The team, waiting to hear from Toast about his test, heal up and train some new skills in the impressive facilities at The Continental in London. Frosty Jane confers with Toff and Love after the team all has some strange dreams, and suggests that they may have some lingering effects from their contact with the corrupted librarian. They also compare dreams, and consult spirits and discover that Dunkelzahn seems to have used his death/sacrifice to not only delay the coming of the Horrors in a ritual way, but also to permanently power a cyberzombie (made with Aztechnology gear from the 2050’s) that literally stands astride the great astral bridge, guarding the realms of metahumanity. However, this figure is being worn down by constant attacks, and Jane says that her intel from the Seer’s Guild suggests that some big bad is coming- she tells Love and Toff to cautiously feel out the rest of the team and try to put together a real pro squad seriously devoted to dealing with this, after they finish the chal’han. Love and Toff agree, hoping any Atlantis tech they find might help them.
Fentin tinkers with his deck a bit, and gets healed of the hydra’s pestilence by Agatha Hawthorne. She also bonds with Toff a bit while helping him with predictive rituals, and they discover that the dragon known as Moleskin is indeed the figure dwelling beneath the Vatican, and likely helped invent and spread many of the monotheistic religions that populate the world, due to his 4th World era fixation on a “Prime Passion”- essentially the one true deity/source of magic. This blows Toff’s mind, alongside his other recent revelations, and he continues reformatting his belief system, as well as girding himself to learn some relatively benign blood magic from Jane to help the cause.
The team travels to Metropole, getting an in-flight briefing on the city, and getting a personal update from Tanaka, who headed there early to scout it out and do some side jobs. They reserve the Damon’s Runner Crash Pad in town for their stay, and find it cushy, well-situated, secure, and well-appointed. They clear entrance exams with only some small hacking and bribery needed. It seems the nations security force, the DISA, are still very much on edge after the recently lost war to Aztlan. The team rests up at the safehouse, and Jack says he will let them know once he finds his task here. They also contact Kristine Martin aka KAM, who seems disposed to help them given that the team has seriously put her nemesis (and ex) Thomas Roxborough on his back foot (metaphorically ha) due to their continued attacks on Gilgamesh Initiative facilities. She gives them some good intel.
Jane and Barnaby “Wombat” Rudd have put together an extensive list of Black Lodge intel that needs to get cracked, pulled from global databases, the deep reaches of the matrix, the resonance realms, and the new Library of Alexandria and the private holdings of Shwartzkopf. With this intel, they hope to get ahead of the BL, who seem to have taken a distinct interest in this chal’han, as well as manage to get some clues into future cache locations from both the BL intel and the previous cache contents. However, to do this, the team will need to make contact with a super-secret copywrong gang known as the Quantumists. Jane hasn’t had any luck contacting them remotely, as they are deep underground, due to their decryption abilities making them major corp targets.
The team reads up on some good local spots to make shadow contacts, and splits into a few groups to gather intel. Love hangs at the pad to astrally scout the city, and catches up with Tanaka once she shows up. Gethin, Toff, and Fentin head to a magic bar called Loveless to scope the scene, and Chem tinkers with the van provided at the pad, as well as cleaning and tuning up everyone’s gear, and getting a delivery of new magnetic grenades from the Ex-Corporate Scientists lab. Love is overwhlemed by the density of astral info, but finds some hints of powerful locations out of the city, as well as some major sites of interest in town. At Loveless, they find that the price to get in is the loss of someone or something you love- an object, memory, person, etc. Gethin refuses and goes to more tourist-y bar nearby.
Fentin and Toff enter, and see that a spirit of man seems to absorbing energy from the losses at the door to somehow reshape the astral energy of the bar. They both become a bit intoxicated on it. Toff ends up getting a few possible jobs/meeting 2 fixers, but mostly flirting and eventually hooking up with an interested fellow-attendee. Fentin gets the name of a local fixer who can hook them up with some crackers, and pays for an intro. Gethin heads to another bar to meet that guy, Arturo Gilberto. Fentin then downs a drink that someone buys him without checking who it was- too bad it was Gwynplaine! Luckily the drug in the drink is a non-fatal paralytic, so Fentin has an unpleasant experience being threatened while he can’t move, and GP is making him undetectable to others at the bar.
Fentin agrees to GP’s initial offer- he will approach his team about messing with Harlequin more directly, as well as doing his best to win the chal’han, to make Harly lose face. GP says he will check back in in a day. Toff finally comes to Fentin’s rescue, and finds that GP has marked Fentin as well. Love, upon hearing this, begins to consider getting a cyber-arm to try to remove his GP mark. Meanwhile, Gethin gets a successful meet with Gilberto, after seeing the goblin rigger Cao leaving a his booth at the Tanqua Lounge. Gilberto puts Gethin in touch with a local gang called the Open Sourcerers, who he says are the best game in town, as far as he knows. They operate from bases in major trash dumps on the Sao Paulo and Rio sides. Gethin heads out the front door, and is nearly killed by a suicide bomber who homes in on her.
Toff and Fentin race over and rescue Gethin, getting them stabilized and out of the area. This seems like a CFD incident at first, but Toff finds no trace, and thinks it must have been a Manchurian candidate sleeper agent, based on Gethin’s trid footage. They do some research and calling around, and find out that their is a man, Dr. Gunter Von Bach, who is wanted by Interpol and known as the “Puppet Master Killer.” Simon Andrews gives them a bunch of info that Saeder-Krupp amassed on Von Back in exchange for the team agreeing to either kill him or pass along any info they find about him to Andrews. They hear some rumors that he may be in Metropole, if still alive, but have no idea what he looks like now, or where he might be.
Love contacts GP by channelling mana into his mark, and the team tells GP that they will accept his terms- they will interfere with Harly’s standing as much as they can within the bounds of the chal’han, and GP won’t interfere with them further. He seems satisfied, for now, and interestingly is either unwilling or unable to cross the boundary of the crash pad. The team meets the Open Sourcerers in the Rio-side dump, and finds that they have a hidden lair made of crushed car walls/ceilings built out under huge piles of waste. They pass along a fragment of the Voynich script for them to crack, as a test, but they are unable to after the first day. The OS’s ask for a larger sample size, but the team is leery, and tries to feel out how to contact the Quantumists. Unfortunately, they bungle the etiquette, and the OS’s rank and file (who are a bunch of impressively cybered-up street kids and recicladoras) all pull out a variety of arms. As the team is all in light armor to avoid fatigue from the heat and humidity, they don’t wanna get in a fight, though Love almost kicks it off. They manage to make some entreaties to check their rep, and namedrop Jane as their employer. The OS’s eventually agree to pass along a message, if such a group as the Quantumists even exists, in exchange for a job.
They want the team to break into a local “cool hunter’s” office, steal the upcoming season’s plans, and replace them with subtly altered variants (which the OS’ provide a template for), in order to hinder the firm’s clients, and let the OS’ make some bank selling the true plans. The team agrees, and heads back to the pad to start planning. Jack tells them that this run will suit him as well- he will accompany the team, and they will pay off their debt to him. They agree. Toff also is contacted by the Vigilia Evangelica after making some quiet inquiries, and offered a job. If they agree to investigate the strange cult that has sprung up around the Christ the Redeemer statue, as well as the odd astral energies there, the VE may be willing to not obstruct the team in this heavily Catholic sprawl. They seem to respect Toff, and they have a decent talk, and agree to try to at least not directly harm each other if possible, though they may still have some conflicting goals.