Friday, October 7, 2016

M-Com Mission Report - Operation Black Comet - Monster of the Week Campaign - Midseries Cliffhanger

After their mission in Belarus, the team is sent to investigate a case of some missing M-Com agents. The team in question was an investigations team based out of what is primarily a research facility in Edinburgh, Scotland. Of late there had been a spate of ten murders over the course of a couple of weeks. The victims were all killed in upper story apartments and offices with little sign of exactly how the murderer had arrived. The bodies were slashed but the scene showed very little in the way of blood, at least in comparison to the injuries inflicted. Current investigators believe that the bodies were killed elsewhere and then dumped into their workplaces and homes as it is the only way they can explain the lack of blood on the scene.

Attempts to look through the investigation reports from the police, Scotland Yard and the missing team of M-Com investigators yields little to Thomas and Katkemat. Katkemat continuously gets tripped up over the scientific words and modern jargon. Kasper however notes that the crime scene photos more imply that the blood as taken from the bodies and the scenes. He also notes that the public officials had found bits of chitin and were investigating exterminator companies in search of a serial killer. He however comes to the conclusion that some sort of spider-like mutation is involved in the situation. Given the lack of anything like magical or psychic phenomena, he comes to the conclusion that they’re dealing with something that has a biological basis.

Since the Scout is still being repaired, it doesn’t come with them, but Kasper’s team and their van are transported by military plane while Kasper, Katkemat and Thomas take a civilian airplane much to Katkemat’s displeasure. Along the way Kasper looks at the information a little bit more. The missing M-Com team includes Mason Grant, an SAS veteran; Winry Kleinen, an expert occultist; and Amy Sernett, a genetic theorist and cryptozoologist.

Thomas gets some sleep and has a prophetic dream where has a dreadful sense of something coming back accompanied by sounds of a rasping breath followed by a soft clap over and over again. Nothing that seems to be anything that he can use to an advantage.

Katkemat spends the time trying to block out the fact that she’s on a plane by meditating and considering the problem of Rookie Valeria’s transformation. In the process of her divinations she has come to realize that the crystal mantids convert a person’s body into a crystal talisman of sorts which traps the soul so that it cannot proceed onto the afterlife. They are then able to consume the soul by eating the crystal statue. This has given her two potential solutions to the problem of Valeria’s situation: she could animate the talisman so that at least the woman could move or if she could find or create a living body that lacks a soul then she could try to destroy the Valeria statue in a controlled manner so as to move her soul from the old body into a new one.

Upon arrival, Kasper went to the bathroom after the long flight but then they went on to the most recent murder site. The victim was one Caryn Brown, a paralegal in her late 30s or early 40s who had been working late in her office on the 5th floor of a building. Upon arrival and presenting their Interpol badges, they are presented with surprise and questions about “more investigators.” This surprised them as this murder happened after the M-Com team went missing searching the Edinburgh Vaults. Follow up questions revealed that Inspector Marisa Carracci from the Messina Police, whom they spoke to during Operation Private Priest, had been present acting as an investigator and claiming to be from Interpol.

Thomas and Kasper called the local M-Com offices to get them on the job of tracking Carracci’s movements which they start to do after some complaint that they couldn’t just drop all of their research projects. At which point the local office was reminded that this might help rescue their missing team. Meanwhile, Katkemat also tried to help but ended up dialing the wrong number on these “phone” things and arguing with a pizzeria operator.

At the actual site, Katkemat is distracted and overwhelmed by the sight of the television playing some sort of high energy, sensory overstimulation channel. Kasper is able to ascertain that while Carracci had been interested in the dead body, she was not primarily present for the murder but focused most of her attention on a set of crystalline decorations and handling them. He was able to pick out it was her rather than the earlier forensic team due to the fact that the movement occurred after forensics had been present.

