Otters aka Roadkill
ChewGum heads out to restock on reagents and look into the rumors of strange animal attacks that The Detective picked up. Cholula continues prowling the permanent twilight feeling strangely at home. The rest of the team starts looking into “new dragon in town” rumors for Howell. Based on his initial intel, they head Downtown, with Dig arriving first in bird form. He does some astral investigation and finds some talismongers harvesting reagents, who take a shot at him when they spot a “magical bird.”
He then becomes a man to try to explain, and they take another shot at him, thinking he’s a shapeshifter- these don’t seem like ethical talismongers. He eventually convinces them he’s just a mage, and tries to get some info out of them but fails to catch them in an obvious lie and retreats. Meanwhile, Creep and TD encounter an Order of St. George foot patrol- 2 archers and 2 broadsword wielders in medieval appearing but seemingly modern armor. They approach peacefully and TD makes a judgement call to not try to ape their archaic speech patterns in case they take it as an insult.
The OoSG knights explain that they too have heard rumors of a dragon, and are hunting it as all foul wyrms are a threat to metahumanity. They seem excited to be hunting “worthy prey” instead of merely nests of ghouls and other flesh-eaters. They also obliquely praise strong leaders of a fascist variety to these don’t seem like good people either. Unfortunately, they do seem very well-equipped and capable, the team was hoping they were just LARPers.
They manage to exchange some info though, and get shown a high quality sketch of the dragon on a scroll that the knights say is a composite from multiple “enhanced interviews” with witnesses. After the knights also reveal that they are hunting a nest of ghouls in Windsor that the team figures out is some friends of theirs, they quickly make their exit and plan to warn their allies. Creep and TD finally arrive to Dig’s location on foot, and they track the pair of talismongers down again, with Creep hanging back in case of trouble. TD has better luck socially, and manages to bribe them with a certified credstick for some info.
They’ve heard rumors of dragon sightings from some sketchy street contacts and are looking for any kind of windfall- scales, spit, shit, whatever- anything from a dragon in valuable. They explain that their contacts are mostly addicts and street people of various sorts, and that many members of both groups are ending up Downtown as it’s a bit of an open/chaotic zone right now, with large swaths under noone’s control. They pass along a description, which matches the OoSG sketch, and also say their contacts refer to the dragon as “she” for some reason.
TD thanks them, and after refusing to purchase any of their sketchy wares from inside their voluminous coats, they head out to seek out a street reporter named Miles Two-Go that might have more info. They find him along with a bunch of riggers and gangers hanging out in the Scar zone- Dig is still feeling a bit bad there from the strange mana ebb but not as strongly as before. The crowd here seems to be racing modded vehicles that they’ve attached space rocket boosters too, having hauled a bunch over on horses and carts from the ARESpace/EvoSpace facility out by Knight International.
They meet the man in charge, a troll named Wood Raven, who seems like a philosophical speed demon, but explains he’s trying to give all the riggers and go-gangers in town something positive to do so they don’t totally lose their shit. The team chats a bit with a few Ancients that Creep recognizes from the prison break, and they also warn Lunatech (from the Windsor crew) about the OoSG threat, and she says she has to go make some radio calls. They also manage to get a few other Ancients freed from an obviously annoying conversation with the reporter they seek.
They find that Miles Two-Go is a scoop-chasing conflict zone photojournalist, and another mediocre-to-bad person. He seem full of himself, sleazy, and annoying, though not unskilled. He shows them some partial images of the dragon he’s managed to capture with some bashed together old-tech trail cams he’s rigged up around Downtown. He explains that if he got some kind of crude mesh network up and running he could get the cams to talk to each other and likely get better images as they could retarget on the fly based on each previous cams data.
The team agrees to help him out, reluctantly, but recognizes that they can use and then abandon him at least. Feeling like they’ve got enough for now, they head back to the safehouse to link up with Otters, who has been charging and prepping her drones for the night ahead. They stop on the way to steal some formal wear (black suit and tux) from a prom store Downtown that hasn’t been looted yet. Otters drives them to Casa Aurelius, and they find the exclusive gated neighborhood still has a few lights on, it looks like some industrial generators are powering guard station lights at the checkpoint entrances as well as some street lights and other public features.
if any of the visible mansions that rise over the security wall have lights on, they’re keeping it to themselves- candles, chemlights and the like are all that is otherwise visible. The team heads in- SIN scanners are still down so they breeze through with their gala tickets, with Dig as a mouse hidden in Creep’s pocket, and Creep hidden in the smuggling compartment. They stop at another fancy clothes store, this one seems to be open, and get some accoutrements and additional items to spruce up their looks, though the proprietor seems annoyed at being unable to custom tailor the garments at the moment.
TD successfully navigates the uptight rich lady social dynamic though, and they head to the gala, with Creep and Dig sneaking out a few blocks away. TD and Otters wait in the van til Dig and Creep make their entrance to make sure there aren’t any issues that require assistance or extraction. Dig creates an illusion of some teens setting off fireworks and cursing at the guards before running away, with Creep using a carefully buried flashbang to help sell it. The guards give chase, and Creep manages to melt a small hole in the door just before another pair of guards comes around the building to replace them.
Dig shifts into cockroach form, and squeezes through the welded hole, turning back to a man inside and pushing the door open for Creep. Creep is appalled at Dig’s lack of stealth in doing so, especially since the only reason the fire alarm didn’t go off appears to be the lack of wireless. They sneak up to the 3rd floor and find a weird shielded data cube with no ports and a number of cables running out of it. It looks newly, but securely, installed. Creep tries to get a data tap into one of the cables, but they seem to be outputting electricity only- nothing goes in, and no data goes either way. A mystery!
