Otters aka Roadkill
Dig heads off to attend to his magical order while the rest of the team is poisoning Michael Turpentine. He barely makes it through some active combat while disguised as a bird and masked, but does arrive intact. The 2 members of his order trickle in, along with a preppy, affable, new potential named Freddy Bales. Bales has to step in a few times to provide additional instruction where Dig fails in the moment, but they all successfully take on animal form, though only Dig and Bales manage to initiate, as the other 2 weren’t properly prepared, Dig not having told them to expect that as a monthly component of the meetings. They all take off, and Dig focuses on internalizing some things he learned about instruction from Bales.
Everyone else rests up and stocks up on some gear at the Platinum Zone, with Creep getting a rocket launcher and Chew Gum learning to cast spells from Li Wei, who encourages him to grow his power. They receive the bounty payment from ARES for killing Otto Hendricks, routed through a series of cutouts as promised, and split it up once Dig returns. Tabasco, still in a weird mental place, bows out of the subsequent mission to seek further upgrades, to be ready to take revenge on the Shadow spirits. He also prefers to stay at the Plat Zone and fight ALPHAs than go to bug vs ARES central.
The rest of the team gets the call in the morning to go grab Carol and get him to ground zero- the bugs have a huge new crater just in front of ARES Tower, and are pouring out in what looks like a suicidal final attack. ARES forces have fallen back to the Tower and surrounding plazas and are waging a desperate defensive action, but could be overrun. The various merc forces are effectively unable to reinforce as they are fending off ALPHAs (and trying to save/rescue the civilian populace, unlike ARES). The team heads north, with Otters in the VTOL, Dig in bird form, and the rest on foot. They also call Ellis and their ghoul allies to warn them to stay away from Downtown/out of the astral due to an unspecified “mana threat”, and tip off the Irregulars as well.
Under The Detective’s guidance, they use some small unit tactics to safely avoid entanglements on the way, and find a somewhat gray-skinned Carol waiting in the irradiated van. They all hop in and plot a route, with Creep’s extensive knowledge of the city from his nighttime prowling providing excellent navigation.They exit the NGZ to the north of the nuclear blast zone and swing around west, entering back in through Irregular controlled turf in Zone 4. From there, they cut into Downtown from the west, with Otters carefullly sneak-driving to avoid trouble.
Otters flies CG in the VTOL up to a forward vantage point to get eyes on, and Dig accompanies as a bird. Dig decides to snag an ARES comm from one of the many corpses, so that ARES hopefully won’t shoot the van as it approaches, and CG provides sniper cover against some spirits as Dig gets it and flies away. However, some ARES drones almost spot CG so he as to hide for a bit before Otters can fly him back out, he got good overview info of the battle ahead though.
Dig and CG head back to the Plat Zone to help there, worried about the mana effects of the device in the van. Otters, with Creep’s help, hides her body in some rubble and remote pilots van and VTOL from there. She also uses the electrochromic coating to make the van look like an ARES vehicle to match their stolen comm signal. Unfortunately, this attracts some ARES stragglers in the neighborhood who try to get to the van for a ride to safety, pursued by bugs. Otters gives them some covering fire from the HMG but then speeds off, and the ARES survivors are quickly cut down.
Getting closer to the battle, Otters switches to full speed approach as the few square miles around the Tower are basically flattened rubble piles and mounds. It’s rough driving, but Otters is managing, partially using the VTOL to have an overhead view to steer from. She dodges the blasts of some stray ARES shells, though the van takes some flack damage. They manage to speed right up towards the crater, as a large amount of bugs split off from the main assault across from them and race towards the van. Otters uses HMG suppressive fire to corral them into a close center, while Creep leans out the side of the speeding van and launches a rocket into the bugs’ midst, holding on with his magnet hand and The Detective supporting.
They smash through the remaining bugs and Otters pulls a bootleg turn to swing about and stop, flinging the back doors open. Carol has been loosening all the bolts on the device’s frame, and with the help of the mule drone, hauls it out to the crater edge. Just as he does so, a massive insect emerges right behind him. Creep fires his last remaining rocket, and barely misses, still doing a decent amount of damage. Carol chucks some FAB grenades into the crater while running forward and pulling some ripcords on his armor, which starts emitting a stream of FABIII. He calls out to the team that they must trigger the device!
Creep races out and with The Detective’s encouragement, Dig’s previous explanation, and Otters providing covering fire from the mule and the van, manages to input the trigger sequence correctly on the first try. He dives back into the van as Otters revs it and peals out, having seen the 10 second countdown start. They gun it as a far away as they can before the detonation, which peppers the van with shrapnel, along with a following shockwave that flips them and wrecks the vehicle- luckily not badly enough to severely hurt those inside.
