Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
and the return of: Blue
The team heads back above the surface to meet up with Juan at a Taco Temple in the Zone, and find out what this “final mission” he needs them for is. On the way they hear that the Spider cult at Camp Lincoln has come under attack, and head that way to try to intervene. Finding a 100’s-strong group made of gangers, civ militias, and Popular Will thugs they decide intervention might be hard, and while they dither the assault concludes: a massive energy wave blasts out from the center of the park as the attackers breach the last maze-like defenses. Aradia, in the astral, determines a few things: this energy burst was from a metaplanar portal, likely to one of the Spider planes, closing, and V’golkatl seems to be stirring up some of the magically active members of the crowd.
TT encourages taking them out but is talked out of it by Kit and others, and Aradia decides to warn one of them that they’re being targeted, but this just seems to get one of the few magically active people going after the others and further riling the crowd. Deciding they don’t have any great options, they decide to head to the meet. On the way they make some calls, getting in touch with Fargus Sol to see about any useful anti-dragon/anti-bug artifacts they might be able to borrow. He says he’ll ask, and also vouches for The Collector, to an extent, in terms of selling home plate if they want a payday, but they decide to hold onto it and see if it will boost a future ritual.
Aradia does manage to get an enchancted nose ring in memory of Simon Andres, inscribed with “Fuck The Bugs”, that has a limited rasnge bug detector, that she also makes into a power focus with the help of the Ash Union. While this is getting made, they head to the meet at Taco Temple and find a somewhat impatient Juan, a little bit undercover. He leads them back into the freezer, bribing an employee, and they find that it seems to be both magically and wirelessly sealed: a good meeting spot. He explains to them that he’s heard rumors that the shedim faction within the UCAS military is pushing for some kind of drastic solution to the Chicago problem, so they need to act quickly.
His sources have told him that the UCAS military at Wrigley have recovered 2 members of the corp strike team, he doesn’t know if they’re alive or dead, but he needs the team to retrieve them (if alive) or their data (if not). He provides photo’s of the 2 members he heard were recovered: the Wuxing geomancer Lu Wendao and the AZT Shorn One Hector Ramirez. Juan also tells them what he knows of what happened to the team: they reported in after reaching the ritual chamber where the team saw the bug dragon, and didn’t find the dragon but were engaging in heavy fighting with the bugs. Lu had reported that he was mapping multiple converging bug-aspected leylines beneath the city, and Hector said the team was getting good mapping data of the tunnel systems.
However, the team was not in touch again after that, so Juan assumes they failed in their ultimate goal, and he will need to team to complete it while he causes a distraction topside. They agree on a price, and resupply at some generous rates through Juan. He also provides some AZT mages to perform some kind of blood ritual on Avocado and Aradia to temporarily aspect them towards bug magic so they won’t suffer such ill effects from the heavy background count underground. Both their Mentors, Seducer and Peacekeeper, seem to go along with this, for very different reasons.
The team heads out overnight, and finds Wrigley transformed from their last visit: the shanytown has been levelled and the surviving population has been relocated outside the stadium in trailers and other temp structures. The UCAS appears to have also demoed about 1/4 of the stadium itself, and appears to be using ground penetrating radar to spot tunnels underneath and deploy sappers. It is also fenced and a bit fortified, with checkpoints guarded both physically and magically. They plot out the guard routes, and plan a way in, having failed to get much meaningful assistance from Stereotype Abellard, though he warns them to get out of town if possible, or at least try to be somewhere without underground infrastructure.
Kit pulls the ruthenium-cloaked van up to the fence by the demo-ed stadium area, and use the arm as a bridge to allow people to cross the barbed wire layer. They then pull the van away remotely while the team sneaks in and clambers over the rubble. Avocado uses social skills and some adept magic to get in at one of the checkpoints, not trusting his physical skills to remain hidden. They rendezvous and with a quick look around, decide to focus on searching the medical and brig areas. Avocado, Carol, and TT get into the brig but find it empty, though there is evidence of 1 prisoner having been here recently.
