Kitten Caboodle aka Kit
While resting, Carol checks in with Candice, who reports that the tip line he set up is working well. Unfortunately, the Jackpoint-er Sticks posted a warning to not trust whatever ARES was up, said something cryptic about looking into Detroit, and them promptly disappeared from contact. Carol tells Candice this is a bad look, but Candice says she certainly doesn’t know anything about it, and gives Carol a compromat file on Sticks, seemingly compiled by ARES in-house intel services. She says he is welcome to use anything within it to get people off his back if needs be, by showing Sticks’ history of paranoia and instability when it comes to ARES/bugs.
Candice also inquires about the Desolation Angels, as some mages on Ellis’ team got a look at their knife and auras during the rescue in the previous mission. Carol confers with the team but confirms that they have a Mantis internal order, since ARES already knows. The team spends the day putting together a proposal and calling in favors to set up a meeting, and ends up arranging a deal: the DA’s will act as on the ground investigators and hitters for ARES in town for dealing with bugs that Carol’s tip line turns up, and ARES will not target the DA’s and will supply them with arms and equipment ensure success. Becky99 reports that the only weird part of the arrangement is that ARES is very insistent on live capture for shamans, who are sedated and taken out of town somewhere, but all in all this feels like a win.
They get a call from Matt Wrath, telling them he’s got work and to get down to the Vault. They do so, and find a few janitors cleaning up and SImon Andrews (secretly) waiting in the green room. Kit waits in the van to make sure the team isn’t all caught in a trap again. Simon apologizes for not calling directly, but says everyone needs to be more careful due to bugs being seemingly everywhere. He tells them that he’s gotten intel that Tate might have moved the bug dragon down underneath Wrigley Field- there’s a huge shanty-town on top, perfect astral masking, perfect source for fresh hosts, and perfect place to make a warren of tunnels.
He has an old smuggler’s tunnel that can get them in, but most of the team decides to use their new UCAS rep to get past the guards at the gate that the UCAS just took control off, LoneStar still runs the other entrance. Simon tells them they just need to get in, get pics of Tate and the dragon, and get out- this will be the proof he needs to get a majority of the corp reps in town enough evidence to get to their superiors to force a corp intervention at the Corporate Court. The team agrees, after negotiating pay up significantly.
They head out, with Carol and SImon taking the smuggler’s tunnel in and finding it compromised by bug tunnels. Probably not a good escape route, then. The rest of the team gets past the UCAS gate by name-dropping Abellard and the rescue, but are warned not to make any trouble inside since it’s a jurisdictional nightmare right now. The team also recalls that the set of 5’s in the 6WT have some Wrigley connections, and review the images they’ve seen. With Simon’s help, and some assensing, they notice home plate glowing on the cards, and Simon leads them to a speak easy called “Slide Home.”
Heading in, they see a few decrepit patrons drinking moonshine, a surly dwarven bartender, and what looks like a 2050’s era home plate mounted over the bar. They decide to steal it, as the cards suggest, and TT makes quick work of it as Aradia conjures up an illusion of some Fraternitas Insectorum gangers busting in to rob the joint. Weirdly, none of the people who were inside seem surprised to see the FI “members”, believing the illusion, but seem to more be waiting to see how the team responds. Spotting a low door leading down behind the bar, they decide to bum rush it, feeling the Tarot cards must’ve lead them here.
They race past as the bartender blasts with a sawed-off, and Creature drops a lube grenade behind. Finding a tunnel entrance under a tarp in the floor of the cellar, they descend, and quickly get into it with some lice spirits that were well-concealed within the bizarre, organic walls of the tunnel structure. They manage to defeat the spirits but it is a close one. They prepare to continue on, feeling that speed is their best bet given how they entered….
Trying to move quickly but stealthily, they find a small connecting chamber that leads to a large central domed room- all made of the same resinous material. Inside, Carol is distressed to see Tate cutting open a massive cocoon inside of a magical barrier, containing what is very obviously a Bug Queen-inhabited dragon, the very same dragon they had rescued from a previous ritual and given to Tate. Unfortunately, the room also contains a huge number of worker spirits and one huge caretaker spirit, who all spot Carol and turn to approach.
Fearing both cops and bugs if they exit back the way they came in, they decide to chance taking a different tunnel out. Everyone but Aradia makes it through the chamber successfully, but Aradia is snatched up by the massive Caretaker spirit that is overseeing the workers tending to the dozens of cocoons in the domed chamber. Simon Andrews makes a heroic speech and manages to cut Aradia free, shoving her into the tunnel with the rest of the team as he seals the tunnel entrance with a mana barrier. He is quickly swarmed by bugs on the other side of the barrier, but the team makes good use of his sacrifice to flee into the tunnels. Carol pauses to quickly document the whole scene with the Quicksilver Camera for good measure.
