Carol continues to lay low for a bit, preparing to decamp for Detroit once Vogel is ready. On that front, there’s been some news: ARES has begun some major matrix upgrades in Detroit, which Vogel says are likely a cover to justify “outages” during Operation: Latvian Gambit. There are also a lot of kill contracts being offered for ARES mi-level execs and scientists, which Vogel says is Otto Hendricks covering his tracks from Bottleneck/Pyro/Apex ahead of Latvian Gambit’s kickoff. Don Michaels also tells Tabasco he’s headed to Detroit along with a lot of other Cutters, to start doing some “street cleaning” on ARES’ behalf. Tabasco tries to warn him about bugs without warning him about bugs, and hopes they don’t end up on opposite sides of a future fight. He asks him for any last minute gear that the Cutters need to leave, but it seems like they’re loading up all their equipment for the mission.
Tabasco is happy to report that he got revenge for the Cutters who went missing up in Snohomish. He doesn’t bother to tell Michaels that the revenge was secondhand and accidental, and Michaels seems to appreciate the closure before he leaves town for an uncertain amount of time. The team also hears from Aradia, who has a disturbing report: someone has fully cleared out the Sisterhood of Ariadne clubhouse and scrubbed it. She warns that if the Black Lodge is looking into what happened it could go badly for the team. She also reports that she has made some good advance prep for Jonny Spinrad to party while he’s in town, and that Jonny has apparently been having “some trouble at home with the missus” and is looking to cut loose- which Aradia is all in favor of. The team notices that she seems to have taken a bit of a harder turn again after opening up a bit to community with the Sisterhood.
Aradia also wants to examine the blade fragment, and uses Pyschometry for a few hours to take a look. She learns a lot about the blade’s forging, use, and breaking, and confirms/further fills out the team’s existing info. She also reports that the blade fragment is made of valuable materials if they were to melt it down and separate/refine them, but it might be dangerous to hold onto. The main crew decides that at this point Chew Gum and Dig need to either be in or out, so they offer them the team norms and permanent places on the crew. Both accept, and the crew heads back to Finn’s Safehouse to celebrate. Tabasco, noticing that the team name suggestion box is full, suggests they vote on a name, and they do so, settling on “Hired Power”, which Carol approves remotely.
Chew Gum heads back to his safehouse in Puyallup the next morning and is bummed to see that Jaga stopped by while they were out, and left a note on a leaf. He and Dig call the Watering Hole again to leave her another message to make a specific plan to meet up. The crew decide to try a ritual- they now both want to track local Black Lodge activity, and decipher the code book they retrieved. They head to Blake Island to seek a safe place for the ritual, and decide to cast it on Creep. given his sneakiness and good mental abilities. Creep calls on Shiawase Daigou’s good will and gets connected with the Delta clinic again, where he gets an attention co-processor to help deal with the overwhelming amount of magical info he’s about to receive.
Aradia helps with the ritual, seemingly having developed a grudge against the BL. She also reports on night one of partying with Spinrad (fun and wild), and Tabasco tries to help out a friend, Nyssa Hallas, by recommending that Aradia take Spinrad to Club Penumbra at some point. The team also spots some more Menehune Dwarves seemingly exploring the sea caves on Blake Island, confirming the CG and Dig that the Menehune Underground are also likely working for the Sea Dragon, as rumored. The ritual goes well, and Creep finds himself with a massively expanded mental perception of a very specific thought in the minds of others: the strange language from the BL code book.
They split Seattle into 6 grid sections, and Tabasco and Creature protect Creep in the van while cruising around, seeking hits on the thoughts the ritual aimed to identify. The rest stay on the island to maintain the ritual. They get 3 hits throughout the city, and start with the friendliest one: the alchemist Squeamish. He trades some info with them, and confirms his limited knowledge of the BL script: he explains that it uses magical cryptography, essentially a ritual done on all participants to be able to read each others’ code. He says they should be able to crack it if they can scan it out of anyone else’s mind who was looped in. He also explains a bit about the Rogue Lodge, and the local power broker Jonathan Blake, who seems to be the mysterious “JB” hinted at on Aunt Clara’s comms. Blake apparently had his owns son killed after he leaked some BL into to the runner Axis Mundi, who is also now missing.
