Far Beyond the Reach of Earth

An AWE Inspiring Return
O'Donnell Rules!

Sentinels
Iskra / Nataly
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Dulce Lena Moreno
Hong Wong

Days 80-85

Anna, in informorph state, decides to do some thinking. Pran breaks off to catch up with Blackvein & avoid dangerous situations for a moment. Iskra’s muse informs her that she has been receiving a lot of seeming junk mail for dating sites and such, all of which say “seeking like-minded individuals”. She reads one and fails to notice anything out of the ordinary, plus she feels that she doesn’t need help dating anyway. Frank receives a video of Fiala O’Donnell masturbating with his stack.

The team hears from Firewall, and gets their new orders: they are to locate and dismantle whatever remains of the AWE program at the Venusian Nine Lives base (wherever it is). They have 1 week to accomplish this task, as the Scum Swarm known as The Stars My Destination is arriving in 7 days, and a bunch of scum on shore leave after a long space rotation seems like a distressingly perfect vector to spread AWE-control. Firewall then wants them to gain access to the Cognite orbital station, Thought, where AWE was originally stolen, and make sure that the program can’t be rebuilt on that end.

They agree, and trade info with BV and others to try to locate the secret aerostat. Eventually, by comparing hijacked auto-hauler routes with product that 9 Lives has been offloading, they find a likely volume to search in, at a dangerously low altitude and high longitude. They expect sensors will be shit due to the lightning storms and sulphuric clouds, so they decide to stow away on an auto-hauler, hack it in mid-flight to bring it closer, and hope to get kidnapped. They have BV spread the word that there is a juicy cargo aboard to entice 9L to get involved.

Wong and Frederik have an unusually difficult time printing up gear, and have to knock out and drug a surprised civilian. Iskra gets fashion-forward armor and weaponry, trying to start a trend. Geared up, the team boards the cargo container, and remembers to get enough oxygen to be able to last the trip. Almost everyone starts to panic after they’ve been in the crate a while, so Iskra convinces them all to take drugs to make themselves feel better. Unfortunately, they are also overcome by the giggles. Fred and Wong team up on hacking and reprogramming the flightpath, and they successfully get snatched.

They exit the crate and set up an ambush as someone cuts their way into the hold. They easily defeat 2 unsuspecting dock workers, and enter the base: it looks like they got the right place, based on the pile of corpses in the docking bay, and the Lapriye fetishes that many of them are wearing. Frank surmises that the coup on Legba extended here as well. They get in a gunfight with 2 slightly more prepared guards, and defeat them. They are then charged by a large pack of AWE-infected morphs with claws screaming for Fiala O’Donnell. They drop them after taking some more damage.

They proceed down the opposite hall, having sent Wong’s speck to scout ahead and seen guards that way. They find the guards advancing, and Fred is ko’d, as are the guards. They hide Fred in the body pile. They proceed further, and find additional evidence of recent bloodletting, with bunk’s showing evidence of some throat-slitting, and signs of torture in a medical chamber/farcasting suite. They also find a server room. They decide to destroy the farcaster first, to prevent anyone fleeing who hasn’t already.

They encounter O’Donnell with 2 more guards approaching the ‘caster, and get into a major brawl. O’Donnell takes Frank down again, but then is herself ko’d by the rest of the team. Lena is dropped by a guard, and Wong and Iskra both take quite a lot of damage before managing to take the guards out (due to superior cover). Iskra trashes the server room while everyone is ko’d. O’Donnell’s stack is melted, and they’re all too nervous to touch her sword. They get Lena back on her feet, and she starts trying to heal all of their injured. They also find that they’ve made a full circle around the exterior ring of the hab, and decide to heal for a moment before exploring the inner area, as they do not come under further attack in the first hour.

They rescue Heng Ling from a cell where HL was being forced to research AWE, before 9L took it to Legba. After HL uses the appropriate Firewall callsigns, they join the team. They all compate notes on AWE and HL agrees that they have to chase it down to Thought, in orbit around Venus, and attempt to destroy it. Frank also recovers his stack from O’Donnell’s private quarters. HL calls in a favor with the Night Cartel to get off the station, and they head for Octavia, planning to use forged documents they recovered that 9L had prepared to gain access to Thought. HL helps Frank work through some issues, mainly being that Maria Santiago seems to have chosen to die some time ago, due to some cosmic ennui, and that Frank has apparently undergone repeated memory edits to block this out everytime he uncovers it. HL does some cursory work but recognizes that it’s a long process.

They make plans to take a transport shuttle up to Thought, which has stopped accepting egocasts as a security measure after the theft of AWE. Using the forged 9L documents, they will pose as workers to gain access to the labs and servers there and try to find out where AWE came from & what exactly it is for, and destroy it. Firewall also requests any other secret info they can gather. They are also informed that there is a ban on biomorphs in the central “secret” labs on the hab, and given Cognite’s history with both the Lost Generation and research into AI, many of the team swap into synths to avoid psi attacks. Iskra and Fred stay in bio’s, as they need to to stay sane. Or as sane as they ever are. They prepare to depart.

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Devotees
9 Lives to Live

Sentinels
Anna Cornucopia
Iskra / Nataly
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Dulce Lena Moreno
Hong Wong

Days 67-80

The team, expecting to arrive back in their owned morphs on Parvarti, are surprised to find themselves, 2 days later, in a simulspace of Earth. A Firewall Crow named Pyrrhus tells them that he had them diverted through a series of darknet relays, due to an emergency need for a field team. They will be resleeving on the Ultimate station of Aspis, one of their 2 main bases. Iskra is thrilled. Once on Aspis, they will load up with any gear they need, and use a half-working shuttle that Pyrrhus has secured for them to infiltrate the Nine Lives homebase of Legba, and find out what is going on there.

A Firewall plant in the organization has managed to warn Pyrrhus that 9 Lives has acquired some kind of new, incredibly fast psychosurgery/personality reprogramming tech, which sounds like a potential x-risk, especially if it has TITAN origins. The team agrees with varying degrees of enthusiasm, & he provides them with their false ID’s: dilettante sex tourists for Iskra, Lena, and Anna, and Ultimate bodyguards for Wong, Frank, Fred, and Pran. They gear up, while Iskra once again tries to avoid actually letting the Ultimates run tests on her: as excited as she is about their eugenic platform, she doesn’t know that she’ll fit the mold. The rest of the team is somewhat sketched out by the spartan and militaristic culture of the station, and is happy to be on their way.

They fly to Legba, with Pran handily piloting through the ship graveyard ringing it (and spotting some nasty looking killsats hidden amongst the debris), Wong having barely printed all their needed gear in time. They also get a look at the station exterior: a hollowed out asteroid/beehive, with various attached appendages, a few of which are spun for various amounts of gravity. They manage to bluff their way in using their chosen ruse, and almost immediately get into a gun and knife fight with some waiting, low-level thugs in the Zombi docks. They kill 2 and the others flee: word is it’s prison rules in here: you can keep anything you’re strong enough to keep. Anything else will get taken, including your life and stack (one of the main currencies aboard). They team, aside from Pran, all installed killswitches just in case. They notice some nearby guards around a ship keeping an eye on them, and find that the ship has Extropian registration. Doing a little research, they hear that a turf war has broken out between 9 Lives and ID Crew.

Pran and many of the others make an ass of themselves, lacking low-g proficieny (and increasing the odds that someone may suspect they aren’t what they say). They get a few different messages after they secure the ship (Anna and Frank decide to stay to protect it). One message is from Pyrrhus, giving them the name and rough location of their onboard contact Amaru Timoti- who is to be approached with extreme caution, due to the danger of his position. Pran is also a bit concerned that someone might recognize him, as an ex-member not in good standing. Pyyrhus also has 2 side missions for them: recover (or destroy) the captured ego of a Firewall sentinel, and copy or steal the muse of a Project Ozma IT worker’s muse. 9 Lives is thought to have both somewhere on Legba. They also receive a message from a name they don’t recognize, Katsorou, via a physical printout from a bot, asking to meet while they are on the station, giving his location. And, lastly, they get a call from Omri Melach, aboard the ship with the guards, offering to hire the 4 posing as mercs away from their employers. They decline, for the time, but tell him they’ll be in touch if they finish their business early.

