The team egocasts to the city of Noctis on Mars, using a secure Firewall network of relays. Firewall puts them in touch with a local proxy, who has some gear available, and they stock up on explosives and weapons, preparing to head out into the TITAN Quarantine Zone and hoepfully end the Glory threat once and for all. They have a few days before Patrona Vazquez arrives to nanofab needed items, engage in some much needed psychotherapy, and adjust to their new bodies.
Anna uses the downtime to research her missing memories (Mars being the last place she traced herself to), and finds the names of 3 old University of Mars contacts, giving her some potential leads to track down. Vazquez arrives, and they arrange to meet her on the edge of Noctis to head out into the TQZ on 2 buggies. Fred manages to avoid revealing his true ID to her, as he has an outstanding contract on Extropia. Wong sets up some drones to scout ahead and watch their rear, and they try to watch out for obvious threats, not really knowing what to expect. Fred uses his Barsoomian contacts to find an unpatrolled area of the Planetary Consortium’s quarantine barrier where they can sneak past, and they move through without incident. They have a GPS location for Dexter Vo based on his calls to Mason Wang, but don’t have a specific route. Smuggler they contact tell them that the situation inside the TQZ is too shifting and upredictable to have specific routes, and that they will have to stay on their toes.
They make it about halfway in and are ambushed by an enormous camoflagued warbot, armed with plasma- & machine-guns and a seeker rocket launcher, as well as a number of lashing tentacles and cutting torches. It destroys their forward scout drone. After a hard fight, they destroy it, though Anna is nearly killed, but they manage to stabilize her and get her back to consciousness (although she is acting strangely…). They continue with the buggies, until they reach an odd looking field of metallic bushes, seemingly ringing the area they need to reach. They send the drone in and it is caught as a “branch” extends and pulls it back in towards the bush’s center, dismantling it with nanotech and fractal branching digits. So, problem. Fred takes a rocket pack and launches himself over (after they determine the limit of the bushes’ reach), but upon landing he disturbs what seems to be a huge nanoswarm carpeting the martian desert. He lifts off again to try escape.
The rest of the team decides to push through the bushes, after realizing that they can be damaged, if only slowly, and they blast their way through using most of their explosives and a number of plasma blasts. The remaining bushes begin to reposition to close the hole as they race through, and Anna, already weakened, doesn’t make it- she is speared through by fractal arm, which mushrooms out behind her and pulls her in- her screams quickly cease as it dismantles her body and cotical stack. The damaged bushes also seem to be healing with disturbing rapidity. They race through the nanoswarm minefield, and try not to get covered in bots. Sadly, these TITAN machine seem to be built on an even smaller femto scale and their defenses are fairly ineffective. Frank and Pran both feel something entering and changing them, and Iskra has to ditch her armor, which is infested.
They proceed to the GPS and find a cave down in a shallow arroyo, wherein they encoutner 2 more of the immolator-type exsurgents and kill them. Vo is barely recognizable, having expanded out in a huge fleshwall, and fused to the rear of the cave. It looks like the exsurgents have been pruning his various protuberances and placing the cuttings into cryocapsules stacked about the cavern. The team briefly interrogates Vo, and Iskra brainscans him, taking massive damage as he psychic stabs her back. She is killed, but not before confirming that Wang held the only other existent fragment of the TITAN Myrmidon, aside from the chunk fused with Vo himself. They recover her stack, and Pran rigs up a large explosion to destroy the fragment, Vo, and the cryocaps. They retreat from the cave and set it off.
However, Pran has been experiencing some strange internal feelings and small tentacle growths begin bursting forth from his body. He intitially conceals this from the team, but it soon becomes obvious. Frank executes him, and as his body continues to twitch and expand, they decide to fry his stack rather than retrieve it. Frank also kills himself, fearing infection, as he can’t stop singing his responses to people’s questions, but is unable to recognize that he is doing it. They grab his stack, and link back up with Vazquez, who is thrilled with the news of Vo’s demise. She rocket packs over the bush line (reformed at this point), and they ferry everyone over with the 2 packs, dodging the large hovering spheres of femtobots that have swarmed up following their recent passage. They reach the buggies, and return to town. They have some downtime, so Anna decides to chase down those leads (in an infostate for now), while Fred, Iskra, Frank, and Lena see if they can pick up some work with the Barsoomians to pay their way back to Parvarti.