Otters aka Roadkill
and introducing: The Detective
With the disturbing news about the disappearance (or at least the disappearance from sensors) of the UCAS Army III Corps, as well as the nearby town of Dutchville, PA, the team has a mildly fraught morning discussing possibilities, exit strategies, and survival plans. Otters is glad she got her reflex augment surgery in beforehand as this is likely to make things even scarcer and more expensive. Chew Gum returns from learning a new necromantic ritual from Li Wei, who seems a bit creepier than the team file had previously suggested. He also buys a Mortis Optigram off of Smoach and Myrryr who say that they just kept it around on the off-chance and can’t actually use it.
Meanwhile, across town, The Detective finally emerges from their depressive state/bath after grieving Locke’s death for a week. Absent their protege and source of street intel, they feel it is perhaps finally time to get back out there themselves, work the angles. Having also caught the radio broadcast about the III Corps mystery, The Detective is hooked and on the case. They can only think of one obvious place to turn initially- the team Locke was running with before their death. The Detective chooses Tabasco to reach out to, based on the limited psych workup they have done on the crew from Locke’s reports.
Tabasco, quickly feeling a bit out of his depth, brings most of the rest of the team in on the call, absent Dig who is sealing the mafia hole up and currently unreachable. They all agree to meet The Detective and suggest the Tin Can bar, which Locke seems to have not told The Detective is right in front of their safehouse (score one for team norms). They debrief a bit back and forth, commiserate about Locke’s untimely passing, and discuss some ongoing mysteries: Tarot, Fear The Dark, III Corps. Most of the crew claims to not be in the world saving business so The Detective pays them a decent consulting fee for the info share.
An urgent call to a meeting at the Platinum Zone comes over the bar’s radio setup, and Marv manages to punch a message through to The Detective with an invite as well, so they all load into the team van and then drive down. Otters does some impressive sneaky driving while the others keep lookout- they see that the 77th Independent Rangers are policing their zone as well so they have their Irregulars transponder ready to broadcast if needed, but don’t get spotted. It looks like the large pack of ALPHAS on the north edge of Downtown have been driven off or moved on, also, leaving devastation in their wake.
They reach the Plat Zone with no trouble and start to head inside but get halted by security who recognize Chew Gum’s corpse spirit host as one of the would-be assassins from the last big meeting. They go to tackle the spirit and luckily Tabasco intervenes and explains before CG is able to try to use mental manipulation powers on the guards, as Tabasco remembers there is constant magical surveillance as well. They check their corpse spirit at the door and head in. They get ushered over into the Brickhouse side through knocked in interior passages along the block, it seems increasingly fortified every time they visit.
Waiting there are the Irregular command: Ringmaster, setting up an AR projector deck, Ravenheart looking calm and collected, and Rifleman, all keyed up, Marv greets The Detective as they enter but is otherwise hanging back for this. Once enough Irregulars have arrived, Ringmaster starts the presentation. Bad news: not only has III Corps vanished or dropped off sensors (both worrying), Jackpoint, The Nexus, Frozen Shadows, and Asgard Data Haven all appear to have been taken down. They present the last batch of messages that Electric Blue was able to pull before getting badly dump shocked, and it looks bad- a coordinated attack shortly after the III Corps news came through.
Without easy outside access to funding, recruitment, and buyers, Ringmaster warns that Irregulars will be seeing reduced support and pay, though they will continue to do what they can. Most of the mercs grumble but hang with it- this was a volunteer position after all. Some of the locals and some of the out of towners bail, resigning their commissions, but most stay. Although they can’t really afford even those losses, Ringmaster sells it as a further loyalty test: now everyone knows that the ones who remain are there for the right reasons and will have each other’s backs, whatever comes next.
Tabasco tries to broach some speculations about what caused all this, and gets shut down on doing it publically, but Ringmaster tells everyone to share any intel with leadership- they need to be on their toes and not engaging in wild speculation at the moment. Still, plenty of rumors are circulating the room, from the plausible to the truly outlandish. The team also notices there are more ghouls mixed into the Irregulars than previous- more arrivals from Chicago perhaps? They head to the back to share their suspicions with the leadership.
When in the back, Ringmaster seals it up and tells them it’s a newly installed Faraday cage. He also runs a white noise machine and scans everyone for bugs, as well as instructing everyone to disable recording and comms. They all do, and the team suggests that the attack on the boards was likely the fault of the Null Sect. They hardwire a copy of the Null Doc to Ringmaster, who confirms that he has heard of the NS, though the team has more specific info on them than he does. The Detective sits in the corner taking frantic notes: another mystery! The rest of leadership is unfamiliar, but gets brought quickly up to speed, with Ringmaster reinforcing the team’s dire warning about ANY digital transmission involving the NS.