He also gives them some news updates: the Aztlan-er fixer Izidor Kurtlanik was gunned down, along with his bodyguard Achilles Serifim, in an attack by the Iron Templars, in which one of them was killed. The survivor then tried to hit Dewei Tao as well, but was foiled as he had apparently gotten spooked and hired 2 very pro bodyguards: Danger Sensei and Shieldmaiden, who easily felled the already wounded assassin. Carl Derrick was poisoned in his hotel room (one of mine, chuckles Squeamish), leading to a minor PR kerfluffle when his wife said that she hoped that “that awful sinful city WOULD leave”, contrary to the official UCAS position that Derrick was meant to represent. Two Chimera assassins also got into a massive firefight downtown with the Red Samurai guards of Takuto Nakagawa, and essentially everyone was killed when one of the Chimeras detonated some kind of backpack bomb rather than be captured. Based on the CBRN cleanup crews, it seems this could have been a mini-nuke or chemical weapon of some sort. Renraku announces that they luckily have a digital persona backup of important high level execes, so Nakagawa will be able to complete his duty to the corp and the Referendum.
The team does some research and decides that Blake is too hard of a target: Mayor of Bellevue, head of Centurion Security, and former spymaster for Dunkelzahn before falling out with Nadja Daviar: too hot. So they decide to go after the third ping, which came from Council Island. Tabasco gets a bunch of stun arrows and captures 11 sea birds with Creature helping keep them calm and sedated til ready, Dig assumes the same bird form, and CG uses animal control through a spirit to make the flock follow Dig on a recon flight over Council Island. Dig uses a smaller version of the same spell again, and sees an Eastern Euro man on a comm call under a tree. He heads back after getting spotted by magical security on the island, and spends the night making an impressively accurate sculpture of the man’s face.
Creep, worried about Takashi getting too powerful (he seems to be benefiting greatly from the direction that Shiawase is taking the Spirit of the City in) pays him a visit and they do some meditation and conversation on the meaning of leadership etc. Takashi explains that mutation is purely consensual now, and a more arduous process than before without Nightmare’s Chemosh artifact around. But he says this is all for the good. He seems as before to be living by his own personal code. Creep leaves still concerned but feeling maybe a little better. Tabasco leaves a message for Jimmy Kincaid, and is surprised when he calls back. Kincaid is a classic drunkard PI, and fills Tabasco in on some of what’s been going on with him/Puyallup. He also accepts Tabasco’s offer of assistance, and asks him to pass along a message to Margaret Telestrian.
Tabasco does so, warning Telestrian to tell High Prince Evan Harris to stay away from Seattle., in exchange for not releasing info that could damage Telestrian/Tir Tairngire’s standing post-Referendum. Tabasco makes clear he doesn’t know what’s happening and is just delivering the message, and Telestrian seems to enjoy his bluntness and lack of guile. She tells him if he hears of a sword fragment with Sperethiel script he should tell her. He calls back almost immediately and reports that he has it and offers it for sale, the team having gotten what they can from it and worried about keeping it longterm. She pays up, and also offers to get the team day passes to Council Island after Tabasco asks. She also ID’s the sculpted bust of their surveillance target as Tibur Dobos, some kind of political operative from DeeCee. The team does some research and it seems like he has been thoroughly scrubbed from the matrix. Based on some old info on Jackpoint, it looks like he is Black Lodge, and has an ongoing interest in the ACHE.
They decide to get smuggled over instead, and hire Sounder for the job. Dig stays behind to provide spell assistance from a distance. They infiltrate south on the island along the same path as the last time they were here, not having gotten spotted or tripped any defenses then, and find the setup is only slightly upgraded since. They reach the edge of the woods, and Tabasco and CG hang back to provide long distance cover and escape assistance, while Creep and Creature follow their guidance over the TacNet to sneak up to the edge of Embassytown and find the man they seek. They find him finishing a meeting with John Abernathy, and Creep manages to do a brush pass and inject him with narcoject. Creep quickly slams one of Clara’s potions and mind probes Dobos while he is out.
He gets some info but is almost instantly forced to retreat when Dobos jerks back to consciousness (likely an auto-injector) and summons aid. Creep sets off some smoke grenades on a different path to cover his and Creature’s retreat, and they reach the treeline and get back to the rendezvous with the subs without issue. He was able to get the cryptographic key they needed but not much else, but that was the most important thing, so mission accomplished! And his attention co=processor should allow him to work on transcribing the code book, so that’s all good news. Next up, back to the University to start translating!
The team also gets the news that the Call of the Void cult killed another astronomer who was worried about the asteroids they’re pulling onto a collision course, which spurred Arleesh and Dyna Mite to action. They hired Kukulkan’s crew, who made the necessary phone calls and arrangements and got Buttercup, Lady Xoc and the other necessary parties involved. They ask the team to get them a meeting with the Sea Dragon to offer their assistance in dealing with the ones that are prophecied to hit the oceans. The team agrees, and the K’s Crew offers to share info on lesser Horrors and other existential threats anytime. So that’s Prophecy 10 resolved and the planet saved! Hopefully…..