They split up: Iskra and Fred to Timoti, in the Psychopomp district, the rest to the mystery bot-messager. Iskra makes contact, and uses the password- he meets her and Fred in a secure room, and fills them in. 9 Lives has apparently acquired something called AWE that makes people into slavish devotees, with a doglike obedience to whoever is imprinted as their “master.” He’s never seen anything like it. He tells them that he is motivated to take on this insanely dangerous mission by hs faith: he is a true believer in voodoo, and sees the bastardized, heavily modified version practiced on Legba (called Lapriye) as a gross perversion. The strongest believers are the Ghede Nanchon members, the faction controlled by the syndicate leader Roland Nazon. Timoti suspects that Lam Cong Dong, the leader of the Rada Nanchon faction, is behind this new arrival since it started with her return from Venus. He personally helped her resleeve Betrand Theo, the leader of the Petro Nanchon faction, and suspects their is some sort of internal conspiracy or coup attempt in the offing. He asks to be extracted if things really go to shit, but otherwise wants to stay in place if he isn’t made. Timoti gives them a stack with a copy of an ego that has been altered.

The other group links up with Katsorou, in the Peristyle district, who bluffs along with Lena that they know each other, while getting her to hook up to a secure drive he has. He reveals that he is actually Chi Rokuzawa, who sent an illicit alpha fork here after picking up rumors of some advanced new psych-tech. However, she is in waaay over her head and knows it, and wants extraction in exchange for providing intel. She recognized Lena when they arrived, having secreted the bot in the docks to prepare for just such an opportunity. They agree, and she fills them in.

AWE is a stolen Cognite program, brought to the syndicate by their Venusian head, Lam Cong Dong. The scientists in Nazon’s private Houngan, some there willingly, some not, have all been hard at work figuring out how to improve its abilities and optimize its use. They have managed to add 9 Lives bosses to the imprint procedure to make people loyal to them, but they still have to pretend to be connected to Cognite to get AWE, a heavily limited task AI, to follow their commands. They also have not yet been able to copy it. However, it gets faster and stronger the more egos that they feed to it, so they are calling it progress, and have another batch going in the next day. Chi desperately wants to get off station before the big all-Nanchon meeting coming up in 2 days, worried that this AI might gain enough power to achieve TITAN levels of intelligence. Lena takes personal responsibility for making this happen. Chi also tells them that Nazon has driven himself completely insane through repeated Ascension Merging, a bridge too far even for Chi. However, Chi believes that someone else is pulling Nazon’s strings as he somehow still makes coherent public appearances. His private hab is at the end of the corridor past the Houngans, and looks to be under heavy guard.

The team decides this is enough to report back to Pyrrhus via their secure QE comm, get further instruction, and figure out what to do next. They call it in, and are told to stay on task. As a bonus, Pyrrhus has found more funds to cover their morph rentals, as well as some useful intel: Melach apparently has a bounty out for him, posted by his old syndicate, the ID Crew- so it is very curious that he is on Legba. They are told that the priority is to destroy AWE, or present its spread as much as possible if destruction is not an option. Anna starts acting really odd after hearing that this is a Cognite project, but claims she’s just having trouble with the low-g, and will watch the ship. Fred and Wong stick with her, wanting to make sure they have an escape option, while Frank swaps out to help Pran provide security for Lena and Iskra.

They decide to check out all the locations they haven’t visited yet. They see a horrifying pitfight in the Samedi torus, controlled by the Ghede Nanchon, under Su Wu. This is the most rundown area they’ve seen, and also the harshest: any faction member can challenge another to a deathmatch, and will assume their position (and own their stack) if they win. Lapriye fetishes and tokens are everywhere. However, the gang seems to be watching insane combat morphs right now, behaving in the way that Timoti described. Aside from Frank, they are universally horrified and stressed out by the sight. Iskra bets but loses. Frank notices an odd time in the early morning the next day on the fight schedule where there is a long gap between fights and a large maintenance project is assigned elsewhere in the torus. They decide to return and check it out.

They head to the Marinette area to sleeve the ego Timoti gave them and interrogate it, as a pod brothel called Margo’s. They overhear some gossip on the way suggesting that Dong may be plotting a move against Nazon, and although some Rada members seem enthused at this prospect, others feel that Nazon must surely know, believing him a near-god. There are Lapriye fetishes and shrines everywhere, but less true believers amongst the gangers here seemingly. They reach the brothel, sleeve the ego, and Iskra deep scans it while Frank interrogates. However, it is as terrifying as they heard: AWE has stripped out all emotional & sensory context for her former memories/personality, and replaced them with pleasue center-stimulating fragmented memories ensuring her loyalty to Cognite, specifically and exec named Lindsey. Iskra poses as Lindsey, and is able to issue commands which are immediately followed, but the ego doesn’t know anything & seems largely ruined. They get the stack back, and leave, all agreeing that this threat must be destroyed.

They check out the Guinee servers, but find that access seems to be external only, as it is built on the outside of the asteroid for help shedding heat. Frank, with enhanced vision, is able to see that it is a massive server farm, with one large server missing. There are some skeletal case morphs inside manipulating stack readers, and presumably loading egos. They head to battleship bolted onto the asteroid: the Fetish Markets. Frank manages to track down what he thinks is the missing Firewall Sentinel’s stack, and purchases it with 2 others (as far as he could narrow it down). They also hear that there is a run on Cognite egos, so apparently the Houngan hasn’t broken the programming on AWE yet, just as Chi said. They head back to Psychopomp, the resleeving & medical area, and notice that there is another heavily guarded seperate module out at the far end, which Pran id’s as the comms array. He deduces that it is hard-wired both to the resleeving tech in Pyshcopomp, and likely to the Guinee servers, and realizes that he could maybe arrange a “prison break” of sorts if he can get Wong and Fred to hack them both.

They also check out the reactor, which seems fully shielded from surveillance (and radiation). However, it is under extremely (Frank thinks excessive) bot security, with some serious scanners at the one internal entrance. Frank thinks this may be where that missing server went. He also spots a sign over the door which says Nana Buluku. They head back to the ship, and call Melach. They arrange for Fred and Wong to guard his ship for some bonus cash, until his secretive meeting the next day. All he will tell them is that he is selling a very valuable ego, to set himself up for life. They rest, but fail to make any surveillance plans, and are surprised to suddenly lose comms with Wong and Fred, and hear a white-noise cloud approaching. Dong herself approaches with a half dozen well-armed guards, and enters Melach’s ship. They wait a few minutes to see what happens, but she emerges shortly, signals her guards, and leaves. Melach sends the 2 sentinels back, and his guards begin preparing for takeoff. But what did she buy? Luckily Wong and Fred tag-teamed some impromptu surveillance, and found out: the ego of a Cognite exec named Nibedita Nath. This would presumably give significant power over the Devoted egos to whoever controlled Nath.

Frank, Pran, Lena, and Iskra head back to Samedi to check out this suspicious “repair” that is scheduled. However, still sick from the day before at what they saw there, Pran and Lena are unable to make themselves enter, and decide to merely watch the entrance. Iskra sneaks in with her ghost morph, and Frank tries to follow, but is fairly obvious. However, the maintenance seems legit, although there are way more people there than need to be. Pran & Lena spot a neotenic sneakily approaching Samedi, and warn the others that he is coming. Pran id’s him as Ellegua, Nazon’s 2nd in command/manservant. Frank tries to distract him, to help Iskra follow him, but he casually dispatches Frank with relative ease- Frank is shocked at how fast he is. Pran steels himself and rushes in to grab Frank’s body before other gangers strip it, as he still is barely clinging to life.

Iskra continues to follow Ellegua, and sees him enter a holding cell area near the fighting pits. She tries to sneak in, sees Ellegua talking with Su Wu, and overhears a snippet of their convo- seemingly they have plans to betray Dong at the Nanchon meeting the next day. Pran is also able to tell from the footage that Ellegua uses Nazon’s distinct speech patterns, and is likely a fork of the leader (or is being puppetsocked). However, Iskra is noticed, and Su Wu quickly chases her down and ko’s her with a sword. She activates the killswitch, rather than let them capture her ego intact. The team abandons Iskra, and Wong and Fred frantically provide hacking cover to try to shut down cameras and sensors for them to retreat back to the docks. Pran may have gotten spotted by the various fighting pit cam drones when he went to rescue Frank, though.

