The embattled president is looking less and less likely to be able to get her chosen successor to victory in the upcoming election. And the IOND seem to emerge the big winners, although with a lot on their plate: the local manasphere is somewhat shattered and the Spirit of the City is reported to be damaged from the attempt at binding it to the BL’s will. However, local leylines have already shifted in some ways advantageous to the IOND, and they have taken possession of a strange mana pool at the site of the failed ritual, with reports of healing “miracles” already appearing in the local press.
The team decides it’s time to clear out, and Fargus Sol gives them another job from Arleesh to tackle in NYC, as well as the final job they owe to STV. Schmidt also says she’ll be in touch with future needs, as the team has proven their worth. Sol introduces them to an IOND-affiliated mage named Teeth, an older man who was called to town to help with their ritual subversion. He is NYC based and has some useful contacts there, so he and the team agree to cooperate for now. They prepare to head north, and put DC comfortably in the rearview, happy to see the end of it. Unfortunately, Guy pulls a vanishing act just before they’re all about to leave, with the following letter:
It’s been real. I’m done. I’m going somewhere far away now. I’m looking forward to some time with just Berto and me, and I’m going to get closer to Akavish and my spirituality. I’ve already bought myself out of this last mission with Madeline, so you’re all good there. Also I’m leaving you my fucking bad ass Suzuki Mirage which is worth like 40 grand, and here’s my pull from the last job for group funds, so hopefully that softens the blow a bit. Although if running has taught me anything, nuyen ain’t got shit on rep, so <shrugging>.
I’ve had a very good run with this crew, but I’m tired of losing friends, you know?
Plus now I won’t have to worry about those fucking rules anymore.
Stay golden, Chummers.