Harmony Craig Bottow
Rolf Soren Ramis
After returning to Mars City, the team gets a call from K, who (along with other members of the Hermetic Order of the Crimson Lands) has the ritual ready to transport the team to the insect plane. The basic plan is: they will use the ritual materials that they discovered in the undercity insect warren to open an astral rift to the insect plane, allowing the mundane team members to astrally project alongide K. The HOotCL will hold the rift open inside a ritual circle while Knight Errant Firewatch teams provide security in case any bugs come through(and medical attention to the team members bodies). As UltraBoy! is still mid- gene therapy in a blacksite clinic, they decide to proceed without him, so as not to lose the element of surprise. In a similar vein, they haven’t done any recon or even attempted to open the portal yet, to avoid alerting the Queen to their ability to do so, so the team will be going in nearly blind. However, the mages assure them that they will enter the insect plane at or near the target Queen’s hive.
Feeling that there is little to do in the way of preparation, the team heads down into the undercity warren once more. The abovegraound entrance in the church is heavily guarded, as the tunnels are below. KE seems to be taking this fairly seriously. HCB alerts the Hikage Iinkai about the mission, and they tell him they will post some watchers as well, to make sure KE doesn’t pull a stunt like they did in Chicago. Tobias takes out a life insurance policy, accessible to his teammates. Everyone descends, eventually reaching the room where they last fought the Queen. It is cordoned off, and there are 2 dozen or so KE members, many equipped with insecticide sprayers, as well as the medical personnel. The mages are further out in the middle of the room, seated around a ritual circle inscribed with insectoid runes. K is with them, although he stands to join the team when they arrive. HCB strips down, wanting to enter the plane naked, and, at a signal from K, Arlen Thompson opens the rift. The team steps through…
…Into an alien landscape that it takes their minds a moment to comprehend. They appear to be on some sort of balcony overlooking a flat arid plain that stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction. They are about 2/3rd’s of the way up a monolithic hive structure that appears to be made of some sort of extruded chitinous substance. Similar hives dot the landscape at irregular intervals on all sides. As they look about, they see that each team member appears to have taken to form of their idealized self: K: legless and glowing, HCB: his face replaced with the terrifying little girl mask from the Crod Stompaz, Rolf: a stylized version of the Ares centurion logo (accompanied by his faithful boxer), ThankYou: gleaming armor covered in symbols of his destroyed tribe, and Tobias: pretty much the same as always, apparently he is very self actualized. TY and Rolf unfortunately seem to have some trouble adjusting to this bizaare reality, and seem somewhat hampered in movement and action. TY manages to quickly overcome this, due to the power of his superstitions, as he takes the appearance of his tribe’s symbols (an affiliation he has long hidden) to be some sort of spiritual validation.
As they gather themselves, a portal irises open in the side of the hive. HCB sees a praying mantis like insect approaching and opens fire, killing it. The team hears an unearthly scream from above, and (deducing that it probably has a hive mind) decides to head upward and hopefully find the Queen. K levitates the shadowrunner ball, and ascends, while the rest of the team fires on flying insects that approach. They reach the top, and, lacking a visible entrance, blow one open. K drops HCB and Tobias in before realizing that it is quite a ways down. HCB manages to land on a centipede-spider hybrid that is racing to intercept him, somewhat breaking his fall. Tobias tucks and rolls successfully and avoids any damage. Both fire on the Queen while falling, but are quickly surrounded by more of the centispiders and praying mantis’. K chucks Rolf in next, at his insistence, before widening the hole, so he and TY can descend more safely. K chucks a massive fireball at the Queen, but she cancels it with a gesture. She also seems to once again be regenerating damage done to her by their attacks.
She rushes over and KO’s Tobias, while HCB fends off her guards, making a retreat towards the wall. Rolf manages to get some shots off while falling, but she reaches out and swats him into the wall, breaking most of the bones in his body. He attempts one final shot, but his bad luck catches up with him, and his bow snaps, taking his hand off at the wrist- he begins bleeding out onto the floor as his aura fades. K screams ‘TOBIAAAS’ before realizing that it was actually a different teammate. Fortunately, Tobias is back in the fight, seemingly having received some medical attention to his meat body. He resumes firing at the Queen, as does TY, with K providing spell support. Sadly, HCB is surrounded by her guards and beaten, clawed, and bitten to death while trying to hold them off. He lets off one final burst of machine pistol fire in the Queen’s direction before his aura also begins to fade. The team, greatly saddened, redoubles their efforts.
Having dropped a few of the guards, they continue focusing their fire mostly on the Queen, which begins to wear out her armor and regenerative capabilities. However, she unleashes a powerful acid stream onto K & TY, nearly knocking them out of the air. TY responds with a massive burst of machine gun fire, finaly dropping her. Tobias kills a few more guards as they start convulsing and seizuring, and then fires on the Queen repeatedly until she bursts & K sees her aura dissipating- which seems to send out a shockwave, leveling the bugs in the room. They decide to make good their escape, and K scoops Tobias up and heads for the roof hole. They barrel through the frenzied insect swarm above it, taking minimal damage, and rocket down the hive side for the (thankfully) still open rift. They see a huge wave of insects rushing through the portal, and begin firing while rushing through. Crashing back into the physical realm, only Tobias is able to retain his tenuous hold on consciousness- he scream ‘close the portal!’ as he takes in the chaos around him and fires on any insects he sees. Arlen Thompson complies, and the rift snaps shut, slicing a bug in half. Tobias gets up from his crash couch and helps the survivors of the Firewatch teams mow down the remaining bugs.
It looks like the mages & KE members both suffered heavy casualties holding the bugs at bay, but Tobias doesn’t have much time to debrief before he is rushed to a hopsital to deal with the massive of amount of damage he is about to take when his stimpaks wear off. He wakes up over a week later to the news that HCB and Rolf are dead, although K and TY both survived, similarly hospitalized. Tobias arranges to send flowers to the families of the dead KE members, who Elton Massey tells him were all given good funerals, altough their families will never learn the details of their deaths. K arranges for HCB and Rolf’s bodies to be delivered to Ivan the Jackle, who arranges an epic wake at Slot. HCB’s Yakuza connections bring his motorcycle, garlanded out, and have a heavy presence at the service (although they remain seperate from the numerous undercity gangers and Crod Stompaz fans). Rolf’s only other friend, Sylvain Georges, is there, sitting by Rolf’s picture, which has been displaced to a corner of the bar by the huge HCB display. Ivan and many of the Problem Children and Mad Martians attend, as does one of Daedelus’s meat drones, and a female ork with large dreads and a rugged look. UB! is there on vid, from his medvat. Crod Stompaz songs blare over the PA as everyone gets excessively drunk.
Later in the evening, a large security convoy pulls up out front, and a dignified older Japanese man enters, pays his respects at HCB’s shrine, and leaves. Although the team members aren’t sure exactly who he was, they are all impressed. Shortly thereafter, Ivan announces a convoy out to the desert outside the city, where UB! (from his vat) triggers the explosives which launch a rocket containing HCB & Rolf’s ashes skyward, towards the distant glow of Deimos, before exploding in a massive array of fireworks. It seems like a fitting send-off, although the team still grieves their loss.
The team members return to the hospital to continue healing after the night of debauchery, and wait to hear of what the next job entails. K feels unsure about his future with the team, feeling that with HCB gone, Tobias is firmly in charge, a position that K is uncomfortable with, especially given that he doesn’t really trust UB!, and baely knows TY, both of whom seem to gravitate towards Tobias anyway. He has some thinking to do…