Thomas meanwhile is able to track some of the signs to a rather small vent, perhaps too small for Kasper or Katkemat, but he decides to move through it himself. Following the cramped vents he eventually comes to an intersection where a chitinous blade of some sort has been wedged over a spinning and damaged fan. He reasons that the fan could do some serious damage to him and calls back for Kasper to get the fans turned off.

Kasper takes his normal tact of moving down to maintenance and just off-handedly demanding that the crew turn off the fans without any explanation whatsoever. While the maintenance crews initially balk at this foreign-sounding man ordering them about, things get a bit more irritating for them when Katkemat shows up and chides Kasper for being rude leading into the two getting into a heated argument that so annoys the maintenance crew that they turn off the fans just to get the two of them to leave.

This allows Thomas to grab the blade and come down through the fans to find a sewer access tunnel. Looking at the blade and the chitin Thomas concludes that the monsters might be a bit tougher than he is in some ways and also that they came up through the sewers. Reconvening, the team decides that going straight down might be a very bad idea. That was what the other team had done and they vanished. So they decide to look into finding more entrances into the sewers. Unfortunately, they find that the blueprints for the Edinburgh sewers have gone missing recently and the local offices are tired of having to deal with Interpol. It seems an Inspector Carracci had been bugging them earlier.

M-Com’s central base in Romania is getting increasingly unhappy about dealing with the questions the about Interpol’s reasons for being on hand for what is a local matter. Kasper tries to relay the fact that they have someone going around pretending to be Interpol, well, without the official backing M-Com enjoys. They do learn that Carracci is on indefinite sabbatical from her police office and they’re of the opinion that she’s gotten a bug about an old case.

Stymied by the lack of maps, presumably due to Carracci’s independent investigation, the group decides to check in at the M-Com research facility in Edinburgh and compare notes with Kasper’s team. Upon arrival, they find the head of Celino Leonora Adessi in its crystalized form at one of the research stations. Katkemat doesn’t recognize the individual but recognizes the results of a crystalized victim of the mantids. Both Kasper and Thomas demand to know what the assassin is doing there.

Thomas considers going over to grab and smash Adessi’s head, but Katkemat feels the intention through their bond and convinces him against it, arguing that she could use it in experiments to revive Rookie Valeria. Katkemat insists on getting the head and the rest of the pieces that the staff has so that she can work on her research to better effect while Kasper attempts to use his charming personality to calm down the M-Com researchers. This is surprisingly effective, as in Kasper did not get them placed under immediate investigation or lynched upon opening his mouth. The researchers begrudgingly accept the matter.

Katkemat meanwhile realizes that the head does not have a whole soul within it but just a piece of a soul. This causes Thomas to feel momentarily sorry for Adessi until everyone remembers that she had been summoning mantids to carry out assassination contracts and then selling the pieces of shattered crystal that were left for extra cash. They were now realizing that pieces of Adessi’s victims were scattered all over the place with parts of human souls in them trapped and unable to pass on to the afterlife. The hostility and disgust directed at Adessi began to rise.

The team decides to visit the police and discover that Carracci’s interference has caused problems for them here as well. The Scotland Yard and local police investigators try to surreptitiously lead the group into an interrogation room to meet with them. The team balks however and start arguing with the desk sergeant. Kasper looks about taking note of the emergency escape plans on the wall and noting other good escape routes.

Katkemat glances into the interrogation room realizing its purpose by the leftover fragments of emotions hanging about in the room. While she’s investigating this, her eyes come to the mirror and she realizes that there is something odd going on. Her image in the mirror is not…well, mirrored. When she raises her right hand, the reflections right hand lifts rather than the left. Glancing about, she realizes that this right-left switch is occurring with every person reflected in the mirrors. She manages to call Kasper and Thomas’s attention to it just in time for them to witness the mirror flickering and resetting to a natural reflection. However, Katkemat ascertains that this is likely more due to the issues involving Kurata and the rifts rather than their current investigation.