They get into another brutal fight with some termite spirits this time, and barely manage to fight their way free, with TT nearly dying and the rest of the team’s armor shredded. Using Kit’s excellent navigational sense and some good fortune on their parts, they finally emerge in a ruined parking structure not far from Wrigley. They find a call waiting from Juan Xiuhuitl, who says they must meet immediately, and explains that he and Simon were collaborating on this job. He convinces the team, and they head to the AZT compound springing up in the NW Zone.
Spotting some Jaguar guards onsite, they appreciate that AZT at least seems to be taking this all seriously. Juan tells them that job isn’t done yet- they need to get a strong majority of CC members to vote in favor of a surgical strike here to prevent Chicago from getting FABed or carpet bombed again. Juan says he can get his corp on board with all the evidence the team got, and that Simon had prepped SK for the same. Juan needs the team to reach out to Renraku, Wuxing, and MCT. He suspects that Spinrad will sit it out, as will Shiawase and EVO, not having strong local ops, and that ARES and Horizon will go against anything AZT proposes at the moment, and can’t be trusted anyway given their bug ties (his words).
They agree, and get a partial payment. They call up the Johnsons they know at the 3 corps, and get some small favors to do for each of them in exchange for their help, as Juan had warned they might. They document the corruption of leylines by V’Golkatl for Ryu Quan, suggesting that Tate was slowly corrupted over time as dark magics were warped around his clinic sites, and get Wuxing on board. Quan is still working to resummon Flurris from his formula after the ally spirit was destroyed getting Quan to safety during the bug ambush at the big meeting.
They pick up the broken man, Clay Foster, whose life the team totally dismantled during Aradia’s first mission with them, and pass him off to Carol Staples, who has replaced her old boss Maggie Goldberg, after Maggie’s untimely death in the Wasp/Ant Queen ritual on Truman Tower. She says MCT will join on with Juan’s plan. They also convince a disgraced ex-Seelie Court financier, Gregor Stassen, to leave town for Metropole, permanently, as the corps don’t operate openly there and there aren’t a ton of Seelie connections, so he can likely manage to start fresh. This satisfies Sarah Silverleaf, who wanted him kept away from Renraku’s areas of influence, and she says they will also join the plan.
The team reports back to Juan, who seems well-satisfied, and pays them, as well as offering them some discounts on some specialty gear. He tells them to lay low and heal up for a few days but keep their comms on. They head back down to Ahabitat to heal, patch up armor, and keep their heads down, but they hear some interesting and disturbing news while under the sea. Ghouls have come under aggressive attack locally by the Freedom Network and others, after the news that bugs have been using ghoul nests to masks their auras, and the local ghoul population has been pushed back to Long Pig Farms and Tamir Grey Towers, or else killed or driven out of town. Popular Will thugs are “keeping an eye” on both locations for further bug trouble, but it seems Chicago is no longer a safe place for ghouls at the moment.
They hear of a bunch of legendary corporate heavy-hitters showing up in town and joining forces, but apparently the surgical strike doesn’t quite go to plan, and the UCAS III Corps moves fully in in the aftermath, booting LoneStar from a lot of their security ops, and bombing and flattening the Wrigley enclave before establishing a major FOB there. They seem to be taking a “shoot first” policy towards any suspected bugs, and due to the ongoing pissing contest between ARES corporate and the UCAS are going especially hard after ARES and their allies- including the Desolation Angels. As a response to this, and pissed at being excluded from the strike team plan, ARES pulls out all their public local presence (Carol knows that some of this was planned as lead-up to the execution of Latvian Gambit).
ARES offers to help the DA’s relocate to Detroit as well, and Becky99 and Praxis call the team looking for advice. Their other best option is heading for the PWV sprawl in Azania, which has grown significantly in the last few years as a manufacturing hub. Apparently there is also some local reverence and tolerance in varying degrees for different bug species, and bug hunts are also common there, so it seems like it could be a good fit. After a lengthy discussion, Praxis and a few of the other Mantids head for Detroit with ARES, while Becky, Blue, Misa, and most of the rest of the gang head to PWV. The team manages to call in another favor with Stereotype Abellard and ensure that the DA’s can leave town without further run-in’s with the military, and the DA’s all sadly swap out their Chicago patches on their cuts for their new cities.
Kit especially feels their loss as good allies and skilled bug-fighters, but there doesn’t seem to be much the team can do- Abellard doesn’t have enough power to change command decisions at that level, so they wish them safe travels and hope to reconnect someday. Worried about the outcome of that corp strike team mission, they are somewhat relieved to hear from Juan, who says he needs them for one last job, and will explain everything once they meet up.