They decide that they ought to approach Dong or Theo, and try to get to the bottom of who is plotting what against whom. Presumably they will also be meeting today, as the nanchon debate is first thing tomorrow. They also decide to try to crawl around outside a bit, and see if they can gain access to either (or both) the reactor chamber and the Guinee servers. After healing up a bit, they find out that Pran was spotted, and has been ID’d as an ex-member in bad standing (the only kind, really). Luckily, he wasn’t tracked to the ship. But it will be dangerous for him to be out and about. Fred does some investigating of power usage records, and determines that the missing server (likely conatining AWE) is located in the reactor chamber. They meet up and make a deal with Theo, the most pragmatic leader, to provide explosives for Pran to use to get in and destroy the server. They also agree to throw the team’s weight behind the Petro Nanchon if the meeting turns bloody.

Theo also fills them in on Dong’s plan- she is going to use the Nath ego copy to gain access to Cognite’s massive array of server farms and digital facilities, and begin infecting them, giving her access to all of their secrets and at least temporary control over a sizable portion of the corp in a very short projected amount of time. He has agreed to back her, but would rather that “something happen” to AWE before she gets a chance to use it, as it will help maintain a the power balance if she suceeds in the coup but loses her largest weapon. He thinks he can steer them back to business as usual, and a bit further from a psychotic Lapriye cult.

They tell Timoti and Rokuzawa to get to the shuttle during the Nanchon meeting if they need extraction, and then check all their gear and head out. Anna fails to convince everyone that they should try to hold onto a copy of AWE for Firewall, but they do manage to retrieve an aplha fork of her that she manages to connive to send through the AWE process, so they have some evidence at least. They head to the meeting while Pran waits for the explosives to get delivered. The nanchons all present their platforms (Theo argues for studying AWE more before using it, Dong presents her plan), and the Ghede go last. Wu says that instead of meddling about with hackers and server farms, they should send raiding parties to assault Cognite’s physical facilites, using Nath’s access codes, to ensure that none escape. This plan seems popular with the rank and file.

Nazon tries to sell the idea that Dong stole his plan to present as her own (as part of her coup attempt), and says that the Rada need to be taught a lesson. The team gets a panicked message from Timoti, saying that he will need extraction as he had to break cover to contact them, but that there are 2 dozen newly sleeved combat morphs about to arrive at the meeting, all imprinted to Nazon- they used up all the morphs in stock. The fighting begins as the wave of combat morphs crashes into the back ranks of the Ghede and Wu rushes into the Petro with his bodyguards. Theo and Dong pull back, and Nazon and Ellegua scamper off.

Meanwhile, Pran fianlly gets a delivery, and heads out through the eerily empty halls of Legba. He reaches Uptown, and exits through an airlock that Theo provided access to. He makes his way to the reactor and blows it open. He gets blasted off by the out-rushing atmo, but manages to snag himself on something and make his way back without getting kill-satted. He enters and floats down, finds the (obvious) server, and destroys it. He heads back to the ship, but the airlock he used is locked, so he makes his way over the exterior of the asteroid to the Zombi docks.

The team decides to go after Wu and try to cause some confusion in the Ghede ranks. They manage to take him and his guards down, but are heavily injured in the process, and decide to retreat, hide in the ship, hope Theo and Dong carry the day, and then hope that Theo follows through on his promise to allow them to leave. They make it safely, although the fighting has sprawled out from the Fetish Market into almost all of the station. After a stressful and lengthy wait (and the arrival of their 2 passengers), they get an all clear and finally escape this wretched place to return to Aspis. Pyyrhus rewards them as best he can in exchange for their help, and they egocast back to Parvarti.

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Ghosts of the Past
More Mars Mysteries!

Sentinels
Anna Cornucopia
Iskra / Nataly
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Dulce Lena Moreno

Days 65-67

Wong bows out of the Firewall job, saying he is going to make some armaments for their new Barsoomian friends. Iskra (resleeved from backup) tries to get him to push her custom “fashion armor” on them a bit, which he gently brushes off. Lena also bows out, once reawoken in an infostate- she wants to work on some psychotherapy, with the aim of merging with her gamma fork, hopefully retaining some of her experiences from the missing time. She suceeds, with the assistance of Chi Rokuzawa, a Titanian professor who specializes in merging ego’s/forks/etc, especially post-trauma (a skill gained after much self-experimentation, based on his somewhat sketchy rep). Lena published the results of this experiment, gaining a small boost to her personal career, although that article comes off a little more fashion-y than scientific.

Anna, meanwhile, has been investigating her former U of Mars colleagues while in infostate. They were involved in pre-Fall research to develop high level AI’s to predict and simulate economic models based on transhuman behavior, rather than theories of “rational actors” or some such. Anna can’t find any earlier mention of her name, so this seems like the place to begin. 2 of the 3 researchers died around the time of the Fall and have not been resleeved in the post-Fall years. The one remaining, Pio Clautier, has taken a cushy corp gig for the Planetary Consortium, and left the academic life behind. She calls him, and moves her infostate up to Progress, on Deimos, where he is apparently now based. He responds a while later and seems enthusiastic for a meeting, even offering her the use of a temporary bouncer sleeve. She agrees, and they meet. They reminesce a bit about the old days, with Anna trying to dance (ha! a pun for you Carlos) around the fact that she barely remembers anything from that time (a fact of which he seems aware). He requests that she dance for him, as they all used to enjoy it so much, but she refuses (which she later regrets). She eventually manages to get him to agree to a trade without, she feels, giving away too much: she will provide him with edited info on her activities of the last few years and he will fill her in on the missing info about her past.

They head to a room where they can share a secure linked simulspace, but Anna quickly finds herself outmatched, as her muse Penny grants access to Clautier to all of Anna’s memories and data. He also provides her with the files she wants, however, and apologizes for the intrusion, as does Penny- she says that although she would like to obey Anna’s instructions, Clautier has override authority. After quickly reviewing the files, Anna comes to a disturbing discovery: as part of Clautier’s old team’s research into AI (pre-Fall), they developed some very human-like simulated personas. Most were lost to Fall-era paranoia, but they managed to save one: codenamed “ANNA.” They took a vote, and the two other members won, wiping Anna’s memory of those years and setting her free under an identity unknown to any of them, to pursue her life as she saw fit. They saw this as the only way to protect their creation. They applied some limit’s to Anna’s potential growth in order to keep her to human-level standards, so as to not raise alarms. Apprently both later had qualms as more info and paranoia about AI’s involvement in the Fall seeped in, and Clautier had them both quietly eliminated to ensure Anna’s continued safety, and has been looking for her since.

So, although he gained much more from her than she wished, she got a lot more than she expected- so much that she immeditately entered a state of denial/avoidance, wherein she is nearly unable to confront these new truths. She agrees to keep in touch with Clautier now that they are on the same page, and makes a hasty exit to rejoin the team. She gets Frederik to close Penny’s backdoors, leaving her as sole admin, but doesn’t tell them anything else (though she seems a bit on edge). She decides to sit out the job and go dancing.

The rest of the team heads to Olympus, the city at the base of the space elevator atop Olympus Mons. Firewall has intel that a former Mars Ranger named Abha Sharma has recently turned up, which is disturbing, as she seems to be in the same morph she was using when she was reported as being abducted by TITAN warbots during the Fall. She has made contact with her former squad commander Talbot Inneship, who is now a tactial and fieldcraft trainer for Olympus’ IRT/SWAT squads (tasked with defending the elevator from both TITAN Quarantine Zone threats and transhuman saboteurs of all stripes). The elevator is an essential link between Mars, transhumanity’s largest remaining settlement, and the rest of the system, so any potential infiltration of its primary guards is exceptionally worrying. They acquire a safehouse in a barren zone on the outskirts of town, stash their weapons and armor, and head in to investigate.

Frank tracks down Inneship in a cop bar, and busies him with banter and bargames, while they loosely insult each other as “Loonies” and “Rednecks”. Meanwhile, Frederik, via spime feeds, finds that Sharma seems to have arrived 3 days back and not left Inneship’s apartment, in the 2nd innermost ring of the city- so they head inward. He hacks building security easily, and lets Iskra in the front, while he scales the side of the building, before helping Pran up. Iskra tries to distract Sharma at the apartment door, while Frederik jams outgoing signals and shuts down alarms, and Pran scouts the apartment for weapons and suspicious stuff from the balcony.