Kit, Creature, and Aradia (invisible) enter the Med building, and find a stack of body bags, and 2 MP’s guarding a door to secure room in the back. The MP’s tell them medical has been relocated to the mess hall, and Kit fakes a work injury from hauling debris to stumble over to them, while Aradia sneaks up and Creature apes Kit’s movements to approach undetected. With Kit jamming, they manage to take out the 2 guards nonlethally without raising any obvious alarms, and the rest of the team joins them.
Kit uses their Monad abilities to try to use one of the MP’s prints to unlock the door, but they appear to not have clearance, and Kit sets off an alarm (luckily they are still jamming). TT pops the door with a crowbar, and the team comes under concerted assault from a nerdy looking interrogator, as well as spotting Lu Wendao alive. Kit is nearly felled as the interrogator chucks a knife into them, but luckily their Monad nature rejects the poison that coated the blade, and TT is shot up pretty good with some surprisingly fast light pistol firing, before he responds by killing the spy in one brutal javelin throw.
TT quickly pops Lu free from the table restraints but leaves the mage cuffs on for now, while Aradia casts a massive detox spell on him and convinces him to come with them, and talk later. Meanwhile, Carol, Creature, and Avocado have searched the body bag pile and found Hector Ramirez’s badly damaged corpse. Kit races over and manages to extract a bunch of data, though they don’t have any time to sort through it. Since the spy’s gun wasn’t silenced, even with Kit jamming, they expect a response incoming quickly, so Kit starts pulling the van up nearby again, and they prepare to race for the exit….
As Aradia casts a massive illusion of bugs breaking forth in the center of the UCAS camp, her new slightly buggy (temporary) aura seems to call to some actual bugs, who shortly thereafter also break forth in the middle of the camp, in an upsetting mirroring. Luckily, this causes a huge distraction for the team to break for some of the tunnels that the UCAS sapper team has exposed. Creature blasts some lube grenades and they get a call from another shadow asset, Blue, who Juan hired for hacking and sniper support, who is wiping camera footage of them and using stick and shock to clear a path.
They send Blue the data they got from Hector’s corpse and she very politely makes them an overlay map of a way out of the tunnels from where they jump in, and they get clear of the base as large firefight occurs behind them. They link up with Blue at the tunnel exit with the van. Heading to a Taco Temple to debrief, they bribe an employee again and step into the freezer. Conversing with Lu Wendao, they agree to let him send a rerouted code phrase to his handler, a “Mr. Hong”, to alert him that he made it out the tunnels in exchange for giving them all the info. He also helps them piece together the fragmented data and footage they recovered from Hector’s corpse.
What happened: the corp team made it to the chamber where the Queen was inhabited, fighting heavily the whole way, but the Queen had been moved. The different corp factions started getting more suspicious of each other as they went on, and Lu noticed corrupting influences from some strange leylines- the team suspects V’golkatl using it’s influence to turn the corp team against each other using their innate rivalries. This lack of cooperation proved fatal when they finally did encounter the Queen, and Lu spotted a convergence point of the terrible leylines at a disturbing artifact. He says this is likely the source of the leyline alteration towards bugs, and what is allowing the bugs to cooperate, according to his quick analysis.
Blue and Kit also manage to assemble the data into a coherent timeline of footage, maps, and comms logs and confirm the story. They send Lu on his way after popping off the mage cuffs and he thanks them for saving his life. They tell him to return with more assistance if possible after telling him Juan’s plan-they feel allies are more important than secrecy at the moment. They leave TT after Blue finishes scarfing some Bigger Badder Battered Butter Balls and make/receive some calls. Stereotype Abellard calls on a burner and warns TT that he is on a CIA watchlist now since he killed one of their guys with a distinctive javelin. He says he won’t be in touch for a while since Agents are crawling all over.
Tate calls, and tries to convince them all to leave town for a massive payday. He is very polite and friendly, but seems fully corrupted. They refuse the offer, and Creature tells him a knock knock joke ending in “y’urt me real bad” to express xyr feelings about the betrayal. He seems disappointed and apologizes, but doesn’t shift his goals or requests. They then call Juan to share the data as well as some extra info they’ve put together- he shares info back, seemingly sharing their philosophy that they need to cooperate now. He reveals that V’golkatl was created by the corruption and destruction of Calumet, the former Spirit of the City, in ARES’ FABIII assault decades ago, V’golkatl has been growing in power slowly ever since, and only recently has been able to act openly, but Juan confirms that this is a second sign of the coming of the endtime Horrors, the arrival of bug spirits being the first warning.