Inspector Clarkson of the Scotland Yard shows up to argue with the group and insist that the interrogation room is the only thing they have available right now and it’s not in any way indicative of anything. At which point, Thomas starts writing phone numbers on a piece of paper. Clarkson’s number, his superior’s number, the Interpol liaison in England’s number, and other such important numbers. He hands this over to Clarkson as proof that they are who they say they are. Inspector Clarkson is flabbergasted and admits that he was suspicious as they had already been dealing with a bogus Interpol agent and the team lets him in, sort of, on the matter of Inspector Carracci of the Messina Police and how she seems to be chasing a case on her own time.

The group is brought into the murder room with all the collected information that the police and Scotland Yard have acquired about the murders. Katkemat looks over the various pictures and examines some of the personal effects in evidence bags and induces herself into divination trance in which she sees a cascade of images from the victims’ lives. Rather quickly she’s able to ascertain that people in the background of the victims have gone missing sometime before their deaths. She identifies three: a train ticket taker, a homeless person and a newspaper stand seller. All of the victims had had incidental contact with at least one of these three people before they vanished.

Katkemat relates this information directly, not bothering with creating a cover for her magic causing Clarkson to protest and deride them, asking if this was some sort of psychic freak show. Kasper notes that police forces around the world had been using psychics for a while now and Thomas just ignores the argument entirely to ask if there are any other clarifications to the visions Katkemat had. In the midst of this, he hears scuttling around in the vents above just before a humanoid spider-thing bursts out of the ceiling in an attempt to attack Inspector Clarkson. Thomas and Kasper working together manage to get the Inspector out of the way, but Katkemat’s attempt at spellcasting is disrupted as she’s jostled by another police officer. They hear the sounds of screams and spider monsters from elsewhere in the building.

Identifying the monsters as feral, brain-damaged beasts that are pretty much incurable at this point, Thomas starts engaging the monsters and finds them as resilient and painful as he’d guessed they’d be from the fan earlier. Kasper turns to Katkemat and snaps in her face, telling her to focus before he starts trying to direct as many of the civilians as possible out of danger using the emergency routes he had studied earlier. Katkemat creates a spell barring entry to the spider monsters around the point they send the evacuating civilians.

Thomas aids Kasper’s attempts to get the civilians and unarmed police out of danger by running through the offices and grabbing as much attention from the invading monsters as possible. Katkemat’s eyes open to the spirit world around her and she comes to realize the presence of a massive number of tiny spider spirits which don’t seem happy about the monsters at all. She uses her magic to give these some physical influence and sets them to creating fake images of Thomas for the monsters to chase, further protecting Thomas.

Kasper has an encounter with one of the spider monsters, rather wishing he’d brought his sniper rifle as he does so but manages to escape it with grace and style while still keeping it away from the unarmed civilians and police in the sight. Thomas moves to lure several of the spider monsters into an interrogation room at once which Katkemat uses magic to seal the monsters in behind him. Instead of escaping out the door at this point, Thomas uses his chain sword to strike all of the present monsters and tearing them to pieces.

Investigation of the dead monsters finds some of the individuals that Katkemat had seen in her visions and confirms that they are a sort of genealogical mutation. Kasper’s team is able to confirm that all of the monsters were severely cancerous and likely only had weeks left of life to them. Looking into the situation, the team finds a scientist by the name of Atsuko Popov who had previously worked for the Bioware company that provides M-Com it’s high-tech and light weight armor: Arachne Bioware. The spider-spirits in the area provide Katkemat even more information, regarding a bioweapon leak some seventy years ago which had incorporated spider genetics to induce painful death in people. The goddess, and former human, Arachne had interfered to allow for some of the victims of the bioweapon to survive by becoming spider-human hybrids though the goddess never directly contact these survivors.