Sharma is armed and seems ready to throw down with Iskra, but moves very silently and doesn’t respond until Iskra tells her that she is surrounded and convinces her that they have come unarmed and just want to talk. She allows Iskra in, but keeps the gun levelled. Iskra convinces Sharma to let her read her mind, and confirms that Sharma believes the truth of her story, even in her subconscious: she and Inneship, along with 4 other Rangers, were escorting a Magistrate (a roving back-country judge) back to Olympus. He had been on his usual patrols when the shit started around the Fall, and being some sort of hypercop bigwig’s kid, someone had pulled some strings to get him a prioritized escort back to town. They met up, and were close to the city when they got attacked by warmachines. A very short firefight later, 2 rangers were dead and their stacks disassembled, Inneship and 2 others were falling back, and she and the magistrate were being hauled off by TITANS.

She was in and out of consciousness for the rest. They found themselves in some sort of huge cavern, possibly deep underground. No comms, little light. The machines would come in and haul people (or sometimes just heads) off to god knows where. This went on for a time and then stopped. There was some sort of poison or drug in the air keeping everyone incapacitated. Then she woke up and found herself alone. Unsure where she was and what happened, she made her back to Olympus using dead reckoning, and tracked down Inneship (the only one of her former squad with a public listing). She still seems shocked that it’s been ten years. Iskra tells her that to clear her from suspicion, they will need to arrange for some tests. Sharma says she will run it by Inneship.

They exit, before Fred clears their digital traces and ends his hack. Pran forgets he doesn’t have a winged morph and leaps from the balcony, managing to slightly break his fall by smashing some neighbors planter. He flees as they berate him. They arrange with Firewall to scan Sharma at a secure one-use safehouse, and contact her- she agrees, on the condition that her and Inneship can come armed. The team agrees, and they meet. Frank doesn’t participate, not wanting to put Inneship’s guard further up. Although everyone is tense, she comes up clean- she’s lost a lot of time in a way that doesn’t make sense, but she bears no signs of infection, and the therpaist AI can’t find any unexpected mental issues. The team helps her get a new ID (of which they also alert Firewall, to keep an eye on her), in order to prevent her getting in more trouble.

Calling it a job well done, they all trade their morphs back in (or return them to the rental place), and prepare to ’cast back to Venus.

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The Night Labyrinth
Manuevering Mars' Many Mysteries

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Iskra / Nataly
Hong Wong

Days 63-65

Anna Cornucopia, in infostate, goes off to investigate her past at the U of Mars in Valles-New Shanghai. Everyone else who needs to resleeves. The team agrees to take a job for the Barsoomians, in trade for safe egocast passage back to Parvarti. Apparently a redneck saboteur has gone missing after an anti- Planetary Consortium mission. They want him tracked down. He called in to say that he was on the run from some PC goons, and coudn’t make any of the established safehouses, and would instead lay low with some “old world religious weirdos” that he had recently met, who shared his anti-corporate views. The Barsoomians need to know if he’s safe, and if not, what info has been compromised.

The A-team (minus Lena and Iskra) starts looking into it, and finds out that someone else is walking around in his body. They track it to a black market body brokerage called Les Goules, operating out of the slum side of Pembroke Gardens, as well as a black lab off of one of the nearby tented souks. The brokerage seems to be getting the bodies of the losers of the Guanxi fighting pits, where combat morphs face off against illicit transgenic experiments from the biolabs across the river in Quinjiao. However, they find no record that their saboteur was in the fights. They trace Les Goules to the lab, but decide to hold off on entering until they get some surveillance, and can pick up their weapons.

Meanwhile, the B-team (Lena and Iskra) manage to eventually track down some Franciscan monks who do a free feeding in a park in Pembroke every few days, as well as a prayer service after. Looking to confirm that these are the correct “religious weirdos”, Iskra pries and uses psi to convince them to trust her, and blatantly advertises her supposed anti-corp views. She gets an invite to their hidden mountain monastery, along with Lena, but they lose wireless as soon as they enter the black windowed buggy that will bring them there, and start to feel more like prisoners. They get off a quick call for help.

The rest of the group decides to deal with that, and leave Les Goules for now. They do some digging and call in favors, and find out that their is apparently a group of alpiner morphs living atop Arsia Mons, in the near corner of the TITAN Quarantine Zone, in some sort of monastery that was recorded lost in the Fall. Smugglers use the tunnels in the lower parts of the mountains, but Les Goules are known to operate higher up and are also known to shoot first, and sell the bodies after, so noone really goes up there. Thinking they have the connection, the team grabs their gear and heads out.

They find the place with no problem, and after some scouting locate the start of a steeply ascending mountain pathway, hard to see until they’ve spotted it’s markers: disassembler aeolians, seemingly pulled from the wastes and planted as waystones. They climb, and eventually reach a guardhouse, encountering 2 bearded monks and demanding to see their friends. The monks fire rockets from wrist- mounted launchers and the team takes some damage and kills them.

Meanwhile, Lena and Iskra have been brought up the same path, and herded into a stockade, after failing to convince the head of the order of their pure intentions. He seems a bit delusional, and is also levitating in midair with no visible explanation, which they find distressing. He is much physically larger than the other, more ascetic-looking monks. Once the gunfight starts below, the monks haul their prisoners into an observatory, where they find themselves being strapped into a large mechanical cross hooked up to a farcaster with a large antenna. Iskra tries to play them but ends up merely convincing them to put her in first. Her ego is stripped from her stack and cast forth into the grim darkness of space, possibly to some distant destination: they spied a Latin inscription over the doorway reading: “To the Machine Gods, Under Distant Stars.”

Meanwhile, the team fights their way up the path and into the mountain-top compound, killing many monks. Pran is nearly killed, but they manage to stabilize him. They reach the observatory just as the monks begin uploading Lena, and are hauling Iskra’s living (but unkown to them, empty) morph to what looks like a well-shaft. They slay the remaining monks, including the leader who has some sort of field that slows projectile weapons (also disturbing). He is ranting about his duty to save them all, and how they have been left behind accidentally. He ceases levitating after Frank shoots him in the face. Frederik decides that some Lena is better than no Lena, and disconnects her from the farcaster mid-transmission, leaving them with a semi-sentient, drooling, gamma fork. They hope to get something out of her, at least.

Investigating further, they find that the antenna seems programmed to keep aimed to a specific coordinate, but it is not any point they have heard of- either a secret station outside the solar system, or an exoplanet, but not one known to the public. Or maybe just nothing, empty space. They contemplate whether it is better if Iskra was sent somewhere or nowhere. They also find a series of digital (and physical) texts, that seem like lunatic ravings of some sort of Technocreationist machine god cult. Apparently, they have been using their outreach programs to snatch people up, forcibly upload them, and send them to…. wherever, since the Fall. They trade the then-empty morphs to Les Goules for supplies. This explains the “wellshaft” tunnel that they find, containing a body-sized container that seems to descend, elevator-like, into the stone. They wait for Pran to heal up a bit before investigating further.

After everyone is conscious, or as close as possible (Iskra being an empty shell and Lena an occasionally useful gamma fork), they decide to send Frederik down the elevator to scout it out. He reaches the bottom after a slow descent, including some angled traverses through the rock (which blocks comms). Upon reaching the bottom, he is asked for the password, and ko’d with SMG fire when he can’t anwser & his gun jams. With his last action, he ets the elevator to ascending again. They decide not to try again just yet. They also notice that the head monk’s body is twitching and spasming, and seems to be either regenerating or mutating.

They copy what remains of the dead head monk onto Iskra’s blank cortical stack, using the monk’s ego bridge. Pran rigs an explosive, and they send it down the chute with the body of the head monk, destroying both the elevator shaft & the body (as well as whoever was waiting at the bottom, if anyone) very effectively. They decide to spend the night there, rather than descend in the dark, and take turns on surveillance. Wong keeps watch a little further down the mountain with the drones, and says that he saw someone surveilling them from a distance, but noone approaching.

They re-rig the farcaster in the morning to use to overcome the comm blackout in the TQZ, and Pran makes contact with Firewall. They thank him for the intel (and the promise of the monk’s ego), and offer to arrange extraction from the Zone, which they accept. They are to rendevouz with some smuggler’s in a cave system near the mountain’s base, but are warned off of pursuing Les Goules in their current condition. They descend, and find that their buggy has been sabotaged with some cleverly concealed explosives (luckily Pran spotted them!). Pran disarms the trap, and they meet the smugglers and escape. They report in to Firewall, and hand over the stack, as well as getting hired on for another small job before they leave Mars. Frederik also reports the existence of the monastery and farcaster to the Barsoomians, as well as telling them what happened to their saboteur. They thank the team & tell them that they can ‘cast out whenever they’re ready, probably via this newly uncovered mountain fortress.

