Otters aka Roadkill
Locke announces they’ll be sitting this one out to make contact with some local allies, look further into the Tarot and Prophecies, and similar. They stay behind at the Platinum Zone to make use of their comms. The rest of the team prepares to head out, though Marv tells them to return by the next evening, as they’re planning a “big meeting” of some sort that the team should be at. They head out after debating what to look into first.
They cut around the main battle sites successfully, swinging out into Dearborn and finding only isolated bug outbreaks nearby. Luckily for the team, this means the underequipped KE troops guarding the Zone perimeters have their hands full, so the team easily bypasses them. Noticing a ton of air traffic at Knight Int’l Aerospaceport, they make a brief diversion to surveil. it looks like since that massive detonation at the FOB on Belle Isle, ARES has rerouted their air support, refueling and resupply here. The ground crews seem understaffed and frantic, and it looks like they’re running midair refueling flights as well to try to keep their drones in the air.
Useful intel! But back to the task at hand, the team continues South, and cuts over Grosse Isle into Windsor, swinging southeast to the park area where Otters instructed the sub to drop Julia Pesina off. Otters gets some pings from sub equipment but can’t make a direct connection, and when they arrive, Dig (as a dolphin) finds some of the sub’s armor and sensors have been blown off and are floating nearby. No sign of the vessel itself, so they hope it survived whatever happened here. Looking around, Creep and Otters piece together that Pesina seems to have crawled ashore and then been grabbed by what looks to be 2 shoeless ghouls.
The team tracks the ghouls back to a necropolis in central Windsor, and while surveilling from the perimeter see that the place is crawling with ghouls, with a high proportion of ferals. This is a recent change, as the team had scoped this place out for threats a few weeks back before renting their bolthole garage space nearby. They spot one friendly seeming ghoul approaching them, and Creep makes awkward contact. The ghoul, dressed as a pirate, introduces himself as Smee, and says that he saw a woman get carried, semi-conscious, into the cemetery, and offers to help. The team accepts.
Smee explains that he is a “Topsider”, one of the rare ghouls tolerated by ARES to live above the surface. He says most residents of Detroit are unaware of the quite large ghoul population that exists underground (who he calls “Downsiders”). Tabasco gets hung up on the Top vs Down distinction, convinced there are better linguistic options. Smee continues: the Topsiders want to ensure that the local populace doesn’t view ghouls universally as a threat (though some certainly are), so if the team will agree to put in a good word with their allies, he will introduce them to a ghoul gang called the Skins. The team agrees.
Creep and Otters sneak into the cemetery, though Otters quickly falls back when she notices some of the ferals sniffing around after her. Creep follows Smee to a mausoleum where they find some decently armed and armored ghouls waiting. Creep is introduced to their leader, Rains, and notices that they all seem equipped with a mishmash of KE gear and some seemingly prototype weaponry. He doesn’t enquire further, but the team has heard rumors of the KE tradition of needing to get a ghoul skin in the underground to join Firewatch, so presumably this is the other side of how that can go.
Rains agrees to the deal that Smee made, and the Skins and Creep head over to where the ferals are preparing to feast. Otters pilots the VTOL in for a quick rescue and some medical attention. The Skins breach through the back wall, grab Pesina, and chuck her in the VTOL, while Creep blasts a feral trying to grab hold of it as well. He sneaks back out of the cemetery and Smee tells them where they can contact him again if needed.
Otters checks on Pesina via the drone’s internal medical feeds, and finds that she is injured, but luckily not infected with HMHVV. She seems pretty drugged and out of it, so they have a brief convo and then he sends her to the Platinum Zone, giving Marv a heads up that she’s inbound. The team continues North to figure out what happened on Belle Isle, but come under attack from some of Otto’s troops, who are guarding their Southern perimeter as well as the Northern side. Otters almost eats a Gauss round, but Tabasco dives in the way and takes the hit, before the team retreats while CG’s spirits cause trouble for the soldiers shooting at them.
They do a bit more recon, and determine that roughly half of the visible forces in Otto’s area seem to be illusory, so they find a better place to sneak through, ditching the spirits for now since they are too magically obvious. They reach the bridge to Belle Isle and find it bombed out, though still barely crossable by pedestrians. CG barely dodges a sniper round before the team makes it the relative safety of the Isle.They find it a smoking ruin- the ARES air base seems to have been fully ignited- fuel, weapons, etc burning at such an extreme heat as to destroy the structures on hand and effectively cremate the personnel caught in the blast.