Meanwhile, TD and Otters successfully enter, passing through a mana barrier after showing their tickets to the bored teens and young adults staffing the gala. The security staff seems much more alert and competent, but still a bit complacent inside. They find a candlelit event room, 3 stories high, topped with a cupola letting in some of the strange starlight. An 8-person orchestra is playing some atonal modern classical that seem to be creating an audio dithering effect, allowing for the feel of a full room of people talking while also creating some privacy for the individual conversations.
They take a quick survey of the room, and notice some interesting individuals around, as well as few friendly faces (Ringmaster, Pretty, and Ellis are all in attendance). Upstairs, Creep and Dig have managed to sneak into the ductwork and navigate to a duct overlooking the gala, and successfully manage to hand off the device they snuck in to TD via sleight of hand, without security noticing anything. However, a few people in the crowd seem perhaps to have spotted it- interesting.
Creep and Dig surveil astrally and aurally while TD and Otters begin circulating. The pair on foot initially spend some not very productive time talking to a city councilor (the lone survivor of the Shadow attack on the council), who is speaking to an empty chair. After TD determines that no entity occupies the chair, and that the man seems to be badly in the grip of PTSD, they make a polite exit. Creep overhears the museum curator and host, Stella Hoargrave, doing her bubbly socialite thing, but seemingly with a bit of a frantic edge. She performs her one tiny magical ability of making small lights over and over with a canned bit about it finally being useful.
Dig spots a few different magical beings in the crowd, but focuses his efforts on seeking anyone with knowledge of technomancer kidnapping. His first spotting: Rose and SINder! A technomancer and her brother, who seem to be thinking a lot about missing TM’s. Also, this is likely the other runner team that Howell told them would be doing the other half of the job while the team carries around the device he gave them. Dig decides not to make contact, but tells the rest of the team that the pair is there.
Otters and TD next approaches two very fashionable elf woman, both of whom might have witnessed the device handoff. The first seems to be a Nadja clone (or Nadja Daviar herself?) and they steer clear for now, but the second woman has eyes perfectly matching the description and image of the dragon! She introduces herself as Brunwyn Harridan, and her bodyguard as Baritone, and seems delighted to make their acquaintance. Otters advertises herself as a local expert, and they set up a meeting for the following day to discuss things further, before Brunwyn gets back to socializing.
Otters then heads over to chat with some professorial looking types, happy to hear that they are discussing hard sciences instead of liberal arts, but fails to insert himself into their convo until TD makes it work. They discuss the rift and the footage Otters got inside the Scar right after it was created, as well as both prof’s theories- Simone Palomer is an astral travel expert and Vinh Trong is a “rules of magic” specialist, carrying a large bound tome mounted to his chest in a modified baby bjorn.
After they say their goodbyes with a promise to continue sharing info, Otters heads off to chat up Red, the vampire, and TD heads over to a mysterious troll woman who seems noticeably unobtrusive to TD’s studied eye. Red seems amiable and he and Otters chat for a bit about threats in town and the worsening situation for the Infected in Chicago. TD finally manages to corner the troll woman, and discovers that it is Patricia Loveland, who agrees to talk after confirming that “the abomination” (aka Cholula) is not present.
Loveland warns TD again about the threat of even “friendly” bugs, and TD tries to counter with more experiential data, which Loveland brushes off, saying she’s read the Jackpoint posts, and disagrees with the Monad comparison. Unable to reach a common ground on BETAS, they agree to leave it there for now and discuss other issues. Loveland shares some info about other party guests as a sign of good faith- her fellow expat DeeCee operatives Cass Wandering Horse and Sahara Jones (now working for STV it seems) are both there, as is an AZT mage named Cehualli and a few other interesting individuals.
Otters helps ID one of them, a buff troll woman, as an ARES heavy hitter named Ruby- kind of a one-woman clean-up crew. Both she and Loveland wonder why ARES left Ruby behind, and who she might be hunting. The whole crowd also turns to watch the final, stylishly late, attendees arrive- a Tir royal throuple, entering ethereally bedecked in high Elven fashion. Otters makes a quick stylistic analysis and guesses they are Tir Tairngire rather than Tir na nOg, but isn’t sure. Regardless, intriguing….
Dig, hiding still and magically scanning, spots the newest member of his magical order, Freddy Bales, introducing an older also visibly wealthy man who could be his father to the 2 professors. Loveland hints to TD of Black Lodge presence in town. The team spots Julia Pesina wandering the crowd with her ever-more battered camera drone Grover in tow, filming guests and getting short interviews, though some guests seems to intentionally avoid her. TD heads over to the AZT mage after Otters confirms with Red that the farm and their neighbors have been suffering some crop failures, and warns them of the corrupted AttakPak snacks.
TD tries to shock the mage into admitting some knowledge of corruption or other things but he manages to get them on their backfoot instead by referencing the team’s extensive recent use of Tarot cards. He suggests he’s just as happy to be an enemy as a friend, and TD chooses friend (for now at least). They have some loaded banter for a while before Cehualli suggests they ought to discuss things further soon, in more privacy. As this convo wraps up, Dig finally gets another hit on his spell: one of the guards is thinking of kidnapping TM’s! Dig ID’s the guard to the rest of the crew and they start pivoting the job over into a kidnap mission.