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Red Rocks and Airlocks
Chasing Glory, The Team Heads to Mars

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Iskra / Nataly
Hong Wong
Anna Cornucopia

Days 58-62

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.

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To Locus, and Beyond
Anna vs. Anna

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Iskra / Nataly
Hong Wong
and the return of: Anna Cornucopia!

Days 49-58

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!!!

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It Isn't Exactly Rocket Science
Except That It Is...

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Iskra / Nataly
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder

Day 44 – 49

The team gets details from Mr. Smith. Apparently he has some contacts in Octavia security, who gave him the heads-up about this, and will grant the team some accesses and privileges to help investigate, to help avoid this incident getting too blown-up. Octavia has been hosting a rocket-design, experimental flight & fuel-source conference, with attendees from all over the system having cast or travelled in. One of the attendees, a physicist and engineer named Hemi Patariki from Casa Arturo, has been killed. Worse, the murderer looks to be a non-powered flight researcher who is officially funded by Parvarti. Favoring a quiet resolution, and the avoidance of a diplomatic incident, Smith called in favors to get the team involved, hoping they can solve it without ruffling feathers.

The team is also contacted by Sohrab Wallach, who wants info about his death at Tooth and Claw, as well as what else went on there, for his investigative piece for the biocon journal Humanity Today. Pran stalls for time, and warns Blackvein. Lena and Pran eventually agree to set up an in-person interview when they are back aboard Parvarti, hinting that they will share valuable and secret info with Wallach.

Patariki is receiving conseling for his traumatic death in an infostate, and is not yet availble for questioning, although they can send messages. However, his last backup was before the start of the conference, on Arturo, so there will be some inherent lag anyway. But as he was current on his payments, and his backup seems fully functional and intact, the motive is unclear- Smith wants to know what he could have learned in a few days to make him worth killing.

The killer is named Mladenka Krisman, or is using her ID at least. She was also invited to the conference, and was seen talking to Patariki shortly before his death, and heading to his room together. The team heads to his room, the crime scene. It is blocked off, but CSI is done, so they look it over. It looks like a good portion of his head (stack included) was destroyed by fractal branching digits, an agonizing process as he seems to have been alive when it started. Frank finds a used whisky glass but no drugs, and it looks like he was merely knoced unconscious with the bottle, suggesting spur of the moment thing, not so much a planned attack. Also, the killer seems to have leaped from the window in the room, at a height which should have been damaging to most morphs even in Venus’ gravity.

They manage to track her, and based on the presence of fractal digits, find a synthmorph repair shop that she limped to. The proprietor, a surly steel liberator, tells them she was in a well-disguised pod, after they bribe him awkwardly. They find her in a nearby coffin hotel in the port district, and surround her. She briefly tries to escape, but seeing all routes block, quickly goes limp. Upon investigating, the morph has a burned emergency farcaster (which seems to have been used a while back), a puppet sock (sadly untraceable by Frank), & mesh mods to only record on a self-wiping 5 minute loop. Nothing is loaded in the stack. However, they track the pod to a morph brokerage called Tree of Lives on Parvarti, and decide to head back.

Before they can leave, they are once again accosted by Qamar Ra’d Ali, who shows up in the company of station security. He is very suspicious of their ongoing, and unhelpful, presence and seeming involvement in a number of mysterious crimes. He tells them that his office will be taking over this investigation, annoyed that station security let outsiders get involved at all. He tells themselves to make themselves available for further questioning as needed, but seems unwilling to cause a larger incident as they are acting under Smith’s imprimatur. They quickly arrange travel off the station.

Arriving back on Parvarti, they begin looking into Krisman. Her labmates haven’t seen her in about a week, which isn’t unusual, as she often vanishes (and shuts off comms) for weeks at a time while testing new flight appartuses. This apparently also has a high mortality, as she usually uses synths or pods with built-in emergency casters (and stack wipers, to avoid anyone stealing her data on an unlikely recovery later). They confirm that she exclusively uses Tree of Life. When questioned (and bribed with drugs), the employee there id’s her as a repeat customer, and also id’s the pod morph in question as one of theirs that she used in the past. Apparently she emergency cast out of it during a dire situation and resleeved, but the pod was recovered and returned at some point. As far as Fred can tell, whoever was puppet socking it and posing as her must have recontructed a semi-reputable version of her ego ID based on traces left behind by an incomplete stack wipe.

The employee, bummed that Octavia sec is holding the morph for the duration of the investigation, and wanting to avoid trouble, also tells the team that the individual who rented the morph also rented 5 other pods. They all had extensive mods, 3 geared towards science and tech (like the one they saw), and 3 geared towards combat. They all included puppet socks. They paid a 3 month rental up front with a large deposit through an anonymous account, and had all the pods shipped to storage facility address in the lower portion of the station, which the team finds empty. However, using station sec footage, they are able to spot all of the morphs (including “Krisman”) being delivered in an inactive state, and then leaving, one by one, under their own power. They quickly lose their trail, however, but they all seem to head in seperate directions. They decide to continue looking into Krisman’s background for now as they lack other leads, and keep trying to contact Patariki.

They eventually get confirmation from Mr. Smith that Krisman has been spotted testing out one of her experimental craft, and determine that the use of her ego ID was merely a ruse, without her involvement. They also hear from Patariki, but he does not provide much useful intel as to who might have wanted to kill him, aside from anyone opposed to open-source design. He does, however, tell them that he had a meeting arranged with an inner system financier and tech enthusiast, Stewart Kelly, at the house of an Octavian socialite, Petya Rudaski. After doing some digging, they manage to extort her head of security, Thaun Panarma, into revealing what happened.

Apparently, Kelly arranged to have Rudaski send out the invitations, and also made sure to invite the faux Krisman. Krisman and Patariki left together, and Kelly killed Rudarski. Panarma is not privy to what went on during their meeting, but he killed Kelly, and disposed of the body, finding that it was a puppet-socked pod. The team compares security footage and confirms that it was one of the 6 rental pods, and manage to determine that they seem to have travelled in pairs after leaving the warehouse: 2 tech-modded ones to Octavia, the 3rd tech one and 1 combat one to points unknown, and 2 combat ones still on Parvarti. They soon hear from Smith that there was a “terrorist” attack on a Starware experimental flight facility on Luna, involving the 2 pods that left, having put out a general alert on the ego ID’s they used. So it seems like someone is targeting advanced spaceflight researchers.

They do some digging and find out that Starware is rumored to be trying to open up trade with the Factors, who currently have limited their trading (publicly at least) to Ecologene. Thinking that Ecologene might want to maintain their sole-partner status, they dig further, and find that Kelly has ties to that corp. However, he hasn’t been seen at his home on Mars in quite some time, and soon enough Smith lets them know that the bodies they pulled out of the recycling pool under Tooth and Claw are those of Kelly and his bodyguard. It seems someone has been sending in his check-in code, ensuring that he wouldn’t be resleeved, while they were apprently posing as him in the pod on Octavia. Confused, they dig further into surveillance vids, and find a vac-suited figure entering and exiting the warehouse, alongside Kelly, ahead of the pods arrival. They eventually manage to track the figure (due to an odd and distinctive gait) to a hotel near the port. They head there, expecting to find them long-gone.

Based on social media research, they determine that the figure has been staying in one of 2 7th floor suites, and rent the other one. Fred tries to hack the door open, but immediately trips an alarm, and is ko’d by a plasma beam that scythes through the door. Pran is quickly dropped by a 2nd blast, as Lena hears the sounds of glass breaking and a distant thump from the room. She enters as the combat pod inside is reloading, and he detonates a grenade as she ducks away. Lena calls in support from Smith as she sees the 2nd combat pod and the vacsuit figure running towards the port. She then tends to her friends, who are on fire and heavily injured. She manages to put them out and stabilize them until Taurus Security arrives.

