Harmony Craig Bottow
Rolf Soren Ramis
Heeding Tobias’ warning, the team heads downstairs, with UB! and HCB squabbling over who gets to guard the survivors (they end up each taking two while K takes the rest). Tobias is overcome by sheer terror when some insect spirits burst from the hole on the ground floor, and flees towards the Meshkhenet temple. Once outside, he sees that the reason it is so dark all of a sudden is a huge cloud of beetles obscuring the sun. Although individually small, the swarm is thick in the air, and he fires wildly to clear space to run.
Rolf races down the stairs on his inlines, sadly only to be overcome by terror himself and join Tobias in headlong flight. The rest of the team comports themselves better, and quickly dispatches two trios of insects that emerge from the newly reopened tunnel. UB! helps close it back up again, for the time being. They prepare to head for the Meshkhenet temple, under cover of UB!‘s flamethrower, but first gun down a number of mutants charging their position from the Thoth temple across the avenue. The team makes it to the Meshkhenet temple as UB!’s gun runs out of fuel, but unfortunately all 4 of UB! and HCB’s survivors are lost in the crossing, to the terrible flesh eating insects that crowd the air. K, having saved all his survivors, is quietly pleased.
After warning the denizens of the temple of the danger of tunneling insects, and getting them started vacating the ground floor, the team decides to head for the Thoth temple, and sort this all out. The Meshkhenet temple folks provide them with another flamethrower, as well as more fuel. Everyone is still a little weirded out by Tobias’ promises of a secret weapon, but they decide to trust him, for now. They head for the temple, using multiple flamethrowers to clear the swarming insects. UB! blows the door, and they are back inside. It is kind of a fond return, as this is where the team first met Rolf. Tobias, recalling that he left himself a backdoor in the system last time they were here, jacks in to the front desk terminal and, fortunately, gains access.
He peruses the camera feeds, and downloads a facility map- they decide to head for the two lower surgical levels (including the blacksite clinic in the subbasement that Tobias discovers on the map), as the cameras are down there, and Tobias only sees mutants everywhere else. Timing their approach to the stairs carefully after watching the cameras, Tobias, gets the team downstairs without encountering any resistance. The surgical level is trashed, with bits of corpses and debris strewn about. They search for the hidden entrance to the lower level, and eventually, using HCB’s advanced smell (and recollection of the odor of insects from the core), find it. Tobias hacks open the floor hatch, and they descend the non-functioning elevator shaft to the lower level.
This floor is less trashed, although HCB distantly recognizes the smell of the Queen. Tobias hacks the computer here (it seems a routine system update at some point in the last few months added his admin account to this closed system) and find a ton of files related to advanced cybermancy techniques, which he quickly downloads. Recognizing some dates on a set of video files as the days of the week following their raid on Long Pig‘s fortress, he streams it to the team. They are disturbed to recognize their former colleague, April O’Mally, who is apparently not as dead as they thought she was. Disturbingly, they recall her saying that a mysterious benefactor originally paid for all of her ’ware, and remember that the last time she was seen, Halfman had just shot down her chopper, and then been out of sight in her vicinity for quite some time. They worry that they may have a new adversary to concern them….
However, for now, they have more pressing concerns. K raids the cabinets, and finds supplies that he believes are tied into blood magic practices, which he decides to bring back for Madame Gavral and Arlen Thompson to peruse. HCB finds a hole chewed through the floor elsewhere, and, following his nose, declares that the bugs are that way. After squeezing through the winding and narrow tunnel for quite a way, the team encounters a horrifying site: a huge underground cavern filled with insect eggs, as well as multiple (although thankfully less mature) Queens. There is a large open slot where it looks like the Queen they fought in the core may have originally been ensconsed. Tobias decides to call in the kill shot, but realizes his comms don’t work. Taking out his newly acquired Ares spraygun, he sees that it has what seems to be a homing beacon built into it. He activates it, and a countdown starts in his HUD: 10, 9:59, 9:58, etc. He decides to hightail it, and chucks the sprayer as far into the room as he can.
The rest of the team follows suit, as UB! and Thankyou lay down covering fire on the approaching guardian insects. UB! blows the end of the tunnel with some pipe bombs, granting the a bit of time to make good their escape. The team flees back to the ground level, and hurries to the Meshkhenet temple. They warn everyone that something big is coming, and advise them to flee. They all head for the gate, but are stopped just short of the van by some sort of invisible wall. Everyone unloads on it, but only K is able to make a noticeable dent, which begins reknitting itself as they watch. Everyone piles thru, although HCB trips and only makes it at the last minute by launching himself thru at ground level with his rocket pack.
Thankyou quickly hotwires three more cars, and him, HCB, UB! and one of the Meshkhenet temple elders drive. They head out across the desert, away from Heliopolis, as the sky begins to hum and glow behind them. Those with quick enough sight see two enormous rods shaft through the clouds and into the earth within the city walls before a massive explosion and rolling cloud of dust obscure everything. Luckily, they don’t crash into each other, although they do decide to park it and wait for pickup. KE quickly arrives via choppers and light aircraft to ferry everyone back to Mars City. The team gets well paid, and has their medical taken care of. HCB, finally learning from his amassed experience, feels he has overcome his streak of bad luck. K gives the reagents to Gavral and Thompson, who are understandably perturbed.
They tell K that it will still take some time to prepare the ritual to send him and the team to the astral plane to combat the Queen there. They believe this is necesary, as she otherwise may simply keep returning each time she is killed. A powerful spirit is a very dangerous enemy to have, indeed. HCB tells the Yak that they are back in town and ready for the hitlist, and the Yak says they will forward it along. But who will be on it?