They get some more intel than was shared publicly as well, and are given a month-long codebook, to go old school with radio encryption. Creep secrets it away on his person, and they are told to destroy it if they look likely to be captured or killed.Most of the other Irregular units will just get daily code books with their assignments for the day, but some of the more specialist crews and farther flung operators are getting longer term ones to reduce travel risk. While the team is driving back they have an internal discussion about what to do with The Detective, since they already know so much.
They sit down at the Tin Can and gets some drinks, with Tabasco getting Iva to fashion him a drinking pipe/horn to get around his junkyard jaw “drinking problems” (i.e. cutting up glasses and mugs). After some further interviewing, they pass The Detective the team norms, which they eagerly sign, and the team adds them to the team file, with a warning that they can’t just instantly rabbit hole on all the info and need to also do some work. The Detective agrees, and seems to think they just won’t sleep for a while maybe. On the night’s RFD broadcast, they hear that ARES has cut loose The Cutters, after their leader refused to throw a bunch of her people into a meat grinder suicide mission in the Downtown tunnels. They’ve pulled back from positions around the city and taken over a large old bank Downtown as an HQ. Tabasco tries to call his “uncle” Don Michaels, and finds out that he’s too late- Michaels was killed in the fighting.
They all crash at the safehouse, and awaken to a meeting request from Ellis. Heading north, they sneak out of the No-Go-Zone, with Otters once again showing off her skills. They reach the Mackenzie Arcology overlooking the Blight, and enter. The Maulers look to have taken back their turf after the Cutters pulled back. Otters exchanges brief nods and chat with them, confirming that the smuggling tunnels under the Arcology into the Blight are still open if needed. They use the access codes Ellis provided to head up a few floors and head into the unit they were told.
They find Ellis there, along with Praxis, who noone on the team had seen since late Chicago, and who is the only Desolation Angel present. Also there are Pretty and Needles from Long Pig Farms and a few more ghouls the team doesn’t know, who look like heavy hitters. Everyone is armed and armored but not showing any aggression. Ellis invites them to sit and they do. She asks that they hear her out, and then if they’re willing to work together, Praxis will offer them a job. She begins.
Ellis explains that she has found an alternate path forward for both metahumanity and insect spirits: the true voluntary merge. She says that as it can only be entered willingly by both sides, it differs from any other previous merges, though she modeled the concept off of the Desolation Angel mantid merges, which are voluntary but still largely consume the original host, leaving some memories, personality etc intact and present but not exactly in charge. Ellis says she is terming the new process the “BETA” to counter the macho/destructive ALPHA program.
Chew Gum gets suspicious and assenses both Ellis and Praxis, and sees that their auras look weirdly similar, though in Praxis’ case the bug aspect seems dominant, whereas in Elli’s case both seem equal. CG also notices Ellis drop her impressive aura making to let him see this. Inquiring what exactly she did, she explains that she was forced to merge with the nymph sample that previous team members secured for her in Chicago, when her lab was raided and the current team wasn’t able to get her out in time. She explains that she had planned to appeal to Vogel for continued funding and protection while she kept investigating her “alternate path”, but that now she has moved completely beyond that and believes ARES has nothing to offer her.
Also, while she trusts Vogel more than anyone else who might end up in charge, she doesn’t think he really has what it takes to cleanse the corp of it’s internal evils to the extent necessary. She does explain that she can replicate the BETA process on others, and plans to, though she reiterates that it requires willingness on both ends- ALPHAS were willing humans with forced bugs, initially, and now are something else, and worse, with their ability to breed, which she admit was a terrible feature to include. And standard bug is an unwilling host with a willing bug. She compares it to being more similar to Monad-ism, in terms of synergistically merging personalities. CG concedes that this does appear to be astrally accurate, but the team has some intense internal discussion about what to do.
Deciding that even if they wanted to (which most don’t but some do), they couldn’t take out Ellis and survive, they decide to take Praxis’ job for now and discuss more later. Pretty also explains that Ellis is continuing to help develop sustainable ghoul food in her free time, and the ghouls seems to treat her a bit reverently, as she also tipped them off to ALPHA edibility. Praxis explains that with the Cutters pulled back, ARES’ private prisons are notably understaffed- there’s one main facility they brought the gangers they rounded up to, and have been recruiting out of for tunnel rat missions. Praxis wants the other Desolation Angels out, and suggests the team could make some new friends by freeing others as well, if they want.
She also explains that she has no desire to kill Ellis, even as a dedicated bug hunter who needs to consume bugs to breed. She seems to be of her right mind and speaking freely as far as the team can tell, and seems to have fully bough into Ellis’ plan. Tabasco also asks the ghouls if there are ghoul gourmands who would like to feast on specific ALPHA parts and they seem interested. So for now, the team leaves, and starts planning a prison break!