While clearing bodies, Ivan discovers a note in his pocket scrawled on human skin. he doesn’t share this with anyone. After burying/melting all the bodies, the team decides to prepare for LoneStar’s eventual arrival, and try to find some workers. HCB heads out with RH towards Trogville and the Yak in search of advice/assistance, lacking a better idea. While walking, they hear helicoptetrs approaching, which HCB recognizes, due to his familiarity with various aircraft. They hury back to the factory to warn the others, arriving just in time. Everyone hides their gear, and pretends to be cleaning. The helis land and HCB goes out to talk to the LS team leader, an ork male. He is brusque, but doesn’t seem to care much about the absence of Humanis and all it’s people, but warns HCB that the factory better be back on line quickly, so as not to miss quota. HCB agrees, and bluffs his way thru. Unfortunately, LS notices that everyone’s nanotrackers are inactive, and activate them, so they are all on the grid. This makes them more trackable, but also less suspicious if scanned by LS again. LS also notcies K’s magical ability and secures a magecollar around his neck, disabling his spellcasting abilities.
LS then takes off, leaving the team to scramble for assistance in quickly manning the factory. Reviewing what he knows of the factions, HCB decides to head for the nearby Vory factory complex, as they presumably have access to workers and might be interested in expanding their turf. He heads out with RH. Ivan speaks with the cat/Mr J, who says he will provide plans for the team once they are set up and have the factory operational-the team will build their escape device during the night while overseeing the normal production schedule during the day. K is freaking out about his collar problem, so Asp temporarily paralyzes him. Ivan and Asp begin searching the factory for instructions or any indication fo what is made there, and find that it seems to be fairly idiot proofed, although not very specific about what they should be making. Ivan is distressed by the lack of computer control systems, as the factory seems anachronistically manual. They also find the anti-magic generator and disable it.
Meanwhile, Scrounge awakens in a dank, dark hole (not entirely out of his element) and tries to recall how he got here. He remembers sneaking off to scout the Humanis factory while everyone else dealt with the Yak, as he wasn’t sure which families they might be dealing with. He thgouht he was near the Humanis factory when all of a sudden he felt a shock and was tackled from behind. A bag was placed over his head as he lost consciousness. He spends some time trying to figure out his surroundings, and determines that he is in a crude cell carved out of rock, somewhere underground. He is beginning to try to open the barred door when a bright light shines down the tunnel and the door slides open. He hears distant cheering and an announcer introducing a new contender, the “Ratman.” He turns invisible and heads for the light. He emerges from the tunnel into a brightly lit arena, and can hear shouts and jeers from the stands above the walls, but can’t see the spectators due to the lights. A rabid dog faces him, and he quickly defeats. After the announcer declares his victory, another gate slides open and a large masked man with a club emerges. Scrounge retreats and is sprayed with paint near one of the walls, making him visible again. He takes some hard hits, but manages to take down this second opponent as well. Injured, he returns to his cell, where a pipe carrying water and some thin gruel drops from the ceiling. He rests.
HCB and RH arrive at the Vory factory and try to talk their way in. They fail at first, until HCB tells an unfunny joke that the guard appreciates for its Russian nature and lets them pass. They have an interview with Timur Basyev, who appears to be some sort of mid-management type-decent offic eoverlooking one of the factory floors. He makes a deal to help HCB man up the factory and place it under Vory control, allowing the team to work at night. He also requires that HCB find him a quality pit fighter. The Vory and Triad apparently have pit fighting rings, and occasionally have a major competition at some neutral point (for which the Humanis factory will be great), and Basyev needs a star for the upcoming bout. HCB volunteers RH, who agrees. He heads to the pit, and is stripped of his gear. Dropping in, he is declared to be fighting the previous day’s champion, the Ratman! Scrounge, seeing his door open again, goes invisible and emerges, but is sprayed with paint once again, as the announcer declares that the audience is sick of that trick. He exchanges a quick whispered communication with RH, and they mill around. As the audience gets impatient, a large ring of spikes deploys from the arena walls, and begins tightening towards the center. They are forced closer and decide to fake a fight. The try to pull their punches, but are both gassed with kamikaze, which Scrounge is able to shake off. However, it triggers RH’s trained battle rage, and he nearly ko’s Scrounge. Scrounge plays dead, as two more opponents enter the arena-he secretly casts spells to aid RH. RH is ko’d by the 2nd goon, and Scrounge takes the opportunity to blast the goon, rising from his repose to claim victory.