Contact with Arachne Bioware, via a conference mode phone call, is initially cool, with the company presenting some stonewalling. That is until Thomas provides them with photographic evidence of the spider-mutants via his phone’s camera. Providing the name of Atsuko Popov also generates some action and Arachne Bioware eventually admits that a scientist by that name had been attempting to research into an old bioweapon and that her resources had been cut off. She had quit and they hadn’t expected her to find any other support for her experiments.

Some further investigations finds that Popov is working for Suidobashi Heavy Industries now, the same company which seems to have some contact with Kurata Hikozaemon and has interfered with their operations in the past. The company has a complex in Edinburgh which apparently does medical research. It also comes to their attention that the attack by the spider-mutants was likely meant to distract them from something else.

Working with Clarkson and Scotland Yard, the team stages a raid on the Suidobashi facilities. There is some initial resistance by the guards, but with the presence of a legal warrant and a team of heavily armed and pissed off Edinburgh police as well as the M-Com agents, this doesn’t hold up and one guard loses a finger for his attempts to physically keep the police and agents off the premises. Heading down to the medical facility they find a secret door that opens up into a mad scientists’ dream lab with numerous cages that had been opened and the missing M-Com agents attached to a drip of some sort.

The team looks up to see Atsuko Popov, who appears to be have a spider’s body from the waist down like a D&D drider, clinging to the ceiling above them just in time to see her try to drop on Daley. Thomas sets forth to protect Daley as Kasper moves forward to trash the machines attached to the missing M-Com agents and starts checking them for signs of infection. Thomas successfully manages to push Daley out of the way but finds himself wrapped up in strong silken webs himself. Then Katkemat engages the spider spirits to wrap up Atsuko and trap the drier scientist as well.

Atsuko, despite her unusual appearance, is essentially a biological entity with no supernatural gifts or training and is unable to break the spirit-spider webs while Thomas breaks out of her own webs with just a little bit of time and effort. Katkemat and Kasper ascertain that the experiments on the M-Com agents had just barely started and they might be clear, though they will likely need to be under supervision for a while.

The drider is initially dismissive and insulting to the various humans until someone brings up Arachne Bioware and Thomas himself starts making threatening actions. At which point she starts to reveal what she had planned, to recreate the bioweapon in a form that would consistently create the mutations that resulted in the birth of her species (unaware that it took a goddess’s interference to do that). She further scoffs at the interference of the “old man” whose men couldn’t even keep her previous failures contained and let them out to attract attention. She even comments about a “favor” he asked of her.

When asked about the favor she sort of chuckles and mentions paying a visit to the team’s base. At which point Kasper calls and after a long period in which there is no response one of the researchers finally picks up and notes that some men led by a spider-woman had shown up and assaulted the facility. They had three fatalities and some other casualties besides. When asked what the attackers had taken, the researcher says that it was the pieces of Adessi which they had been crating up for delivery to M-Com Romania.

Resisting the urge to kill Atsuko right then and there, Kasper, Thomas and Katkemat head upstairs to find the penthouse office of Suidobashi executive Jacob McClaren had been converted into a high tech medical facility. There they discover the portrait of a man standing beside his wife with their daughter in front of them. The daughter is clearly Adessi. Pressing on, they find McClaren feebly clinging on to life and chuckling at them as he bragged about how his daughter’s remains had been sent on to someone that could help her. Then the machines start to register that his vital signs are failing.

Katkemat tries to use the spirits to cure McClaren’s cancer so that they can keep him alive to interrogate him. Unfortunately, she makes the channel from spirit to matter too strong and the spider spirits take advantage of that to manifest long enough to angrily devour the man whole and carry off his soul in pieces rather than simply doing as she requested.

Scotland Yard and Edinburgh Police agree to quietly give custody of the rogue scientist Atsuko Popov to M-Com, though Arachne Bioware’s feelings on the matter are not yet clear. A story wrapping up the serial murders is put into the papers and the M-Com agents captured by Suidobashi are put on an observation period.

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