They get the story from Smith, and review the video. The 2 figures staged a fighting retreat, until the combat pod sacrificed itself, using a grenade to blow open an airlock before station security could capture them. The vacsuited figure dived out- it was hit by weapons fire but seemed to be moving as though uninjured (though strangely). It seems to have been controlling the pods actively, given their odd lockstep movements. Watching video of the pod and the vacsuit figure falling out of the hotel window is disturbing- the vacsuit figure seems to cushion the pod’s fall, absorbing the shock & flattening out more than any sort of standard morph could without sustaining critical injury. They at first think it could be some sort of odd flexbot of swarmanoid, but after investigating the scene, the find traces of an odd, and unidentifiable, toxic dust, which reminds Pran of the dust used by the Factor that he met years ago to hold off its attackers. They are left wondering if a lone Factor could be behind the attacks, and if so, why? Factors are thought to operate exclusively as colonies, so a lone one is rare if not unprecedented, and the best motive they can come up with is to interefere with transhuman development of spaceflight tech that could compete with the Factor’s current dominance of the field. Straaaaaange.

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Souler Surfers
Barsoomian Intrigue Aboard Octavia

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Hong Wong
Iskra / Nataly

Days 39-43

The team, safely returned to Parvarti, investigates the exhuman head that they recovered on Reino Station. Lena determines that it seems like most of the alterations were surgical, and it is unlikely to be an x-risk. Lena tries to use her animal handling skills to interact with the consciousness in an infostate, but fails as it seems to be an human-level intelligience being. Frank jumps in, and they get some info- it seems that the exhumans were what remained of the station’s pre-Fall staff, having altered themselves to become apex predators, and requiring a diet of human flesh to survive. They apparently have been importing and hunting morphs from nearby areas as a food source, as well as helping to run Dorris Lockwood’s experiments. However, Fred also notices that this infomorph is trying to hack its way out of the simulspace they’re running it in, so they quickly shut it down, though not before it is able to get a message off. They turn the head over to Firewall, and Ben Johanssen asks Iskra to quietly investigate Fred’s possible async abilities and report back.

Frank receives a package, which contains a skillfully removed, largely intact, human skin, including the face from his last morph’s missing head. There is a note included that says “Can’t wait to get back together!”, and signed “F.” He also receives a video message with footage of a visibly joyful Fiala O’Donnell torturing and skinning the morph she has attached his head to, while 2 masked doctors keep him alive & conscious. She pops the stack at the end, killing him. Frank gets depressed, and goes on the bender after feeding the skin into a wet disassembler. The team vows to help him track her down, and Fred determines that the signal seems to have originated on Venus, though it was bounced around so many times that it is hard to tell where exactly.

Fred gets in touch with his old Barsoomian friend, Arevig Berkowicz, to find out what mission she has for him. She tells him that a Barsoomian rep, Radomir Fyodorov, arrived on Octavia about a week ago in order to negotiate with sympathetic elements within the Star Council to introduce official recognition of the more centrist factions of the Barsoomian movement as a legit political body. He is suppsed to be laying low and staying off of everyone’s radar insofar as possible while conducting the negotiations, as he is a high-level member of the movement, and is wanted by the Planetary Consortium, specifically Stellar Intelligence, for his activities on Mars. However, his local bodyguards have reported that he has been slipping away from them with some frequency, and partying wildly at a wide variety of popular local establishments. Arevig wants it looked into.

Fred agrees, and the team secures passage to Octavia. Iskra and Lena arrive first, and establish themselves as relevant new members of the social scene, Iskra with the help of an edgy outfit from the Parvarti-based fashion/design house Cosmosis, with whom she has secured a deal to rep their outfits in exchange for early access to new lines. The rest of the team arrives, and does some digging- it seems that Radomir has been going to different places every night, and meeting with different people- no obvious patterns. Some nights, his minders track him down and haul him out, and some nights he goes home with various numbers of individuals of various genders. Iskra secures an invite to the best club on the ‘stat, Souler System, along with a +1 for Lena to hold her bag and a private table, and gets an even more cutting-edge getup, with a matching (but less original) piece for Lena. They put out the word that they’ll be there.

Radomir arrives, lurd by their presence, and they move in. Iskra quickly notices that he seems to also be an async, skilled in social manipulation, but also falls under his spell. They trade brainscans back and forth, with him proving a bit more powerful- he gets some info out of Iskra, such as that she is a member of the Lost Generation, that she generally keeps secret. Sadly, the rest of the team also learns this via the TacNet, causing some distress. However, he seems not to understand his powers, and to have been recently infected: useful info! Outside, the rest of the team watches, and notcies another figure keeping an eye on the club, who seems to be a local low-level gangster. They also intercept Radomir’s bodyguards on approach, to let them know of their involvement and ask some questions, which they brush off, saying they can talk later when their client is secure. However, this gives Iskra time to sneak him out the back of the club while Lena distracts the other patrons with a new science-experiment/drink.

They head to a sex club, where he incapacitates her with some sort of brain tickling power, and proceeds to whip and burn her after they both partially undress and he handcuffs her, all the while giggling maniacally and bleeding from the nose and ears. Iskra passes out while trying to continue manipulating him. The rest of the team, having lost the TacNet feed when Iskra entered the mesh-disabled, soundproofed “safe” room, finally tell the guards where Radomir went, and they rush off. The team decides to confron the other observer on the way, and start a fight with him. However, having left all their weapons in a secure locker to avoid arrest, they are easily outmatched by the ganger, who unsheates some implant wolvers and snorts a combat drug. He flees after inflicting some damage, once he realizes that they are at least well-armored. Frank keeps up for a bit, with spime-based mapping assistance from Fred, but they lost him in the crowd.

They head to the sex club, and find Radomir spooning a topless, unconscous Iskra, who is visibly injured, while alternating between sobbing jags and high-pitched giggling. He is still bleeding from the face, most of which is being soaked up by Iskra’s hair. The minders grab him, and say they’ll talk once he’s secure. Fred hoists Iskra up and they depart. She regains consciousness a while later and is distraught to discover that some photos of her have turned up on the mesh with scathing comments such as “a little TOO bleeding edge.” However, it was the most meaningful human contact she had had, maybe ever, so she was riding pretty high. While leaving, Frank notcies another hoodlum watching this place, and confronts him, but his intimidation attempt is laughed off. Some research indicates that this guy and the other gangster both work for the local Nine Lives. The plot thickens…

Fred makes contact with Arevig, and requests an ego-ID brainscan on Radomir from before his egocast to Octavia, to compare with a current scan, after Lena suggests this as a possible way to detect time of infection. She agrees, and forwards it, and Fred sets up a meet at the safehouse. The minders tell him to only bring one other, and Iskra manipulates her way onto the team. She also tries to convince Fred to make an unconscious alpha fork of Radomir for Firewall (or possibly for herself), and being a thrillseeker, he eventually gives in. They find that the minders have patched up and sedated Radomir, and also that they have a private ego bridge in the safehouse. They do the scan, and Lena confirms that they are different enough to be significant, so it seems like he was infected during the ’cast, as the minders seem legit, and sleeved him here themsleves. Iskra distracts them while Fred makes the fork. They seem sketched out by the risk of infection.

Fred contacts Arevig, but someone else answers the message (with all the appropriate codes etc.), saying that this has moved above her paygrade. He tells Fred to destroy Radomir’s current ego and any copies, as well as the body, the ego bridge and the safehouse. He will revert to his backup on Mars, and hopefully they can undo any damage he has done to their cause. The minders receive the same message, and shoot him in the head. They say they will wipe the safehouse down, not wanting to deal with the body, so the team wipes the stack (but keeps the fork), and then disassembles the body, implants and stack in various machines. Although she wants to keep it for herself, Iskra eventually agrees with the team to forward the alpha fork to Firewall, for which Johanssen is pleased.

Fred receives another message from the Barsoomians, asking them to look further into what happened, how he was infected, etc, as they are worried for the security of their whole darkcasting setup. He agrees. However, they seem to not be the only ones investigating, as they are soon contacted by 2 others looking for info on Radomir’s location and well-being. Qamar Ra’d Ali seems to be a MC operative involved in the negotiations, who is contactin those last seen with Radomir. He is tenacious and suspicious, but seems to lack anything concrete. Zola Wirth proves more complicated.

After some investigation, she seems to be a Stellar Intelligence operative planted on Venus to subvert anti-PC agendas. She is apparently behind the hiring of Nine Lives to intercept Radomir’s darkcast, and infect him (with who knows what…), as well as a smear campaign that she launches once the team gets onto her, trying to raise public outrage against a Barsoomian/MC alliance using footage of Radomir’s activities to paint the Barsoomians as “irresponsible decadent tourists, wasting precious resources aboard a habitat, as surface dwellers could never really understand the Venusian life, etc”, pretending to be a “concerned citizien.” Iskra doesn’t help by paying a popular underground Barsoomian musician to basically record a custom dis-track, which she appears in the video for, delivering a well-sculpted verse, sadly accompanied by an awkward dance which comes off as mocking of the the Barsoomian underclass and their built-in obsolescent morphs. It becomes an instant mesh sensation, and loses Iskra some rep (though she gains some fame!).