There seems to have been some kind of EMP effect as well though, as comms go down and Otters loses connection. Luckily the effect field seems fairly limited and she has a good view through the more distant VTOL of what happens: after the initial explosion and shockwave, some kind of rift opens in the sky about the Tower and plaza and some sickly green energy pours through. When it touches the energy emitting from the increasingly unstable area where the device was, a second magical shockwave pours out. This seems to kill smaller bugs where they stand, and paralyze or send into paroxysms the larger insects. Shamans appear to be driven mad and are easy targets for ARES sharpshooters, though Otters also spots some amongst the ARES troops falling and seizing- either bug infiltrators or mages, presumably.
This magical wave also hits at the Plat Zone, and both CG and Dig take some damage that feels like bad drain, while also making them somewhat nauseous, though they manage to shake it off. They do some others around them who were more battered fall, and help get them down to the medical area, where Jaga, though puking, is helping to heal and stabilize. Back at the front, Otters picks her body up with the VTOL, and then locates the van crash site via dead reckoning and regains point to point comms with Creep, the mule and The Detective. CG and Dig get the Quicksilver camera airborne to get some magical pics of whatever just happened, and get a few usable plates of the rift and immediate after-effects.
They initially plan to head back to the Plat Zone, but instead decide to do one more recon on the battlefield. From a distance, they see a lot. ARES troops are casually executing any surviving bugs and shamans, the bugs seemingly unable to move or defend themselves and the shamans stumbling, maddened, from the crater. There is much cruelty from some of the troops, though the majority appear to be just mechanically slaughtering. They see Carol also crawl forth from the crater, arms raised and shouting something, holding a commlink in one hand. The matrix appears to be down but the team’s devices all seem to work, so they try to get a message to Carol that they can come grab him, but give up on this after he is quickly surrounded by ARES forces.
Shortly thereafter, an armored platoon shows up, which looks to be Zone 4 and 6 survivors, having cut through the remaining ALPHAs to get here. General Ritter (aka Grey Ghost) emerges and confabs with some other ARES leaders on the ground. Tensions seem high but he distributes some info that seems to calm things. At this point, a heavily armored Arthur Vogel emerges, seemingly have claimed control, suggesting the Knight has indeed died or been incapacitated. The armored command of the conventional ARES forces at the Tower seem to refuse this transfer of command to Vogel and open fire on the newly arrived troops, but it seems like Ritter was prepared for this possibility, and the fascist Downtown commander Danforth and his loyalists are quickly gunned down.
Vogel gets Carol free and they shake hands, but amidst the chaos and confusion, the team sees a figure in blood-spattered heavy armor walk up behind Carol and calmly shoot him the head repeatedly. This figure rips off their helmet, and the team sees it is Carol’s brother- Michael Turpentine! Screaming something about “betrayal” as far as they can tell, he continues shooting Carol’s corpse as he himself is gunned down and turned to pink mist by Vogel’s bodyguards with their railguns. The team, shocked, pauses to reflect for a moment, until Creep realizes that Carol was how they were going to get paid, and against better advice, heads over to Vogel, who luckily recognizes him before Creep is destroyed by railguns as well.
Vogel seems at least put out by Carol’s death, but also very busy, and confirms that he will ensure the team is paid before sending Creep on his way, quickly muscled out of the inner circle by bodyguards. However, Creep manages to slickly pocket the commlink that Carol was holding. They all head back to the Plat Zone, marked as friendlies by Vogel’s command (it seems that all Irregulars have been). Hearing celebratory shouts and gunfire from the battle zone, Dig and CG were hoping for the best, and as the rest of the team arrives and new trickles in of bugs dropping citywide, and ALPHAs either killed or in retreat, a massive party starts.
Dig takes a celebratory BTL to celebrate, and plans to accompany The Detective back to their safehouse in Oakland County so they can do some Bliss and take a bath while Dig keeps an eye on things. The rest plan to stay and party. First, though, Otters shares the VTOL footage, and Creep shares Carol’s comm. Dig manages to hack it even while high, and they find that it is basically a high-end burner through which Carol had been communicating with his brother. It seems like it started out with Carol trying to provide anonymous help, but his bro figured it out, and eventually used it to track Carol’s location and kill him.
There is an attacked vid file that Dig opens, which shows the cybereyes perspective of Michael as he psychs himself up in a bathroom mirror to give Damien Knight the chess piece. He is talking initially about how this can secure him a permanent board place, and also get Carol safely back on the corps’ good side. He heads into an ornate conference room past two muscle-bound, oiled up teen bodyguards. Knight greets him as he enters, almost calling him Carol again before correcting, and asking for help getting into his battle armor, which “must have shrunk since last time.” As Michael moves to present the chess piece, Knight begins hacking, and his veins start turning black and bulging out as he falls to the floor.
