Otters aka Roadkill
and introducing: Heat
The team spends some time debating where to sell all the Black Lodge intel they decoded, and ends up passing the sheaf of papers (explanation of the “how to” of their ritual plus Ordo Maxiums stuff with key) along to Ringmaster and Kendra de Santos, and the journal (Black Lodge internal politics and plans with key) to Cehualli at AZT. Cehualli promises them a large bump in their exit pay to gear up for Denver, and KdS offers them magical foci, “safe” artifacts from Arleesh’s vault, or a future favor. Dig, CG, and PPJ all take the foci, Creep requests a specific Tarot card (wanting to see if he can make another Cornerstone chunk), and Otters and TD take future favors.
A relief VTOL from Denver drops off some useful supplies, along with a new to town runner named Heat, who was sent by Jonny Silver (amongst others) to accomplish a few tasks. He quickly tracks down PPJ at the Plat Zone, and makes contact on Jonny’s behalf, and they gossip for a bit and update each other on Denver/Detroit. Heat tells them about a few of his jobs, and Dig and TD are easily able to connect him with Marjo-Lin, who is supposed to make sure flies to Denver to start recording with Glock .50. Creep gets him a clean copy of the Damien Knight snuff BTL as Heat explains that ARES has flooded the market with “ripjacks”, toxic code BTL’s that harm or kill their users, to try to suppress the real BTL of Knight’s death.
Otters is fascinated to get the latest BTL news and chats with Heat for a while. PPJ assenses him, having learned from recent experience, and insists on checking the color of his blood as well. Luckily, it all checks out- Heat is a human technomancer in good health, with no Possession or Inhabitation going on. However, there is something a little weird- his cyber implants seem unusually well-integrated into his essence. PPJ reports this back to the team, which Heat finds rude until PPJ explains “Motor City etiquette” after which the precautions make more sense. Heat has some other work in town too which he needs a team for so he proposes they work together.
Then, with Otters’ data mapping the Blackout’s effect zone, and Brunwyn’s data from interrogating the rogue Brackhaus, and Ringmaster’s data from his teams have been cutting old hardwires in the DDB, the team is finally able to trace the Blackout back to it’s origins, an old pre-Crash 2.0 wired matrix hub and power station, on Zug Island, in the river just SW of Downtown. SK offers to do recon and plan the assault, or let the team do their own recon and participate in the planning. However, the team will once again be the tip of the spear as SK is tied down holding Windsor against sporadic True Canadian terror attacks, and their forces in town are more brute force than infiltration specialists. Frau Brackhaus provides the team with hotsim rigs (for those who don’t have them) and gives Dig a copy of the “Hitchhiker” program, explaining they will likely have to dive in at some point.
Otters flies over in the VTOL with Morticia and bird Dig along. They do a recon pass and Dig spots a massive Plague spirit, but strangely no summoner, although Otters ID’s Mother Gorgon, the surviving toxie cult leader, as being on the island- they assume she must be masking. They also see the surviving Grid Pirates/Blackout Boyz, with heavy arms and armor, patrolling in two squads of 5. There is a hardened bunker-like building, a single crumbling causeway to approach on, and a collapsed dock on the far side of the island, so pretty good defensive position, but it also doesn’t look like they can retreat. The island is overgrown and has no obvious magical barriers- it seems like they were aiming to keep a low profile (which they have til now).
They plan the assault, with SK offering fire support from the WIndsor bank, while the team hits it from the Detroit side. SK will also attempt to manage any reinforcements that arrive and cut off any escape. They recruit Heat and Rose to help with matrix defense on the TacNet and figure some TM’s will be useful in general. Otters drops Creep off on the roof of the bunker with an alchemical token that Dig prepared, which starts shaping a hole in the concrete ceiling. Creep then catches sight of the huge patrolling spirit, which CG and Dig use to target their ritual- a massive lightning bolt which cooks off a bunch of the spirit’s scabrous armor. Creep starts blasting sensors on the bunker’s roof to mess with the defender’s weapons auto-tracking abilities.
PPJ goes astral to take on the spirit, as bird Dig and CG rejoin the fight, pouring fire on the spirit to try to finish it off so the van can approach. Otters gets some shots in as well with her new sniper drone, which does massive damage before being destroyed by acid spells from Mother Gorgon and the spirit. PPJ then successfully kills the spirit on the astral, and Otters starts racing the van up the causeway. Mother Gorgon goes astral as her remaining cultists drag her to cover, and Dig jumps in to astral as well to help PPJ against her.
With another brutal mage duel occurring in the astral plane, Creep and CG, using silenced weapons, pick off Mother Gorgons cultists from hiding, and then finally manage to kill her while she is away from her body. PPJ declares that he is best mage in the area as per usual. He returns to his body, and Otters flies him over to join the fight as CG keeps providing sniper support, Otters fires rockets and HMG rounds from the van, and SK mortar and sniper teams assault the remaining defenders now that the magical threat is dealt with.
They make short work of the surviving defenders on their side of the island, and SK reports they have the rest pinned down on the far side for now. CG uses his spirit’s movement powers to quickly dash down the causeway and join the team. Creep has finally snuck inside and gotten a look around- he spots Spritelok’s providing power, and shoots out the one locking the front doors. He also sees that the Blackout Boyz weren’t lying- many of their family members, including a number of children, are here, with a not insignificant number of weapons and what look like suicide vests.