The 2 local gangers they’d run into also seem to be Wirth’s hires- one disappears with her once she realizes the team is onto her, while the other mysteriously dies in police custody, after failing to give up much intel of use during the team’s bothed attempt at an interrogation. He reverts to an old backup, which knows nothing, but ends up doing some info-time for possession of illegal weaponry anyway. Fred reports all this to his Barsoomian higher-up, who seems satisfied- they know the rough outline, if not the exact details.

They get a call from Mr. Smith, on Parvarti, asking them to look into an issue for him while they are on Octavia. They agree, in exchange for his covering their eventual travel back as well as some other expenses. Wong makes his excuses, and says he needs to leave to take care of some stuff for an old friend, so he’ll be out of touch for a spell.

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All God's Creatures
Red of Tooth and Claw

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Hong Wong
Pran Jai Neelam Ajit Avninder
Iskra / Nataly

Days 30-38

The team resleeves after the near disaster aboard the Kepler. Wong and Lena, both feeling the stress of killing their friends, eventually fill Frank and Fred in on the details of their demise(s). Pran links up with them, but Iskra / Nataly is off on a bender. Frank has a message waiting from Maria Santiago, his lost love, which shows her pinned down under fire beneath unfamiliar stars. The message stops mid-sentence, before she completes whatever she was saying. Frank panics and tells everyone he has to figure this out. They agree to help, but are unable to do much other than determine that it’s not their solar system, and that the date/timestamp have been erased.

Luckily, Pran gets a call from Blackvein, who wants him to look into a suspicious murder and disappearance involving an uplift brothel called Tooth and Claw. Frank needs a distraction, and agrees to help, as do the others. Shortly thereafter, Frank receives a still photo of Fiala O’Donnell holding his last morph’s severed head, smiling tauntingly, with the message, “we’re having so much fun!” attached. He is disturbed.

They head to the brothel, and Fred accesses some local spime feeds to review who’s been coming and going, but doesn’t find anything obvious- the brothel has an entrance concealed in a maintenance tunnel, not visible from any cameras he finds. The entrance is only marked in a coded AR setting, which Blackvein has given Pran access to. He inputs the entrance passcode, and enters an airlock-like room with Frank and Lena, while Fred and Wong stand watch in the hall with the weapons. The inside team is forced to check their small arms, and see that the airlock seems to be easily flooded with gas (or other substances) as a security measure.

They enter, and track down the proprietor (or at least manager), a neo-pig named Ai Liao. She tells them that they’re welcome to take a look around the crime scene, as Blackvein vouched for them, but that she wants them out soon so her staff can clean up and get the room back in use. The place is guarded by a half dozen neo-hominids, and seems to be staffed entirely by uplift morphs and smart animals. Pran is disturbed by the conditions, as well as the presence of what seem to be some botched or partial uplifts, and a large and distressingly well-kitted out medbay. He presses on with the mission, putting aside his personal feelings for the time.

They invesitgate, and find 2 corpses, sleeved into sylph morphs, that have been brutally dismembered. They are both Somatek employees, and apparently repeat customers (at least thus far…). The missing third man is a biocon journalist, Sohrab Wallach, who snuck in with a high quality fake ID as another Somatek drone. His ruse was only discovered by Blackvein after this “incident.” They specifically requested a session with 2 new employees, a novacrab and an octomorph (which explains the nature of most of the wounds). The team can’t find any signs that anyone left the room, but do find a suspiciously recent weld leading down into a maintenance shaft below the room.

They cut in, and convince Liao to let Fred and Wong in with the weapons. They enter the shaft, sending the speck ahead, and make their way to a water reprocessing facility, where they find some odd little monkey-like creatures, who try to pull them into a running disassembler, which is making short work of the reamins of the missing biocon. It’s hooked up to a wet fabber which they seem to be using to try to make more of themselves, with little success. They slay most of the little fellows, although Lena manages to convince one to side with her, using treats and smart animal skills. Lena dives into the waste pool (with vacsuit on), to investigate some odd body shapes way down in the murk, but is quickly ko’d by the hiding octomorph. The team dives in to help, while Frank finds a lever to drain the pool. They defeat the octo, but it does some pretty serious damage, and Frank comes under attack from the crab up top before they get back to the surface. He is heavily injured, but they take out the crab. Neither have stacks, or any identifying possessions.

They take some genetic materials to analyze and try to glean info from, and decide they’d rather not leave through the brothel again, unsure what the exact situation is. They call Blackvein and fill him in, and Pran is unable to determine wether or not BV wants him not to fuck with the place (which Pran very much wants to). They call Mr. Smith, and tell him about some additional corpses they found in the recycling pool (apparently a popular dumping spot), and get him to agree to get them out of a different entrance to the maintenance shaft.

Blackvein gets them some lab time, and they analyze the genetic samples, finding them marked with a code as property of Somatek and Dorris Lockwood, who Lena knows was a peer of her parents’. However, Lockwood is recorded as having died during the Fall. They research it a bit, and find out that she was working on a station called Reino, in Venusian orbit, which reported TITAN activity, and then lost contact. However, no-one is recorded to have been up there to check it out yet, so it’s current status is unknown. They also find out that there have been reports of other abnormaly-behaving uplifts appearing suddenly in a variety of places, all bearing the same genetic code.

They decide to pay a visit to Reino station, and see what exactly is going on up there, and if Lockwood survived the Fall after all. BV is especially worried about rumors of violent, sociopathic “feral” uplifts getting out, and turning the general populace against them. Or, worse yet, of some radical Mercurials deciding to free or encourage any ferals or botches that may be up on Reino, which would give the various biocon factions too much ammo. They start stocking up on gear and calling in favors.

They hook back up with Iskra, who agrees to join them, and calls the job in to Firewall. Blackvein gets them a ride up to Reino as stowaways on a hauler, and they use their newly fabbed and assembled thruster packs to jet over to the station. Lena brings along her odd new little friend, who seems to be vacuum sealed. The station looks worn but intact from the outside, with no obvious weapons damage. They gain entry, and see that someone has entered the airlock more recently than someone has left, based on the air left inside.

They travel into the next room and find another pack of the odd monkey critters, working in a tangle of station parts, loose cabling, electronics, and machinery. They once again try to lead the team into a biodisassembler, and Lena almost gets fed in after failing to convince them not to. The rest of them open fire and quickly scatter the pack, along with Lena’s “buddy”, who seems less interested in her when her treats run out. Wong notices a pair of catlike eyes staring at him out of a pile of debris, and is startled when he is charged by a humanoid in a heavily modded morph with long sharpened bone spurs attached to its arms. His armor manages to save him from harm, and they take out the new threat. Iskra saves its head, which has some implants.

They find 3 doors in the room, with different faded images on them: a tree, a wave, and a desert dune. They choose the desert, pass through a floatway, and enter an airlock, dropping down onto a desert plain. They quickly lose sight of the airlock, as a hologram of the night sky drifts overhead, and the cylinder they’re in has spin, to give it around .5g. Pran flies up and re-locates it, just to know how to get out. He stays ariborn to scout ahead, and the rest of the group advances on foot.

They here a cry for help, and Frank, convinced that it is Maria, races ahead. He is quickly ambushed by some sort of camoflagued desert beast, who tackles and begins mauling him. The rest of the team closes in, but gets flanked by the rest of the beastpack. They take some damage, and are disturbed to notice that the things are using some sort of language to communicate. They kill them off, and figure out that they seem to be some sort of bizaare lion/hyena hybrid, with a lot of mods, but again no stacks or mesh insert.

They continue on, and Pran comes under attack from another clawed morph near a small oasis that he spots. He avoids injury, and the morph flees into the water as the rest of the group closes in. They find another airlock in the bottom of the pool, pass through another floatway, and come under assault from 2 more of the clawed morphs. Pran, Lena, and Frank are paralyzed by some sort of poison that they excrete, and Pran is killed as the poison shuts down his heart and brain. The others shake it off, but remain paralyzed. The rest of the team kills the morphs, and enters the final module.