Juan says his corp has been studying dark magics and preparing for decades for this eventuality, but they hope to stave it off a bit longer. To that end: part 2 of his plan. AZT forces will lure the bugs out near the UCAS, forcing them to engage, and hopefully pulling the Queen away from the artifact. The runners will infiltrate using the corp team’s map data, and destroy the artifact, hopefully destabilizing the bugs or reducing their power. The team agrees, but needs some time to prep and whatnot, so they decide to go the next day. They start calling in allies and favors, expending much of their local rep to get everyone they can get to show up to a rally point that Juan will control to assess for bug infiltration. They will then relocate to the battle site and hopefully lure enough bugs out for the team to succeed.
They talk to Fargus Sol and get and share some Tarot info. Remembering Prophecy 8 and it’s connection to Chicago, they pass along the coordinates, and Sol says they have a Grey Cell operative in the area who can investigate. They also make a deal with the Collector to hand home plate over in exchange for participating the ritual of 5’s, which Sol says should grant some boons for a week. They restock on ammo and gear and explosives, and do the ritual once the Collector arrives. Lothan leads it, and Aradia and Avocado also take part. The Collector say the will need a 5th with the presence of home plate, and TT jumps in, says the Collector explains that with home included they can also include mundanes. They also receive 5 levels of an adept ability, and go their separate ways, the Collector leaves her number if they come across interesting collectibles. Aradia and Avocado organize a big concert with Vendetta Violet and Morris Knight and others at Midway, and get the Neo-A’s their to guard it while the Ash Union coordinate dance/music/movement based ritual to try to create some positive mana energy to assist them. Kit also gets some destroyer nanites from Carol Staples in exchange for the promise of data on their use vs the bug dragon. Kit begins to research how to use their Monad powers to control nanites also.
Sol also reports that a Neo-Anarchist merc named Mara Ariel recovered a strange artifact known as the Net of Marduk at the coordinates in Turkmenistan and is headed to town with it. The team feels about as prepped as they’re gonna get, so they rest one last time and then head to the undiscovered hive entrance that Juan’s scouts found in the Shattergraves in an abandoned dump with a multi-story underground compactor. They sneak in, and use the Ant pheromones to bypass some ant guards. The squatter communities locally seem to have been fully depleted by bug kidnapping- worrying and upsetting. The team heads into the tunnels, navigating via the map they pieced together, assisted by Carol’s excellent perception spotting the detritus of the corp team’s running battle. They reach a central chamber and see an awful scene: dozens and dozens of filled cocoons with various spirit forms growing and changing inside. 3 resin pillars hold the chamber up, and multiple magical barriers maintained by 2 huge caretaker spirits protect the pillars and artifact at their apex. 2 soldiers leap out to defend the hive, and multiple workers start freeing hybrid flesh forms from their cocoons as the team enters.
They get in a brutal fire/fist/teeth-fight, but finally manage to fight back the bugs and demolition their way through the barriers, and TT uses his special orichalcum-tipped javelin that Lothan crafted for him to destroy the artifact. This massivelt destabilizes the local mana sphere (and the chamber), and the tunnel they came in on collapses as Blue finishes blasting through one of the pillars to prevent any bugs escaping, they head for the one other exit: a shaft of sunlight at the far side of the chamber at a steep upward angle. They blow the other pillars behind them to destroy the remaining cocoons, and find themselves crawling up a steep shaft that it looks the bug dragon clawed it’s way up.
They emerge into a hellscape: a pitched battle between masses of bugs and multiple opposing forces. They see the dragon taking out the final UCAS chopper with some acid breath, and chucking the wreckage of into an AZT hover tank that got a lucky shot in with a railgun but was unable to follow up with it’s missile launcher. The tank is tipped over and it’s hover capacity wrecked, but the weapons look intact. UCAS and AZT troops are holding the lines against waves of bug soldiers, but they seem to be losing ground and largely pinned in place. Luckily, they get a brief moment to get better emplaced due to the destruction of the artifact, and the bugs seems to be self-sorting away from each other in the magical confusion, as the artifact seems to have been the thing keeping them cooperating.