HCB makes a deal with Basyev to reacquire RH in exchange for the promise of a better fighter in the future, but leaves Scrounge for now, lacking any idea of how to get him out. Scrounge returns to his cage and feeds again. He continues fighting for the next few days, growing increasingly weaker and less popular. The audience is bored by invisible stunballs. HCB decides to wait for the recruits from the main complex, and heads back on a bus with them when they arrive. Basyev sends a few experienced foremen with the new workers to get the factory going. RH is still ko’d. When walking up to the factory, one of the workers steps on a pocket of poison left over from the attack, becoming extremely ill in the ensuing gas cloud. HCB unnecesarily warns the reamining workers to watch out for poison. The foremen declare that they will be traveling back to the Vory complex to sleep, which actually is better for the team anyway.
They haul RH upstairs for medical assistance, while the foremen get the factory going. Aps wakes RH up, but he is still in a rage, so Asp paralyzes him and ties him down. HCB tells everyone about Scrounge, but K is insistent that they need to deal with his “no magic” problem first. HCB heads back to Basyev with an idea. He has Basyev put the word out that the first 3 people to put Keb (HCB’s nemesis, the Ancients lieutenant) in the hopsital will get a supervisory spot in the Vory factory. HCB also has Basyev send a message to the AB+ to smuggle Keb out of the main complex and leave him outside Trogville. He asks Basyev where to go to deal with the magic thing, and Basyev suggests either the Ghost Cartel or Winternight farms. HCB, leery of GC’s Azzie connections, decides to take his chances with Winternight. He and K head out.
Upon approaching the farm, they see a tall, barren tree with a figure with its arms spread attached to it. Two ravens circle the figures head, occasionally landing and appearing to whisper into his ears. HCB hails him, and eventually get shim to speak. He names himself as Wodan, and says that he is seeking knowledge of ancient runemagicks. HCB asks if anyone can help with K’s collar, and Wodan suggests Mimir, who he says he traded an eye to for some runic abilities. HCB gets rough directions and heads on, guided by a squirrel that Wodan summons to lead them. As they travel thru the fields, they pass thru areas of fire, ice, and other strange lands, although they do not notice any change in temperature. The squirrel halts and confers with an eagle which leads them the rest of the way. They enter into what looks to be an ancient viking town under a gate depiciting a serpent swallowing its own tail. They approach a great golden hall in the center of the village. As HCB touches the door, the image disappears and is replaced with the prefab concrete structure they are used to. Looking back over the fields, they also now appear as normal. The door swings open, and a voice beckons them to enter.
A decrepit figure sits in a chair at the far end of an open room, and introduces himself as Loki Liesmith. HCB opens with a Xenogears joke, using his sci-fi classics knowledge, which Loki seems to appreciate. Loki says that they are constructing Naglfar in order to raid a distant hall, accompanied by their cadre of frost giants. HCB is confused, but eventually deduces that Winternight is planning to assault Copland, but needs assistance gaining initial access. As HCB had previously considered Copland as one approach to the secure wing of the main complex (and the mission objective) this seems like it might work out pretty well. They agree to help each other, and Loki tells HCB and K how to find Mimir’s well.
They head out, and eventually reach the well. There is a beat up looking winch which lowers a bench seat down the shaft. HCB desecends first to check it out. He travels down a dark and slightly glowing tunnel, and finds a hunched and cloaked figure at the end. He confirms that this is Mimir, and gets the details of the deal: K will have to trade him an eye for the solution to his problem. HCB, forseeing that K might not be too into this, tries to find an alternative. Mimir suggests 12 teeth instead. HCB tells him he will be back, and heads back up the cavern. He tells K of the situation, and K (desperate as he is) agrees. He heads down, meets Mimir, and is temporarily paralyzed, although not anaesthetized, will Mimir removes the teeth, which he tucks in a pouch at his belt. He then pulls a wire from the side of his head and connects it to K’s collar, humming and making sharp gestures in the air. He tells K that he is free to go, but not to try to remove the collar, as the tracking is still active-he has merely deactivated the anti-magic field.
Thrilled, K flies down the tunnel and up the well, rejoicing in his regained abilities. He and HCB head back towards Trogville to (hopefully) pick up Keb, if the plan has gone off. The arrive a day and a half later, and find Keb tied up as promised, they take him (cursing all the while) to Basyev, who seems excited by the prospect-he looks like a good fighter. HCB talks Basyev into freeing the Ratman and returning his possesions, and Scrounge finally rejoins the team. Now, in posession of the factory, the team is ready to begin construction of their escape device and plan the final stages of the job: getting into the secure facility and getting the target safely out, and then getting off this rock. Who knows? Things might even work out for once…....