They find what remains of Lockwood, now a pulsing cluster of intertwined brains suspended in fluid in a vat, connected via cables and manipulator arms to the massive amount of devies and machines in the room. She seems to be frantically busy, until Iskra shoots off her manipulators, and begins probing her brains. Lockwood does not seems thrilled about this process, but Iskra is heartily annoyed by her adoption of an obnoxious AI voice.

Lockwood expresses dismay that they killed the lyenas, saying that they had developed their own beautiful language and culture. They have apparently been engaging in a variety of “feral” & non-standard uplift processes, and releasing some of the variants into wider populations around the system to see how they fare in different social environs. It was apparently some of these that the team encountered on Parvarti. Frederik and Wong also gain some data suggesting that they have some other much larger research areas, in addition to the station, but a lot of the data has been wiped after being sent to a mesh address on Mars.

Lockwood eventually reveals to Iskra that she has triggered a self-destruct sequence, after making sure her alpha fork was sent successfully. The team cuts out of the nearest floatway using Pran’s scrapper gel, and jets away just as the station blows. Wong and Fred take some damage, but their suits hold up, and Iskra calls in a pickup from Ben Johanssen. She also outs Fred as an async once again, and Johanssen tells her to keeep an eye on him, while he looks into it.They return to Parvarti, and prepare to resleeve Pran.

Blackvein contacts Pran (in an infostate) to tell him the “good news”- Tooth and Claw has shut down (presumably to reopen elsewhere under another name, dodging scandal). Pran isn’t toatally satisfied. Fred gets a call about from some old Barsoomian contacts, asking him to look into their “secret” delegate on Octavia, who has seemingly been acting strangely lately. Fred tells them he’s on it, and prepares to convince the team to assist him as needed.

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Continuity
Farcasting to the Kepler

The Sentinels:
Dulce Lena Moreno
Frank Packard
Frederik Bo Severin Falk
Hong Wong

Days 15-29

Lena’s old friend Ram Kulkarni from the Kepler sends her a message- it takes about a few days to reach her, and seems to have been about a week old when sent (triggered by a “dead man’s switch” when Kulkarni didn’t enter a code at a certain time). The Kepler has been continuing its outer system comms monitoring, and picked up a weak signal from some debris spiralling out of the solar system, which seems to have been intercepted by a comethauler named the Istari. The Istari then dropped off their scheduled course, and has been exhibiting signs of engine distress. So, the 6 scientific staff from the Kepler backed up and headed out in a shuttle to lend aid. Being worried of pirates, Ram set up the dead man’s switch message.

Lena, fearing the message-emitting space debris after her recent TITAN encounters, nominates this as a Firewall op, which some of the team goes along with, although many of them think it is more likely accident (common on old outer system salvage haulers) or pirates. The message included an override code to farcast in, bypassing the station security provided by the AI Hans. They prepare to head out, calling in a large favor to farcast the Rim.

Awakening in their medbays (except for Lena, who is loaded into a synthmorph), their muse’s tell them it has been a week since they were supposed to have arrived, causing them some distress. Also, an unsteady voice (which Lena ID’s as Hans, the station’s AI) warns them that all wireless enabled devices should be assumed compromised and that they should not access the mesh, and that a crucial server needs to be reconnected to the Ops Center. The voice is emitting from a nearby Dr. Bot. Other than the ominous warning, the medbay looks standard, as does the research lab off the back end- it seems like everything was closed up about 2 weeks back, when the crew left. They begin searching the rest of the station, and find that one of the exterior airlocks has been welded open, causing a fairly rapid loss of interior atmosphere.

They defeat some servitor and mechbots trying to defend the airlock, and close the airlock into the maintenance bay, stopping the leak. Lena ventures back in to retrieve the vac and hardsuits they saw there, and they all suit up. They also find some small arms and a variety of useful tools. They continue checking the dark, eerily silent hab, and eventually find the ops center, where they manage to finally engage with Hans, who seems to have lost his mind, and is slipping in and out of lucidity. He says that he jettisoned the farcaster to prevent the infection spreading (he thinks he has been contaminated by an airborn sickness, hence venting the air). There seem to be a number of components missing in the adjacent computer bay, suggesting that he has removed other bits as well. Lena also spots an incoming craft on the station exterior cams after getting them running. They ID it as the Istari, and Wong says it is about 30 min out. They are hailed, and Frank answers. The message begins with a burst if static, and Frederik begins hallucinating, although he was also attempting to hack into Hans’ systems, so the team doesn’t know which was the issue.

The crew of the Kepler says that they are coming back to the station, and that they are worried about Hans’ instability, and will dock shortly. While the team tries to decide what to do, Wong also starts hallucinating after coming under attack while accessing a quantumn computer he found. Frederik recovers, with Wong soon following suit, just as the Istari docks, 10 min ahead of their expectations. They access exterior cameras again as Hans begins shouting and moaning about “intruders”, and see some distressing looking exsurgents crwaling along the exterior of the connecting airlock tube, seemingly able to survive the vacuum unassisted. They look like they were once human, and are clothed in shredded scraps of skin and vacsuit, while their bodies seem to have erupted with chitinous growths, bony protusions, and unnatural hair-covered spider-like limbs.

The team decides to assume they are hostile. They head back towards the maintenance bay to intercept anyone coming aboard from the Istari, and end up surrounded in the hall by 6 of the monsters. They manage to slay them all without any casualties, but some of the team takes some major injuries and Frank is starting to feel a little… off, first with delusions of power, followed by paranoia. He decides to head back to the greenhouse, following a hunch, while the rest head onto the Istari. Frank finds the missing server mentioned earlier by Hans, and drags it off to the Istari to meet up with the others.

Meanwhile, they begin exploring the other ship, and find that much of it is covered in bizaare, incredibly sharp, spiny protrusions, which Frederik promptly wounds himself on. Him and Lena both hop into hardsuits they find there, although Fred injures himself once more, as some of the bony spines have pierced the ankle seal of his suit. They explore the ship, and find a room filled with ore and salvage processing vats and equipment, many of which are filled with writhing masses of hair, and half-glimpsed scurrying limbs, moving seemingly independent of a body and sticking to cracks, corners and shadows. They find missile pod with 2 missiles, and another exsurgent, who they kill. They shut down a healing vat filled with more writhing hair, hoping to kill it, and reach the ops center, where they kill another exsurgent, and Lena comes under cyberattack, until she fries the computer core there, which is broadcasting more incapacitating inputs, sending Fred into seizure.

They also find and search the Kepler’s shuttle, killing another exsurgent, though the shuttle otherwise seems clean and usable. Frank seems to be getting stanger and stranger, so Lena has Wong force him into the medbay and runs a diagnostic, which quickly reveals that he is growing burn spurs under his skin, distressingly rapidly. They hold him down and kill him. They decide to check Fred, too (who is still seizing), and discover that he was also infected, and kill him as well. They communicate with the Istari’s simple AI, Lila, who seems normal and very helpful, once they shut down the computer system in the ops center. She agrees to turn up the oxygen % in the atmo mix, making an explosive environment, while they take the shuttle out to retrieve the Kepler’s discarded farcaster.

They retrieve it, with Wong skillfully piloting, while Lena finally figures out the in-joke password to bypass the encryption on the server Frank found. It contains mayn comms logs, Hans’ logs entries, and a lot of other data, but is also infected- Lena comes under another hacking attack. However she gets some useful info off of it- it seems that Hans was infected via a message sent back by the Kepler crew, shortly after they were scheduled to intercept the Istari. He recognized the infection, and began pruning pieces of himself off to try to contain it, with some success, although he lost his mind in the process (a decline already evident in his increasingly rambling and paranoid logs), before deciding to jettison the farcaster after the team’s surprise arrival, when he also chose to remove this server to prevent it’s destruction.

They head back to the Istari and Wong manually bypasses the “safe distance” trigger on the missile, and programs them to target the Kepler and then the Istari, and tells Lila to run the program as soon as they finish egocasting away. They jury-rig the farcaster to the shuttle’s comm systems and send all the intel they’ve gained to Firewall, and then hook it back up to the ego bridge system and farcast back to Parvarti. The whole team gains some i-rep, and Lena and Wong try to figure out what to tell Frank and Fred when they get resleeved. Ben Johanssen also informs them that this was an Exsurgent Virus Stain that they are calling Chrynalus, and thanks the team for their useful intel and self-sacrifice.

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