The team sees Big Meat and some merrow ferrying civilians out the sea to safety and drowning bugs that follow, as they emerged along the lakeside in Union turf near the Navy pier. They spot Wingman and another Spire pilot flying fast attack craft aways overhead trying to limit the bugs air advantage with missiles while flitting away from the dragon’s lunges. They see Jeff the Chef frantically handing out armor and ammo from a transit van as support rolls in from the staging site. They see Goober in a killdozer and Carol in Zone ambulance ferrying casualties back to a pop-up med tent that Hole Patcher and Horogront set up. They see Mara Ariel with the Arcance 3 and Red at the center of a wedge of Black Star Bug Hunters led by Old Crow while they try to punch through the bug lines to get close enough to the dragon to use the net.
They see Lu Wendao, Opti, Lothan and some ASPS mages doing some sort of ritual to contain the mana storm and alter the leylines to their advantage, while Scurry launches lightning spells and Ryu Quan, and Flurris frantically defend them with some sort of magical sword, which seem to repel the dragon in some way. They feel the energy of chaotic joy conflicting with the mana storm, from the ritual the Ash Union is performing at the huge concert and dance part at Midway. They see Opti’s team, the Silver Vixens, Jazz, Mrs. Clean, Matt Wrath and some baby runners, all in a mish-mash of new looking Renraku and MCT armor and gear trying to bolster the UCAS flanks. They see Mako defending some Freaktowners who seem to be brewing and mixing chems with explosives assembled by Byom and Jaro, and chucking them into the bug lines. And Blue gets a comm welcoming her to the matrix support squad: 3D, Hotkey, Grid Reaper, Dot-Execute, Chessick, S@m, Remo, Kobold, Skeleton Key and Orior are making sure the UCAS can’t call in the “Ripley Initiative” strike, and also trying to coordinate, but all the different groups aren’t talking to each other right/efficiently.
So the team makes some quick plans: they are behind the bug lines so they have a moment to assess before they get noticed. TT and Creature decide to use the team’s remaining pheromones to refill some lube grenades to chuck into the bug formations to try to sow some chaos. Then they, with Kit, will break through and make a run for the tank, where TT will physically retarget the rail gun and missile launcher, while Kit adds Destroyer nanites to the missile payload and Creature fires the heavy weapons. Aradia will levitate Avocado and Blue invisibly around to convince everyone to work together and touchlink all their comms systems to the massive Deep Resonance host the S@m and Remo are setting up, to better coordinate the battle. And Carol will bodyguard behind Kit’s deployed shield to make sure noone attacks Aradia while she magics.
TT and Creature begin crafting pheromone grenades to sow some chaos and TT calls in the Ogre and the Chemical Boyz, the foot soldiers that Egrend Alexkij sent on behalf of the Horde. They see them on comms injecting a bunch of intense looking combat drugs before revving their combat bikes and racing for the bug lines to try to make a hole so TT, Creature and Kit can reach the downed tank. Aradia levitates Avocado and Blue, invisibly, over the bug line where there’s less air action occurring and drops them in towards the main group of runners, and they convince them to link up. Blue gets them connected to huge matrix support/Resonance Well group.
The dragon chucks Jeff the Chef’s vehicle, with him inside, into Wingman’s jet, causing him to spiral out. Carol and Blue manage to snipe some pursuing Wasp spirits, allowing him to eject and get safely caught by Merrow. Shishi, Rune, and Prudence Rosier sacrifice their lives the save the med tent from the dragon while the Freaktowners start chucking chem grenades at it. This distracts the dragon, but unfortunately it charges towards the Freaktowners and scatters them back into the runners’ lines. Meanwhile, Avocado and Blue get levitated to the flagging UCAS line and convince Stereotype to let them link comms, and do so. The Chemical Boyz make a hole, aided by bug infighting triggered by the pheromone grenades. Unfortunately, the Chem Boyz and the Ogre are all killed doing so, but Kit, TT, and Creature reach the downed hover tank.