In the van, Rose and Heat report that the TacNet is under assault from clear and red humanoid figures, the red ones drip worms from a writhing mass. Heat says he can hold it for now, while they task Rose with disabling the suicide vests. They hear her mumble “fuck em all” before she detonates them, killing everyone inside. When questioned she says she hates what the Grid Pirates made her in to but does not regret doing this. She is also badly injured from biofeedback. Not wanting to waste time (or ammo) CG has his spirits bash the door open and the team enters, with Heat staying behind to keep the van safe and block the entrance for anyone coming after.
They shut down the TacNet as the matrix assault increases and go LOS only. Wading through the carnage of the interior, they find another bunker-like inner chamber, air-gapped and still sealed, though the door is damaged. They bash their way in again, and Rose manages to get the elevator opposite working- going down. She takes even more damage doing so and is looking rough. She reports that the local matrix feels wrong and is filled with vines. They descend, and find a truly horrific site.
It seems that the plan here was to recreate “the 100” experiment- they only have about half as many TM’s but they are all hooked up to a massive central terminal. It looks a bit more jury-rigged than DelaMar’s facility under Boston, but likely still has some massive power for whatever it is they are attempting. Interestingly, there are no human technicians or attendants present- only drone manipulator arms on tracks. Worrying that time might be limited with the sound of renewed fighting above echoing down the elevator shaft, they approach the terminal and Dig hooks everyone up to their simrigs, the program reads all green, and they dive in.
They find that they have entered straight into the Foundation, and emerge into a dark carnival. Dangerously janky rides and hideous laughter abound. PPJ starts cutting some of the vines that grow everywhere, and instantly attracts attention from the white and black silhouettes wandering the area. Dig cuts him out of the Hitchhiker link, and PPJ gets dumped back into his body, deciding to focus on healing and monitoring the others. The rest of the team manages to remember to behave in a manner befitting the paradigm, and TD figures out the local layout. Otters is delighted to participate in carnival stuff and maybe has found a BTL addiction replacement in this hyper-real style of place.
They are also nearly overwhelmed by sporadic blasts of horrific noise. Otters retunes her RCC to bring the noise down to a manageable level, and they decide to track it back, figuring it must be important. Using TD’s understanding of the layout, they end up working their way up the line into the “tunnel of love” ride, which appears to be a river, clogged with vines, flowing downwards. The noise is coming from within. Upsettingly to all, it seems that not only are they in the Null Node, they appear to be able to travel down through it to something below- both Dig and Rose confirm that this is not a space known to exist.
With no other obvious options, they descend. Rose is almost instantly killed, and disappears, shattering into many tiny pieces. PPJ manages to stabilize her body in the basement as she seizes, but she seems changed. After assensing her, he realizes she is no longer a Technomancer! The rest of the team sneaks down the vines, spotting a grey silhouette at the bottom. They also appear to be back in the real world- they have their equipment again and are no longer having to fit with a paradigm. They open fire, and destroy the gray man, but this seems to attract further attention, as numerous of the Null Sect triangle mouths start flooding the chamber.
They spot a device in the center of the chamber, overgrown with vines, and labelled “Hengester SEED”. Otters opens fire on it and the others follow as the Null begin attacking them. Luckily Dig’s biofeedback filter absorbs much of the initial assault, but the team starts getting hurt, and PPJ frantically tries to stay on top of healing their bodies with the med drone and spells. Just as Creep finally blasts apart the device, he sees a huge switch on top, that based on vine growth patterns and such seems to have been turned on recently. Dig also was able to analyze the device a bit, and determined that it was the source of the noise, that it was hooked up to all the TM brains, that it was pulling energy somehow from the Resonance, and that this current project seemed intended to sever Resonance and Matrix connections.
With the device destroyed, the noise finally stops, but CG is quickly also killed alongside Dig as they fight the Null. PPJ manages to stabilize them both in their meat bodies. However, with Dig gone, and all the various shades of silhouette pouring into the chamber from the Foundation above as the vines retract, the rest of the team is one their own. Otters, tripping badly from some pyschotropic side effect of her wounds, notices some kind of strange pressure change, and TD and Creep are able to sneak through the crowd well enough to avoid further injury and guide Otters along with.
They head down the one side passage that none of the Null seem to be using, and find a rippling vortex blocking their way. With the Null closing in behind them, and seeing a glimpse of what looks like PPJ through a fisheye disttortion, they dive in, and all tumble back into their meat bodies- but it all felt so real! Only TD stays conscious from the dumpshock, though luckily PPJ is able to keep both the others from flat-lining. With the team all “safely” out of the matrix and badly injured, they prepare to figure out how to get out of there, hoping the fighting upstairs has wrapped up as they don’t have much capacity left.
They also see that all the TM’s hooked up to the terminal have flat-lined, and wonder if some of the ghostly forms they saw at the carnival were those same TM’s, slowly being used up…. They are able to ID most of the TM’s as ones reported missing around town since the Blackouts, but there are also a fair number of others, as if some were brought here ahead of time! Also- where were they? It seemed so real!