Toff spends a bunch of time after the Gilgamesh Initiative run at the ASPS Sanctum. He learns that what he witnessed in that facility was high-level cybermancy. He also picks up some rumors about the Chicago Wyvern, which apparently bares some resemblance to Dunkelzahn, at least in profile. He agrees to research it further for the Church of the Dragon Reborn. Jason Two-Spirits hires Toff to do a job investigating the Aleph Society, and brings in an infiltration expert from Seattle named Munty to help out. They decide to also bring Ro in on it.
Two-Spirits and Seeks-The-Moon, with Dr. Eric Kersh’s help, have forged a magical artifact that they think the team will be able to barter for entry with the organization. They want to know what Aleph is up to, and how they are doing it: they claim to be able to heal essence loss, and ASPS sources inside Ares Macrotechnology say that corporate infiltrators have confirmed that the ritual works. So they want to know how- they are worried it is blood magic or some sort of spirit problem, and say that astral space is bad in the vicinity of their campus, the former site of DePaul University. The team agrees.
They do some research, and find that Aleph is doing outreach at Camp Lincoln in the CZ. Doing some research, and calling Lothan for info, they find out that Chem and Ortega’s paranoia about Camp Lincoln is somewhat misplaced- although they may also be cannibals, they are primarily a community living in the park which knows how to make willing people ‘disappear’, for a price. They have some sort of connection to Spider, who hates insects, so they imagine there are some shamans about. The team reaches the camp, and following a web-like maze, emerge into a clearing where a tent and some benches have been set up. An Aleph barker calls out for all shattered souls to join them in their healing wisdom.
They make it through a propagandistic meeting, and pay upfront dues to move in as 1st level students at the Society’s campus. They hide their illicit gear in a smuggling compartment in the van and park it securely nearby, but are stripped of their possession and told they must work without magical assistance to appreciate fully the gifts they will receive. They spend a week opening up another housing block, as the Society appears to be attracting many new members, before they move up a level, and start receiving lectures on the history of the Society. They still work, but Ro and Toff manage to cover for Munty as she sneaks around and recons. She finds that the lecturers (and high level initiates) all live in an old admin building, with warded lower levels. She figures out what security devices they need to bypass to enter.
At the final lecture, some high level acolytes pull a man from the crowd, who they claim is an ex-insect shaman trying to infiltrate the order to get power back. Before the 2nd-tier students, they burn the man alive inside of a force sphere, so they are unable to hear his screams as the lecturer rants about maintaining the purity of Aleph. Munty manages to sweet talk him after the lecture long enough to copy his prints, and Toff uses clairaudience to overhear the vocal code. Munty manages to sneak into the office with these. Toff and Ro notice that a number of other students left in the wake of the burning, and think Munty’s absence should be dismissable as such. They are told they will be required to swear fealty the next day.
Munty hides out inside in a vent, waiting for a low-traffic time. Toff and Ro and awoken in the middle of the night by cloaked figures carrying torches and told the fealty ritual can’t wait. They are brought via levitation to the top of the admin building, while Munty begins sneaking into the basement inside. They partake in the ritual, which uses a small amount of blood and drains them of some karma. Toff sees that in the astral they all now have a thin bond to some distant metaplane, but he can’t tell which one. They then have a celebration/meet and greet with the acolytes who brought them there, as well as the Society’s current leader, Sierra LaGuardia. Toff and Ro decide to use the page to try to get more info before they get deeper in, and con LaGuardia, who seems eager for more ‘sacred books’- she apparently has 2 and seeks a 3rd, claiming they are relics of Atlantis.
She has the page, the runners, and 2 acolytes brought to her office, where her initial examination, and their explanation of where they found it (claiming they retrieved it from The Foul One’s lair) seem to pass muster. She then leads them down to the basement. Munty, meanwhile, has been exploring, and managed to sneak through the physical plant into a sub-basement using a vocal sample of LaGuardia that Ro sent along. Munty finds a series of 4 surveilled hallways wrapping around a seemingly perfectly smooth concrete cube that runs floor to ceiling. Unable to find a way in, she briefly despairs, before hearing the others descending the stairs and runs and hides.
They enter the cube after LaGaurdia shapes open a door, and Munty manages to sneak in right behind them as it closes, while Ro distracts. They proceed past an armed guard into a library, while Munty hangs back and tases the guard, very quietly. She slips in the library door, just as the others exit the far side, after LaGuardia returns one of the sacred tomes (used in the fealty ritual) to its proper place. Munty begins flipping through and photographing both The Book of Gaf and The Book of Tak, before finding the logs of the secret history of the order. She hears some distant explosions and rumblings, and takes cover.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team has entered a shadowy room with a large, shaded sphere occupying almost all the available space. Toff briefly assenses, and sees that this is likely a metaplanar gate of some sort, and realizes that 2 shadowy spirit forms seem to be the end destination of the astral threads that they all gained in the ritual. LaGuardia walks into the sphere, seemingly supported by nothing, and plays the page on a shadow altar. It lights into flame and disintegrates, and LaGaurdia calls out as the spirits seem to begin draining something of her, with everyone hearing a dry and crackled voice saying that “this is not a true revelation.” The acolytes seem briefly unsure what to do, and Toff manages to magic open the only exit as they attack Ro. With Munty’s help, they put them down, but hear more explosions nearer by.
They hide as best they can as a buffed-up LaGuardia emerges from the shadow sphere trailing it’s aura. Some cybered-up mercs, seemingly from the Society of the Phoenix Arisen based on their armor, enter from the opposite side, having breached the door, and open fire. The bullets seem to bounce off LaGuardia, a power the team has only seen on spirits before, with her quickly healing any damage she does take. She crushes one of the mercs in some kind of gravity sphere. The team sneaks out, but one of the mercs nearly guns down Ro before getting distracted by spirit magic. They manage to make good their escape amidst the chaos- it looks like Phoenix Arisen is taking revenge for the dead amongst their number at their disastrous holiday party in Seattle the year before.
They reach Sanctum again, and the ASPS manages to break their blood pact before it drains them much further. They are healed up and receive their pay, as well as passing the info along. Ro and Toff both also pass on the general info (but not the ritual specifics) to Renraku Computer Systems and the Dragon Church, respectively. The ASPS strongly requests they keep the specifics secret, as they are too dangerous to be out in the public- many burnouts are desperate enough to attempt just such a ritual to get their mojo back.