The team takes a few days off while trying to figure out what they just went through, and Lena attempts to synthesize a resistance to the Factor dust, if that’s what it was. Meanwhile, Iskra keeps partying on Octavia, but tells the team that her old comrade (and Firewall sentinel) Anna Cornucopia has apparently just arrived on Parvarti, and that she wants the team to round her up. They do so, though Frank is distracted, having received another cryptic clue about Maria Santiago.
Anna doesn’t know why she was sent (or sent herself) to Parvarti, but has lost a month of time. Checking out her background, she hasn’t been seen in 2 weeks, but was last on Locus, in the company of Mason Wang. She has been partying, dancing, and apparently planning some kind of big event with Wang, some of his acolytes, and other members of the Blue Pod collective, including the suicide artist Letitia Barrow. Anna and Wang have seemingly retired to his private Wang Industries hab to prepare, but have been distressingly out of touch.
As Anna had previously been somewhat concerned with Wang’s fascination with AI and TITAN tech (as well as the specific’s of some of Anna’s Firewall mission activities), and had warned Firewall about it, the team gets approval from Ben Johanssen to egocast to Locus and look into it. On arrival, they find out that Blue Pod has an annual art opening/blowout scheduled in 3 days time. They stock up on weaponry at the local Autonomist’s armory and nanoforge, and manage to track down Wang’s 2 closest followers: Tahira Maha & Ferapont Gajos. Both are on Locus, and have apparently started a mini-fad for recherche, homeknit sweaters. Anna feels a sense of familiarity but can’t nail it down.
They get ahold of Maha and play her rivalry with Gajos to get a ride out to the Wang Idustries hab. Gajos flies the plane, however- wearing the sweater, as advertised. While traveling to the hab, they get to talking, and he mentions that he is taking them to meet Mother, which reminds Anna of where she saw sweaters like this before: aboard the Song Cai Flower, during the Glory infestation. She panics, and they kill Gajos, but not before the craft arrives at the WI hab. They enter the airlock, deciding they best investigate since they’re there already, but they seem to have lost comms as they docked, so they can’t warn Firewall. They decide to track the jamming & disable it.
They encounter some mutated, cat-eyed Exsurgents & kill them, with minor injuries. Disturbingly, there is a large mound of clothing and personal effects, some bloody, implying they were not the first ‘visitors.’ They advance, fighting through the station staff of the WI hab, who are all in various stages of mutation (and sweater clad), and seem to have taken up a diet of human flesh. They eventually reach a server room, where Anna promptly infects her muse Penny. They smash and shoot it to bits without further investigation. They pass through the main manufactory, destroying a nanofabber before it can finish whatever it’s making, but can’t ID it from the plans.
Entering the next room, they find the source of the jamming- a huge fleshpile, that seems to have originated with Anna, whose previous morph’s face is visible amid the folds, tumors, bulges, limbs, mouths, tentacles, and numerous wombs into which 2 more exsurgents are inserting their ovipositors. Anna freaks out, they slay the exsurgents, and they manage to eventually destroy the horror that is infected Anna, but not before it snares and infects “new” Anna, who tells the team not to let her know what happened here, before Lena burns out her stack. They also recover a hard drive of some sort, but decide not to analyze it, for the time.
The team flees the room, and finds the jamming going down, as “old” Anna’s power fades, seemingly. They call it in to Firewall and are told to wait for a cleanup team to arrive. When they do, they are in full biocontaminant gear, and they carefully scan and upload the team, telling them that the WI hab is to be quarantined, along with the team’s morphs. They agree, lacking other options, and hope to get resleeved soon.
Firewall clears the team’s morphs and resleeves them aboard Locus. Anna calls in favors to get another body, and Wong and Iskra finally ’cast in from Venus. They do some digging through the data they got at the Wang Industries hab, and find that there are backups for Anna, Maha, and Gajos stored along with project data, but nothing from the last week. Anna merges hereslef, gaining some insight.
There are 4 WI techs missing from the hab, as well as an infected version of Wang. They find Maha, but don’t get much useful info, other than confirming their suspicions that the Blue Pod party is going to be used as a means to spread the Glory virus. They kill Maha, and attempt to play it off as consensual “homicide art”, similar to Barrow’s suicide art, as a hype event for the party. Firewall has to call in some favors to cover their asses, but they avoid serious trouble.
Meanwhile, Wong checks out some blueprints they found on the WI hab drive, and promptly infects himself- he begins trying to construct something in a nanofabber, but is discovered by the team, wiped, and resleeved. They decide to leave the blueprints alone for now. Frederik meets up with Barrow and gets recruited to her suicide art label, after trading her some of his fatal experia. She offers him a role in the BP party performance, and he accepts, and also suggests to the team that she is likely not directly involved.
They research further, and Iskra and Anna discover that the “safe” cage in whic Barrow plans to blow herself up (another fork plunging the detonator, and then instantly integrating both selves), is actually composed of shaped and chemically altered flesh, seemingly bits of Wang, and is designed to shrapnel out into the crowd, spreading diseases while inflicting minimal casualties. They call in Firewall to quietly shut it down, and start tracking the 4 missing techs, who Barrow says helped install the cage but are now absent.
Using sousveillance analysis, they track them all- each is carrying a backpack, and they set up in 4 different major areas of Locus, seemingly waiting for somerhing. They assume it is the BP party, and that these 4 have additional explosives to detonate at the same time. The team splits up to try to simultaneously take down all 4 individuals. Anna sneaks up and sees they have a small explosive (again enough to shrapnel their bodies without inflicting large amounts of additional casualties), as well as a shielded nanotech cylinder, which looks like it will aerosolize when the bomb goes off.
They arrange for Firewall to liason with station sec to cordon off the areas immediately if anything goes wrong, acquire supplies, jam outgoing signals and prepare for medical needs. Frank and Anna take down the bomber at the main docks, Wong solos the bomber at the Freeq Collective drug module, Iskra and Frederik take down the bomber at Kanigawa Farms, and then, sadly, Lena and Pran totally biff their attack on the last bomber in Rooktown, and his bomb goes off. They are both killed in the explosion, and Rooktown is sealed off for decon. A large number of locals are forced to abandon their bodies and revert to infostates while new morphs are grown/assembled/etc. Some without backups are killed outright, as their sole mindstate was unsalvageably infected.
The team members gain and lose some different rep for their actions, successes and failures. Firewall tells them that they are next to travel to Mars, to rendevouz with Patrona Vazquez and attempt to locate and destroy Dexter Vo, who has apparently set up somewhere in the TITAN Quarantine Zone, and was in communication with Wang. Wang apparently sought info about the virus from Vo, as well as help getting his experiment on it going. Firewall wants the team to keep Vazquez in the dark about Firewall as much as possible, as she already knows a dangerous amount. They are working to track down Wang’s secure backup as well, to prevent him starting this up again (though they imagine he’ll likely abandon it, given how far out of his control it got).
Next up: MARS!!!