Doing some magical investigation, Dig finds that some number of personnel were killed before the explosion and piled up, and that much of the damage was done with Gauss rifles and other bizarro science weapons, so they suspect Otto’s troops were behind this- the illusion would be good cover for secret troop movements! They also find that the explosions were triggered by planted charges and not aerial bombardment, so it doesn’t seem likely that the forces here were overrun, especially given the lack of any sign of bugs. The eastern half of the isle seems in better shape, with some park buildings, wilderness areas, and water treatment facilities still largely intact, though currently seemingly unoccupied due to the toxic smoke from the chemicals still burning at the temporary airbase.
The team sneaks north again, finding the bridge once again too damaged for vehicles but traversable by pedestrians- seemingly designed to helped bugs and/or special ops more so than ARES military with their reliance on groundcraft. They cut around the main battle site Downtown, which seems to have contracted a bit, and find the other Zones have kind of sprawled out into multiple small/scattered engagements, some of which are quite mobile. They also barely avoid some loose Alphas rampaging around south Oakland/North Downtown before finally reaching the Platinum Zone.
Heading inside, they find the place filling up for the “big meeting”. They spot Carol, and grab a booth to catch up. They sell him the Malakim info as promised, and he shares some of Vogel’s plans, as well as giving the team another job- to look into some high level infiltrators in ARES known as “68G”- could these two things be connected? Creep also accidentally gives up the info about Otto being behind the destruction on Belle Isle, and Dig has to remind him about info exclusivity etc. Carol gives them a hefty payout, and they head over to talk to Ringmaster, giving him the recon report from the day. He doesn’t seem overly distressed that Carol knows about Belle Isle, but the team gets the impression that may not always be the case.
He also pays up, and gives them a few follow ups and updates, and is impressed by their extra recon re: ghouls, the airport, Otto’s illusions, etc. The team also sees Pesina up and about, quietly narrating events to a cam drone while stomping around in a medical boot. She gives them the “let’s talk after” look. Everyone starts to hush up as the meeting begins. Locke and Otters are a little surprised to recognize the woman they smuggled in, now out of disguise, as Colonel Anne Ravenheart, the former head of Firewatch, now leader of the Freewatch bug fighting org, last seen in Chicago under attack from ARES. She is accompanied by Li Wei, the man they smuggled in with her, who is wearing a red crystal cybereye, which Tabasco thinks is likely a blood crystal, a new addition since Chicago.
She introduces herself, as well as Ringmaster, Rifleman, and Marv, as the leaders of this meeting, and gives her spiel- they need to unite against the bugs, and defend this city and it’s people against them and against ARES/Knight’s foolishness. Dig and Creep notice a dog one of the other attending runners brought with is growling at a sweaty, bearded street sam, and Creep goes to tackle him, luckily giving the dog just enough time to prevent him chucking a vial he had concealed in his hand. Tabasco and CG leap to action just in time to prevent another street sam from opening up on Ravenheart with an implant cybergun, and (via inhabited dire rat) chomp down on the arms of a mob hitman looking guy as he tries to pull the pin on a grenade.
All hell momentarily breaks loose- the woman who brought the dog chucks her staff straight through the bearder sam’s head as Creep tussles with him, Rifleman quick draws and drills the cybergunner right between the eyes, and the mob hitman manages to pull the pin, but the explosion is contained inside CG"s spirit, though it is destroyed in the process. Everyone else has weapons out and is in a massive standoff, til Dig does a thought recognize and spots two more potential assassins who are headed for the door. He alerts the crowd who quickly gun them down as well, before Creep tries to get everyone to chill, fails, and then Marv does the same, successfully. He tells them that this is what their enemies want: everyone so busy fighting each other they can’t unite for the common good!
Ravenheart continues her spiel and explains that she understands that many runners won’t be used to working under a command structure but that it’s the best way to run something like this, and that no this is not the Shadow Chapters, which people are right to be suspicious of given the news out of Seattle. One of the street docs from downstairs stabilizes the mob hitman, who is missing his forearms, and after some quick drug and magical questioning, Rifleman reports that Otto Hendricks has taken out a contract on himself, Marv and Anne Ravenheart. Ringmaster doesn’t look upset to have been excluded.
The team makes some new contacts, including Walker, the blind staff fighter, and her dog Tofu, and also sees a few more members of the Belle Isle crew that they’ve worked with a few times. They prepare to chat with Pesina and figure out next steps.