Avocado and Blue get levitated over the few AZT survivors and get the command codes for the BLue-227 missile that the tank is carrying from Tenoch, just before he dies. They also get them on comms. A complete tactical overlay comes online from the matrix support crew and they start efficiently directing the battle from their remote vantage. The Black Star Bug Hunters race in to protect the tank from getting surrounded and one of them suicide bombs with a FABIII grenade after getting pulled into the mass. The dragon directly assaults the ritual finally, and slays Flurris and Ryu Quan, but ends up with Imperial Sword embedded in it’s belly. The dragon then finishes wrecking the medical area, though Goober safely gets most of the staff and some of the patients out in his killdozer. The dragon calls bugs over to assault the ritual as well, and many of the mages are actively burning out from overcasting.Carol takes a sniper shot at the dragon to distract it and try to save the ritual.
The team in the tank, with the command codes, manages to get the weapons online- TT is on the top, having to physically haul the turret around to aim it, while Kit cracks open the missile and adds their own nanites as well as the destroyer nanites to the payload. Creature estimates they’ll need 2 hits from the rail gun to have any chance at the missile actually making contact, and loads 2 shells, since the auto-feeder is busted. The dragon races past and blasts Carol, who manages to hunker down behind Kit’s shield, which fully melts, along with his armor, but he survives and keeps Aradia alive (and casting). Ricky Steelsky, the other Spire pilot goes into a death dive against the dragon as it ascends towards him, battering it with missiles. The dragon bursts through the jet, damaged but alive, in a massive explosion.
Aradia and Avocado both tell Creature to shoot real good, and xe gets a first blow with the railgun- success! The dragon starts descending for another assault, frying a bunch of the the Black Star Bug Hunters as they defend the tank. The second rail shot misses, and Aradia levitates Blue and Avocado up to try to grab the sword that’s stuck in it. They mange to reach it and both grab the sword, but the dragon also grabs them. However, it seems to have some kind of dragon repelling effect and Avocado manages to “steer” it a bit towards the ground, while Blue hack the healing nanites Kit had implanted in the dragon weeks ago to assist.
As the dragon descends, Mara Ariel takes a flying leap with the Net of Marduk off of Old Crow’s back, snaring the dragon in it. The dragon lashes out, killing her and most of the rest of the Bug Hunters. The bugs are getting more chaotic along with the magic storm, and the pheromones are causing some infighting in their ranks. The UCAS troops, seeing the need, pull back from the front to protect the ritual, while Scurry and Lothan keep a magical shield (barely) intact. The runners crews start taking heavier casualties as a result. Red races into the tank to reload the rail gun.
The team all rallies together and acts as one- Avocado, Aradia and Carol all provide leadership as Creature manages to get a second hit with the railgun, with TT still turning the turret to aim. Kit then launches the missile, which they pilot in (as their other self, from their nanites they put in). They get a solid hit and the dragon starts dissolving faster than it can magically regenerate. Blue assists Kit’s nanites as they spread through the dragon and boost the destructive power of the missile payload. Unfortunately, Blue and Avocado are also splashed with the nanites and Avocado is instantly killed (and the Sword broken) when the dragon desperately swipes at them. Blue is knocked clear, barely avoiding a deadly blow herself.
The dragon begins attempting a ritual to open a portal, perhaps to escape, and Carol races forward and chucks his mysterious backpack at it- he tells Think Tank: “I’m setting you up!”. TT takes the hint and chucks a javelin at just the perfect moment, spearing the device and detonating the portal closer bomb inside. This sends a small explosion and a large magical ripple over the center of the battlefield, disrupting the dragon’s attempt to open a portal and flattening most of the people in the immediate vicinity (though most appear otherwise unhurt). Creature takes ones more shot with the railgun and blows straight through the dragon: everyone sees a huge burst of gross green energy flash and dissipate as the body fully dissolves into a slurry, destroying Avocado’s body, who was right underneath.
Blue is barely saved by the Arcane 3 and Old Crow, who also use an EMP on her to get the nanites off. With the queen dead, the rest of the bugs seems confused and demoralized, and the allied forces begin mopping them up. Lu Wendao, finally dominant in the ritual, is able to guide the mana storm to a close, and Aradia and other mages gather a ton of valuable reagents in the aftermath. AZT is onsite pretty quickly to reclaim property, but other battlefield pickers get some good finds. Everyone hears the good news that the party at Midway remained safe, and those that are conscious head over to celebrate and mourn. Many lives were lost this day, but the city seems to have been saved, at least for now.