Michael panics and tries to catch him, but then has to defend himself as the 2 guards outside rush in and assume he did this (which he did, though he doesn’t know it yet). He kills the two teens, seemingly horrified, and then seems to put 2 and 2 together. Sensing that Carol has been working at cross purposes, he starts strapping on what he can of Knight’s armor and looks into another mirror, vowing revenge, as Knight’s body dissolves into the carpet behind him, before the feed cuts.
Dig suggests they make a snuff BTL of Knight’s death/a brother’s revenge, but the rest of the team convinces him to hold off for now, though Otters confirms it will be a best seller for sure. They share some info with Ringmaster before getting into serious partying, and Dig and The Detective take off, with Dig getting the first look at The Detective’s strange shabby chic abode. They stop at Grandmother Biyu’s on the way so Dig can tip her off that now is a good time to make a move on the mafia- any dead can be claimed as bugs, and their mages were surely effected by the mana blast wave, and with Knight gone they’ve lost their best ally in ARES. Ravenheart approaches CG and asks if he has seen Li Wei- apparently Wei’s blood magic got the better of him while fighting off a major ALPHA assault earlier in the day and he hasn’t been seen since. A rogue blood mage is a big problem, though Ravenheart would like to help him if possible.
After the partying, everyone crashes. The next day Dig and The Detective return, and the matrix starts gradually coming back online- not just the local net but the whole deal, it seems that ARES jammers are offline for the first time in a while. The team gets their remaining pay from Vogel, and also sees that Jackpoint is back up! A new group called the GOD-Slayers claims credit for helping end the embargo, alongside many thanks to the Nexus and Asgard Data Haven for assistance and secure backups. The big news, as well as Detroit and the death of Knight (assumed in battle) and the return of Vogel (previously thought dead) is “what happened to III Corps?”
From the currently available info, it seems like the entire III Corps, plus everyone else within a large radius around Dutchville, PA, all vanished off the face of the earth. There were strangely/conveniently no satellites overhead when it happened, and noone on the boards has been able to get sat feeds overheard since. Attempts to send drones have failed, so intel is low. But speculation is high. Perhaps something to investigate? However, the boards are warning runners not to try to leave Detroit JUST yet, in case whoever is controlling the satellites that enforce the cordon haven’t stood down yet.
The situation in the UCAS as a whole looks a bit dicey- Colloton has pulled back military forces to defend important installation and major cities, in the wake of the III Corps disaster and what’s happening in Detroit, and this has left some borders vulnerable, which the CAS, NAN, and other bordering nations are all too happy to exploit. Detroit also seems to have suffered badly- civilian casualties are estimated to be around 150k so far, and that doesn’t even include the SINless, DDB dwellers, and Irregulars from out of town. ARES forces also took a bad hit, though they aren’t revealing any internal info, external estimates are putting their losses at 60%+ of their military and auxiliary capacity. But- there have been no signs of bugs in the NGZ since the device went off, so Latvian Gambit may have kind of worked?
Otters heads out with mule and VTOL to salvage what she can from the now-less-irradiated van, and finds scavengers picking over the battlefield all over, with more official ARES salvage ops nearer the Tower. However, there seem to be less bodies around than there should be… and the rift is still glowing green above the Tower. Otters manages to save the concealed turret and HMG but the rest is a wash, either wrecked or already picked over. She heads back, the mule dragging the expensive turret and gun. When she gets back she reports the weird missing corpses, and CG and some others go out to investigate, grabbing a few corpses they do find to analyze.
With Ringmaster’s support, CG gets some space to do a ritual of bones, and finds that all the corpses were touched by some kind of corrupting energy, not strongly enough to have an effect, but strongly enough to leave traces. The thing it feels most similar to is Shadow magic. Examining the Quicksilver plates, they also see a massive Scar through Downtown, centered on the blast, that seems to be a powerful mana ebb or dead zone. When the team talks to their ghoul friends (yay functional matrix!) the ghouls report that Downtown is kind of a no-go zone for the dual-natured right now- bad vibes. Dig also calls Freddy Bales to thank him for his assistance during the magical order meeting, which Bales is his usual affable self about.
They decide that first off, they want to hire some assistance and go after the Shadow spirit farm and get their Tarot back (if they can), and then maybe help Ringmaster with all his new investigation needs, as he seems worried about the rift, which reminds him of the Watergate incident that brought Shedim to our place, as well as interested in what happened to III Corps. Also maybe help Biyu against the mafia, maybe help the ghouls against Fear The Dark, etc. Many jobs available, and maybe the city is finally free of bugs and checkpoints! It definitely seems like, for now, ARES is defending their HQ and licking their wounds. However, with all the bug tunnels, sinkholes and collapses are common, so travelling the city is far from “safe”.